Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Abseiling Adventures in Australia

Ok, yes, I know this is post is a little delayed. I have indeed returned to the good ol' U.S of A, but things have been hectic since I've been back to say the least. I've had to catch up on some work stuff (since I neglected a few things between my adventuring) and I also moved...again.

Anyways, Australia.

Totally amazing, and I WILL go back. I traveled around the South East coast including Sydney and Melbourne but wasn't able to make it to Queensland and New Zealand, which means I'll either need to move there for awhile or take another multiple month trip.


The highlight of the trip though, occurred on the second to last day. It was simultaneously the most amazing and TERRIFYING thing I've done in my life. I was in Sydney and saw an ad for abseiling in the outback. Apparently "abseiling" is the British equivalent of rappelling. Sounds awesome, so I coerced my friend Kelly to sign up with me.

The next day, we wake up 4:45am and catch a 2 hour train out to Katoomba (how's that for an awesome town name?) for this little excursion. We get to the place and find out we are the only two people signed up for the day since, being winter time in Australia, it's the offseason.

Even better - more attention from our guide.

Slight problem though. When you aren't travelling with a lot of luggage, generally you aren't really prepared for things like abseiling in the jungle in the middle of winter.

We show up, in shorts and sweatshirts...not exactly ideal apparel, so we have to run over to K-mart and gear up. After we return, Corky, our guide for the day (I should've known better at this point...nothing good can ever come out of having an adventure guide named "Corky"), gives us a quick breakdown of our plans for the day, before we jump into the four-wheeler and start trekking into the rain forest/jungle/whatever.

After a short hike, we get to the first cliff. The "easy" one. It's about 30 feet which, before signing up, I imagined would be the longest rappel.

Not Quite.

I make it through without any issues.

"I am awesome! I DOMINATE abseiling!"

Little did I know that Corky was just warming us up. Our morning descents included rappels of 30, 100, and 200 feet. By lunchtime, I was feeling confident and smooth. Sure, hanging off of a cliff by a thin little rope with 200 feet of trees, rock, and cliff below is a smidgen unsettling, but after six or seven abseils, I was feeling good.

Then Corky took us to "The Fold".

We drove out to another location, hiked a little ways, until Corky halted us.

"Don't Move Mates! If I don't set this safety line, you're cooked!"

I took a peak at what he was looking at around the bend, and instantly became nauseous. He was traversing a cliff wall with ledge that only about four or five inches of his foot could fit on....1100 feet below were the tops of 50 foot trees to "catch" us in case of any snafus.


"Come on guys!"

Although we had a safety line to hook on to, there were multiple reasons for my nerves:

  1. The safety line is very loose, so in the event of a fall, you would still drop a good 10 feet before slamming into the cliff wall. At that point, I'm not even sure how you would get back up.
  2. As the safety line is loose, you don't really feel like there's a line connected to you. Basically, the whole traverse feels like you're free climbing.
  3. We were personally in charge of detaching and re-attaching our own safety line to the traverse line Corky was setting on the cliff wall at each point where it is connected to the wall. I was surprised that he trusted us so soon to be in charge of our own safety. I wasn't so trusting of me.
When we got to the meat of the fold, I realized I was in a major pinch. The fold is basically a spot where two cliffs come together. The first obstacle is climbing through. It's pretty narrow, and, just in case I wasn't already peeing my pants, as you continue through, your are essentially straddling the crevasse which, if you were to fall through, would be a 120o foot drop.

Oh Corky, how I love thee.

At this point, there's really no option of turning back either. We've rappelled some other cliffs to get to this point, so the only way I'm getting out of here, is by going forward.

To further complicate things, the start of this rappel is straight down through the crevasse, then over another cliff. Corky also had me go first to set up a safety line below.

And if things weren't complicated enough, it was "the second windiest day I've ever seen in The Fold!" and Corky didn't want to through the end of my rope down to the bottom for fear of it getting tangled. His solution? He tied a back pack to my waist, hanging between my legs which the end of my rope would feed out of. The whole time I was going down, I kept thinking, "what if he accidentally put the wrong length of rope in the bag and I end up being short?" Well, to answer my own question, I would be touching down with a not-so-cushy landing 1200 feet below.

Only slightly unsettling.

And just in case I wasn't already terrified, as I was going down, the rope got knotted and caught in the backpack while I was going down.

Good Grief. So here I am, hanging by a rope with death looming below, undoing a knot in my lifeline. Like I said, not an adventure for the feint of heart.

I will say this. The views that we had during these insane rappels were among the BEST I've ever seen. Completely breath-taking.

Somehow, Kelly and I made it out alive, and with an AMAZING adventure under our belts. Truthfully, if I had known how terrifying this would've been, I may not have signed up, but I am SOOOOO glad I did, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Another day, another adventure!