Birthday time seems to have come round far too quickly this year and I had to work it as well.
I had received an enquiry about visiting some of the war sites from an Australian gentleman who wanted to make the trip on 1st July. As this was going to be the 90th anniversary traffic arrangements would have precluded his being able to visit everything he wanted.
Fortunately he had an alternative couple of days available - my birthday. He came laden with presents including a couple of bottles of Boag's Honeyed Porter which is a rare Tasmanian Beer.
JJ and I had talked about what we could do for the weekend and I had thought about going to the cinema. However we wanted to see Pirates de Caraïbes II and it doesn't come out here until August. So that was that idea put aside.
At our beach there is an adventure park where you get to climb up and around the trees for a couple of hours. It was one of the places that JJ had visited with his school and I suggested that perhaps he would like to go back again.
Two years ago when we had been bungy jumping, JJ had refused flat to even consider trying a tyrolienne despite the fact that it wasn't very high up.
This year, with a bit of peer pressure he had overcome some of his fears and had been really pleased to be able to say that he had managed to slide down the tyroliennes and swing on a Tarzan leap.
So I thought it might be good for him to give it a second go.
Besides, I don't like heights either and although you are well strapped on, who wants to look like an eejiot hanging from cables after you have fallen off.
Here was a chance for us to look stupid together.
The first thing that you have to do is watch a safety demonstration and then show that you have understood it. You have two safety cords attached to your harness and one of the mousquetons has to be attached to a wire at all times.
In essence you attach yourself to an anchor point around the tree or ladder and only when ready to start across the walkway do you then attach yourself to the safety cables or liana styled ropes.
When you get to the other side you anchor yourself to the tree first with one mousqueton and then the other. Somebody else can now follow you across.
The system is strict, no more than three at a time on a platform, and only ever one at a time on a rope way. You also have to be very careful on the tyroliennes to make sure that you never put your hand in front of the pulley. Some of them were very fast and we saw and heard a couple of heavy collisions with trees.
The landing zones are all well padded but sometimes the French kids seemed to ignore the large signs saying: Freinez ! Slow Down !
I had JJ's camera well strapped to my belt which is why most of the shots are of his back and we found that it was not easy for him to take the camera on ahead for fear of dropping it whilst he was hanging or swinging from something.
We did however manage a few shots of me for once.
Most of the crossings are reasonably straightforward. You just have to look at the panel which tells you how to cross and take your time, ensuring that you are well hooked on.
Of course the moment you put your foot on a log step it starts to swing away from you and there were a couple of gaps between fixed steps that were a stretch even with my long legs.
JJ had a slight moment when we got back to the long Tarzan swing. It has to be the best part of 75 metres long if not a 100 and you are just hanging from a rope as you whip across the forest. Being strapped on counts for nothing when it comes to jumping off the platform.
We managed the first two courses however and I suggested to JJ that as he had not done the Black Route we could pay the extra and give that a go. The difference seemed to be in the height (10 metres off the ground) rather than difficulty.
So we paid and the staff member let down this net so that we could climb up to the start platform. I went first and suffered for my pains. With the bottom of the net unfixed I found that as soon as I put my weight on it the other holes became too narrow for me to be able to find the next foothold. As you tend to swing outwards it was becoming hard going on the arms.
Once up though all was as before though the first monkey bridge was a trial. You are standing on one wire and use two others as hand rails to help you across. However you also have to pass your mousquetons around fixed points. It suddenly seemed a long way down.
I was not overly fussed on the skateboard between the two trees either. It was only a matter of a few metres but I had my doubts.
You pull the skateboard, on its two runner cables, towards you and you have a rope hanging down from another cable to hang on to. You are then supposed to stand on the skateboard and I presumed pull yourself across to the other side. In fact as soon as you stepped on the skateboard it simply rolled across under your weight and it was all easier than you were worrying about.
Moments later I did have a problem and I thought I was going to have to give up.
All I had to do was climb up a log ladder to the next platform. It was only a few steps but they were about a metre apart vertically and I am not as supple as I used to be.
JJ came up and went first. Having seen how he got up I thought I would try it his way. This meant trying to get my shin onto the step and pushing from there. He must have more padding or something because I have bruising where I put all my weight onto the bone.
However with his encouragement I managed to get myself up onto the platform and we finished the course with a very long tyrolienne at maximum speed - though we did brake our arrivals at the tree. JJ did the last slide again and I took the opportunity to take a mini video on his camera for him.
My arms are back in place and he has managed to put the memories of 2004 well behind him.
All in all a good afternoon.