NB: the photos in this post are examples of go-ape, not my beleaguered colleagues, thanks google.
So this week, my new boss decided that we’d have a team bonding’ day. Being young (one year younger than me…so VERY young) and fit he suggested Go-Ape.
Cunning as a fox he put the sign up in the break room months before the event when we were cushioned by the long time period between then and the event and so, like lemmings off a cliff, we signed up.
We arrived in the morning with bags of picnic food (homemade cakes etc) – if you are interested I made a rather dashing tin of homemade sausage rolls (one sheet of ready made puff pastry, one pack of sausage meat with few generous spoonfuls of apple, mango and chilli chutney mixed in, spread on pastry, roll up, cut, bake, stand and soak up praise of colleagues) ready for a post event feast. The mood was cheerful but with an undercurrent of terror.
For those who are not aware of GoApe, it’s a sort of giant set of playground equipment for adults (rope bridges, zip wires etc) set up in the trees. Oh fun! I hear you thinking. When I so blithely say ‘up in the trees’ I mean UP, UP, UP where the air is clear, up to the atmosphere, let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring… sorry, I got all Poppins on your ass there. It is, the info on the website informs me, up to 47 feet in the air.
47 feet. Digest that folks. The average two storey house is 25 feet.
Our trainer was a dashing young man called Tom whose mum had let him out for a few hours. He showed us how to clip ourselves on and off the safety wires. Yes, possibly the most terrifying thing about the whole experience is that YOU are in charge of your safety. There is NO rufty tufty outdoor person checking your clips at every turn. You are expected, with 10 mins of training, to clip yourself to wires nearly 50 ft in the air and then step off platforms safe in the knowledge you won’t die a hideous death.
Bear with me reader, I’ve just had to have a cup of tea to calm my nerves.
There are 36 ‘crossings’ of various degrees of difficulty. From walking through a v-shaped net thing (not bad) to stepping from swinging plank to swinging plank (grim) to shimmying crab-style across a teeny weeny wire whilst holding on to another teeny weeny wire over your head (which you are clipped to) across a concrete bedded valley of certain doom (the road).
It was hot the day we did it. There was a lot of sweat, some comments about the desire for tena lady but bar one, we made it. For most of the time you aren’t with your group as only one person can cross at a time so you just plough on although there is a bit of shouting across the trees, ‘you’re not going to like this one’, ‘fgs don’t grab the cargo net first time after the Tarzan swing or the rope hits you in the face’, ‘my eye, oh my eye’ etc.
At two points of the course there were two options – a harder and easier to choose from. A male colleague who had previously been leaping up and down things like a sodding mountain goat went across this thing (the harder option)…
I hadn’t seen him start across it but when I looked back over he was dangling almost upside down, tangled up with a look of dead spider to him. After extensive puffing and swinging and lurching he managed to grasp hold of the platform. Looking back at me he (pointlessly) shouted ‘don’t come this way Spots’. No shit Sherlock. The easy route was the wusses choice (although no picnic itself) but no need to humiliate myself.
So the last bit was the 550 ft zip wire I mentioned. Once you got over the gut-wrenching insanity of stepping off a tree with only a wire and two clips between life and you becoming a human shish kebab it was actually really good fun. As we reached the end of the zip wire our group had started to accumulate and was whooping and cheering each other on. Some landed gracefully, most of us skidded to a halt on our arses leaving a trail in the bark where we had landed (some, a mere hint of where they had been, others – me- something to rival the ngorongoro crater).
Were we bonded? Actually, the last 1/2 hour where we were gathered at the bottom of the zip wire, swapping tales of terror and whooping on colleagues we were. I know I was astonished I’d made it and proud of myself (how often, as adults, do we feel that way?)
Would I do it again? Well I have two children so I clearly have the mental capacity to wipe out trauma enough effectively enough to repeat the same thing again (the birth not their existence, I’m really rather fond of them). So maybe. A long way down the line. Maybe, but probably not.