“We’re going to fly through the forest,” I said.
“You don’t like heights, remember?”
“But I like trees,” I said. “And since I don’t know what we’re about to do, it’s an adventure.”
“Remember that rappelling adventure in New Zealand?” she reminded me. “You weren’t too happy going down that 300 foot rope.”
“Let’s not go there,” I said. “Besides, we did that ten years ago and you’re still talking about it. So how bad could it have been?”
“You were the one who turned white.”
“I’ve always wanted to fly, honey. Let’s see what they’ve rigged up here.”
Our guides were from New Zealand and Australia, which, I would come to realize during our time in Canada, is the case with most guides in Canada. The reason is that it’s easy to obtain a work permit, and Canada reminds those from Down Under of home.
“Canada is New Zealand on steroids,” our New Zealand guide Alex said.
“What’s he saying?” Hiromi kept asking every time Alex tried to explain how to wear the harness that would allow us to zip safely eleven hundred feet from one observation platform to another, two hundred feet above the ground.
“It’s just his accent,” I said, straining to understand his instructions. “He must be from a very small town.”
“You’re talking too fast,” Hiromi told him. “I’m scared enough, I’d like to at least know what we’re supposed to be doing.”
“Just hold on to the rope,” Alex said, “and you’ll be fine.”
“And try to keep your eyes opened,” I added, knowing that she would have them closed.
“I hate having to do these things so you can write about them,” Hiromi hissed.
“Oh, like you’re not afraid?”
“Sure I am, but I’m not going to show it.”
There were five “zips” and, just as I suspected, Hiromi kept her eyes closed and both hands tight around the rope. It wasn’t at all scary after the first crossing, and it did give the sensation of flying through the air. By the third zip some of us were letting the rope go, secure in the harness. And for the last one I even attempted to zip high above the river below upside down. Hiromi hated me for that. “You’re such a show off,” she said. “I remember how you were in New Zealand.”
“And you’ll never let me forget,” I laughed. “But this is nothing like that. This is fast and easy.”
What wasn’t fast or easy was the ten mile mountain biking and four hour kayaking we did the next day. If Hiromi wasn’t having much fun harnessed to a zip line, she was downright miserable in a kayak. The bike ride was pleasant enough, except for one grueling uphill stretch, but once we got to Alta Lake Hiromi only wanted to go in a double kayak or in a canoe. Reese, our young Australian guide, convinced her that it was safer if everyone had their own kayak because once we made it across the lake we would be entering the narrow River of Golden Dreams. A canoe would be hard to maneuver and in a double kayak, if one person paddled against the other’s direction there was a good possibility both would end up swimming.
“You’ll do fine,” Reese encouraged her.
“Oh yes,” I said. “And you’ll earn your wages today.”
After some instruction on how to hold and handle the double paddle we put on life jackets and got into our kayaks. Within minutes Hiromi was facing the shore asking where the rest of us were. I tried to call out advice but Reese correctly sensed that Hiromi would not comfortably listen to anything I might say. “Don’t listen to Larry, listen to me,” Reese told her, instructing me to “go ahead towards the river; I’ll work with your wife.”
“Good luck with that,” I said.
Hiromi, sweet gentle woman that she is, cursed me as I paddled off, listening to Reese patiently coax her to turn around. It took a while—a long while actually—for Hiromi to get the knack of it as she zigged and zagged her way across the lake. Every time I turned around to see her progress I had to look in a different direction from the time before. But eventually she made it, only to discover that the lake was the easy part of this exercise. The river was the real challenge.
It was narrow; there were a lot of overhanging branches to duck under, two beaver dams to get around, and a current that made sharp turns and protruding rocks true obstacles. I nearly overturned twice and got stuck on an embankment once where it took me five minutes to shake and shimmy my kayak back into the river, but my travails were minor compared to my poor wife’s. Reese had to attach a rope from his kayak to hers just to get her to the river, and twice more when she got stuck and couldn’t maneuver her way clear. Watching her making her way down river was like watching a live game of Pong as she crashed into one side and then the other. I knew to keep my mouth shut after my first, “How you doing honey?” was answered with, “Shut up, you bastard!” But, I admit it, I did laugh. After all, it’s these kind of moments that keep a marriage fresh. You feel sorry for your spouse, you admire that she’s game enough to do something like this, and you can’t help yourself, knowing how you’ll be able to tease and mimic her for years. (This of course only works when she gets to laugh at your buffoonery as well,)