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Reflection and Reconnection Among the Treetops

The car climbed through the winding road, up into the Dandenong Mountain Ranges, leaving Upper Ferntree Gully (UFG) a blur in the distance. In the short four years we had been away, it seemed even the kitsch of the UFG strip mall had not escaped the hipster touch. Where you could once enjoy a hearty, homemade asparagus and corn pie for a reasonable price, you now had overpriced salads so pretty in their presentation, with barely enough green to feed a field mouse. I couldn’t believe it when I noticed that not even my childhood yoga studio was spared, now converted into a bohemian gathering point, with patrons sipping away at their deconstructed lattes. Was this the face of change? Peacocks as pets and rainbow coffee? I contemplated as to when we would reach peak hipster.

A smile came to my face though, dissipating any further negative thoughts when I looked across the seat to see my childhood friend and partner-in-crime of countless adventures. Prior to our return to Australia, we had not seen each other for over five years and much had changed in both our lives, but at the core of it all, I felt that familiar warmth, humour, unconditional acceptance and love that I had always known in Ayisha.

In the backseat of the car the three of us were all but intertwined and I couldn’t help but allow a cherished memory wash over me. We were all on the cusp of our fifth year on this planet playing a make-believe game of unicorns and princesses, complete with a sword-wielding heroine and a cyborg cat thrown in for good measure. We shared our mini gingerbread snacks, laughs, and secrets and in that one afternoon, we became the trio: My brother, Ayisha and I. I’ll give you a second to gush over how cute we were back in the day. 

 

Childhood Trio 3

 

What followed these pictures were seven years of constant friendship and four more that transcended oceans, valleys, mountains and seas. After all, true friends stay together through words, through distance and through time.

We wound our way up a final set of turns, passing an array of yellow signs, warning drivers of the local resident kangaroos. Another smile lit up my face as I realised this was the only country in the world where you would see a sign like that. The car slowed to a stop, coming to rest at the top of a secluded hill. We had arrived.

 

Dandenong Ranges Melbourne

 

Deep inside the heart of Mt. Dandenong lies an intricate web of delicious Gluten Free Pizzerias and Vegan Ice-creameries. However, one township stands apart in terms of untapped nature: Glen Harrow, the ferny sanctuary that encompasses Trees Adventure Park.

Home to Australia’s Premier Tree Top Adventure Ropes Experience, Glen Harrow is a refreshing glimpse into the natural flora and fauna of the ancient land and you can enjoy a unique experience from the treetops while doing so. We had visited the park twice before but both visits occurred over five years ago. Now, after so long, we had returned with our childhood memories and our childhood friend to experience the exhilaration, adrenaline, and hair-raising challenges once again. With Trees Adventure boasting 5 long courses, 2 short courses, 70 challenges and 19 flying foxes, there would be no shortage of fun.

 

Trees Adventure Park Melbourne

 

The autumn breeze encased us as we stepped out of the car and made our way down the familiar path to the entrance of the park. The scent of the leather utility gloves wafted out of the equipment containers and suddenly all I felt was excitement. Through the branches, I could make out the black cord of the flying foxes, the challenges zig-zagging through the forest; a labyrinth of the sky. The park was nearly empty due to it being a school afternoon, and we regarded this fact with the giddy smiles of three children who had a theme park all to themselves. We suited up with helmets and harnesses and followed Assistant Park Manager Emma down to the training zone. Our two-hour ticket session had begun.

 

Childhood Trio at Trees Adventure

 

We zipped from course to course, the colours a blur in my mind. Blue, red, blue, green. Each tested our skill and endurance. Each left us bent over with laughter. When we unclipped from the course and stepped back onto the wooden landing I looked up at the magnificent 150-year-old Algerian Oak Tree that connected all the courses together and I couldn’t help but reflect on this metaphor of life. Is this how we are all connected throughout our planet?

 

Treetops 4

Treetops 5

Treetops 1

Treetops 2

Treetops 3

 

Last time we had indulged in a trip to the Treetops, I had been too young for the big, badass, black course, the highest and most challenging of the tree top challenges. But now, with us all over the minimum age of 13, there was nothing to stop us from climbing to the very top of the ladder, 15 meters into the sky, to see the world from a Eucalyptus’s point of view.

We hooked and harnessed ourselves into the black course, the two ladders separated by the girth of this giant oak tree. As I began to climb, my feet sturdily ascending from rung to rung, I found myself admiring the gentle giant I was scaling. It was hard to imagine that it had once been a minuscule sprout, tiny against the backdrop of the endless forest. Over time it had changed, allowing itself to grow and morph until it ruled the sky.

