WATCH: Monkeying around at Go Ape
I have always been intrigued by the sign on the A72, just east of Peebles, that simply tells you to Go Ape.
I’ve always known there was some sort of adventurous-type shennanigans going on at Glentress, but my busy, yet rather sedentary lifestyle always overtook any likelihood of burgeoning curiosity.
However, all it took to release the inner ape was a request from the facility that we send a reporter up to try it out.
So, a hasty call to son-in-law Martin Lammie and his 13-year-old wee brother Kieron Butler later, and we were parking the car at the Go Ape hut.
We were met by guide Simon, who suited us up with harnesses, which have attached a small pulley and two carabiners.
As I am not known for being svelte, my harness was a bit more robust than the ones issued to my infinitely more slender companions, with straps included over the shoulders to more evenly distribute my not inconsiderable weight.
Simon took us through the basics at ground level, pointing out Go Ape’s golden rule: “Always stay attached”. This is accomplished by clever use of the various attachments.
Once we had all shown we had an understanding of the equipment we were shepherded over to the first of the five sets of obstacles, each of which begins in a rope ladder climb and ends in a zip slide.
Gorillas (adults) and baboons (10-15s) also have to negotiate rope bridges, Tarzan swings, cargo nets and other such fiendish inventions.
The height above ground increases exponentially with each set, until the coup de grace – the unbelievavbly high and long zip slide through the treetops, over the reservoir and onto the other side of the valley.
Working my way through nature – all the obstacles are ingeniously attached to the trees up the side of the valley – brought up a couple of points.
Firstly, I’m not fit enough. Sitting behind a desk most of the week and having a ‘healthy’ love of food has seen to that. And Go Ape is fairly physically demanding ... at least to me. The cargo nets were a particular opportunity to find whole new ways of looking ridiculous while straining to lift my bodyweight.
Poor Simon, who I think was supposed to have left us to our own devices by then, followed us for a while – I think he was worried I was going to need an ambulance.
Martin and Kieron, on the other hand, free of such things as bodyfat, were bouncing about the ropes in a carefree manner like the monkeys they are.
Secondly, I have never been afraid of heights.
However, I have a very healthy awareness of the ground, its distance from me, and what the inevitable result would be if that distance were to get smaller quickly enough.
This tends to focus the mind when attaching yourself to lines and wires ... even more so when physically exhausted. Because you know that when you are up there, it’s up to you to make sure you are safe.
So, 50 feet up a tree, before that big zip slide, I found myself checking the equipment, before rechecking and checking again, just in case I forgot to check. Before I felt able to step off the platform, I felt the need to hunker down and feel that reassuring pull of the harness straps around me, like a big cuddle.
But then I was off.
At this point, I would suggest you keep your eyes open ... the view up and down the valley from the line is simply stunning, and although you are travelling very fast, the 325m journey takes long enough to soak in the view and feel exhilerated at the same time. I must have looked like a dog sticking its head out of the car window on the motorway.
You need to take another, shorter zip slide back across the valley to the finish, and that, too, is a blast.
So, if you are looking for somewhere to take your little monkeys this Easter, Go Ape at Glentress would not be your daftest idea.
Visit goape.co.uk/days-out/peebles to book online.