Sixty something: Afraid of heights 12



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Hello sixty something SAS community. For most of 2015 I had aspirations of overcoming my fear of heights. I took a flying lesson which was undoubtedly the scariest thing I have ever done and was determined to walk the Tahune Airwalk here in Tassie. I had a year full of illness and every time I planned the walk, it was either very bad weather or I was sick. Finally just before 2015 ended, I got the chance.

The Tahune Airwalk is in Southern Tasmania and is situated amidst some of Australia’s and indeed the world’s biggest trees. Its swinging bridges sway high above the Huon and Picton rivers with unbelievable scenery. There are several walking tracks leading to the bridges. On December 29 I finally headed out with a friend to conquer something which had scared me just looking at pictures of it for the 12 years I have lived here.

We arrived mid morning and purchased our tickets. I wasn’t sure if I could do the 1.6 kilometre distance of the bridge itself with my breathing and the fact that I had developed a cough in Fiji which was worsening. I was excited though and apprehensive.

The walk to the swinging construction was lovely with the river flowing past, the birds singing and the sweet smell of the different trees. Even the tiger snake curled up asleep on the track was more interested in sleeping in the sun than threatening us. Then, along with many tourists we were in front of the bridge. The massive silver structure was swaying in the breeze and I silently prayed for still conditions. “It’s easy” someone had told me, but to someone who could not look down from a plane window or stand on a kitchen chair without getting dizzy, easy was not the word I used. 

There were people of all ages at The Tahune Airwalk that day. Old, young and very young. The very young had no fear and walked and ran the sections of the bridge without a care in the world. I on the other hand, held on to both sides of the bridge and kept my head up. I stopped periodically with my friend taking pictures of the scenery and discussing the various trees with me. I looked out over the horizon to get my lovely views and to watch the very brave swinging through the trees on the flying fox. I shuddered every time a child whizzed by me. My friend was great. Staying just in front of me and chatting away so I didn’t have too much time to think about where I was.

The breeze became a wind as the bridge wound its way through the trees and the tops of the trees became closer. You could almost touch some of these beautiful giants. The bridge started swaying from side to side with more gusto and I held on with more force. Of course to most people it was not a strong wind, to me it was gale force. Then it was staring at me. The last part of the bridge.

The end if the bridge is a platform-like section held there only by bridge ropes on either side so it swings more vigorously than the rest of the bridge. I took one look and decided I had gone far enough. My friend strolled out onto the platform and two small children ran onto it in front of their mother. I froze. My friend took photos and casually remarked that it would be a shame for me to have braved the walk only to be six steps away from finishing it. I was quite happy with what I had done and even been brave enough to relax a little and enjoy the view but I just couldnt take that first step on to the platform. Then my friend asked the kids if it would be OK if they could stand very still while I tried to come on to the platform. They obliged and smiled at me eagerly.  I looked from them to my friend and knew it was now or never.

My knuckles were white as I held on to the rails and took those six steps. I felt literally sick and my eyes were welling up with tears. I turned, looked at the sky, waited for my photo to be taken and took the six steps back. My knees were shaking and I couldnt let go for a minute or so and then my friend clapped and told me she was proud of me.

I walked back down the track that day knowing that I had finished off a horrible year for me on a high note. I don’t know that I will ever completely conquer my fears, but I do know that I won’t ever stop trying.

Do you have a fear of heights? What other phobias do you have?

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Fran Spears

Born in 1953. Came to Hobart from the north west coast of Tassie to be closer to my son as I have mild chronic bronchitis. Mild and chronic in same sentence – even that makes me laugh. Have just completed and passed my diploma in Public Relations. Love to write and have lead a reasonably interesting life. My motto: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

  1. Sounds like me I grew to 172 cm and said “That’s high enough God” but Saturday I travelled on the Tieri Gorge railway and evn took pics of the high spots. Being a Tassie devil I’ll have to try the Tahune airwalk.

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  2. Yes I do. I have had since I was a little girl. I can handle stairs as long as they have a wall or something solid next to them so I can’t see down. The silly thing is, I live in a split level home with stairs out the back and a ramp out the front. I have learned to deal with that by not EVER looking directly down when using them I look forward and carefully test each step before I go down. The ones out the back I very rarely use because of fear of falling. I have only ever been on a plane once (I’m 61), and that was 14 years ago when I went for a holiday from New Zealand to Brisbane. I coped with that by looking into the distance when faced with the height.

  3. Hi, Your story have given me courage, I hate moving bridges, I have trouble with the one at Cataract Gorge, but after reading your story I will now put the Tahune Airwark on my list. Wishing you many happy and new adventures

  4. Well done tackling your fears. I hope to get to Tasmania some time soon. I will add this walk to my growing to do list for when I get there.

  5. May I mention the steel rope bridge at Montezuma Falls, in western Tasmania?
    Over a century ago, a 2 foot gauge railway was built through very rugged country, to transport ore, supplies and passengers from and to a small town by the name of Williamsford.
    The railway closed in 1932 and was eventually pulled up. One of the highlights of this line was a curved, wooden trestle bridge which passed close by Montezuma Falls, the highest in Tasmania.
    The railway bridge is now long gone, but it is possible to drive to the site of Williamsford (also long gone) and walk the railway formation to the waterfall. In places, some old sleepers are still embedded in the ground.
    Allow at least 3 hours for the return trip. Being a railway formation, it is easy going through rainforest. At the Montezuma Falls end, there is a viewing platform and for those who wish to try it, a wire rope bridge across the deep gully.
    And yes, it does sway somewhat as you cross. 🙂

  6. My husband & i went on it a few years ago, he was recovering from a knee replacement. We took it easy but he was determined to do it. The most beautiful views.

  7. Well done, you! I too, am not too happy about heights. However, I have done the tree top walk in the Otway Ranges, and also traveled up a mountain in Switzerland by cable car, which I thought was terrifying! We can be held back from experiences by our fears, I try to tackle mine head on.

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