Hanging Out 3-19-2005

Zipping around Kauai's Backcountry

By: Marty Wentzel

If a Backcountry Zipline Adventure guide tells your clients to “be the ball,” they darn well better be the ball. Otherwise, they might find themselves suspended safely above waterfalls, streams and tropical terrain until someone pulls them back to terra firma.

Run by Kauai Backcountry Adventures, the zipline tour propels clients back and forth along a series of heavy-duty cables high above a rain forest. Our guide Christy was in charge of sending us across each line, while Milo stood on each receiving platform, ready to catch us one by one. Guide number three, the lanky Lindsey, ran interference.

After a thorough safety briefing, we donned elaborate harnesses and sturdy helmets as Christy explained the routine.

“I’m going to check you carefully to make sure you’re ready, then I’ll tell each of you how to hold your body for the best zip across the canyon,” she said. “When the winds blow really strong, like they are today, or if you have a smaller build, you need to tuck your legs up to your chest, in the cannonball position, so there’s minimum drag.”

First up was Nick, a beefy quarterback of a guy who looked like he would have no trouble picking up speed, since each zipline runs slightly downhill.

“Don’t tuck, just go for it,” Christy told him.

Nick jumped off the platform, zipped about halfway across the cable, then slowed down when the wind started pushing him back. Large as he was, his weight couldn’t carry him to the other side.

That’s when Milo swung into action. He tied one end of a rope to the receiving platform, held onto the other end, hooked his own harness onto the cable and pulled himself along the line to Nick. Grabbing Nick around the waist, he used the rope to pull the two of them back to the far platform.

Nick looked chagrined. The rest of us cheered heartily.

Let me state emphatically that on any zipline tour, clients should always follow directions, but when it was my turn, I bent the rules so I could be rescued. When Christy connected my harness to the cable, eyeballed my build and cried, “Okay Marty, tuck. Be the ball,” I kept my legs looser than necessary. Sure enough, halfway across the run, my zip lost its zest and I stopped.

Others might be afraid, hanging from the middle of the line, held only by a harness connected to a cable. But earlier, during our 25-minute ride from KBA’s headquarters to the top of the zipline course, I had listened carefully as Christy described the measures that were taken to make this trip a safe one. Now I put my faith in the equipment and enjoyed the view. Above me towered Waialeale, central Kauai’s 5,148-foot pinnacle and one of the wettest places in the world. Below were irrigation tunnels built by hand in 1864, and the streams of the Waiahi Valley. I heard nothing but the wind in my ears. I felt free as a bird.

Sure enough, Milo went into his Sir Galahad act, tying the rope, shimmying out to retrieve me and pulling me back to the other side, while chatting happily about the perks of his job. I couldn’t have been happier. Over the remaining six ziplines, I tucked on command and zipped effortlessly along, even across the longest run of 950 feet, the length of three football fields.

Christy, Milo and Lindsey rewarded us for our courage by setting out a picnic lunch of wraps, chips, cookies and water, enjoyed in a private bamboo grove by a swimming hole. A few hearty souls jumped into the icy mountain water. I preferred to chat a bit longer with the guides and learned some fun facts about the tour. The oldest person they’ve taken out so far was 77 years old, they said. The trail crosses land owned by America Online founder Steve Case. It took three months to build the course, during which all the materials were brought in on foot or by air.

For the ride back to headquarters, dirty and proud of our feat, we felt like a band of brothers brought back down to earth.

The Details

Kauai Backcountry Adventures
P.O. Box 183
Hanamaulu, HI 96715

Since early 2004, this family-run business has offered a 3½-hour zipline tour down a mountainside into a tropical valley. Along the way, guides share tales of the island’s history, culture, flora and fauna.

Clients should wear knee-length or long pants, a swimsuit beneath their clothes, closed-toed shoes and hair ties to secure long hair. A helmet, safety harness and lunch are provided. The commissionable tour costs $110 per person and is available to clients 15 years and older, weighing between 100 and 250 pounds. Clients who are uncomfortable with heights should not book this excursion.

Kauai Backcountry Adventures also offers commissionable mountain tubing and waterfall adventures.

Kauai UpdateE

Kauai Update
New Poipu Beach Guide
Clients might have heard about Poipu in 2004 when the Travel Channel called its beach the best in America. Others may simply want to head to the South Kauai destination because of its reliably sunny weather. For whatever reason, agents will want a copy of the new Poipu Beach Reference Guide, newly updated with extensive information on accommodations, restaurants, activities, attractions and services.
The free 48-page publication also provides details on Poipu’s beaches, climate and transportation, along with maps of the area.

PGA Grand Slam Package
Few Hawaii greens enjoy as much fame as Poipu Bay Golf Course, home of the annual PGA Grand Slam of Golf since 1994 and winner of numerous awards. For clients looking to perfect their swing on the luxurious links, the course has rolled out the 2005 Grand Slam package, combining three rounds of golf for a discounted price, greens fees, golf cart and use of the GPS and driving range. Clients need to play all three rounds within 10 days after the purchase date. Per-person package rates are $300 for guests of the adjacent Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort and Spa, and $360 for non-guests.
The course’s Prepaid Golf Packages provide discounts to clients who buy rounds of golf in advance. While the regular per-round greens fee is $185, the five-round package price is $550 (a savings of $375), with 10 rounds for $1,000 (an $850 savings). All rounds must be used within 30 days of purchase.
Junior golfers ages 17 and under can play the 18-hole course for 50 percent off the adult rate. It’s free after 4 p.m. when they walk the course.