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canoeing, kayaking and other adventures

canoeing and kayaking adventures born in the Southeastern U.S. and now centered in Scotland...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Go Ape - 4/10/2008

Fiona's birthday outing was to a place in Aberfoyle called Go Ape. Have I mentioned Fiona isn't fond of heights? Have I mentioned neither am I?

The path into the park is a ~400m zip line, not optional. We had the safety briefing just before the zipline. Our instructor had us clip into several pretend rides to show that we knew how to do it. Clips included a pulley and two karabinered stringy things. The pulley was essential to the wires, though the karabinered stringy things were what supported our weights in each of them.

Each of us climbed up a rope ladder, clipped into a wire crossing and walked across the wire to the zipline launch. Birthday girl Fiona went first, followed by Lisa who spun herself around a few times while showing off. The zipline makes a loud whiny sound when someone is still zipping. Lisa's whiny sound stopped early. She got stuck about 50m from the end and had to be "rescued" by a member of staff. Someone clipped in from the landing end and climbed out the wire to her, pulling Lisa along as she climbed back to the landing paddock. A few more people followed and then Brian. I followed Brian and Lisa's dad followed me.

I wasn't all that excited about zipping but it turned out to be a pretty cool ride. As long as I didn't look down. The scenery was beautiful with the Trossach hills all around us. It took about a minute to get across but felt like much longer, zipping over treetops. The instructor suggested that those of us on the light side of the weight range would do well to keep our legs tucked and not follow Lisa's example of getting stuck. I landed gracelessly on my butt, the downside of careening into the landing paddock backwards. Lisa's dad Joe followed me and I captured his landing for posterity.

The second play park had us climb up a ladder, across some wooden slats and then tarzan swing to a cargo net before several more slatty or wire traverses and a zipline out. The tarzan swing was not optional. The instructor who stood there suggested that it would be in our best interest to grab the cargo net on our first pass, as it would become more and more difficult on subsequent passes. Going tarzan had two difficult parts. The first was the leap of faith and the second was the climb up the cargo net. Some of the weaker members of the group struggled with the climb. Most of us struggled mentally with the initial leap.

The remaining traverses were easy in comparison, though it took a little while for my legs to stop shaking.

The third play park started with a rope ladder to a hamster tunnel followed by a rope swinging step traverse a static ladder up to a wire traverse and a zipline out. The static ladder and high wire traverse were the hardest for me, again all mental. At this point, Joe, Brian and I led the way. Alternately Lisa or her sister followed behind me. Typically Lisa stayed back helping talk people across whatever obstacle.

Joe, Brian and I waited at the end of the third park for everyone else to catch up but got shooed along by one of the staff members. The fourth play park started with yet another rope ladder to a cargo net traverse followed by a funny slatted traverse and a choice between the "difficult" log swinging step traverse or "extreme" jungle gym and diagonal swinging log traverse. Joe and Brian went the "extreme" way and I chose the "difficult" traverse for at least for Brian and me what turned out to be the same reason. "Difficult" looked far too hard for Brian and "Extreme" looked far too hard for me. It took me a long time to get across the swinging logs -- the swinging ropes were far easier in part because they offered much better traction than wet logs. The high wire traverse with handles felt so much easier in comparison. On this zipline out, I used my camera to capture the experience, including the splat at the end.

The instructors chased us to the fifth play park in an attempt to make sure that we didn't run out of time/daylight. Though the fifth play park became optional to the rest of the group, the majority of us did it. It started with, what else, a rope ladder up to a slatted traverse followed by a static ladder up to an optional tarzan swing into a cargo net and rope crawl back to another static ladder to the penultimate zip line of the day. The optional tarzan was bypassed by a second slatty crossing to the static ladder. Brian chose the tarzan option, so I stayed to take his photo. I could feel the platform shaking from his leg shaking. The swing required a much bigger leap of faith, a full at least six foot plunge before the swing took hold and flung him the 20ish metres to the cargo net. As he landed with a splat, I took the cheater route across. I met Brian at the base of the static ladder to the zip line and gave him my camera to play for a little while. He shot video of me landing properly with a very silly run instead of a splat on my bum. Most of the women behind me chose the tarzan route instead of the cheater route. I was very impressed.

The final zipline out was more beautiful than the ride in. It started higher than the first one, requiring two static ladder climbs to reach it. I zipped across a waterfall, more treetops and had about a minute to enjoy the panorama around me before landing a bit more gracefully than the zip out. We stayed for everyone's landings and then bid our farewells. A very adrenalised, still twitching Fiona invited us to join them at the pub later.

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