|Tuesday morning found us gently entering the lagoon area that surrounds Labadee, Haiti. The peninsular of land
that we were headed for on the north coast of Haiti is owned and managed by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. It is
about a half mile in length and maybe 200 yards wide at its widest point.
However, for its size, it is a virtual paradise -- white sand beaches, palm trees, great picnic shelters, paved
paths to walk on, sports areas, water parks, a roller coaster, zip lines -- the works.
Before leaving the ship, Deanna and I headed for the Windjammer Café for breakfast. Mr. “I be partying till 1
AM” decided to pass on this and sleep in until we were ready to go ashore.
I think breakfast on the cruise ship is D’s & mine favorite meal time. After parking her at a table with a view of
the ocean or land if in port, I take off and make her breakfast plate for her.
She never knows what I will select and it is a treat for both of us actually, to find something different each day.
I generally stick to same basics – eggs, potatoes, sausage and I usually nip some of her fruit that I bring back
for her. It is all just relaxing somehow -- no rush, no schedule – just pick and choose your food from a huge
selection, eat slowly and enjoy the views and quiet conversations and a good cup or two of coffee and
a huge glass of cold tomato juice.
After a great breakfast in the Windjammer, we headed ashore. They have built a brand new pier here and
instead of having to tender over in small boats like we did when last here, you now are tied up to the dock and
can just walk ashore. Soon we were moseying along one of the new paved pathways and looking for a place where
Deanna could sit in a lounge chair and be in the shade.
After finding a good location and getting her set up. Justice and I headed for the gathering place for our ride
on the zip line. When I say zip line, I am not talking about some single, maybe 300 foot long zip line. What I am
talking about is five zip lines parallel to each other that stretch from a tower on a mountain side that is 700
feet above the ocean to a landing pad over 3,500 feet away – the longest zip line in the world over water.
When we had first reached the ocean beach side of the peninsular (the other side is a calm lagoon) and Justice
had seen with his own eyes just how long and high up the zip line was, he was both excited and a bit apprehensive
at the same time. However, after watching a few people go zipping by with their arms outstretched and
yelling happily at those around us, he soon lost his fear and was ready to go.
We joined our group of 20 people and after being fitted with harnesses that match our weight and height, we
headed over to the practice zip line. I've always said that if you could survive this ordeal -- the walk over and
climb (stairs) up to the jump off platforms and then the sudden, bone jarring braking maneuver to stop you
after a FAST, steep, 250 foot zip line ride -- then you would find the 3,500 foot ride
an enjoyable wild ride over the ocean.
Soon, we were all harnessed up, attached to the practice zip line and just dangling there as we received our last
instructions. Justice listened intently to our guide and all the instructions he was giving. I am quite sure Justice
paid more attention to this “lecture” than any he had ever listened to before, especially since he knew that his
safety was depending heavily on how he conducted himself during the zip line ride.
With a quick release of the locking pins, we were soon zooming downwards to the landing area just a short
distance away. With a loud slamming, banging noise, we both came to an abrupt halt as the braking devices
above our heads crashed together and stopped our descent.
Laughing like crazy, we both headed for the beat up 4-wheel drive trucks that would take us up to the top of the
mountain where the real zip line started. After all of our groups finished their practice runs and was loaded up
into the trucks, we made like a safari convoy and headed for the mountain top. Soon, we left the back gate area
of the property and started following an old washed out dirt and gravel road up the side of the
mountain that over shadowed the entire peninsular.
Justice was in heaven as he loves 4-wheeling in the mountains and was totally enjoying our rocking, bouncing ride
up the mountain. When we reached the top where the huge steel jump off tower is located, he began to get a
real sense of just how high up we were. After we got out of the trucks and then walked up the long ramp to the
tower itself and then out to the edge where you start the zip line, he really got the shock treatment.
The view from the tower is absolutely awesome. Not only is the tower very high above the ground and trees
beneath it, it is perched some 700 feet up the side of a mountain. We could see all of the long, skinny
peninsular that stretched out far below us. We could see our cruise ship tied up on the other side of the
peninsular and then the entire beach on the ocean side with hundreds of people and umbrellas
dotting the landscape.
And then far away -- 3,500 feet away -- we could see the very tiny wooden platform built out on the rocky end
of the peninsular itself. Justice was in awe of all that was around us (so was I) and soon it was our turn to
harness up and begin the ride of a lifetime. I asked him if he was OK and his exuberant smile back to me
said it all.
