Facing my fears
Participating in a high ropes course proved to be quite the adventure.
DON’T know what possessed me the other day. One minute, I was queuing up to get into an Australian wildlife sanctuary, and the next I was agreeing to participate in a high ropes course located a short distance from the kangaroo enclosure.
I’m not a high ropes sort of person. So when my partner suggested that I join him and his two children for some fun swinging from ropes and walking along some very wobbly planks suspended from treetops, I was surprised to hear an alien voice, which sounded remarkably like my own, say: “Sure. That sounds like fun.”
As we made our way to the entrance of the course, I was reminded of the time I visited the Grotte des Demoiselles, a large limestone cavern in southern France. I can still remember standing on a small viewing platform 50m above an immense chamber called the Cathedral of the Abyss.
As I stared at the magnificent stalactites hanging down, my fear of heights prevented me from walking to the edge of the vantage point to witness the mighty stalagmites below.
My heart was racing so fast I thought I would expire on the spot.
How then was I going to climb up a tree, walk along a metal rope, drag myself suspended upside down along another rope, manoeuvre a few other scary mid-air obstacles, and come back down to earth via a flying fox?
As I watched a safety video that featured a young man blithely climbing up a cargo net strung between two trees and then swinging on a Tarzan rope to a platform on another tree, my heart sank.
Middle-aged women shouldn’t be subjecting themselves to such rigorous activities, I thought. I should be at home making cup cakes, embroidering pillowslips and taking genteel sips of Earl Grey tea from delicate bone china cups.
I should have both my feet planted firmly on the ground at all times. After all, trees are for birds and squirrels, and large poisonous snakes that look remarkably like one of those Tarzan ropes that adventurous people use to swing from tree to tree.
Before I had a chance to give voice to my fears, I found myself standing at the course starting point, my heart in my mouth.
“I’ll go first,” I said to my partner, as I began climbing a sturdy tree with footholds. With three people behind me, I’d be less inclined to dawdle and hold everyone up. Or so I thought.
Once I was on the first platform, I gingerly placed a foot on the metal rope that was strung between two trees, high above the for- est floor. Holding onto another rope, which was suspended above me and parallel to the one below, I began moving gingerly along.
“Whatever you do, don’t look down!” I told myself. “Just keep looking straight ahead and you’ll be fine.”
As I inched along, I tried to focus on the trees around me, but all I was aware of was the sound of my heart thudding in my chest like a low flying 747 plane.
Just when I thought I was making reasonably good progress, every pore in my body decided to drench me with sweat. Rivulets ran off my brow and stung my eyes, blinding me.
Upon reaching the second platform a few seconds later, I hugged the supporting tree like a drowning man clinging to a life raft, damp mascara clogging my eyes.
“How’s it going?” shouted my partner, who was bringing up the rear.
“Great!” I shouted back. “I’m really enjoying this.”
The next obstacle saw me dragging myself along another wire rope, one hand over the other. At least, I wasn’t able to look down and see how far I was from the ground.
Half way around the course, I began to hyperventilate.
I guess my self-persuasion skills were beginning to wear a little thin at this stage.
As I was hugging yet another tree and gasping for air, a park employee appeared below and asked me if I needed assistance. I didn’t answer, because my legs were shaking so violently that it was all I could do to stop myself from collapsing.
“The process for getting you down is quite time-consuming,” he continued.
“But since you’re halfway through and have already completed the more difficult obstacles, it would be easier for you to just keep going.”
Now, I’m not one for giving up so easily, especially if it means making a public spectacle of myself. So I summoned every ounce of courage left in my drenched body and ordered myself to persevere. My partner also encouraged me to keep going by telling me what a great job I was doing.
It wasn’t easy, but I did finish. I even enjoyed the flying fox, despite my ungainly landing. And oddly enough, now that I know what the high ropes course entails, I could possibly be persuaded to give it another go.
If you stare fear in the eye, you might just make it a little smaller.
Check out Mary on Facebook at www. facebook.com/mary.schneider.writer. Reader response can be directed to email@example.com. my.