It was a typical school yard question: “If you were an animal, what would you be?”
There were the popular answers like dolphin and cat…and animals at the top of their food chain. For me, it was always “a bird: because they can fly”.
I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to fly like a bird. I believe that is why I enjoy bike riding so much. Do you know what I mean? When you’re flying down a hill – see, flying, I used the word without thinking about it — and the wind and your hair become one, it feels like freedom.
I found a new kind of flying. It’s called abseiling.
This abseiling experience was my favourite RedBalloon experience yet. Reviewing experience gifts is one of the coolest (and fun!) things I’ve done in three years of blogging. You can read about climbing the Story Bridge, the delights of a home massage, a glamorous make up lesson and when my husband took my daughter to see the glow worms.
This time, it was abseiling. You can’t help feel like you’ve lived years in one day, in a good way: that is how I would describe this experience. I’ll explain further what I mean.
I felt small as I look up at the mountain towering above me. The clusters of established trees added to this perspective. Mt Ngungun, one of the glorious peaks in the Glass House Mountain cluster, would facilitate the adventure.
The walk up the mountain path wasn’t difficult, but I felt the beat of my heart increase inside my chest. It was like an echo declaring, “You are alive!”
Rocks, steps, logs, moss, sticks, branches and the song of birds.
Half way up, I turned around, my breath coming fast now with effort. I was rewarded with a stunning view of the surrounds. This often comes back to me as I travel through life: investing effort is always a precursor for something worth doing and closely tied with true satisfaction. In a world where short cuts are the norm, it’s good to remember the journey is part of the joy.
Nathan, our guide and instructor, told Aboriginal stories of significance and generally made everyone feel relaxed. Later, he would ask me to jump off a cliff.
The 360 views from the top was exhilarating! You can see Mt Coonowrin and Mt Beerwah behind me in the picture below. I didn’t feel so small anymore. Achievement through effort can do that for you. I’ll remember to use the example with the children when an opportune moment comes my way. That is one of the reasons why I chose to review this experience: to challenge myself.
Nathan, our abseiling instructor, was obviously very experienced (and had an infections passion for the outdoors), and this put me at ease as he explained clearly the process and safety features. I was surprised how relaxed I felt at this point.
I put my hand up to go down first.
“Come and stand here on the cliff edge with me?” Nathan said.
Then, I felt nervous. I had a safety line attached to me, of course, but really, it seemed a crazy (crazy!) thing to do. Did I mention that I’m rather afraid of heights? That is another reason why I envy the birds. They soar so high with the ease of natural confidence.
I’m terrified of high balconies especially, with that low railing in front of me. I can’t help but imagine myself tripping and falling over. I love adventure, but get me on a balcony, and I have to crouch down low so the railing height is above me, as I make my way to the edge, holding to the bars like a lifeline.
No railing here. Just me and the cliff edge. Nathan attached me to the abseiling line, and also to a safety line which he would control (in case I passed out or something on the way down).
So, I’m standing there, on the cliff edge, putting my trust in a man I just met and long strands of rope. Here goes.
You know what? Getting over the edge was by far the hardest part. On the way down, I felt amazing. I felt like I was flying with the height of a bird, the sun on my face and a cool breeze touching the skin on the back of my neck. I loved every single second.
I believe I abseiled down this particular rock face 7 or 8 times, each time a little faster, and more confidently. My body was a little weary, but I didn’t want it to end.
I thought I had faced the hardest part, but there was another challenge to come.
We moved to another abseiling site. A long and straight drop. I said I was nervous when I first stood on the cliff edge. Well, this time, I was plain out right terrified. Fear. I felt small, very very small, once again.
Fear, I would say, is my biggest personal struggle. Many see me as an adventurous, confident person, fearless even, but overcoming fear is a constant battle for me. Right from the time I was a young girl, I struggled with fear. I had terrible nightmares and used to make my way, terrified, to my parents’ bedroom. Growing up, I was afraid of the dark, of being judged; scared of failure and failing others. Fear of loss, fear of pain, fear of fear; even fear of loving too much, feeling too much. I am scared of public speaking, of exams (even though I do the preparation). Did you know, the day before I left for India, I sobbed most of the day, terrified to leave my children.
I failed my driving licence 3 times, not because I wasn’t a good driver, but because I was petrified. One time, I couldn’t even remember how to start the car because fear had taken over. I sat their, frozen. True story. I struggled with fear and anxiety in the aftermath of post-natel depression and there have been times when I lived in Papua New Guinea as a child, that I had genuine reason to be fearful for my life! Fear, fear, fear: a constant current in my life. I could go on.
Do you know what I mean when I say there is something inside of you, and that something has the potential of taking over your entire life? Fear is that something for me. And so I put obstacles in my way, on purpose. I confront fear because I know, if I give in, it will swallow me up whole. Boom! Just like that. It’s rather ironic: fear: the very thing that often hinders me is by the same token, the reason why I do so much, and achieve so much.
I wish I was the first to go down the slope again. As I waited for my turn, the fear grew. I reached up to grab the bulging root of a tree just behind me, willing it to give me strength. I managed to calm myself a little, but I was feeling a little out of control at this point.
“Nathan, I feel sick. This is scarier than the first time.” I find acknowledging, naming the fear, vital.
“Just take a few deep breaths,” was the response.
I have to say here that Nathan was fabulous: friendly, understanding, patient, knowledgeable and interesting. That really helps when you’re doing something out of your comfort zone.
I made my way down to the edge.
“I just have to get over that edge! And then I’ll be okay.”
One of my fellow adventures took the pictures below. You can see how small I am compared to the wondrous mountain side. I took it a little slower this time, because it was incredible. I stopped to look at the view out each side. I looked down. Yes I did. I looked at the incredible jagged rock formations, obviously marred by running water over time. Beautiful! And I looked up. Aways look up.
I faced fear, jumped off a cliff and felt like a bird. Abseiling down Mt Ngungun is on my best-experiences-of-my-life list! Everyone should do it.
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I was not paid to write this post. RedBalloon provides complimentary experiences for me to enjoy, but all views are my own.