Signing up for the day long canyoning adventure in the Blue Mountains seemed like the perfect adventure: bush walking, abseiling, rock climbing, jumping down waterfalls, and swimming up river. After all, I loved the Waitomo Cave adventure and the bungee jumping I did in New Zealand a few years ago.
Of course, after we signed up, we got the confirmation email that said, bring your water shoes, a jumper (aka a sweater), and long pants. Ah, what? We had none of that. I really wondered what I signed up for. But, in the usual Aussie style, they said, “no worries, we’ll get you what you need.” And, sure enough, they did!
Our adventure began by packing our backpacks. The contents consisted of a stove, coffee and tea, first aid kit, and an emergency shelter in addition to our abseiling gear and wetsuits. Interesting, I thought. About 45 minutes later via van, we arrived at the top of Serendipity Canyon. We then headed for the canyon which was approximately a 1 hour steep bush walk down hill (which we later walked up), led by our guide, Rhys. It was during this time we learned why we needed the emergency supplies. Apparently if it rains, the canyon fills up with water, which could lead to flash flooding, requiring us to take shelter. Coffee and tea would help us stay warm until help can reach us via helicopter.
When we got to the bottom near the canyon entrance, we “suited up” in our wetsuits, packed our clothes and supplies in our dry bags and strapped them on our backs and began the first of four abseils. Rhys did all the work setting everything up; all we had to do was hook up and walk our feet down the canyon walls. Oddly enough, this felt like the easy part.
When we weren’t abseiling, we were walking along the canyon floor, through streams that were ankle to waist high. Occasionally it got deep and we swam it, discovering it was easier to swim on our backs allowing our backpacks to help us float. We had an opportunity to talks to Rhys and ask him all our questions. I quickly learned that while there are generally no snakes in the canyon, due to its colder temperatures, they will occasionally fall in when they are hunting. I was looking up for a while after that comment, hoping not to see a snake aiming for my head!
After we ate our lunch, Rhys set up another abseil and said, you won’t actually abseil on this one. No, instead, we hooked up like we were abseiling and then he dropped us into the freezing cold canyon water below. Nate went first and didn’t realize what Rhys was doing, so he was shocked and said a few expletives when he surfaced. Even though I knew what was coming, I was still shocked when I hit the water which essentially knocked my breath out as a result of the cold.
According to Rhys, we went quicker through the canyon than most as a result of our high level of fitness and the fact that it was only the two of us on the trip. Because of the “heaps of time” we had left, we abseiled down into a glow worm cave and had an opportunity to see the little worms shining on the top of the cave with their fluorescent green dots of light. It was fascinating to see them hanging from their thin strings in an effort to catch bugs. Instead of exiting the normal way back, we also took the long way out of the canyon, which included two climbs up the rocks (in which Rhys helped pull us up) and a long swim upriver, through the beautiful rock walls and dense forest. This is when I faced my fear. We were on top of a rock, about 5 meters above the river. Rhys went running off the edge and somersaulted into the river. Nate went next. Then it was just me. I’m not sure why I was so afraid. Perhaps it was the fact that you had to jump out to avoid hitting the rocks at the bottom. It couldn’t have been the height because I’ve bungee jumped with limited fear. But I really did stand at the top and say, “Feel your fear and do it anyway.” And, I jumped!
Our canyoning experience through the Blue Mountain Adventure Company in Katoomba, was expensive, but also one of those experiences we will not soon forget. And of course, every time you push your boundaries and go into that uncomfortable zone, you get stronger. So who knows what we will do on our next vacation!