“WE haven’t had anyone weighing 90 kilos yet so it will be a good test for the system,” Jurgen Zimmerer, exclaimed just as I was struggling to get into the climbing equipment that lay around me on the rainforest floor at the base of Gunung Raya, Langkawi.
Great, I thought, “I’ve always wanted to be a guinea pig especially when it involves adventurous and potentially dangerous pursuits.” Jurgen has just installed one of only two rainforest canopy adventure trails in the world. For months he had been telling me about this latest adventure in his usual enthusiastic manner.
I am a bit slow when it comes to understanding specific design details so it was difficult for me to fully understand Jurgen’s plans. The task was made more difficult while trying to enthuse two friends Sandra and Stephen to accompany me. Finding words to describe exactly what we were in for was near impossible. The fact that the project had only just been completed, was still being trailed and had not been marketed yet, made it more difficult.
As a writer, I have always wanted a world scoop, so this is it, exclusively for Expat. Terms like air trekking, aerial canopy discovery or maybe rainforest canopy adventure, describe the activity. It involves abseiling, rappelling, climbing, jungle trekking and gliding high above the ground on a cable system resembling a flying fox. It offers a fantastic adrenaline rush and it pushed me to physical extremes that I thought had been lost in the dark recesses of my brain.
There is one other system like the Langkawi circuit and it is located in the rainforests of Costa Rica. Because of the potential danger of being suspended 30 metres above the rainforest floor Jurgen places the highest importance upon safety, equipment maintenance and instruction.
Our adventure started from the Recreation Desk at Mutiara Burau Bay Beach Resort Langkawi, which offers this new activity to its guests. From the base of Gunung Raya we proceeded up the mountain but fortunately only a few hundred metres in altitude. Jurgen bounded up the trail while I preferred a leisurely pace so that I could appreciate all that the rainforest offers (that is my story and I am sticking to it!). Part of the journey was on a series of steps that leads to the summit. As I recollect, we left the main trail at step 770 but there were another 4,000 more for those who like a little bit of punishment.
A base camp has been established in the forest where the equipment is stored and a timber platform ten metres off the ground indicates one of the stations along the trail. Gearing up took some time and anyone familiar with abseiling will appreciate the use of caribiners, harnesses and ropes. As we equipped ourselves, Jurgen explained all the safety devices including waist and shoulder harnesses.
After suspending ourselves from a test rope we were ready to start. This meant more mountain climbing and then up two ladders to our first platform. From here, two sturdy wires were tightly suspended down to another tree 30 metres away.
From this point on, all adventurers lock onto a rope so that they are now part of the system and should there be a mishap it will only involve a fall of one metre. I’ve got to admit the scene in front of me looked a little scary as the journey forward required traversing the ropes suspended ten metres above the ground. This is where I was reminded that that no one of my portly proportions had attempted the run. “Great”, I thought as I had visions of becoming impaled into the trunk.
Jurgen attached a device with two wheels onto one of the wires and another cord onto the other wire. The device was designed to propel one along the wire using gravity while the other was for pulling along to the end should one become motionless. It all looked a piece of cake and soon Jurgen’s son and assistant, Ashraff raced along the wire. Soon it was my turn and it was at this stage I thought of those weight reduction classes.
“Okay, go,” yelled Jurgen. I’m sure he sensed a little reluctance and his gentle nudge soon had me screaming through the rainforest. It all passed quickly and all I had time to think of was “what sort of impression I would make on the immovable tree at the end of the wire?” It all turned out to be a non-event as my journey ceased some metres from the tree and I slowly winched myself onto the platform. There were lots of exclamations of “whow, fantastic, great etc” as all members of the group (restricted to four adventurers and two guides for reasons of safety) arrived onto the platform.
From here we did one more glide, inched over a small abyss, scaled down rocky slopes and abseiled down a short cliff. All this was developing skills and overcoming any apprehensions anyone may have had before attempting the last run. We also had a chance to take in the scenic beauty of the rainforest and the distant views of the Langkawi coastline.
The last run was an exhilarating 125 metres glide into the top of a 30 metres high rainforest mammoth. What a buzz! I’m not sure what speed we developed but my wheeled device was too hot to handle. So here we were hanging on to a few branches admiring the view. Our excitement subsided upon learning that the only way out was to drop 30 metres to the forest floor via a rappelling rope. The ascent proved to be quite simple once one adjusted to the idea of just dropping from the safety of the branch into open space.
The Langkawi rainforest canopy adventure will appeal to those who love extreme sports, as once you start, there are few opportunities to withdraw gracefully. The trip takes about four hours and costs about RM180. It is also great for those who want to do something beyond the ordinary. No special skills are required as Jurgen explains how to handle the equipment.
Contact: Mutiara Burau Bay Beach Resort, Tel: 04 959 1061
or Jurgen Zimmerer, Tel: 012 484 8744.
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