TRIP: Kalang Falls and Dione Dell aka Festival of the Leech Parts 1 & 2

DATES: 12-13 Feb 2011


Annie Côté (Saturday night and Sunday only)

Mila Moutinho (Saturday night and Sunday only)

Nichol Hill

Thi Nguyen

Kosta Seiler

Monica Wong

Ashley Burke


During the 2 weeks of hot dry weather preceding this trip I envisaged the shimmering deep pools of Kalang Falls and Dione Dell and how nice it would be to jump into them on a trip after abseiling down dry cliffs in the sunshine. And so this trip was thus conceived. Yet the weather had other ideas and by the time we set off along the track to Kalang Falls on Saturday morning it was cool, grey and heavily overcast with the promise of rain.

Nevertheless Kalang Falls, situated near the head of Kanangra Gorge lies in the heart of what is arguably one of the most rugged and spectacular mountain environments on the Australian continent. The descent of Kalang Falls involves around 9 or 10 abseils, some of them huge, and all of them in the spectacular setting of waterfalls in a quartzite ravine. So on Saturday 12 February the five of us progressed steadily down the gorge, completing abseil after spectacular abseil. Also progressing steadily was the deterioration in the weather, and by the time we stopped for lunch, all we could do was huddle in the lee of a cliff to escape the rain.

The 6th abseil is the longest, the cleanest and the most spectacular and exciting of them all. Fully 60m long it required almost every metre of our long ropes. The rain had really set in by now, and water was running down the cliffs everywhere, yet still everyone enjoyed this amazing and spectacular drop. But being quartzite, everywhere was becoming incredibly slippery, and loose slopes were particularly dangerous. At some point I declared to the group that the trip was now “officially cancelled”, a ridiculous notion in the middle of a canyon because the only option is to keep going anyway. But at the top of the 2nd last abseil a decision had to be made. Water levels were noticeably rising. We could either complete the remaining 2 abseils, which involved traversing a ledge which would be trivial any other time but dangerous looking in these slippery and wet conditions. Or, we could climb a gully and escape the canyon and run the gauntlet of legions of leeches and climb back up to the car park. This latter option was chosen and the festival of the leech duly began. As we trudged up the steep slope to Kanangra in the enveloping mist, silent armies of leeches lay in wait, insidiously carrying out insurgencies into socks, shoes, and under thermals. Many times we stopped to deleech ourselves, yet more came, some hitting their mark, drawing blood.

At last we emerged on the main track and returned to our cars and drove back to camp where it had miraculously stopped raining. Also miraculous was that no or very few leeches were to be found back at camp. Annie and Mila were already at the camp site, having driven up on Saturday afternoon and had only just arrived. Our group now swelled to 7 in number we were able to enjoy a very comfortable evening around the campfire, and we all ate too much and drank almost enough. Nichol’s well fitted out 4WD supplied many comforts such as a blow torch to start the fire with (!!) deck chairs, bar fridge, kitchen gadgets and appliances, awning, 80 litres of on board water supply and 250 litres of fuel to drive it all around with!!!!

So on Sunday morning all this stuff had to be packed up again and then the
7 of us headed off to do Dione Dell. Like Kalang Falls this is a quartzite gorge with waterfalls, yet contrastingly the abseils are much easier and less potentially dangerous, and the overall trip is easier and shorter. It is still a beautiful gorge though. It was still heavily overcast and the mist and drizzle rolled in again, but there were very few leeches. So a lovely day was had. After enjoying 4 beautiful abseils we had a late lunch as the rain set in once more. By the time we got back to the cars we were soaked through to the bone once more, after following a sodden track back to the cars through the wet scrub.

Despite the rain and the leeches and the prudently truncated trip down Kalang Falls it was a great weekend, and there are photos to prove it. Here:

Ashley Burke

Email: aburke at

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