It made me realise; so many people on this Earth are afraid of a little word called change. Afraid of change, afraid to change, and most importantly afraid of what change might bring. For the past four and half years, we have been embracing it. To us, change is more than just an acquaintance, it is an intimate friend. It is our way of life.

 

Treetops 6

Walking among the Treetops

Lalika on the Treetops

 

The Algerian Oak Tree and Upper Ferntree Gully with all its revamped cafes weren’t the only things that had changed in the time we had been away. It wasn’t just the people or places, but my eyes for the way I saw my old home now had changed too. I had returned with a new outlook, a sense of exploration and a desire to gain insight in a way I couldn’t have when we had left Melbourne four and a half years ago.

It was a week away from my 11th birthday when we began our journey around the world. Now I was only a few months away from celebrating my 15th year. I was tentative. There were many more changes and challenges coming with this new year and it was quickly speeding closer. I looked over to Ayisha on the other side of the tree. We were neck-and-neck, ascending the tree at exactly the same pace. My head filled with a million voices, voices of people that we had met along our travels, voices across the world asking the same questions. “Doesn’t constant travel wreck the proper dynamics of a friendship?” “What about relationships?” and the biggest one: “But aren’t you ever lonely?”

 

Treetops 8

 

The questions pounded against my head. The air swirled around me. I looked down and realised that I was more than halfway up to the top. To my surprise, I found a twinge of apprehension sliding down my throat as I continued to climb. I have never been afraid of heights in my entire life, yet somehow my feet seemed less agile and my fingers seemed to grip less resiliently. I climbed higher, my heart beating hard against my rib cage. I swallowed nervously as I came to the final rung on the ladder. In that moment, as I made my move to ascend the final platform, I slipped backwards, my feet giving way beneath me. In that split second, I forgot that I was strapped into the harness. I forgot that there was no chance I could ever fall. A sharp gasp ricocheted through my body and I closed my eyes in instinct.

Then I realised I had also forgotten that I was not alone 15 meters in the air. Ayisha’s hand squeezed my own tightly as she hauled me up the final ladder step and out onto the landing. A wave of emotion swept over me and suddenly all the fears and doubts fell where I couldn’t have. The voices shattered like glass around me and all that was left was what I knew to be true.

Change is a journey. One of a thousand emotions and one of a thousand stories. A journey of living, breathing moments transforming into memories. A journey of meaning, one that spans a million miles and never truly ends.

Embrace change. Friendship survives it. We had been apart for four and half years and yet when we were reunited it was as if not even a single second has passed. Our trio was still together, our sisterhood intact. I hugged Ayisha, 15 meters in the sky, the smallest wisps of our hair escaping our safety helmets. The truth was that there were many times along our journey when I had felt very lonely and had longed for the company of my friends.

Friends Forever

Friends at Treetops

As a traveler, you make so many new connections and new friendships that sustain you for the small amount of time you usually have together. But they are at the very essence, bittersweet, because you have to say goodbye, and one by one you must walk out of each other’s lives until it is time to meet again. Now, to have Ayisha with me, in the flesh, a living breathing being and not a silhouette, was like a dream come true. In that moment, I felt so completely content. I opened my eyes. The dark green gullies, deep forest air and laughing sing-song of a Kookaburra invaded my senses. I unhooked from the ladder. The black course was beckoning.

 

Treetops 9

Treetops 7

Treetops 10

 

While the black course was classed as the most challenging, it was also the most rewarding. We were thrilled to discover that the majority of the course consisted of flying foxes and so we flew from tree top to tree top, treasuring the magical feeling of being airborne. Because of the way time had flown, I knew that this would be the last course we would complete and so we cherished each challenge all the more, going slow to enjoy it as much as we could.

It was at the very end of the course that I realised – for a few precious minutes Ayisha and I were the single, solitary figures in the trees. We were alone, hooked and harnessed into the last flying fox of the day. The treetops were afire with all the vibrancy of a late afternoon autumn glow. My hands gripped harder onto the carabiner. I didn’t want to let go. High above, I relished the feeling, as if the entire enchanted forest and I had a little secret all to ourselves.

 

Among the Treetops

 

There are those moments you know are going to become a memory. You can feel it. When everything else will meld into a collage of out-of-breath exhilaration and this one moment is what will remain. For me this was it. Standing on the edge of the tree with Ayisha, my feet caressing the air, the embers of the sun filtering down beside me, the autumn leaves rustling in the wind. This is what I see when I remember our afternoon at Trees Adventure Park. This memory… alive. I could close my eyes and see it again, all so clearly. Me, poised on the crumbling fringe, my hands stinging with sweat, my eyes blinded by the beauty of the world above the ground. I stepped out into the ether and let go. I flew through the forest, my hair whipping in the wind, slowly descending until my feet touched Earth. With a shock, the gleaming light dissipated, as fleeting as a whisper of fog. I was back to reality.

