Sixty something: Afraid of heights

Hello sixty something SAS community. For most of 2015 I had aspirations of overcoming my fear of heights. I took
Opinion

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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