So off we went, signed the indemnity form, listened to the standard do's and dont's and got our special helmuts with the tag on it, indicating that we were English. And as much as I'm interested in learning new words in Dutch, I really want to understand the safety intricacies that will entail me securely attaching myself to a platform several metres up in a tree. We took the special helmuts without shame.
A few short minutes later, I had fully earned my 'special' status. GBM had stepped into his safety harness and was securing the buckles, while I was still trying to figure out which legs went where and why it was all so uncomfortable. I couldn't reach any of the buckles, I couldn't get them tight enough, it was just a silly design. Fortunately GBM saved me from public humiliation by quietly pointing out each leg strap was actually labelled "left" and "right" (clear as mud, in English). Not only that, but the lettering was upside down. So I had it on the wrong way round, AND upside down. Superb.
Once we had that sorted out, we were ready for our private (English-Only) instruction course. They ran us through the safety procedures of ensuring that at least one of your two safety lines were connected at all times, proper placement of carabines on the safety cables and where and when it was safe to follow behind the person in front of you. Standard stuff. We passed the demonstration quickly enough and then (this is what I love about the lackadaisical H&S attitude in the Netherlands)... we were free to run loose in the trees.
There are 8 adventure courses with various degrees of difficulty. We started on course 3... thought we wouldn't get too cocky straight away. It was fun, just a few metres above ground, wonkly platforms and a bit of balance required.
Course 5 followed shortly, which entailed a bit more muscle-control and core balance. But by now, we had the hang of the safety harness technique and could get a bit more playful. I had a particularly good laugh watching GBM trying to negotiate across an uneven level of individually-strung stepping stones. He started on his left foot and as soon as he lifted his right to step forward, his entire body shot to the left, which meant that had to take an eeeeextra big step (as if moon-walking) to reach the next foot hold on the right. Now it was all he could do to stop from doing the splits (well, technically, the harness at his waist was doing the most to stop that - but at the same time, giving him a superb wedgie effect, all the more entertaining to watch from the back). Left foot up... body weight all on right... beeeeg moon-step to reach the next one on the left.
Watching his progress in slow-motion brought to mind the stomp-precarious-totter style that toddlers often have as they learn to walk by not falling over. Of course, I then had to follow suit, which was not helped by the fact that I now had the giggles.
Course 6 was the best - lots of nice long ziplines. Which was awesome, once I figured out how to launch myself without twisting my body in the process. Roaring uncontrollably up to a tree, arse-first, is not as much fun as some might like to think.
The final course required extra instruction and is for "experienced climbers only". GBM and I were high on the success from our previous courses and decided to give it a shot. One of the obstacles was a tarzan-like swing, from one platform to the next. Being no fool myself, I made GBM go first. He secured his safety harness and launched himself forward, swung and landed on the platform. But, before he could get his balance enough to step forward, the weight of his body and the momentum of the rope pulled him backwards. Frantically he grabbed for anything on the tree to hold himself there, and failed.
I supported his efforts by doubling over with laughter. When I realised that he was now officially stuck, I did try (genuinely) to help him back to the platform I was on, but it was quite a steep incline and I frankly did not have the strength to pull him back up. Assistance was hailed, much to GBM's embarrassment (and my amusement) as he clung to the rope like an uncertain newborn monkey.
Once he was rescued, we could move on and complete the course, but after almost three hours of core and upper body strength we were absolutely shattered. We took a very slow cycle home and collapsed on the couch for the rest of the day. I cannot recommend it enough - childish fun in the treetops.