Laguna Dudu, Cabrera, Dominica Republic
As I approached the ledge guarded by a skinny Dominican kid in an orange vest labeled “Rescate,” (Rescue, in Spanish), I wondered if this place called Dudu was comically named for the doo-doo I was about to get myself into. I mean, how the hell was this kid’s orange life preserver ever going to save me if something went wrong with the makeshift zip-line that ran across the canyon below?
The main attraction of Laguna Dudu in Cabrera, Dominican Republic, and the source of my anxiety, was essentially a metal wire tied around two large trees on either side of a massive canyon containing a cavernous pool of blue, brackish water of unknown depth.
As I peeked over the edge of the rock I was meant to launch myself off of, the soles of my feet and palms of my hands tingled, signifying a familiar and overwhelming terror reserved solely for those moments when I’m either about to deliver a speech or drop from an unfathomable height.
In this case, the height was 8 meters or, roughly, 26 feet. Like I said, unfathomable.
Sure, I’d just watched my husband Ryan, our friend Morgan and about a dozen Dominicans drop like stones from their zip-line handlebars into the pool of water below. And, sure, every single one of them had surfaced alive, unharmed and whooping with delight. But, even still, everything in my brain was screaming, “Don’t do it. You have nothing to prove. Step away from the edge.”
Meanwhile, Ryan was standing at my side, using a well-worn motivational tactic. “It’s okay if you don’t have the guts,” he said, smirking.
Which made me twitch, since Ryan was the one who was supposedly afraid of heights and, yet, I’d just watched him jump off the cliff not once, but twice. But I couldn’t ignore my brain, which was screaming in a voice that sounded like my mother’s, “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”
“What are you so worried about?” Ryan asked, interrupting the screaming in my head.
“Dying,” I said.
Which was the truth, even though I knew it was irrational. All the evidence before me, including all the people I’d just watched not die, showed that I definitely wouldn’t die if I jumped off that cliff. Even though I’m pretty sure there’s no park in the entire United States that could get insurance to string a wire across a canyon and charge people to drop themselves off it, regardless of how many waivers they made you sign.
But we weren’t in the United States. We were deep in the Dominican jungle, well off the beaten path, where thousands of Dominicans had dropped themselves off this cliff before me and had the adrenalin rushes to show for it.
“You’re being a wimp,” my brave self accused. “You’ve jumped off cliffs before and you liked it. C’mon, it’ll be fun!”
“I’m not really convinced I liked it,” my wimpy self said. “I’m pretty sure I did it because there was no other way down.”
While I stood frozen at the edge of the rock arguing with myself, a long line of men formed behind me, making me even more nervous. So I backed up and let them go ahead while I continued the internal debate with myself over whether or not it was reasonable to be afraid of dying in a place called Dudú.
When the last guy in line grabbed hold of the zip handle, I knew I’d have to make a decision soon as to whether or not I was going to jump. And every nerve in my body was telling me not to.
But just as he grabbed the bar, the guy looked down, dropped the bar and, shaking his head, walked away from the edge and back toward his friends, who were now doubled over laughing at their fearful buddy. And, in that moment, I realized how silly I was being.
So before I could rethink my decision, I stepped up to the edge of the rock and grabbed the zip-line handle.
And as soon as I stepped off the rock, I immediately regretted my decision.
If I thought I was terrified before, standing on the edge of the cliff, I was absolutely frozen with fear now, flying through the air towards my cavernous, water-filled doom. The only difference was now I no longer had a choice in the matter. I was going to have to drop into that water whether I liked it or not.
So I took a deep breath and let go.
When I surfaced, my own laughter was met by the giggles of a dozen Dominican guys standing at the water’s edge. And it took me a moment to realize they weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing at their friend, who had just been shown up by a gringo girl. And now this poor guy would never live this humiliation down unless he grew some cojones and dropped off that cliff. Shame is a powerful motivator, I thought, as I watched the guy turn on his heels and march back up the hill and towards his fate, which was to ride that zip line with courage.
By now, the fearful tingling in my feet had been replaced by the lingering thrill of speed mixed with positive elation at still being alive. Followed by a disproportionate sense of self-satisfaction. The kind of satisfaction that only comes from accomplishing something that – even for a brief moment – seemed impossible.
I had conquered my own Dudu.
For more photos, visit Turf to Surf’s Photo Album for Rio San Juan and Laguna Dudu.
This post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.
“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press
“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com
“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail