Monday 27 January 2020

The day I zip-lined down Niagara Falls

Our reporter Cathy Lee speaks about her experience of gliding high above the Niagara Falls last month

Our reporter Cathy Lee during a zip-line over the Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada
Our reporter Cathy Lee during a zip-line over the Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada

Some prefer to relax and take it easy when their holidays are coming to a close, and I will admit that the thought did cross my mind, knowing that I had a near seven hour flight back to Dublin to catch the next day.

I had booked my trip to the Niagara Falls online back in Ireland, while dreaming of my three weeks abroad which I would pack with visiting friends in Vancouver, seeing the sights in Seattle and flying to experience a weekend in Chicago before finishing things off in Toronto.

I remember viewing the brief itinerary, which included a fancy wine-tasting and a visit to Niagara village.

Just seeing the general age-profile of those getting on our tour bus at 8 a.m. that morning in Toronto, I thought to myself that it'd be a lovely day seeing some natural beauty, which of course is a must see, and I that might even pick up a few souvenirs for the family.

In fairness, there was a bit of that included for sure, as the sun beamed down on us from the start and some people took naps while we headed out of the city for the near two hour journey, in the safe hands of our bus driver Jimmy.

I soon learned that things would be different with Jimmy, very different indeed.

He took us off the beaten track, and the itinerary was quite literally thrown out the window.

I got chatting to two girls down the back of the bus; Kirstan, who lived in Chicago and Priya from London.

We had all come to Toronto for very different reasons, but we soon found common ground, possibly during the wine-tasting aspect, but we decided all the same to buddy-up for the day.

Once we arrived to Niagara Falls, we made our way down for our complimentary boat trip, excited to see the huge waterfalls that were breath-taking and snap some required photographs.

Jimmy had warned us that we might get wet, but let me just say that he had made a large understatement.

We were soaked to the skin within minutes as we explored the Falls on the top deck and it got to a point where we were in fits of laughter as the spray from the Falls swept us in without time to protest.

Feeling damp and a little worse for wear, we were making our way back up to dry land when the Niagara Falls zip line caught our eye.

As we stood below the flailing legs dangling from above, we talked ourselves into it with the promise of rewards afterwards, (more wine, obviously).

After wholeheartedly signing my life away at the desk, I was told I had 15 minutes before it would be my turn.

Kirstan, who had a fear of heights and Priya, who was more of a zip-lining pro, gave me all the motivation I needed, or so I thought.

I travelled up in an elevator, and I recall looking over the edge as the girls waved up at me, which was a little daunting.

It was then that I noticed again the general age-profile, the same as I had seen that morning in Toronto.

The American ladies who were queuing in front of me were in their sixties, and to my surprise, they told me that they were doing this because it was on their mothers' bucket list.

My eyes searched for the mystery mother until I saw an elderly woman, who had a beaming smile on her face as she was getting put into her harness and safety gear.

'She has jet-skied and sky-dived before, but she really wanted to zip line Niagara Falls. She was 85 earlier this year,' the daughter explained.

Needless to say, I soon realised that I had to get over all my fear as I saw the 85 year old stretch out her arms and legs and take off down the thin line into the Falls below.

Afterwards, the woman in question told me it felt like flying.

As a child, I always wanted to know what being a bird would be like.

I thought, no need for a car, no need for an aeroplane, I could just go as I please and nobody could stop the power of my own wings.

I'm not going to extend that metaphor and tell you that my experience was like this, but it is probably the closest that I'll ever get to that in this lifetime.

We set off slowly, over the edge and down as the ground melted away and the colours of green and blue blurred together.

I could see the American Falls on my left, and there were trees coming up ahead.

Soon we picked up speed and I felt the wind in my face.

To my surprise, I didn't let out a scream, it was more-so that my voice was caught somewhere in my throat as I couldn't believe that this was really happening.

Now before you start to think that I'm mad into adventure sports, I hope I have illustrated that there wasn't much skill involved in this.

I'd like to think that I made a graceful landing, but chances are that'd be wishful thinking.

But the view from the bottom was nearly as impressive as the top, and I felt a real sense of achievement as my feet met the ground again.

As we made our way back up, a Canadian man told me I was very brave and shook my hand.

On reflection, I don't think brave was the right term.

After spending three weeks away from home, seeing the other side of things across the pond, and catching up with how my friends' lives have changed, I'd say I'm open minded.

There are so many different types of people out there, and somehow the world still goes around.

There are people who pack up everything and move to Toronto over fears of Brexit, 85 year dare devils, and people who value their Instagram profile more than their personal safety.

I'd like to think that I'm a combination of the above.

When I boarded that tour bus, looking back now I had the completely wrong idea about what that day was going to be.

Little did I know that I would be first of all be drenched, bond and make two new friends that I'm still in touch with now, zip line down Niagara Falls and feel a lot better about things in general by 7 p.m. when we arrived back to Toronto, looking forward to my return home.

Wexford People

Most Read