Conquering the fear of the unknown

The Canadian Press
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A man tries the North Atlantic Zip Line tour at Petty Harbour in a handout photo. — Photo by The Canadian Press

Newfoundland zip line features ocean views, speeds up to 80 kilometres an hour

Rob Carter has a ready answer for anyone who thinks they might like to soar across a suspended cable at speeds of up to 80 km/h, but is a bit leery.

“We had an 86-year-old lady up here,” said the founder of North Atlantic Zip Lines as he gazed over gorgeous Petty Harbour, from the top of a wooden connector platform.

“Truly inspirational. She did the whole course.

“Our youngest age is eight years old.”

Carter said the sensation of breezing along in a harness, double-hooked to the cable, is about as close to flying as you can get. His 10-line course is billed as the largest in Canada with lengths ranging from 90 to 750 metres, strung across heights of up to 75 metres.

The minimum weight requirement is 70 pounds or 32 kilograms, and the maximum allowed is 250 pounds or 113 kilograms.

Guests are instructed on how to slow their speed using a brake glove and what to do if they lose momentum and wind up stranded on the line. (Hint: a guide will retrieve you).

Anyone who decides they want to end their tour after the first line can do so but will not receive a refund.

“Typically we find it’s the fear of the unknown,” Carter said of the most typical concerns of first-time zip liners. The most frequent visitors to the course are women aged 30 to 50, he added.

“It’s not the heights. They’re not sure what to expect, but once they get up here and they go across the first line, they’re totally comfortable and they’re off to the races.”

Carter said there have been only a couple of minor mishaps since the course opened in June 2012, involving sprained ankles.

Its unique setting, featuring spectacular ocean views from the eastern edge of the continent, has drawn visitors from across Canada and as far away as New Zealand and Alaska, Carter said.

“It’s the only place in North America where you can actually zip and see icebergs and whales.”

Spring and summer are the best times for that, and guests may also glimpse moose, coyotes, rabbits and eagles.

Getting up to the first line involves about a 10-minute hike or there’s a tracked all-terrain vehicle reminiscent of a mini tank that’s a fun ride up. It’s a Scandinavian Hagglunds BV206 that Carter said can drive through pretty much anything.

The entire tour usually takes about 2 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the group. Reservations are strongly recommended and are sometimes required weeks in advance in the busiest summer season.

It’s also worth taking some time before or after zip lining to explore scenic Petty Harbour.

Located about 20 minutes south of downtown St. John’s, it’s one of the most photogenic seaside towns in the province. Its bright homes, soaring cliffs and fishing vessels have been the backdrop for several movies and television shoots including “Orca” and “Republic of Doyle.”

Organizations: North Atlantic Zip Lines, New Zealand and Alaska

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland, Petty Harbour North America Doyle

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