It’s my fault. I found the fastest zip line in the world online before we left home and opened my mouth. Now we were just a day’s drive from Castelmezzano, in southern Italy. What sounded exciting then, was less so now the hour was near.
I said, “It’s too much out of the way.”
She said, “It just looks far on the map. It’s really close.”
I said, “It’s another mountain road to drive.”
She said, “We like driving in the mountains, don’t you.”
I said, “It costs €72 for a couple flight.”
She said, “But we’ve saved our centimos by eating just gelato for the last few days.”
No matter what I said, it seemed I couldn’t get out of it.
We paid the money, booked nights at a hotel overlooking the valley and drove to the picturesque village of Catelmezzano.
Our balcony overlooked Pietrapertosa, the village across the valley we were to fly to.
Morning came, we caught the shuttle bus up a narrow mountain road, then trekked up a steep hill, meeting Sarah from Romania on the way to the launch pad.
In front of us a 1500m steel wire stretched across a valley a kilometre deep.
There are no photos of us starting off but I took some photos of Sarah and her father as they launched. She was excited and he kept his eyes closed.
I was comforted when we were trussed up in a harness like a rolled roast in a net and straps were pulled so tight that bits poked out the gaps. Clipped to the wire, we were asked to stretch out horizontally and someone said in halting English, “Goodbye.”
See you later might have been a better farewell!
Sharon has palpitations when I enter roundabouts and grips the door handle and gasps in horror as tiny Fiats appear out of nowhere in narrow streets But the thought of dangling from a thin wire with nothing but a helmet to prevent concussion when we fell to the valley floor 1000m below, had her buzzing with excitement and anticipation.
A slight push and we were off down a grassy slope just a few metres off the ground, then over the cliff we sped and the abyss opened up below us. We were racing across the valley at 120 km/h and other than the hum of the wire it was strangely quiet.
An ant beside a car on a road far below us aimed his camera at us, houses flashed by, the fear subsided and we were able for a short time look around and enjoy the view. What an incredible feeling. It’s why people jump out of planes, I guess.
I looked up to see the finish line approaching at what seemed like the speed I travel on the autostrada. The fear returned.
By the time I’d said, “They must know how to stop this thing!” we’d hit the braking line and it was done.
Flying is a wonderful thing. Google maps tells me it takes 23 minutes to drive from Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa. We’d zipped across in 90 seconds!
The return trip was a more sedate 110 km/h. The crossing back to Castelmezzano was just a kilometre long and not as high as the first and as we were old hands, we were able to lie back and enjoy the view. It would be a cruel thing if the memory of our shadows lying side by side flashing across the landscape below us was ever taken away.