We thought she was going to have a heart attack. But the 80-year-old stopped halfway up the mountain simply to say, “It’s not as hard as Machu Picchu”.
Wearing a hot pink T-shirt and with a slash of magenta on her lips, Grace Martinez is the new face of adventure travel: an inspiration to young and old.
We met her while zip-lining in the evocatively named Lava Hot Springs in Idaho.
Like many families, we wanted to pop the kids’ bubble-wrap.
Years of running around, arms flapping like a chook, under trees clucking, “Don’t fall! Be careful! You don’t want to crack your head open” had left this mother hen well and truly – er – plucked.
The kids were underconfident and overcautious. So we tried to break them out of their comfort zone without breaking their limbs.
For the uninitiated, a zip-line is a flying fox on steroids: a thin cable strung between two mountain tops. You’re strapped into a thigh harness then hooked onto a pulley.
“Ven you put on zee harness, make sure it eez not too tight, or you might give yourself zee vedgie, ha ha!” chortled our Czech guide.
Grace and her octogenarian friends started gyrating in their new get-ups, which wouldn’t have been out of place in an S&M Club.
“This is on our bucket list,” one of them explained. “What have we got to lose?”
In contrast, I was doing my best impression of Elvis in All Shook Up – without the white rhinestone suit and burger addiction.
No wonder the kids were hiding behind my legs, quaking. “In the absence of courage, choose corruption,” somebody once said. (Actually, I think I may have just made that up.)
So hubby bribed Taj, 8, with $20 and said, “If you don’t have a go, you won’t get dessert”.
After initially digging his heels into the edge of the cliff, cartoon-style, Taj tipped into the abyss.
“Yee-haw!” he screamed, which in the American Midwest can mean anything from “I really love riding this bucking bronco, until it tosses me off and maims me” to “Look at my new 24-gallon hat, which I’m going to wear everywhere, even in bed, because my wife says she likes it”. For Taj, it simply meant “Awesome”.
Then a slash of cerise as Grace hurtled by, with a wild “Wahoo!!!!””Beats Disneyland any day,” she quipped, giving Taj a high five.
As the Intrepid Travel website asks, “Your sense of adventure doesn’t disappear just because you have kids, so why should your family holiday destinations be limited to the usual suspects?”
“Adventure travel provides them with knowledge and experiences that enrich their education, build their self-confidence, promote family cohesiveness, and create memories for tomorrow,” according to paediatrician Dr Karl Neumann fromKidsTravelDoc.com.
So what did the kids learn? (Aside from the fact mum’s a chicken.) That age doesn’t matter. You can still have fun, whether you’re eight or 80.