On one of my days in Winnipeg, the Travel Manitoba Facebook Page community got to vote on the activity that I would do for my “Day of Fun”. The choices were Fun Mountain Waterslide Park, Adrenaline Adventures, Grand Prix Amusements, and Thunder Rapids.
The only option that made me feel uncomfortable was Adrenaline Adventures because practically all of their activities involve my fears, like heights, being shot at (by paint guns, but still…), or having my feet strapped together while in water (i.e.: wakeboarding). Usually my days of fun are a bit more tame – a hike through the woods, a canoe ride on the lake, or a visit to the museum. I guess I’m more of a wimp than I thought, but the idea of doing all of these activities, voluntarily, made me nervous.
Naturally, Adrenaline Adventures was voted as the winner of the day, my fears completely off the radar of the well-meaning community. But what the heck, right? I’m open-minded and adventurous enough to be willing to try new experiences. If I’m going to learn how to climb a rope course, or learn how to wakeboard, or even try paintball, I want to do it here in Manitoba. So off I went with Doug Evans of Travel Manitoba to have our day of fun.
When we first arrived, we were asked what we wanted to do first: paintball, the rope course, wakeboarding, or zip-lining. Having loved zip-lining earlier at Hy-Wire, I chose zip-lining. We were suited up in helmets and harnesses and then were pointed to the rope course and were told, “Okay, so you first have to climb up THAT, and then you zip-line down.”
THAT was this.
The thing must have been 5 stories tall!
First you had to climb up the side to the first platform. Then, you had walk across a rope net and then tightrope walk across to get to the other side, climb a secondary climbing wall or the rope ladder, and then you had to get across by swinging Tarzan-style on a rope, and then balance across tires and wake boards hanging by ropes. And only then did you zip-line down to the ground. Well, almost to the ground… to a ladder that you then climbed down. It was like a scene out of a Survivor challenge.
I realized standing at the bottom that I have a fear of heights when I don’t feel secure. Hanging from those ropes 5 stories above? That wasn’t going to happen. If I had something to practice on first? Perhaps. But to attempt this? Call me a wimp, but I chickened out. “That’s okay” said the staff, a girl of about 16. “You can just climb up the wall.”
Having climbed high up in a climbing gym, I knew this was something I could do. So I secured myself to the rope and attempted to climb up the side. Sadly, my feet slipped on my first try, so I attempted again. Slip. Slip, slip. My running shoes acted like repellent, reacting as if they were slathered in oil.
Doug, who had attempted to climb up the same time I did, had already made it to the first level. He looked down below and offered words of encouragement.
I tried to climb higher, but my feet slipped and so I just let go… and I dropped backward, my connected rope offering just enough slack to soften my fall. But I realized that unlike when you climb at a gym, there’s nobody belaying. If you let go accidentally here, you fall down all the way to the bottom, you don’t dangle there.
When it became apparent that I couldn’t climb up the climbing gym wall because of my slippery shoes, the staff suggested I just climb up the rope ladder on the other side.
Easy peasy, right? Not quite. This rope ladder was sagging in such a way that you had to have fiercely strong upper arm strength to manoeuvre yourself upward. Sadly, my arms were giving out and I was feeling completely ridiculous about the whole situation. Was I really this lame?
As a last ditch effort, the staff guiding me said, “if you find the ropes too hard, climb up the metal pegs on the side.” There on the wooden post was a metal peg ladder, the sturdiest way to get to the top. I climbed up to the top and needed to get help from Doug over the ledge to the first platform….but I made it!
But that was it for me. From that very comfortable position, I watched Doug bravely conquer the rest of the rope course aka: the scariest obstacle course I’ve ever seen in person.
Wakeboarding was a million times more fun by comparison. Something I had originally feared due to my lack of strong swimming skills, I openly embraced. I must admit, it was a weird feeling to be wearing boots strapped to a wakeboard bobbing up and down in the lake. They had a remote control pulley system. The speed was about 10km an hour, which seems slow on paper, but when you’re travelling at that speed on a wakeboard, it feels like you’re flying. Doug seemed to be a natural.
I did a series of awkward wipeouts and face plants on my first attempts across the lake and back. On my second attempt, I managed to have a good run across the length of the lake, complete with a controlled ending coast. On the way back, the same. Watch a video clip, here! That boost of confidence more than made up for my lousy beginning.
Finally, we had one more activity: paintball!
Because there was only two of us (and I was wearing clothes I’d be wearing afterward), we ended up playing target practice. For a newbie paintball player, it was the perfect way to be introduced to the game, and about as much as I could handle.
Despite my discovery that I’m truly terrified of heights when I’m not confident in my climbing skills, I immensely enjoyed myself with wakeboarding and paintball – two activities I probably would have never chosen to do on my own. So thank you Travel Manitoba Facebook Page, for pushing me out of my comfort zone!
After an adrenaline-filled afternoon, we had lunch at JC Tacos, a Mexican restaurant in the Winnipeg neighbourhood of Elmwood. Owned and operated by a local family, they pride themselves on making the best quality Mexican food in the city.
Their back story’s an interesting one. Apparently the family used to own a convenience store, but they didn’t feel it was ethical selling junk food that they themselves didn’t allow their own children to consume. After much thought, they closed the convenience store and opened a business that honoured their ethics, and thus JC Tacos was born.
“There are no can openers or microwaves” we were told. Everything is fresh and made in house, even the sauces. The meat is all organic, free range. They also keep recipes authentic and will not, for example, substitute cheddar for a traditional Mexican cheese instead.
I ordered a horchata to drink, a traditional Mexican drink made of rice milk, sugar, and cinnamon. For lunch I ordered the shredded beef tacos and liberally experimented with their various house made hot sauces. The food was hearty and delicious, exactly what I was craving.
Dragon Boating on the Red River
That evening, for something unique, Travel Manitoba’s Dené Sinclair kindly invited me out to join her dragon boating team practice on the Red River. Having long admired dragon boat teams practicing back home in Vancouver, I was ecstatic to try it.
We started off at the Manitoba Canoe and Kayak Centre, two dragon boats side by side. There were two people on each seat, leaning over on their respective sides, rhythmically paddling to the coach’s beat. At times if felt awkward and cramped, but it was strangely extremely satisfying. Though my arms were extremely tired, the constant paddling (up to 75km/hour speeds!) was invigorating and inspiring.
I can’t quite say I mastered the dragon boat paddle on my first attempt, but I got a taste of what it’s about, especially the camaraderie that takes place on and off the boat. As I’d later learn when we were going for post-practice beers at the Cambridge, it’s not about using your arms, it’s about using your core muscles. And reflecting back on my day, it was long day of firsts, and I’m sure there were more to come.
A huge thank you to the staff at Adrenaline Adventures for an adrenaline-filled day. I did have fun, contrary to my initial fears! Also, a big thank you to the staff at JC Tacos for a delicious lunch. As always, thanks to Doug for his words of encouragement, and for Dené for letting me tag along on your dragon boating team. This is definitely one of my most memorable days in Winnipeg!