Sydney is a city possessed with trendy eateries. Forget the mantra ‘you are what you eat’, now you are where you eat. A side effect is that everyone seems to flock to the same place to dine. Rather than being deterred by a swelling crowd buzzing around a busy café, locals feel reassured. We walked past several perfectly good café’s on our way. No matter, this is just what they do in Sydney.
Fifteen minutes later, we fold ourselves into a small table and chair arrangement in a corner by the window. We have to acknowledge the table besides us as they are part of the dance to accommodate our party of three. The stool I park up on wobbles enthusiastically. Vying for attention from the busy staff, we place our order as they rush about trying to feed half the suburb at once. We give up a spare rickety stool to a grateful patron. My muesli and smoothie ensemble is good and it needs to be. My brother and husband gorge on brunch and we do not mess about. There are more people waiting and we have a mission before us.
Down the road, Bondi Beach snakes around the coastline to Coogee. This popular expanse of shoreline seems to be like the café we just emerged from. Everyone in Sydney wants to be on this particular track. We take up position on the path in a throng that resembles ants rushing up and down clifftops. We really should have got up earlier but who does that on a Sunday morning?
A fine mist hovers in the breeze, issuing the welcome scent of sea salt. The sun takes centre stage and we are ready with SPF 50+ and hats. A clear sheen cascades our foreheads. Remember to bring a water bottle. Boats intersperse the horizon and the Tasman Sea looms beyond. We navigate rocks as a trail eases over clifftops. There are dubious clusters of rocks with phallic resemblance that have caused a pile up. Cameras and selfie sticks have been drawn from backpacks. They are all bonkers if you ask me. Of all the scenery on either side of these bloody unfortunately shaped rocks, this is what will adorn the digital walls of Facebook for the next twelve seconds.
A park opens up behind the trail and offers a rest spot which we gratefully accept. Back on the trail we curl around towards Clovelly. Another piece of prime real-estate is taken up by a quiet group of unassuming residents, Waverley Cemetery. Coogee is still away from our sights but it’s time to make a U-turn and head back to Bondi. We surprise ourselves with the distance covered, the changing scenery removes all inclination for complaint or fatigue. The afternoon is farewelled in style with a beverage and a snack at the local pub. Sydney does it again and the first place we try turns us away. By Sydney standards, I guess that would have been a really good one then.
I’m in a massage parlor of sorts but there’s not even a lude curtain in sight. Instead, there’s a lookout to terminal six where planes line up, load up and ship out in a constant stream of activity. An elderly gentleman has been sitting at the end of the row of seats and he has no qualms about freeloading. The departures board at Auckland International Airport is whirring with boarding instructions. Our flight lounge hasn’t even been announced yet. Time is in abundance, I need to kill some. A soothing visit to the Massage Cafe will limber our muscles before flying, I consider. My husband and I make a beeline for two souped up lazy boys. The electronic screen next to the coin slot orders me to relax in an authoritative digital scrawl. I obediently lean back, open my book and wait.
The large black leather chair tilts back and swallows me whole. Plastic shackles clasp my ankles and proceed to squeeze the air out of my previously circulating legs. Large fists punch through my back, pummeling from side to side. A machine is battering my body and charging me one dollar for three minutes worth. I am likely to pay double for it to stop half way, but that is not an option. At the end a muffled robotic voice asks me to pay money or exit the chair. “You didn’t ask the elderly man to move, did you?” I enquire. A man in a black shirt with a badge emerges from a door. He applies a damp cloth with disinfectant to clean the comfy looking chairs. The mooching elderly gentleman is suddenly nowhere to be seen. This experience has taught me that man is superior to machine, when it comes to massages anyway. No more coins enter the slot. I return to the less plush seating for a comfortable wait.
I look over my helmet visor to find yawning blue coastal surrounds. Behind me is a cluster of native gum trees. Contented cows graze in the paddock beyond. This idyllic island setting is well suited to tranquil tourism. That’s not why we came. There is a lingering smell of petrol and a chorus of 9Hp Honda GX 270 engines punctuating the silence. Ah, that’s more like it.
