Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Although the picture isn't mine (it comes from visitscotland), it is a good representation of the way that we spent Saturday morning! We had driven up to Glencoe on Friday evening, for my little sister's wedding on Saturday afternoon. My sister, my daughter (who was the bridesmaid) and my wife were all off for the morning getting hair, make-up, dresses and so forth organised. Thankfully less than five hours before he got married, my sister's soon-to-be-husband had organised an altogether more exhilarating trip for the boys; up to Inchree to the Vertical Descent centre for a few hours of Canyoning.

In case Canyoning or Gorge-walking is something with which you are unfamiliar, the concept it quite simple. The instructor explained it something like this: we climb into the river, and make our way down the gorge, and over the waterfalls using a combination of swimming, sliding, zip-lines and jumping. So, in wet-suits, life-jackets and climbing helmets we took to the water. The first few slides (yes, just lie on your back and float over a waterfall!) were great. The boys were a little nervous, but loved it. Young 'Norris' was wrapped in so many layers of wet-suit that he couldn't move, so had to be piggy-backed or towed through the water.

The instructor took all the younger ones for a climb on a ledge behind a major cascade. This brought them out onto a rocky ledge about 8/9 ft above the water. One by one they all took the plunge down into the water below! It was wonderful to watch each very anxious face on the ledge, with a leap and a splash emerge from the water with a huge ear-to-ear grin! Another highlight was a steep zip-line which enabled us to leap from the top of a huge set of falls, whiz down the cable and splash into the pool below. Another fun slide, took us into a 'washing machine' where the rotating water tries to pull the swimmer back, time and time again. Only with some good handholds on the rock can you pull free of the swirling bubbly water!

The younger ones were taken back to the centre to dry off, but the adults were taken to the last challenge - a huge leap! The steep path ended suddenly, 32ft above a dark pool, with a waterfall crashing into it. It looked impossibly high, but the instructors assured us that as long as you leapt far enough out and landed in the 'black water', it was 16m deep, and perfectly safe! Unable to see the first people jump - I was simply horrified as there was almost a second's delay between when they yelled as they leapt off - and when they splashed. When I got to the top of the climb and looked down at the swirling waters far below, I had the most unnerving adrenaline rush and dizzy feeling. The secret I discovered was to remove my glasses! I had to do so, or risk losing them on impacting the water. Given a little extra courage by the resulting loss of clarity I took a step to the edge, and then another step - out into air... Technically, it was hopeless. Unable to stop my legs rising up, instead of silently slipping beneath the skin of the water like a vertical pencil; my legs slapped it, with a thud. Within seconds I swam back to the surface and off to the side, shaking with terror, and grinning inanely. I'm glad I managed it, but (like several of the group) not entirely sure I could do so again!

My personal opinion is that all weddings should start like this!

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