Growing up, we weren’t allowed inside pets. We had all sorts of critters, but that is just what happens when you live in the country. At various points, we had all the fixings of a farm, but never all in one moment. We had chickens and a mean ol’ rooster who attacked the small children sent in to gather eggs. We had calves that we christened with adorable monikers like Cookies and Cream or Bert and Ernie. (We also ate those same cute little guys when cold weather rolled in. They were fun “pets” in the summer and tasty tacos in the winter.) We had pheasants and rabbits and dogs and of course a smattering of slightly feral cats. Then came the llamas and a pygmy goat we babysat for a short time. But, for the majority of my childhood, all pets were outdoor pets. They had cozy stalls filled with warm straw and houses crammed with blankets and heaters, so were not lacking when it came to comfort, but none of them got to spend their evenings with the humans in the big house. That is, until my sister and I wheedled and begged (and probably annoyed) my parents to the point where they gave in. We would each be allowed to have an “inside” pet. She went with parakeets, getting a blue and a yellow budgie to add to our bedroom décor and I went with a hamster, thinking it was fuzzy and adorable. (These were the first iterations. We each went through several of our chosen pets throughout the years.)
My first hamster, Candy, was a light cream color and loved to fill his (her?) cheeks with pellet food and then spit it out if you got too close. (This turned out to be good preparation for when we got the llamas!) But, more than anything, Candy loved being shoved in his clear plastic wheel and set loose in the house. Luckily, we had very few stairs, as he seemed to always find them instantly and take himself off-roading in his wheel. He’d scurry around the house for hours until he had worn himself out and we’d find his ball tucked in a corner, him asleep, usually with a pile of poo. His adventures literally left him pooped!
Candy (and his successors) are what came to mind a few weeks ago when I was confronted with a human-sized hamster ball. You see, in New Zealand, there is a lovely company called Zorb where one can pay money to be strapped into a gigantic hamster ball and pushed down a rather steep hill. Thad stumbled upon this phenomenon on our first evening in NZ and we quickly decided the home of Zorb-ing would be our destination for the next day.
Hill? Hamster ball? Lots of bungee cords? Why not?!
It is pretty much exactly as it sounds. The workers drive you to the top of the hill (you are barefoot, so walking isn’t a great option) and strap you into a large plastic orb. It is really two soft, blow-up balls, one bungee-ed to the other to create shock absorbers. You get strapped in by the ankles, waist and a chest belt and then you’ve got loops above your head to grab with your hands. As soon as all the buckled are clipped, the worker asks if you are ready, and ready or not, down the hill you go!
Now, I love “dizzy” rides. The Scrambler is my favorite place to be at an amusement park. I can go on that thing again and again and then down a cotton candy and hop right back on. No problem! But, the Zorb gave my belly a run for its money.
Flying down the hill, all I could see was a rotation: green, blue, green, blue, green, blue. Grass, sky, grass, sky, grass, sky.
About half way down I began to silently pray that the cookie and apple juice I had for breakfast would remain in my stomach, which felt like it was making two rotations for each one of my body. And of course, there was squawking the entire way down. I think it was a series of “aaack”s each time my feet made another trip over my head.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, I slowly and clumsily unhooked by various belts, stood up in the ball, only to crash back down, having lost all sense of direction and any coordination to which I may have previously laid claim. It took a good minute before I was able to squeeze myself out of the opening and zigzag my way away from the hill.
Zorbing was crazy and not cheap, but definitely an experience worth having! I think I would probably do it again, but with much more trepidation, as my tummy now knows what it is in for as I barrel down a hill, head over foot, time and time again. (And I know how poor Candy felt when he hit those few stairs, sending him tumbling in all directions!)