A swell of aspiring petrol heads congregates at the desk and we are ushered to a back room. I’m paired with my husband and a bunch of young male hooligans. Oh great. Safety first, the Nana in me was taking notes. I winced when discovering there are roll bars. My name is called towards the end of the group. I can’t help but think that it is a likely reflection of my impending performance. Last in and last out. I approach my kart with a teensy bit of apprehension. It’s red, which is good. Except all the karts are red, negating the speed advantage entirely.
The supervisor tugs at the starter chord and the engine chokes into life. His colleague gives us a pep talk of champions. “Conditions are good and there aren’t any kids on the track. You should be able to get some good speed up. If you don’t then… you’re shit.” With those words of wisdom echoing in my ears, we weave the concrete curves that replicate the real Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Although I must confess that the real circuit is five times this size.
The 4.45 kilometre Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit is regularly featured on television hosting a multitude of international super car and bike races. It flaunts stretching views over the cliffs to Bass Strait. This Go Kart track leads a double life, however. When there is MotoGP or Super bike racing on the big circuit, the go kart circuit becomes a “Trackside Campground.” Fortunately for me today is not one of these days.
After the first few corners, the frontrunners are whipping past me leaving testosterone fuelled vapours. To be fair, we did get started at different times. Supervisors insisted that we are racing ourselves, not the others on the track. I level the accelerator and gulp down the fresh air rushing through my helmet. Images of my youth flash past. I take a glance at the exquisite view then drop the accelerator and “flatten” the corner before switching back into acceleration. This is fun.
Results are in and it dawns on me as to why my photo was snapped at the beginning. There I am in dead last. A printout is produced for my statistical analysis. I don’t need any further evidence. I have become a fully-fledged Nana. And I’m very proud of it.
Go Kart sessions on the Circuit are for 10 minutes and family cars for driving children are available. For more information, click here.
Dave, the ebullient bus driver stood at the Niagra Falls bus terminal at the start of his shift. With a dapper haircut, a starched navy blue uniform and an enormous smile, this job suits him to a tee. A local mechanic stopped by for an old fashioned chinwag. The workshop in this small, remote town grew quite lively this morning. A gargantuan rodent was discovered in the lunchroom. In the ensuing commotion, a mechanic stepped backwards. Crunch. “How did the rat meet its demise?” Dave asked. “His boot was enough to finish the job.” The mechanic explained succinctly. Immediately I went on alert for oversized rodents.
The bus ride was as short as the town is small. Perhaps we should have walked. “Alright folks, we’ve got two people on board that came all the way from New Zealand so please make them feel welcome.” Dave announced. Luckily there were only about five people onboard. “Are you here long?” a local passenger initiated a bus wide conversation. What a friendly wee town it is. Minutes down the main road, we rounded a corner and Dave motioned for us to hop out. “Clifton Hill” he announced.
Niagra Falls sits quietly at the bottom of the gradual hill filled to bursting with attractions that appear to be borrowed from a theme park. Bright colours, loud noises and soft edges line the street as far as the eye can see. I wondered if were in the right place. I also wondered what one would do if they felt a bit queasy walking down this street carnival. Luckily I was fine, despite travelling on a train, two busses and finally by foot. I looked up from the clowns to see a large body of water hurtling over the American border and into the emerald green river below. You couldn’t get a more opposing scene. It is evident that on the other side, the Americans have made their own mistakes. They erected a large concrete road to nowhere alongside their falls. They have also placed a bright red zig-zag walkway towards the river’s edge.
The Canadian Falls, located further down the road are actually larger. This is probably the one time another country can claim to be bigger than the supersize Yanks. The wall of water cascades into a horse shoe mist and vastly increases the sale of yellow plastic ponchos from the gift shop. Snow capped the border of trees around the rim of the Canadian Falls and slippery ice blanketed all surfaces. I didn’t realise what an intrepid adventure this would be, battling the elements to secure a few digital memories.
