High on the wire

Posted by Michelle Hardie on 9 May 2019

What: Far and Wide SkyLine

Where: Nyanga, Zimbabwe

Who: Michelle Hardie

My husband strode ahead in his full-body harness. He reminded me of a general leading his men into battle – only this time it was his wife. I walked quietly behind him listening to the clank of his metal armour, shoots of white light sparking in the afternoon sun. It was hot and still. It had been suggested by Getaway’s editor that while I was on holiday in Zim, I take a detour to the Eastern Highlands to an established outdoor education camp. Included in its multitude of adventurous, Scout-type activities (for kids and adults) is a new thriller called SkyLine. Tucked up in my harness, I would be hoisted into open air and off the edge of a mountain on the highest zip line in the world. ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘No probs. My husband will be with me so we can do it together.’ As we reached the platform the view of the cavernous drop became overwhelming. We stood for a few minutes in silence. Then my husband’s brow furrowed and his nose twitched. ‘I’m not doing this,’ he protested.

Through that unmistakable Zimbabwean blue haze, I looked down and across the Honde Valley to my right. I made out faint tendrils of smoke from cooking fires in the rural landscape, and looking further I knew I was seeing into Mozambique. I thought of bygone childhood beach holidays. Things became blurred at this point. Across the void was the landing platform; I heard the Mutarazi Falls (the highest in Zim) gushing over the escarpment, each drop falling more than 700 metres to the earth below where it would continue all the way to the Indian Ocean; shades of green shimmered in the heat. I was aware of JJ Cragg, our youthful and steady guide, going through the safety checks. He studied the lines intently, clicked and re-clicked things, made sure my harness was snug and told me to count ‘one, two, three’ for lift-off .

My heartbeat, a slow canter, ramped up to a gallop. Trying to maintain a modicum of grace, I smiled at my darling husband, thought of my two daughters and lifted my feet. I felt my weight carrying me off… over the edge, the line hissing, the wind swirling in my ears, my body gliding over the abyss. The magnificence of the view was all-consuming. I swept by the cascading Mutarazi and as I dared to look down, the shadows of dark and light far below rushed up to meet me. Suddenly, the platform loomed ahead and the braking system kicked in, bringing me to a cushioned standstill. It was over all too soon. I was flushed with childlike euphoria. ’We didn’t get me on video for the online post,’ I said to JJ, brimming with pride. ‘Can I do it again early tomorrow morning?’ And I did.

Michelle and her husband, John, contemplate the SkyLine. It’s about 500 metres high and you fly for 400 metres at 50–70 km/h.

Guts Factor: 7/10.
I’m not good with heights but this was too exciting to miss, and I felt very safe in my harness.

Verdict
SkyLine is not only for adrenaline junkies, and I would go a third time!

The Details
It has taken the Cragg family three years of research and planning to launch SkyLine. Materials (including 54 cubic metres of concrete) were carried by 30 men to the site (instead of being trucked in) to leave the surrounding landscape as undisturbed as possible. It costs R830 ($60) plus R140 ($10) park fee. Visitors can combine it with the SkyWalk (two suspension bridges) for R1,245 ($90). Open daily from 9am to 4pm, Far and Wide is about 300 kilometres east of Harare. farandwide.co.zw

 

Visitors on the 90-metre SkyWalk get a view of the entire Mutarazi Falls. The bridge above them, which takes you to the start of the zip line, is 30 metres long and crosses the lip of the falls. The zip line right at the top of this picture is currently the highest in the world. You’ll find it across the border in Zimbabwe.

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