Nicole Mealing delved deep into her fears (and a pretty epic gorge) when she went canyoning with her two friends Paddy (from Challenge #1 fame) and Chris in the Blue Mountains. Check out how the girls roll in Challenge #14, and then book in your own canyoning adventure…
What happened when a bike shop manager, a wind farm stocktaker and a statistician got together at 10 minutes past sunrise on a Sunday morning? Being a numbers person I’ll leave the witty response up to the reader, but the traverse of the tongue-twister Whungee Wheengee canyon is what.
The car was abuzz with more conversation than usual for this _pre_caffeinated_Paddy_ time of the day. The guys reminisced on their first canyon’s many moons ago and I pondered what would be my greatest challenge of the day: would it be canyoning, remembering this (my first) canyon’s name, or how to drive a non-manual car as my left foot, much to Paddy’s amusement, insisted on finding the clutch as we wound our way along Mount Wilson Rd?
A quick gear check and re-pack and we we’re off down the fire trail towards the river. The bush fires from last summer had made the track impossible to find at times, particularly the last stretch, so we ended up walking into the main creek instead of the usual abseil entry. In return, we were rewarded with more open views of the area than one would normally see and the charcoal all around us made light work of the shine on Paddy’s and my new volleys.
As we headed towards the canyon I pestered the boys with questions about the definition of a canyon – it still seemed like a bush walk to me. All the questions died on my lips as we used a sling around a tree to abseil into the canyon and reached our first duckunder. No photo could ever do justice to the sensation of wondering if there was a way through or the distance until my next breath. We were rewarded with a short tunnel stretch with glow worms all along the roof to light out way. Incredible is an understatement.
For the next few hours we swam, scrambled, abseiled, down-climbed and did a few more duckunders as we made our way along the canyon in awe of the beautiful, sun-dappled rock formations we passed. Stopping for lunch I was impressed at how warm I’d stayed for the first part of the day but as my body temperature plummeted I started to understand why hyperthermia is a canyoning hazard. Never has hot chocolate tasted so good (thanks Chris!).
Abseiling down two small waterfalls was definitely a highlight. So, too, was the hand-over-hand move down a rope into a small pool and using a rock as a slippery dip without repercussions.There were also a few occasions where I had to stare into the boys’ eyes and ask them if they were serious about the move I was required to pull off. They humoured me by waiting patiently or helping me over the trickiest of the scrambles.
The last part of the canyon was probably my favourite as the walls closed in and the rays of sunlight streamed through. It was with mixed emotions I emerged from the canyon into the Wollangambe. I was grateful to feel the warmth of the sun and river water but sad to leave the beautiful rock formations behind. Happily the trip was nowhere near finished yet. We stopped for another snack break (Chris and Paddy certainly know how to run a trip) before our 1km swim down the Wollangambe.
This section is popular for jumps and Chris had a particular spot in mind for ours. Not put off by the fact that his usual spot was now a sandbank Chris rock climbed up the side and traversed to a point where the water was deep enough for a jump (Paddy diligently tested the water depth from the bottom first). Another group came up just in time to see Chris’ jump. Not wanting to miss an opportunity they followed suit and the onlookers were rewarded with an entertaining dialogue as these guys used terms such as “dodgy move” to describe the leg that Chris had pioneered. The adrenalin rush of the climb was surmised as they called out “is that all?” when they finally reached the ledge. I decided this jump was not for me.
Absolutely freezing by this stage we pushed on and floated downstream on our backs enjoying staring up at more beautiful rock features and floating in and out of streams of sunlight. As we approached the exit point Paddy started muttering about the climb out, knowing full well that this is always my favourite part of a bush walk. Back at the car we lazed around in the sun for awhile, enjoying the tranquility for as long as possible before the drive back to Sydney with a stop for pizza on the way.