Over The Cliff Face

Doing life between travel most certainly does not have to be dull and boring.  As you know I am all about creating great experiences to keep me entertained, while I await my next trip.  Of course this weekend did not disappoint.

To counteract all of the eating and drinking, that this social little butterfly has been doing, and to ensure a broad range of experiences and activities to make me happy, I booked something physical and outdoors.

I've never been either abseiling or canyoning before but I do enjoy a bit of adventure and getting the blood pumping, not to mention the nerves at some point too.

This activity happened as I had a credit with Eagle Rock Adventures (unused tickets from a previous Kayaking trip) so I booked me and master 10 year old in for the ride and talked a few friends in to joining us.  Basically we had no idea what we were really going to do that day.  One of my poor friends thought she was in for canoeing, not canyoning!

It was an early start on Sunday so we stayed in Katoomba overnight, we were lucky to stumble across the cutest Korean restaurant and had the yummiest, very affordable dinner (perhaps I'll need to go back there so I can do a proper review, they do deserve it).  We also stayed in a cheap but clean motel which had a good old-fashioned games room complete with table tennis, air hockey, pool table and arcade games.  All of which have seen better days but we made do.  A few wines and a couple of hours of healthy competition in all apparatuses and we had a ball.

Sunday started early with a 7.45am meet for a morning of abseiling training. Let me tell you the area (Narrow Neck Lookout) where we met was the most amazing morning view I've seen in a long time.  I was not unhappy at all to be there that early looking over the valleys of clouds below.  Just stunning!

We had some others join the same group and ended up with about 9 of us all up, plus our 2 trusty guides.  A quick safety chat and we were underway!

The first cliff was a small, non-threatening rock that we all managed without trouble.  Master 10yo was already nervous but made that little adventure look easy.  Then it was on to the 15 metre cliff.

Now this cliff was definitely more confronting.  The fact was that we stood at the top of this cliff and couldn't see the bottom, we could only see the valley which was a whole heap lower that 15 metres!  This was where we had to test our nerves and step over the edge and in to the unknown.  This is where Master 10yo also came unstuck and frozen with fear.  But, with some effort he dived in to his deep reserves and found his courage and went for it.  It was a very proud moment for me and I can say that it was him and a couple of the 'height-challenged' adults that emerged feeling like they accomplished something with that 15 metres.

The final training was the 30 metre abseil but that seemed easy after realising you can do it and it's not really that hard.  Master 10yo sat that one out and I'm glad he did!

So, having mastered the art of stepping backward over the cliff face and placing your trust in the ropes we were ready to conquer the canyon.  Off we went in our respective rides to the next meeting spot 'The Conservation Hut' in Wentworth Falls.

After kitting up and knocking back a fresh made sanga we were off with large backpacks, wet-suits, helmets and our harnesses.  20 mins later and down the bottom of the Empress Canyon, I think we were already dreading the walk back up.  Stairs, stairs and more stairs!

The canyon is beautiful, so green, so natural, cool and idyllic.  We moved through some relatively easy to navigate rocks and naturally carved paths and then took our first steps in some ankle deep water - it was certainly refreshing!  Pretty cold when it first hits your tootsies.

We then waded through natural creeks and clambered over some rocks coming to our first rock jump.  It was really more a rock fall, standing upon a rock and then falling backward in to a dark, deep pool of water, one at a time.  I thought it is was a bit scary but master 10yo didn't hesitate and did it better than me.  The water was cold and took my breath away at first.

After the first jump there are a few different varieties of climbing, sliding, crawling, wading and jumping.  By this time the water isn't really that cold and you've forgotten that there is a pack on your back.

Surrounded by some of the most pristine beauty it is well worth taking a water proof GoPro if you can.  Nothing else but a head cam will suffice as it will probably get damaged otherwise.

As you near the end there are a couple of bigger jumps, around the 3 & 5 meter marks.  Total fun!!  The final leg is a 30 meter abseil through the waterfall which is actually rather hectic.  I had visions of myself gliding through beautiful sheets of falling water and being splashed whilst smiling at the thought of what I was doing.  But, it was more like a slippery rock face where the water was incredibly noisy and rough, it knocks you around a bit and any good form you'd developed in training is completely abandoned as you get down however you can manage.  Of course, you are safe because you're harnessed in so you really just have to go with it.  I think most of us slid down more on our knees or almost face planting the rock face!

When you get down and disconnect you're at the bottom of the waterfall and have a lovely swim before having to get out, get changed and start the dreaded walk back out.

All in all, the scenery is divine, the guides knowledgeable and fun and it is such a great feeling to be active outdoors in the fresh mountain air.  A definite thumbs up for this one.

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