The journey became more perilous as darkness rolled in and it dawned on us that we’d lost track of time. Oh dear. My mind flashed to the rat story from earlier. I didn’t fancy sticking around. Both our hands waved furiously for a taxi and we quickened the pace with a hint of panic. Christmas lights appeared against the evening sky reinforcing our tardiness. The low temperature was exacerbated and frost nipped menacingly at our extremities. A yellow cab emerged onto the road with a shining bright light on top. It slowed at the insistence of our flailing hands and we were saved.
“I’ll take you to the connecting station for $135,” the taxi driver offered.
“No thanks,” came our reply, even before we realised we had already overpaid for the return tickets in our pockets. The small transit centre came into view and we clambered inside looking like we desperately needed to use the bathroom. We were merely attempting to regain feeling in our fingers and toes. It was a balmy minus six degrees out. “When is the next Go Bus?” I enquired. “It left five minutes ago” the woman in the ticket booth replied. “Rats” my husband was dejected. “Eeek. Where?”
Sydney, New South Whales
Rippling turquoise currents ebb beneath the moving vessel. The motor stops and we bob about on the Tasman Sea. They’re here. People begin lightly tapping the rail of the boat, peaking curiosity. Within minutes, a large body bursts into the salty air creating a pop-up fountain.
I am metres away from two Humpback Whales, who are in cruise control on the open ocean. The Humpbacks are migrating 4,000 nautical miles from the Southern Ocean to the Coral Sea. My aeroplane journey was closer to 400 miles. I feel comparatively lazy.
On board Oz Whale Watching’s Jerry Bailey boat is Sean the Skipper, Biggles our “Whale Tragic” Guide, Alex the Chef and Ryan. The crew set sail and I soak up the Sydney Harbour view. Biggles warns “we only go back for hats and sunglasses with heads still attached to them.” Fair enough. Chef Alex indulges us in a Barbeque Buffet lunch. I peek through the window as he washes dishes. Alex has an enviable view from the ship galley. The city skyline dissolves behind us while spring colours burst brightly against the sun and sea.
My Brother and I are lazily reclining on the lower deck. A spray of salty water sploshes over the side and wets our feet. That got our attention. This must be why the crew advised to bring a raincoat. Waves grow larger as we leave the harbour, “welcome to the Tasman Sea” Biggles says. To find the Whales, the crew rely on combined years of experience and advanced optics technology: “two eyeballs.” Signs are promising, with four other Whale Watching boats nearby.
There is camaraderie amongst the competition, on the sea at least. Operators are passionate about sharing the Whale experience with passengers and help each other. We approach the mighty creatures from the side of the boat. My eyes clock a collection of bubbles on the surface. A vast inky silhouette flashes into viewpoint and disappears just as quickly. Was that my imagination?
We are in the company of two juveniles stretching 10 metres long and weighing 10 tonnes each. Who is watching who? I wonder. I am captive on the luxurious boat while our young Humpback friends glide alongside fascinated. They are familiar with regular operators. “They know the boat and we follow the rules,” Biggles confirms. A word of advice, take a seasick tablet. Sunny on-shore conditions did not hint of what was to come once we reach three miles out at sea. Today is a touch rougher than normal. “How do you get sea legs like that Ryan?” I ask, as I attempt to traverse the vessel in an awkward dance between chairs. “Like what?” he laughs. Fortunately, Whales get more airborne in choppier conditions, today is no exception.
Humpback Whales feed on Krill and fish before fasting for the journey north. As Biggles says, they are migrating on one “blubber-load.” The Whales hitch a ride on ocean currents ensuring they expend the least energy possible. Winter and spring is when Humpbacks give birth and mate while in warmer waters. Biggles calls this their “carousing grounds” with a chuckle.
