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Europe's longest zip-line and world's first for disabled users opens in province of Teruel
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Aug 2, 2019
EUROPE'S biggest zìp-line could be about to turn a mountain village in a province suffering from population decline into one of inland Spain's greatest tourist attractions.
Fuentespalda, in the southern Aragón province of Teruel – where the capital city has just 36,000 inhabitants and almost 75% of the population lives in villages of fewer than 300 people – has suddenly been added to holiday wish-lists for thrill-seekers from as far away as Galicia, Barcelona, Navarra and Madrid.
The zip-line which opened on Monday is two kilometres long (one-and-a-quarter miles), with a gradient of 150 metres (492 feet) – about the same as the upper part of a 'green slope' at a ski resort – and hangs at 803 metres (2,635 feet) above ground, making it two-thirds the height of most of the province's Gúdar mountain range, 50 metres higher than the summit of the Montgó mountain which overlooks the east coast seaside towns of Dénia and Jávea and a third of the height of the tallest peak in the Picos de Europe mountain range in the north.
In short, it is not recommended for anyone with vertigo.
Setting it up has taken over three years, and harness-testing has taken months, since weather conditions and human weight all make a difference as to angles and equipment.
For example, when there is no wind, lightweight people do not reach the end of the line and, if there is a wind, heavier people go too fast, explains Cristián Cutanda of the installation company, Alqui Fuentespalda.
The best conditions are when there is no wind at all, Cutanda says, when the experience is 'absolutely wonderful'.
He said the firm had to experiment with each and every possible weight and every possible wind speed.
Also, in addition to weather conditions affecting installation and testing, the logistics of setting up the zip-line were tricky: they had to fix a cable 803 metres above sea-level and sloping at a 150-metre gradient without any support between the beginning and end.
Even using the same equipment and technology as is used in ski stations – of which Teruel has two, Javalambre and Valdelinares – to set up chair lifts, the zip-line fitting was even more complex: chair-lift cables have support posts at least every 300 metres on ski slopes, whereas the zip-line has no post for two kilometres.
Machines used had to be supported from the air by helicopter, Cutanda explains.
“Everyone who's used it has said it's spectacular,” he assures.
“It's also adapted for people of reduced mobility to use.”
According to mayoress of Fuentespalda, Carmen Agud: “Anyone with any disability can use it – as long as they're able to lie down.”
It is, in fact, the first-ever in the world designed to be suitable for disabled people.
Carmen Agud is rumoured to have already had a go at whizzing down it herself.
Alqui Fuentespalda measures wind speeds every day, and says if these are any higher than 40 kilometres per hour (25mph), the zip-line cannot open - “we've tried it,” Cutanda admits.
The firm intends to sell tickets for it online so as to use up every single daily slot.
An estimated 80 people a day could use the zip-line since, even though it only takes a minute and a half to cover the full length, another five or 10 are needed to harness up the person and lower him or her onto the platform attached to the 'totem poles' at the start and end of the line.
Although it may not feel like it for the uninitiated and those with no head for heights, the zip-line is 'completely safe', Cutanda assures.
“We've carried out exhaustive dry-runs – with a dummy, with human volunteers of different weights, and in every wind condition,” he says.
The line runs between the Puente Umbría slope and the San Miguel hermitage chapel in Fuentespalda, a village of 286 inhabitants in the district of Matarraña, and is officially the longest in Europe, with a descent speed of at least 80 kilometres per hour (50mph).
It is not quite the longest or the fastest in the world, though: this is in Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a speed of 150 kilometres per hour (93mph) and a length of 2.83 kilometres (1.76 miles).
The photograph shows one of the installation company workers trying out the line, and is taken by the company itself, Alqui Fuentespalda.
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