If you’d asked me a year ago to go zip lining 120m above land, and told me that to get there I’d be hooked to a steel cable scrambling along a mountain ledge, I’d have quite firmly told you that wasn’t for me. I’d have told you I’ll see you on the beach, that I’ll go to a yoga class while you’re there, or waited for you at the other end.
I’ve always avoided things where I felt I had no control, had to rely on other people, or situations I risked finding myself out of my depth, a risk of drama. I always hated things like rollercoasters and even at water parks you’d find me at the lazy river rather than the sheer drop. But something has changed. I won’t be going on the world’s fastest rollercoaster any time soon but somehow, I feel a little less fearful. I don’t know what I can put it down to, but it’s like my inner adventurer is starting to come out of her shell. Perhaps it’s changes happening in my heart, in my soul, perhaps it’s just that as we grow, our courage grows with us. Perhaps it’s just that we have better adventure companions along the way who we trust, who make us feel safe.
Via Ferrata in the UAE’s northernmost emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, is a series of three zip lining experiences. I did the introductory 1km ledge walk, where, hooked to a steel wire, you scramble, climb and trek along the mountain’s edge, between three zip lines, 50m, 60m and the finale of 300m, the country’s longest. Safe and accessible, this is a really nice mix of adventure, hiking and climbing for all the family, open to people from 12-65 years old.
So, embracing my inner adventurer, here are my five reasons to head up to the mountains this weekend, whether you’re zip lining or even jumping on your bike.
- Reconnecting with nature is soul food: Successful people from Robin Sharma to Louise L Hay will tell you this is mind and body medicine. All too often we are ferrying around in cars, public transport, through cities, offices, elevators, and how often do our feet or hands truly touch the Earth? Scrambling and climbing across rocks couldn’t make you any more in touch with nature. When was the last time you stepped outside the front door and wondered at the freshness of the air you’re breathing? I know whether I’m in Dubai or back home in London, that is not something I ever think so travel for me is a time to truly connect with nature. It’s also a good few degrees cooler up north so this is a nice place to escape the heat.
- Tranquility: Quiet time is so important; it’s the space to think, to breathe, to be. Why I so love my yoga and gym time is because this is my head time, but it’s not always tranquil. Whether it’s music playing, cars honking, people talking, it can still be a little ‘noisy’, distracting. Anyone doing endurance sports will understand this. Getting on your bike in the great outdoors, going for a long run, is a similar sense of escape, getting away from life’s ‘chatter’. It’s something which is good for us, no matter how peaceful or chaotic our lives are. There’s no TV or radio to switch on, it’s just you and the sound of the outdoors.
- Overcome some fears: There is nothing more empowering than doing something you thought you couldn’t, especially if it terrified you. So many of us hold limiting beliefs and fears which stem back sometimes as far as childhood, so to do something which helps set you free of those, is so liberating. Once you realise you can overcome one thing, so many other things suddenly seem more reachable. Sport and physical activity has a wonderful way of linking to other areas of life too; whether it means you’ll be more brave and strong in the decisions you make, courageous in the risks you take, in the way you live, work or play, it affects us. Zip lining across a 300m line the height of a 30 storey building is a pretty fun way to do this. One thing I always learn with these experiences are that things are NEVER as bad as you thought they might be.
- Adventure: Doing things we haven’t done before in places we haven’t been is fun. Simple.
- Learn more about the country you live in: So many people don’t leave the city or emirate they live or work in when we have so much beauty just an hour or two away from us. Holidays or adventures don’t have to cost the earth or eat into your annual leave. Get out and explore!
For more information on the Via Ferrata zip lining experience, go to: https://jebeljais.ae/. The experience is great value at Dh400 ($108). There are no more than eight people in a group at any one time, with three instructors escorting every group across the 1km walk. Depending on the size of the group and fitness levels, the ledge walk experience can take between two and four hours. There are two more technical routes if you are more experienced and looking for more of that adrenaline rush. Currently there are two slots a day so book in advance as weekends get fully booked.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Hilton RAK Resort and Spa which is the closest resort to the mountains, to the East of the city. From there, it took us around 45 minutes to reach base camp (more like 75 minutes from the new hotels in the Marjan Island side of the city), and it’s another 20 minutes drive to the top of Jebal Jais. The wonderful thing about getaways to many of the smaller emirates is the price. For a five star resort, two people can stay half board for less than Dh1,000 ($300) [date and availability dependent], much cheaper than many of the bigger cities. Though it’s one of the older properties in the emirate, I loved it. I’m not a fan of shopping mall style hotels and though this is a big resort, it’s still low rise and blends into the surroundings with its vast beach and mountain views. It also has a pretty good gym by hotel standards, if you like to stay active when you travel.
How to get there
RAK is around one hour by car from Dubai airport and around 45 minutes from Sharjah airport. (Inshallah!)