The Australian Government banned whaling in 1979, enabling the Whale Watching tourist industry to flourish. Humpback Whales are experiencing healthy population growth of 10.9% per year. Oz Whale Watching and Volunteers like Biggles contribute data to National Parks and Wildlife and CSIRO which estimates population growth and size as well as reporting and tracking entanglements.
Returning to Sydney Harbour, Biggles points out Kiribilli House where Australian’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott lives (Not for much longer, thanks to Malcolm Turnbull). Next door, Admiralty House is host to visiting heads of state and dignitaries. The vice regal flag is up, telling us that Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove is home. “We had a young Pommy regal couple Kate and Bill and their young son George visit last year. There might have been some carousing there because I hear there is another young one, Charlotte now.”
The writer travelled as a guest of Oz Whale Watching. For more information on Oz Whale Watching click here.
We are a couple divided. On this occasion, it is out of necessity. We are branded with electronic tags and ushered out of the swelling crowd. He ambles through the gent’s and I mosey through the ladies. Suitably attired in ‘bathers’ we are more than ready for the upcoming experience.
To the left a ground-recessed, waist-deep, naturally-heated pool awaits. To the right a shallower version for kiddies and those that fancy lounging about, a perfectly acceptable pass time in these parts. We are compelled to investigate the path beyond. A wooden jetty protrudes from the native greenery and four carefully placed deck chairs sit invitingly. The front row seats reveal a small lake with native birdlife in, on and around it. Melodic Asian tunes waft around us.
Mornington’s Peninsula Hot Springs offers a range of indoor and outdoor bathing experiences in its Bath House and Spa Dreaming Centre. Pools are refilled daily with water derived from natural hot springs 637 metres below ground. An on-site health spa provides a cocktail of relaxation treatments. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the two on-site cafes and diners can enjoy ‘Pizza and bathe’ package deals. The heated oasis is open seven days from 7.30am to 10pm.
Over a bridge, past a tin shed and into the hot water we sink. Time slows. In fact the clock has no numbers. Instead, there are birds every fifteen minutes. That’s odd, we think. A group of six are positioned against the pool edge. They remind me of women at the hairdressers waiting for their perm. We are disrupted by a low thrumming noise then violent streams of water pummel the row of people and the mystery is revealed. It has struck bird-o’clock, which seems to instigate the firing of water jets onto a line of bathers. It all makes sense now.
We debate as to whether there are warmer pools. Husband thinks this is it. I dutifully studied the website and know there’s more. We resolve the argument with a neutral stranger. Next to us, a woman chats to her teenage son in hushed tones. Husband interrupts boldly and asks “excuse me, do you know if there are hotter pools than this?” “There are heaps up the hill” she replies. I discover that there are more than 20 different bathing experiences with temperatures ranging from 37 to 43 degrees Celsius. Conversation flows and we learn that our adjudicator is an English migrant. We share our own expat story and reveal our New Zealand heritage. All agree there are no regrets, particularly at this moment.
“That’s my wedding anniversary sorted,” our English friend surmises to return without children. As soon as the hairdressing line arises from their thrones, we nab them and line up, Kiwi expats, English expat and her offspring all in a row. Our backs, necks and calves receive a blissful water-massage from the hydro jets. Fifteen minutes of bubbling bliss.
Our warm, thick towels come in handy as we trek the landscaped incline between pools. We make a beeline for the hottest of the hot springs, to experience 43 degrees Celsius bathing. Husband is mindful of the recommended 10 minute time limit at which point one turns into a prune with possible negative health effects.
The underground sauna is beneficial for the pores. A film of sweat envelops my body and I practice deep breathing. Fellow fryers quietly mutter among themselves. A ruckus breaks out in the corner and we can’t decipher the foreign language being exchanged in elevated tones. One member of the group turns to face us. “Ants” is all he needs to say. We join the laughter. The young woman that encountered the harmless insects yelped and escaped the sauna quicker than I could say “they don’t bite.” Outside I catch sight of a body propelling through the air and disappearing down a narrow opening. A lady emerges squealing. The temperature in the chilly plunge pool was apparently a surprise to her. Perhaps she missed the sign. It seems that the female guests are getting more than they bargained for today.
