Carla Grossetti finds the sensation of fear is soon replaced with a rush of excitement at the novelty of riding the world's longest roller-coaster zipline on NSW's Central Coast.
After an easy hike through a patch of blue gums and blackbutts in Ourimbah State Forest, I am standing on a timber structure, wearing a harness, about to road-test the world's longest rollercoaster zipline.
There's a steep six-storey descent to the forest floor below and I can hear the flow of the instructor's voice but I'm not really listening; I'm just focused on taking the drop. Wait, what did he say? Something about me keeping my legs crossed so I don't slow down and hanging onto the T-bar for safety? Got it.
TreeTop Crazy Rider manager Josh Sandeman then hoicks me up by the harness, which he couples to a carabiner, and hangs me out to dry. Before you know it, I'm whizzing through the forest canopy like a teabag on a Hill's Hoist on the zipline that opened in Wyong Creek, on the Central Coast, in November 2014.
The one-kilometre long and 18 metres high Crazy Rider is a roller-coaster ride without the carriage and I spend the first half of the five-minute jaunt conducting a high-speed Occupational Health & Safety audit on the groundbreaking technology.
Just when I feel calm and present enough to appreciate a tree beard or birdlife, things get hectic again and my body shifts, twists, warps and wefts and I taste that delicious fear again. It's not only the speed of the ride that thrills: weaving through the speckled branches as the leaves sway and rustle is really spectacular. Of course, my initial angst would have been eased if I'd known prior to putting my body on the zipline that owners Frederic Galimard, 51, and Sandrine Gaymard, 48, spent two years researching and developing the eco-friendly amusement track that won an Australian Business Award for Innovation in 2014.
Unlike traditional flying foxes, where dangling riders are dispatched in a straight line, the roller-coaster version swooshes up and down like a current of air, corkscrewing around 360-degree loops and tight turns.
"The Crazy Rider was created after listening to customers say how much they loved the flying fox. One day Frederic said, 'What if we could send people around the trees instead of just in a straight line?' What differentiates the Crazy Rider from a flying fox is the acceleration and deceleration and that element of surprise and sense of speed," Gaymard says.
"We've lived in Australia for 16 years and we love the Australian bush. The park is designed to educate people; if we can give children and adults an enjoyable experience, they are more likely to care about the great outdoors," she says.
Gaymard said no damage was done to the environment during the construction of the treetop attraction, which took 5000 hours to complete. She says the Ecoline system is now gaining interest worldwide and drawing attention to the adventure park, which also features a ropes course and obstacle challenge.
The French-Australian couple has owned the park for six years and it is refreshingly low key: there's no gleaming reception desk, just a shipping container situated on the floor of the forest.
As far as white-knuckle scenarios go, their new attraction is certainly up there. And, once you get in the zone, flickering and dancing around the trees, it's as close to feeling like a fruit bat as is humanly possible.
The writer was a guest of The Legendary Pacific Coast.
COST: Crazy Rider Xtreme: $85, concession (7-17) $75; Crazy Rider Pioneer $45, concession (7-17), $35. Both rides $109, concession $89.
RESTRICTIONS: Participants must be aged seven and up and a minimum of 30 kilograms. Maximum weight is 120 kilograms and the ride is open to people in wheelchairs and with disabilities.
CONTACT: 1 Red Hill Rd, Wyong Creek, NSW. For more information, phone + 61 2 4025 1008 or visit visit treetops.com.au
FIVE MORE ZIPLINE EXPERIENCES
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Toro La Bestia, in Orocovis, Puerto Rico Fly across the valley face-first at up to 96km/h. See Toroverdepr.com
Pronutro Zip 2000, Sun City, South Africa The world's longest zipline – 1.9 kilometres – is also one of the fastest, with riders travelling an average speed of 120km/h. See Zip2000.co.za
Haleakala Skyline Tour, Maui, Hawaii America's first zipline was set up in 2002. This is carbon-neutral fun at its finest. See Zipline.com