01.04.2011 30 °C
Today we got up and got organized for our Zip Line excursion. After breakfast we set out to meet our group at the end of the pier – as usual. They always say you meet at the end of the pier but when you get out there it could be anywhere – you just have to look for the people with the signs naming your excursion. It is always safe to go a few minutes early because you never really know where you will end up. Actually with everyone being on Caribbean time – everything is a little late anyway.
We met our group and signed the most extensive release form yet – they took quite a medical history and even made us step on a scale to weigh us – there is a maximum weight that they will take. I guess they know that we all think we are lighter than we are because we don’t count the pounds we load on while on board. We boarded a small taxi van and headed through the town of Basseterre. The driver, Gabriel, was very informative and told us about a lot of the local customs and history. St Kitts and its sister island, Nevis, share the same government. In 2005 there was a dramatic change to the economy when the government withdrew the massive subsidies to the sugar industry. Overnight growing and processing sugar cane stopped. Amazing how a subsidy like that can create a false economy. The island’s economy is now mostly based on tourism. There is still some local agriculture but only enough to support local needs. Unfortunately, with little industry there is significant poverty on the island and like so many islands in the Caribbean they show very little pride in their surroundings. The roadsides are littered with garbage and there are rusting car bodies everywhere. In the villages the alleyways are piled with junk and garbage. The contrast with Hawaii is remarkable. It they could take Hawaii as a model and just clean up the litter that is everywhere on many of the islands it would be much more attractive to tourists. The root cause is hard to determine without a major sociological study but it is sad to see.
When we got up into the mountains to our Zip Line destination we were loaded into a small truck with benches in the back and driven 15-20 minutes up a very primitive dirt road (called the Walk of Shame because if you chicken out of the Zip Line that is your only way back down) to the start of the Zip Line. We chose this particular one because it was described as being of modern construction with lots of safety features and that it met US safety standards. We were not disappointed. We were issued with helmets, 5 point harnesses which actually acted as little seats, and a dolly which is attached to the cables and hooked to our harnesses. When hooked up it is really quite comfortable and it is even possible to sit in without holding on although neither of us let go with both hands. We had a small training run where we learned about stopping. They told us to lean back and raise our legs and bend our knees (the birthing position) in preparation for hitting the 20 foot long spring at the end of the Zip Line run which would slow us to a stop from a speed of about 60 kph. The training run rattled Hazel’s teeth so she learned to set her jaw lightly so eliminate the possibility of cracking another cap!
All Geared Up for a Zip Line Adventure
There were a total of 4 Zip Line runs ranging from about 1200 ft long to the shortest at about 300 feet long. The total length of all of the runs is around one mile. On the longest run between two hill tops we were 350 feet above the jungle floor and reached speeds up to 60 kph. It was scary and accelerating all at the same time. We would certainly do this one again.
The down side of the day was a long delay in coming to pick us up to return to the pier. When a driver did finally show up he had a smaller dirty van with reggae blaring on the radio and a cold beer in the driver’s cup holder. I’m afraid this is much more representative of local transit that or original ride up to the mountain. Like most of the Caribbean driving in St Kitts is not for the faint of heart. They drive on the left side (unnerving for some of us all in itself) and have no stop signs or stop lights. They just watch who is coming and move through intersections as they wish. They careen around the small bumpy roads coming quite close to oncoming traffic. We did not notice many missing side mirrors so they seem quite successful at staying alive.
Once pack to the Cruise pier area we walked around the usual collection of jewelry and souvenir shops finally returning to the ship to cool down and relax before dinner.