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Zip Lining the Zambezi

It’s 420 feet down to the roiling African river, the Zambezi, where crocs and hippos live and … feed. I’m about to push off and fly across the deep river gorge on a thin cable. This isn’t America: no helmet, no special protective gear, no safety plan. Heck, I can barely understand the operator. His main job? To shove me off the cliff. I ask him if people regularly back out? He just smiles, blazing white teeth in his ebony face.

But I figure, if you’re going to zip line, go big. I’d always wanted to do it, but many of the zip lines I’d seen just didn’t promise enough of an adrenalin spike. Without some unknowns, a little danger and a truly insane location, my endorphin meter wouldn’t even blip, much less spike.

At the Zambezi at Victoria Falls, I’m going to whiz across a cable from a cliff in Zambia to the Zimbabwe end of Victoria Falls Bridge. Built in 1904, the rusty bridge spans 650 feet and two countries. Due to its age and overwhelming demand, truck traffic must be controlled on either side. Truckers sometime wait hours to get across.

Not me. I step into the harness and the operator cinches it down to acute wedgie territory. He runs lines through a pulley on the cable. A sign at the cliff says “BEWARE Hazardous Drop Ahead!” In less than 30 seconds I’m prepped. He asks, “Are you ready?” “Yeah, let’s go!” I croak. He backs me up and tells me to put my feet up and lean back. Three big lunging steps and he shoves me off.

I drop, bounce and accelerate. The cable and pulley sing a whirring harmony; I’m mesmerized by the white water far below and its thunder; I see people on the bridge watching and cheering. And then too soon I’m nearing the Zimbabwe side of the bridge, where a harnessed catcher pushes out onto the cable to stop me from slamming into the girders. “Oh yeah!” I holler, and then ask “Can I do it again?” He just smiles knowingly, and tows me in. He shows me how to clip a carabiner attached to my harness to a safety cable. I inch across15 feet of a narrow, manky maintenance walkway to a ladder up to the top side of the bridge. This exit route is its own thrill ride. Walking back across the bridge, my audience offers high fives. I’m buzzing with endorphins and a wide grin stretches my face. Zip line? Check. Time to seek out the next adrenalin fix ...

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