Wellington's most thrilling adventure park: Adrenalin Forest
Wellington local Sarah Catherall takes her teenage daughter and friends for an exhilarating after school experience high among the treetops in Porirua
My 15-year-old daughter, Mia, is balancing precariously on a wire 18 metres off the ground. She’s safely clipped in, though, and from this angle, I can see she is grinning.
Ahead, her friend, Frankie, clips herself into a flying fox and soars among giant pine trees, which look like something akin to the forest in the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. Milly is safely secured as she walks across a suspended boardwalk of vertical logs, although these ones are hanging the equivalent of six-storeys off the ground.
Visiting Adrenalin Forest is an exhilarating and stomach-churning activity to do after school on a sunny day in the middle of the week. A busload of Year 9 students from a Wellington high school have been here all afternoon. By the time we turn up, the supervisor, Ryan Kale, has been up and down the trees several times to help anyone who was too scared to finish the course, or who got into trouble.
Ryan fell out of a tree when he was nine years old but that hasn’t put him off running Wellington’s most thrilling adventure park near Porirua. It was set up a decade ago by a French-born Kiwi, Jean Caillabet, who has spent his life in the outdoors and now runs Adrenalin Forest parks throughout the country, in Christchurch, Bay of Plenty and Auckland.
There are a few rules for being here: you have to be at least 1.4 metres high so the safety equipment works properly, and also 130 kilograms or lighter. We started today with a briefing: Ryan showed the girls how to work the equipment. Before he let them run loose on the course, they had to prove they could click in and out of the CLiC-iT safety system: a French invention used in adventure parks around the world.
I literally felt like I was flying through the trees!
Back to our adventure. Mia, Frankie and Milly - who is zipping ahead on the course - have decided to skip levels one, two and three and go straight up to level four. Each trail takes about 45 minutes to complete, and most people spend a few hours here.
There are challenges across six levels; level one is just 1.5 metres high, while those who make it all the way to level six climb, jump and swing at a staggering 30 metres high. Ryan has watched a 70-year-old go across the obstacles on level six - the highest level - and the supervisors won’t stop anyone from trying to push themselves to a greater height.
While the girls are on this obstacle challenge, he spends a lot of time yelling advice from below. When Milly gets stage fright as she begins walking across the tightrope in the middle of the course, he calls out: “Look straight ahead’’. As Frankie starts wobbling on a suspended bridge she is trying to walk across, he offers her advice on how to do it.
At the end of the course, the girls have completed about 20 of the 100 different activities high in the treetops. It’s been an exercise in mental and physical endurance. They’re tired, but they’re smiling. “I literally felt like I was flying through the trees,’’ Mia raves.