I am 40 feet above the ground, precariously balanced on a tightrope with a pair of rope handholds (my training wheels). The goala small wooden platform in a pine treeis just 20 feet away, but I'm only inching forward because the tightrope started to sway as soon as my full weight was on it. I manage to take a few wobbly steps, and then I get it: I have to push the hand ropes out hard, locking my elbows, and walk with my feet turned out, like a ballerina. It works, and instantly I'm Philippe Petituntil I near the finish. With my weight now all at one end, the three ropes abruptly sag in unison. I cover the last few feet of the incline by pulling myself up the tightrope, hand over hand.
And this is just the foreplay.
The perch is but the jumping-off point for the main event, the Flying Fox Zipline, a New Zealand brand of daredevilry in which you hang from a small wheeled carriage and ride a 750-foot-long cable down and across a valley. Damian Johansen, who runs the Zipline, quickly hooks my safety harness onto the carriage and I'm off. I pull my knees in to my chest to maximize acceleration, then, after shooting through a little notch in the pines, extend them to create some drag, and watch, more fascinated than frightened, as the ground rushes up at me. "Feet up, feet up," comes the cry from the landing area, but it's too late. I hit soles first, carom and spin, then slow myself by digging in my heels.