 

Friends among the Treetops

Trees Adventure fun

 

As we made our way to the exit, our time session complete, the sun now melted behind the horizon, Lalika, Ayisha and I locked fingers for a photo. Together we had rediscovered a place that had always held a fragment of my childhood. Because of this, Trees Adventure Park will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

Treetops Exit

 

While the dynamic of our lives are in constant change and silly trends will come and go (I’m looking at you rainbow latte), the energies of our friendship and the lives we share will remain a constant guide in my heart and a compass that I will forever take with me on my journey ahead.

 

Trees Adventure Sunset

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9 Thoughts to Reflection and Reconnection Among the Treetops

  1. nagymama says:

    Draga Rekicam! Ismet megkonnyeztettel, de valahogy oromkonnyek is voltak benne hisz erzem, hogy akarhol vagy megis itt a Hazad!! Nagyon boldog vagyok ,hogy Te es Lalika nagymamanak valasztottatok amikor megszulettetek. Nagyon szeretlek DRAGA ANGYALKAIM !!

    • Draga Namamam,

      Nagyon koszonom, es akar hova megyek, akar hol leszek, akar melyik hazam lesz, te mindig velem leszel es mindenhova viszlek a szivemben! Nagyon Nagyon Szeretlek!! Réka

  2. BronwynB says:

    Change! Hell Yes! I want to change now and go out to those Treetops and sail through them. What a great story! Thank you for sharing yourself so openly. I am truly amazed by your adventures. I am planning my own trip come December to Australia. I will definitely be visiting Trees Adventures. What a spectacular setting and I can’t wait to see those Kangaroo signs. Have you got any advice for me?

    • Hi Bronwyn,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they really encourage me along our journey! I am glad to hear that you will be visiting Trees Adventures, it is something not to be missed. If you are there and you like steam trains, Puffing Billy is a fully maintained steam train and is located just a walk away from the Trees Adventures. It is a great afternoon ride which ends at a picnic ground where you can enjoy a walk or the beautiful surrounds. If you like hiking, just a jump up from Upper Ferntree Gully, is the Dandenong Ranges National Park, which has the famous Kokoda Trail 1000 steps. This park has some beautiful quiet walks away from the 1000 steps area, where you can also experience real Australian wildlife, amongst many, the rare and spectacular black cockatoos, Kookaburras, as well as resident wallabies, who are so cute and will let you take their pictures. You may even come across the rare and spectacular Lyrebird. There are a few of these unbelievable unique creatures who live in this park. I got to see one once. Here is a video link of David Attenborough introducing them.

      I trust that this is of some help.
      Warmest regards,
      Réka

  3. Marilyn says:

    I just got your email and read the blog. I loved it! You had me in fits of laughter over the hipster rainbow coffee, as I have actually seen this. Your story is what got me though Reka. Watching you grow and develop as a writer as you travel the world keeps me enthralled. Your adventures inspire and your stories are what keep me coming back. I will definitely be making the trip to Trees adventure with my besty when the weather gets a little better here in Melbourne. The experience, the way you wrote about it makes it seem sublime and I just want to be out there with you. Thanks for this great story and the inspiration to get out there and live my life to the fullest!

    • Marilyn,

      Thank you for your wonderful thoughts and taking the time to write them so late in Melbourne. Your words of encouragement mean so much to me and I am so glad that you enjoy reading about our adventures. It is one of my goals to inspire people through my writing and travel experiences to want to live their lives in a manner that brings them the greatest satisfaction and happiness.

      Sending warmth to you in Melbourne from Sunny Spain,
      Réka

  4. Jessie says:

    Hi Reka,

    You are a truly blessed young lady and your observations of the world as you experience it are simply enthralling! This is the third time I have read this blog post. Your rich story just draws me in, takes me to the top of that tree and leaves me contemplating so much about my own life. I feel like I was there with you sailing through the trees. I have never contemplated such an activity, but I must confess, after reading this, it is the first thing I want to go out there and do. I have always wanted to visit Australia and your journey has inspired me to take action. I thank you for your wonderful story and ask you to please keep sharing your journey with us.

    My best,
    Jessie

    • Hi Jessie,

      Thank you so much. It is feedback like yours which inspires me not only to keep on traveling, but to strive to be a better person. I jump a little over the moon when I hear comments like yours when you express that you are going to visit a new country, a new place and have adventures. You inspire me to share more and I am sincerely grateful to you. If you have any questions about planning your trip to Australia, just let me know.

      Thank you again and wishing you my warmest regards,
      Réka

  5. […] out by the hundreds, the most important legacy we can pass onto future generations are our stories. Moments that will meld into memories, journals that tell of journeys and personal narratives that will remain long after all our history […]

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