You’ll be pleased to know that I am NOT still stuck up a tree, and I didn’t end my birthday tragically smashed to pieces on the Bedgebury forest floor. I made it home entirely in one piece in fact, and I had a really nice birthday weekend.
My meal out at Café Rouge went fairly well – I always enjoy my food and eating out anyway, so I was bound to have a good time. They put us on a funny L-shaped table in order to fit us all in, which I found a bit odd as it meant some people had their backs to each other, but I just plonked myself right in the middle so it was fine for me.
I’m glad I didn’t only do the meal, because as nice as it was I think it wouldn’t have been quite special enough for a 30th.
And then we had a drink in a pub, which was fine, but it wasn’t my first choice of place to go. I find it a bit difficult sometimes if I mix my groups of friends – I have loads of straight friends, but if I were picking a night out I’d generally go to a gay venue, where I tend to like the music more and feel more comfortable. But I wasn’t convinced most of them would go to a gay bar, so we went to a pub instead, and it made me feel a bit… meh.
But that was OK because as I said to myself, that wasn’t the main part of my birthday or the bit I was most looking forward to. That came the next day (my actual birthday), when we WENT APE. Or GO APED. Or whatever the hell you’d call it.
It was really good!! A really excellent experience and I’m so glad I went. But it was also INSANELY TERRIFYING and not my sort of thing at all, and I spent most of it with my legs shaking from fear and adrenaline.
It was just so high! And I realise now that it looks much, much easier when you watch other people do it or watch videos of it on the website. You think “woo that looks fun, whizzing about on zip lines and swinging on ropes up in the trees”. And then you get there, you climb a long wobbly ladder, and you find yourself standing on a small wooden platform with just loads of SPACE in front of you. The feeling of vertigo (for me anyway) is immense as the world stretches away far below and before you, and suddenly clinging onto the tree feels like an excellent idea.
Don’t get me wrong – it is safe. It’s really safe, because most of the time you’re attached to a tree or a safety line by two if not three ropes, each of which could support the weight of a bus. Logically, you can’t fall. The worst you could do is fall about a foot before the lines go taut and you’re dangling in your little harness seat thing.
But the problem is, for a start, that none of that matters to your brain. Your brain says “That’s a long drop. You’ll die if you fall down there. Back away from the edge now, there’s a good lad, or I’ll make you piss yourself.”
And alongside that, you’re entirely responsible for attaching your own safety lines to each bit. They train you carefully, and it’s not hard to do, but it’s still easy to think you’ve not done it right, or that these flimsy little ropes and clips couldn’t possibly take your weight.
So you can see from my description that I certainly didn’t find it easy. Chris, on the other hand, absolutely loved it.
“Can I jump off this bit no hands?” he merrily asked the woman.
“Sure,” she said.
Leap, twang, Chris is gleefully suspended by his harness in the middle of nowhere.
There were these tightrope crossing things on one bit. Each of us gingerly edged our way across, clutching the safety line and not looking down.
“I’m going to try to sprint it!” says Chris.
Sprint sprint, lose footing, fall off side of tight rope and be caught laughing by the safety harness.
I don’t know how he does it; he’s just completely different to me, and has no problem at all trusting the equipment he’s got on him.
But anyway, I did it, I went round the whole course, and the zip lines in particular were SO much fun. 150m of whizzing through the air over trees and bushes, with your legs dangling and members of the public waving up at you from below, before a soft landing into a ton of bark chips at the bottom. There were five zip lines in total, and really the rest of the course was just the price you pay for going on the zip lines.
The absolute worst bit was the Tarzan Swing, where you have to jump from a platform and your safety rope is completely slack before you jump. It catches you after about a metre of falling, and you swing forwards into a cargo net. But throwing yourself off a platform without any feeling of something attached to you is really, really hard. It took me a good few minutes of egging on to do it, and I very nearly bottled out. In the end I made it though, and everyone went “Woo!” at me, which was nice.
So yeah, Go Ape was great. And then we had some (gay) drinks and a bit of dancing in the evening.
I got some great presents including a swanky new phone, and overall it was a great birthday. I’m most pleased to say that it was something different, that it was out of my comfort zone (by about 50 miles), that it was something adventurous, and that when anyone asks me what I did on my 30th I’ll be able to say yes THAT’S what I did, it was outstanding and I’ll always remember it.