With that and a boastful yell of “Beat you to the bottom Granddaddy,” he was off the platform and
zipping proudly to our destination far away.
Within seconds, I was off the platform and zipping along also – loving the fantastic views, the speed, the
sensation of flying as I held my arms out to help control my decent and felt the warm, salt air
blowing across my face and arms.
For just a brief moment in time we were both flying high and loving every second of it.
As I zipped along on the long steel cable, I was immediately reminded of the last time I did this. Four years ago,
my daughter Ashley slipped off the same launch tower – her about 3 seconds before they released me. We
had been told that if we laid back and held our feet together, we could faster but because
the wind was picking up, for us not to zip that way.
I could see Ashley ahead of me -- arms outstretched in what they call the star fish position to help steady you in
the wind and slow you down a bit -- and I could hear her laughing with excitement. I laid back, pulled my feet
together and within a second or so, I had caught up with her and went zipping past her
all the while yelling at her for being a slow poke.
I can still hear her laughing and screaming back at me, “Daddy, they told you not to do that!”
Anyway, with a gentle braking of the zip line brake devices, Justice and I both came to a halt on the landing
platform and our wild zip line ride across the ocean was over. If we could have turned around and gotten right
back on, we both would have done it in a heart beat.
We made our way back to where Deanna was located and saw that she was not a happy camper with her lounge
chair arrangement. We packed up all our gear and headed for the sports area of the beach near where the roller
coaster ride was that Justice and I had tickets for later on that morning.
Sitting under the shade of the beach side pavilion near the roller coaster ride was a chair made for Deanna. I
call them Charleston chairs and some folks call then Adirondacks chairs. All I know is that they are comfortable
as all get out and with a small table sat in front of it to prop her legs up on, Deanna was a happy camper. She had
the chair, the shade, her book, and a fresh Coco Loco from the bar inside the pavilion.
Justice and I left her and made our way over to the roller coaster ride. This ride -- German designed, made, and
operated by the manufacturer’s German representatives -- is unlike any roller coaster I have ever been on.
Each car is individually free to roll on it’s own and the braking of the ride once it starts its wild down hill ride, is
100% dependant on the primary rider who holds on to two braking levers for the entire ride. Each tiny
car -- looks like an overgrown snow sled with a seat back -- can carry two people jammed
tightly together with the front person sitting between the rear person's legs.
Soon, our car was headed up -- straight up -- the very steep side of the same mountain where we had just been
to start our zip line ride. In fact, when our roller coaster car reached the very top of its climb, I noticed that it
was actually right by the parking lot where we had departed our truck ride from the zip line.
That momentary glance of recognition was soon replaced with fear as our little car started its very quick
and wild ride down the mountain.
All of I could think of was "God, I must have been crazy to have signed up for this!"
Twisting and turning, the downwards track weaved back and forth across the face of the mountain for a fast
and exhilarating ride down the side of the mountain, Justice could see the "Brake Now" warning signs before
I did and would scream out "BRAKE GRANDADDY!"
With brakes squealing and wild laughter thrown in for good measure, we zoomed downwards and soon we shot
past the STOP NOW sign and came to a grinding halt. The ride is fun, it is wild, it is scary, and is not for the
faint of heart. If you don’t brake, your day might get a bit depressing as they haul you off on a stretcher.
Laughing like crazy, we climbed out of our tiny car and ambled down the off ramp like we were veteran roller
coaster riders. While we might have been smiling and giving boisterous high fives, I think we were both saying
quietly to ourselves, "There ain’t no way in hell I am ever getting back on that crazy thing!"
Returning to the pavilion where D was camped out, I immediately ordered myself up several adult beverages
while Justice took off and headed for the volley ball nets on around the beach from us. Within minutes,
he made friends with several guys and gals and then they all starting playing volleyball.
Ten minutes -- from knowing no one to making 10 friends for the rest of the cruise and getting up
two teams to play volleyball.
The food courts in all the picnic shelters were now open and within minutes D and I were chomping down on grill
cooked hamburgers, hot dogs, and French fries. We watched Justice playing volleyball as we ate and
just enjoyed the whole scene around us.
It really is a beautiful place here, no doubt about it.