Did you know that there are even silent pools that forbid talking altogether? I keep walking but it’s proving popular with the golden oldies today. The variety of bathing, activities and environments we encounter at the hot springs is unexpected, despite having read the brochure. From aqua therapy to cold plunge pools, from foot baths to cave pools and from reflexology walks to saunas. There truly is an option that suits everyone.
Through the mist we spy an oblong shaped marble slab with a woman sprawled on top. Others in the Turkish steam bath are more astutely seated on surrounding benches. People are filling bowls with cold water then dousing themselves. A cooling technique, I soon discover. It’s rather effective too.
A short distance up the winding steps and then I am serenely soaking at the top of the hill. Bushland hugs the eastern perimeter and sprawling farmland envelops the western front. A waft of sulphur permeates my nostrils. Healing qualities that experts speak of are not just in the water. The natural surrounds are surely soothing my soul. Our time in this natural wonderland has come to an end and there’s only one thing left to do: divide and conquer the change rooms once again.
Peninsula Hot Springs is located in Mornington Peninsula and it takes 90 minutes to drive from Melbourne. Bath house bathing is $40 per Adult and $25 per Child on weekends, with discounted off-peak rates. For more information, click here.
“What the hell are you doing? Are you ill?” I ask my brother who is in the middle of pulling a face. He seems unimpressed to say the least.
“I’m imagining my three sisters.”
He doesn’t have to imagine much, I’m standing right next to him and the other two are just a multimedia message away. New South Whales’ hazy Blue Mountains have a collection of three dilapidated rock formations that resemble a preschooler’s clay sculpture. This trio of rocks is more commonly referred to as ‘The Three Sisters.’ Aboriginal Legend explains that the three sisters are named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo and they were unfortunately turned to stone.
The landscape surrounding us is like a basin where Mother Nature has turned a tap and a blue tinted fog has gushed out. It sits between the green canopy and the clouded sky in a blurry illusion. The technical explanation for the blue appearance is that fine drops of eucalyptus oil vapors are released and dispersed from the trees into the surrounding air.
Tourists bustle along every inch of the guard rail like ants on the valley’s edge. I shut it out and stare across the abyss below, the landscape invokes a sense of calm in me. I was here as a scraggly teen almost twenty years ago with my two sisters and the rest of the family. I was the first in line to lurch off a cliff via scenic railway, which is much more daring than the name suggests. With a fifty two degree incline, it had us literally holding onto our seats. Today I’m content to pause and smell the Eucalyptus on the bush walk to Echo Point Lookout.
The Blue Mountains are an easy train ride from Sydney’s city centre. We knew we were getting closer when the view from the train window changed from suburbia to bush and the tracks began a slow incline into the mountains. Lunch was a non-event in the sense that it was ordered but never arrived. Perhaps the staff wanted to teach us touristy, city slicking hipsters some patience and show us how things work around here.
On one side of the main street there is a snazzy Double Decker bus that charges a small fortune. You can cross the road for the no-frills local bus that meanders down the road, around a few corners then arrives at the desired location for a few dollars. You could also walk, which is precisely what we did on the return journey to town. The hills are great for toning legs and burning calories too.
After returning to the city I skim past Facebook only to find my face mounted atop the tallest of the three sisters alongside to my two siblings. Next to us is my brother, pointing in our direction with that same begrudging look.
I used to play singles on the cassette player in the family wagon. The song would repeat automatically, which was fine by me as it was usually my favourite at the time. The rest of the family weren’t too impressed though. They didn’t have much choice when radio reception had long since left us during long family adventures to remote parts of New Zealand.
