David Whitley swings from the treetops near Launceston.
The tree is shaking almost as much as I am. The towering eucalypt can blame the wind – every gust sends it lurching from side to side. For me, it’s just cowardly nerves.
I’m stood on a ‘cloud station’, 23m above the ground. It’s essentially a circular metal brace around the tree, complete with a trampoline-like platform for the trussed-up victims to wobble about on as they prepare for the death swoop.
What awaits is a 214m hurtle across a deep valley, above the Hollybank Forest and Pipers River. It’s just a case of leaning back, tucking my knees up to my chest in cannonball mode and hoping that the system is as safe as Phil says it is.
Phil is the operations manager at the million dollar Hollybank Treetops Adventure, which opened in January 2008. It’s billed as an adventurous canopy tour, lasting up to three hours and combining forest tranquillity with the adrenalin rush of soaring 50m above the ground attached to a tiny wire.
The specially-designed apparatus includes the $1,000-worth of pulley and $900-worth of harness that hopefully won’t buckle under my bulk as I zip along the cable. According to Phil, the weakest part of the set-up is the two ropes, which can take 1.6 tonnes each. And I’ve not eaten quite that many pies just yet.
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It all seems a lot less scary once I’m off the doddery tree and steamrollering through the sky. There may be a pretence at educating people about nature, but the real draw card of the adventure is that it is awesome fun.
The two kids in the group are beaming whilst on two feet and hollering whilst airborne. Dad is pretending to take it all in his stride, but he’s got the unmistakeable stench of glee about him as well.
The setting helps. The Hollybank Forest, around 20km north-east of Launceston, is a classic family picnic territory. At one point it was logged to make cricket bats and tennis rackets, but it was made into a reserve in the 1970s. The gums have since grown ever taller, whilst introduced species such as English oaks and Californian redwoods at a touch of exoticism to the mix.
Admirably, the Treetops Adventure team make an effort to educate their wannabe Tarzans about the sturdy pillars they’re sailing between. We’re told how high they can grow – even the 51m efforts are relative babies – why there are no lower branches, and the differences between the types of gums.
It’s annoyingly difficult to pick a fault in the experience. The system is very well designed, the safety checks extremely rigorous, and pace just right. Between the thrills it’s very laid back and chatty. Pick-ups and drop-offs in Launceston would be nice for visitors that don’t have cars, perhaps, and nearly $20 for a photo is unnecessarily steep. But otherwise, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable, exciting afternoon out – especially the 371m penultimate run across the valley. There’s no point even attempting to rein in the woo-hoos for that one.
Details: Hollybank Treetops Adventure can be found off the Launceston to Lilydale Road in .
More Launceston activities (£)