Wow, that was fun! I don’t really like heights and have never done a ropes course before, so when we first saw the rope course called Adrenalin Forest, I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to do.
It wasn’t until Rebecca’s friend, Jennifer, arrived from LA that we all decided that we had to try it.
Also called a high-wire aerial obstacle course, these courses (there are three of them in New Zealand) were built here by Jean Caillabet, a French citizen, first in Christchurch in 2006, then Wellington in 2010 and finally in the Bay of Plenty, about forty minutes from where we live, in 2011.
According to the brochure, we would be tested physically (balance, strength, agility) and mentally (heights and mental challenges). The course is designed for all ages, levels and abilities and as the promotional material also says, everybody has their own definition of pushing themselves.
The course is located in a forest of very tall straight pine trees. What strikes one first is that this is no Outward-Bound type rope course with a few ropes strung between telephone poles. No, this is big operation spread out in a small forest. At least one hundred small platforms are attached to the trees at various levels. A variety of obstacle challenges connect the platforms. There are six levels of difficulty with ninety different challenges. Each level increases both in difficulty and in height above the ground. At level one, you are only a few meters off the ground; by level six you are more than 20 meters (65 feet) off the ground and need at least a fair amount of upper body strength to complete the challenges.
You can do as many of the levels as you want or are able to within the 3-hour time limit, but you can only do any given level one time. Once you commit yourself to a given level, there is no turning back. Either you finish it, or if need be, you are rescued by the staff. Not something any of us wanted to happen! You do the challenges on your own at your own speed. No guide goes with you.
A climbing harness around your waist and thighs and a four-foot long tether with a metal clip on either end keeps you safe at all times. The two clips on the tether cord will only close over the steel cables on the course, and an innovative system makes it so that at least one clip has to be closed at all times. Hence, you can’t accidently be unrestrained at any time and fall.
Along with the obstacles, there are a number of zip-lines (called Flying Foxes) connecting some of the platforms. You clip into the cable, hang a pulley device that you carry on your harness over the cable and off you go.
Level one starts off simple enough. The first few challenges are walking across wooden bridges, and then you progress to single stranded cables. But slowly everything becomes a bit more challenging. The distances you have to cross become progressively longer, and some permutation is always added to the mix. Sometimes you have to change sides to avoid obstacles on the cable, or walk across logs that move and scissor when you place your weight on them. A breeze through the forest when you are on some of the higher platforms adds to the fun! In some spots you swing on a rope and land in a large cargo net and then pull yourself up to a platform. On another, you clamber through oil drums suspended on their sides, and on another you ride a small skateboard across the distance between the trees.
Far above you, you see people on some of the higher courses. Everybody is in good spirits although everyone is decidedly focused on their own particular challenge. Indeed, after the first few challenges, an almost business-like attitude prevailed among our small group, clipping and unclipping, and deciding how to best tackle the current challenge. Whatever problems you may have back home are quickly forgotten due to the concentration and focus required. We also all become almost oblivious to the height.
We ended up doing the first three levels which took us (slow-moving tree sloths) almost three hours. I certainly feel I could come back and do level four. Levels five and six seem to demand a great deal of arm strength (and less weight). Some of the harder challenges include crossing a series of small, one-foot-diameter wooden plates suspended on ropes. You balance yourself on one plate and then have to reach for the rope holding the next one, hoist yourself over to it and then balance both feet on that wobbling plate. As we watched, one guy was stopped supposedly resting and regaining his strength halfway across that particular challenge far up in the treetops. Another group of guys, scurrying like monkeys, passed us while we were on the course and moved quickly through all the levels. We found out they worked for a professional tree-cutting business. Obviously, they were right at home.
But as the brochure had said, everyone was challenged in some way. We left feeling exhilarated and talked about our favorite challenges and our death-defying moves on the drive home. My photos—well, it was hard to take photos while on the platforms. For one thing you wear gloves to protect your hands from the cables and secondly it seemed my hands were always busy clinging on for dear life. And all I can say is that everything looks higher up when you are actually up there.