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"Don't look down," I whisper to myself.
Ahead of me lies my nemesis, two planks with a rope handle hanging over empty space. Never a fan of heights, I consider backing out and heading down the mountain. The faces of several small children half my height eagerly walking across the bridge make me swallow my fears and step on the shaky boards. The pit in my stomach grows larger but my ego goads me on. My pride demands that I don't wimp out in front of these children. I stare fixedly ahead and slowly place one foot in front of the other, my fingers clenching the rope handle in a death grip.
One foot and then the other. I will myself across to the small platform attached to the tree. There are a series of rope bridges, each higher than the next. I hear laughter and see the face of my beloved husband who is enjoying himself at my expense.
"Your face!" he laughs. "You look terrified."
I would snap back some sarcastic retort but I am too busy trying to control my overactive imagination which is currently envisioning me falling over the side of the handrail and plunging headfirst into the forest below. The guide has told us that there are elephants and other animals in the forest below us but I know that if I glance down, I will freeze and remain permanently stuck on the bridge, a modern day example of Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt. Only in my case, I will be a pillar of fear. But I will be permanently stuck on that bridge, nonetheless.
I finally reach the platform. I resist the urge to hug the tree. I want to remain there in my place of safety but I need to continue onto the next bridge so I don't hold up the line. This bridge is higher than the first and the handrail is lower, only about waist high on me. Involuntarily, I find myself bending my knees, trying to make myself smaller. I resist the urge to crawl on my knees. My imagination is working overtime, gleefully pulling up repeated images of me falling over the side and plunging to my death.
"Just one more step," I breathe.
Someone behind me bounces on the bridge and it shakes precariously. I want to snap at the offender but I am too busy forcing one foot in front of the other. This bridge is longer and each step feels like an eternity. Finally, I reach the second platform.
I keep moving forward. There are seven bridges in all, all continuously ascending. Rather than diminishing, I feel my fear growing. The bridge sways as I walk across and I can feel the planks bouncing and bending underneath me. My laughing husband is recording my near crying face on video, which he will later post on Facebook for all my friends to see. He nimbly walks across. A native of Ghana, he has walked across the canopy walk when he was a young child and shows no fear (though he later admitted he was also nervous). I cross the third bridge, then the fourth and fifth. I can hear some of the children behind me crying from nervousness. But we all keep moving forward, knowing that we can't get off. Our place of safety is only found at the end of the rope bridges so we keep going. One foot in front of the other. I resolutely keep staring ahead as the rope bridges keep ascending. The view in the distance is beautiful, full of dense rainforest and rolling hills and a panorama of blue sky with white fluffy clouds. But the only thing I can focus on is getting to the end of the series of bridges.
I step onto the sixth bridge. The end is in sight. I am still partly crying but at least I know I am almost done. I reach the platform and step onto the seventh bridge. It is a short one and I can see the last platform, built into the side of the mountain. Relief floods through me. I get halfway across and even manage to smile for a picture that my husband takes of me. It's a watery smile but it is genuine. When I finally reach the end, I resist the urge to cry from relief. I practically skip down the trail going down the side of the mountain. Once we are on level ground, I silently swear to myself that I will never do the canopy walk again. It is a promise I will break as several months later, we accompany a friend on the canopy walk. I am still nervous but at least I don't cry this time. At the end of it, I am filled with a strong sense of pride for having conquered my fears a second time. It is not an experience I would like to repeat, but I would recommend the canopy walk to anyone, even if you are afraid of heights!