By Laura Walusimbi
I have this love-dread relationship with adventure theme parks.
I love the thrills, the adrenaline rush and the feeling of accomplishment once I get to the end of a challenging ride, climb or slide. But (and this happens all the time) I dread the fear that comes with the sudden drop, the bone shaking turns, the long climb up or down some flimsy looking rails – all designed to add to the drama.
I discovered a theme park in Uganda recently and decided to treat my boys and I on my birthday. I first heard about it from friends but never took any keen interest until I found it on Facebook and was blown away by what I saw.
The park is about 45 minutes from of Kampala. Close enough to drive there and back in good time but far enough to build excitement on the way there and for down time (even a nap) on the way back.
The first thing that came to my mind when we got there was, “this is going to be a piece of cake!” The climbing frames, ropes and walls are on a small expanse of land – much smaller than I had imagined. When the instructor took us aside to get us into the safety equipment and explained the rules I could feel the excitement build up, not just in me but also in my two boys. They are very outdoorsy chaps. I, on the other hand, am outdoorsy mostly in my mind. I mean, I would love to be outdoors all the time but the kind of work I do makes it pretty hard to get out as much as I would like. So during meetings and other office-based assignments I can only fantasize about outdoor excursions.
As soon as we were done with the safety business my boys took off without so much as a wave to their mummy. I literally blinked and they were already up the first wall and halfway through the first challenge. I gingerly made my way to the wall, feeling the weight of the safety harness. The wall had slots that were only big enough to allow a foot or hand. And therein was my first challenge. It was a thin wall and getting a foothold was tricky, to say the least. Next time I will be sure to wear more appropriate shoes – not bulky sneakers. I finally made it to the small platform at the top of the wall with a thin film of sweat to on my forehead show for my effort. The next challenge was to walk on wobbly pieces of wood to get from one side to another. By this time my boys were three or four challenges ahead of me. Thank God for the harness though. It helped me focus on the challenge rather than focusing on the danger. It was not easy but I knew I would cross without a hitch. And I did.
Throughout the whole course the biggest challenge for me was a raft-like structure. You have to climb on it, find your balance and then sit down. Then you have to pull yourself across to the other side. When I saw my 8-year-old boy doing it, it looked so easy, including the part where you have to stand up and find your balance again in order to jump to the platform at the end. I got to that part and I failed to get up. The boys kept encouraging me but I was frozen in place. I could see they were genuinely shocked that I would not get up. I did not want to let them down but inside I was crying and dying. My body just flat-out refused to cooperate. My heart was in my throat. Each time I looked down I resolved not to budge.
I had to wait for the instructor to come and rescue me. In my defense though, I was convinced that I would slip off the raft. The idea of me slipping off, and hanging by the harness, would have been a far worse embarrassment than being helped across by the instructor. There would even have been evidence of it as my dear hubby was on the ground taking photos!
To redeem myself I did the challenge over and was successful the second time in getting myself across without any assistance. Phew! But it was all good fun.
The best part about the entire course is the zip line at the end. After going through the unimaginable physical and mental ‘torture’ of the obstacle challenges, it is refreshing to zip down a wire stretching across almost three-quarters of the grounds. I threw all my cares and fears to the wind as the scenery whizzed by before a mattress at the end of the line brought me to a halt. I will most definitely go back so I can challenge myself to do the second level but I will leave the third and final level to my sons.