There were countless feuds and to be honest, it was part of the fun of travel. Maps were made of paper. We inevitably ended up lost and consequently arguments ensued. Mums want to stop and ask for directions. Dads don’t want to waste more time than they’ve lost thanks to their children’s constant need to visit the bathroom or purge the candyfloss they just scoffed at the beginning of the journey.
I was recently enlightened what the set up is in a typical family car these days. Well, GPS’s are a dime a dozen and except for plugging it in and turning it on, there’s no room for adults to argue. A slightly nasal woman instructs them clearly when and where to turn. The guesswork that caused my family often take a wrong turn is gone. What Kiwi doesn’t love a tiki-tour now and then?
Children’s fodder for fighting is significantly reduced nowadays. Instead of a shared radio and tape deck, they get individual entertainment compartments with their own television screens, headphones and content. When did cars become like airlines? And what do travelling families passionately argue about now?
“Bom’s Away!” I lurch forwards and begin rapid descent. My insides flutter and I become a human rocket. “Keep your arms and legs crossed,” was the last instruction I heard from the supervisor. All I want to do is fling my limbs towards the sides and bring myself to a screaming halt. I realise this action is likely to cause injury. Time slows. I am falling.
We are at Waterbom Park in Kuta, Bali. My husband thought it was a good idea to start with a Level five waterslide. Five being the most advanced. If you were in the vicinity you would have seen me cowering and glowering at the top of a double slide that is known as the Race Track. I spent at least ten minutes at the top of the slide undertaking tense negotiations with my husband and the Pool Supervisor. I elicited obvious signs of fear and they worked as a team to convince me it was fine. “Come on, it’s not that bad, once you get on, you’ll enjoy it, I promise.” In a moment of madness, I went for it.
I have built an impressive repertoire of theme park experiences over the years. It began in Auckland, New Zealand with my first rollercoaster experiences at Rainbow’s End. The biggest boasting rights go to my visit to Disneyland in Tokyo, Japan. There was lots of screaming on Space Mountain that day. Next was a visit to Sydney’s Wonderland where I rode a rickety wooden roller coaster that looked like it had seen better days. The park closed down soon after. As I get closer to middle-age, my youthful adventurous streak has severely diminished.
The acute angle and the velocity from skin against slide was a bit much. I lost my stomach and my last remaining scraps of confidence. At the bottom another Supervisor asks me “How was it?” “Awful” I reply honestly, still shaking. “Really? Oh.” He obviously hadn’t heard that response much before. I greeted my husband with a cold look of discern. He knew he was in the dog box before I opened my mouth. Later research revealed that I would have travelled for nine seconds at fifty kilometres per hour. That’ll explain it then.
I got to pick the next ride. With my nerves shot to hell, I selected the most tranquil ride in the whole park, the Lazy River which involves floating in a tube along a sedate man made stream. Ah, now that’s more like it.
Waterbom Park is spread over almost four hectares of pristine tropical backdrop interspersed with an impressive collection of water activities. If you’ve had enough of plummeting metres on a waterslide, you can jump nine metres skywards on the Euro Bungy, no water involved. Or you could propel water balloons at your friends on the Water Blaster. You can rent lockers, towels and gazebos. Hunger can be sated with one of the many food and beverage options at the park. I saw a Bintang vending machine. For those that have a similar tolerance to wild waterslides, activities like massages, nail treatments, fish spa therapy might be of interest. Forgot your bathing suit? You can duck into the onsite surf shops and you’re set.
My husband decided to embark upon more rides at level five and I elected not to. I’d had enough level fives for my lifetime. He went to the top and I lined up the camera for the action shot. Much more my style. The Climax waterslide begins in a vertical position sixteen metres high. A trap door opens and the slider experiences no less than two point five G-force speed. Not to mention they do a loop-de-loop upwards before being spit out at the other end in a spray of water.
I stood with post traumatic stress disorder at a Number four slide called the Constrictor. Partaking in ‘market research’ is what I called it, watching other suckers plunge into oblivion. I’d make a good mother. I observed the platform and where others would stare in wonder and a myriad of safety risks rushed to the front of my mind. While conducting my market research, I observe a couple go down the slide backwards, on a double tube. The girl gets out, turns to him and exclaims “asshole”. I chuckled to myself. I’m not the only one.
Bali’s Waterbom Park was voted Best Amusement Parks & Water Parks in Asia for 2013. They were too good if you ask me. I’ll be going for the more sedate pool and massage next time.
Waterbom Park is located in Kuta, Bali. Costs to visit for a day are around $30 USD per adult and $20 for children. For more information, click here.
The car negotiates the winding peaks of Arthur’s Seat National Park. We reach 145 metres above sea level and keep climbing. We are high and about to climb higher into the tree tops. Soon I will be amongst the canopy of a 100 year old Messmate Eucalypt Forest. I’m about to become a Koala.
From the ground we saw a number of orange and blue helmets bobbing about the trees. This will be easy, I thought. My perspective altered as I became further removed from the forest floor and my comfort zone. I’ve arranged to spend two hours in the tree tops with mere ropes and chains beneath my wobbly feet. The only exit is to throw oneself from the edge of a platform and plunge towards the forest floor on a zip line. Is it too late to back out?
The Enchanted Adventure Garden team has created an environment that people can effortlessly whittle away the hours. Adults are permitted to join the children on five different tube slides which reach a surprisingly swift speed. The garden boasts a vast array of covered and uncovered picnic spots. The grounds have numerous mazes to lose one-self in. For the sweet tooths, there is a lolly shop joined to the cafe. Tree Surfing is for all ages with five Grand Courses and one for the kids, the Nipper’s Course.
Adorned in safety harnesses and brightly coloured helmets, we turn our attention to the friendly guide. There was talk of losing hands if they are placed on the wrong wire. And I thought the worst that could happen was to fall. The directions to utilise your equipment and avoid hospitalisation went by in a blur. I was otherwise engaged pondering how I could join myself to the wire grid with a mere carabiner and be safe. My husband patiently takes me through the ropes again. With the safety briefing under our belt, we form an orderly queue. I’m still having thoughts of escape, so I motion for the brave to go ahead.
Walking the steps to our first platform gives me a chance to test the equipment before I lose balance. We make a beeline for course number two, it has less people. I’m almost left behind as the other half finds his feet. There’s only one way to go, straight ahead and onto a wooden swing bridge. One foot is placed gingerly in front of the other.
I’ve just watched my husband wobble through the tunnel as it swayed with his movement. I lean forward, depositing myself into one end of the wooden conduit and inch forwards at a snail’s pace. The equipment shakes almost as much as my quivering body. Staring straight through the tunnel to the foliage, I try and overlook the fact that it is suspended on ropes. I surface and leap towards the platform that is securely wrapped around a tree. I’m not even fazed as red gum seeps into my hand. A young boy catches up to me at the next platform. I fear he wants to overtake me. He turns to his mate and shouts “I hate that tunnel.” You and me both, kid. You and me both.
Negotiating courses three, four and five are a cinch once I forget how far from the ground I am. At the end of course five I am rope-running at a respectable pace and I overtake a woman. Her daughter is ahead and she’s wracked with nerves. “Don’t think about it and look straight ahead” I shout as I go. “I was the same as you a few hours ago.” I become a self-appointed coach and the transformation is complete. I fear that I may now have a little too much confidence.
Two hours are up and somehow I graduated from quivering mess to confident show-off. I started off with the pace of a sleepy Koala and now I’m exhibiting signs of a Flying Fox. What a difference a few hours in the trees can make.
The Enchanted Adventure Garden is off the M11 Mornington Peninsula Freeway at 55 Purves Road, in Arthurs Seat. The drive takes one hour from Melbourne’s city centre. Two hours of tree surfing costs adults $59 and children (must be over 135 centimetres tall) $39 for the Grand Course. Ticket price includes park access to tube slides, mazes, adventure garden and cafe. For more information, click here.