Party: Candice Quin, Yumi Hong, Ashley Burke, Cathy Stansbury, Julie Johnson, Lilian Castillo, George Karpenov and Kate, Grant Billen, Omar Al-Khayat, Wei Tan, Fan Yang, Andres Albornoz
Leader: Ashley Burke
Date: 22-23/2/2013

Advertised as “Canyoning Weekend, 23-24 Feb 2013”, but became “Flooded Canyons Daytrip 22-23 Feb 2013”

I was asked why didn’t I cancel the trip before it started. Well I could have. But didn’t you know that the SUBW motto is “Press On Regardless”? And that Press On Regardless doesn’t mean Press on Recklessly or Foolishly, just “Press on Regardless of the Weather Forecast”. Nothing more than that. Nothing less.

And so we did. At least, for the first half of the weekend.

As planned, the above company travelled separately in four cars from far and wide across Sydney to our rendezvous point up in the Blue Mountains. We all met by about 10pm, and it had just started raining. From there we drove along well groomed dirt roads to our pleasant campsite among the trees. Tents were setup in the steady but light rain and after a bit of socializing and huddling in tents, we turned in for the night.

Lilian and Cathy had a brand new tent that cost just $15 from K-Mart. Unfortunately it didn’t have had a sticker on it saying “Warning – unsuitable for outdoor use”.  It should have, and their night was wetter than it might have been. But we got a fire going in the morning and over breakfast considered our options. It was very wet and still raining. Not really suitable weather for the intended canyons. So we chose the safe option – some abseiling practise followed by a walk through the Glow Worm Tunnel.

We found a great cliff for some abseil practise. Even though this was open rock nowhere near any canyon, it was ideal practise for canyoning because it was almost as wet as a canyon would normally be anyway. We spent a few hours on this rock until everyone had had a few goes walking backward off a cliff attached to a rope, and all the beginners were now proficient and confident abseilers. And it was nearly lunch time, so we took our lunch and headed towards the Glow Worm Tunnel. Even the track leading there was virtually a creek, and the tunnel itself was welcome shelter. We wandered deep into the inky blackness and soon oohs and aahs could be heard as people’s eye’s adjusted to the dark and thousands of little glow worms, like stars, could be seen scattered all over the inside of the tunnel, clustering like little galaxies in the darkest and dampest grooves and crevices.

Then we came out the other end of the tunnel to a nice dry sandstone overhang. A perfect spot for lunch. A nice warm fire was got going and we lingered here over a long lunch, and outside the rain just came tumbling down. The towering blue gums seemed to channel the water down their trunks, creating little frothy waterfalls. But we were dry and warm and we stayed for a while, until finally we had to decide what to do with the rest of the day.

The decision was made to go to the only canyon that I knew to be safe in this weather, a canyon that is normally bone dry. The rain kept coming down as we parked nowhere special and I led everyone off nowhere special. Everyone must have wondered why I was leading them this way on such a wet afternoon. There was a little crevice that we had to clamber down, then a ferny glade, and nearby sandstone walls became higher and closer. Suddenly the heavens opened, the rain came gushing down, we turned a corner and there was our “dry” canyon, a spectacular fissure of rock behind a curtain of water. Waterfalls were simply everywhere. Every slight irregularity in the canyon wall was a channel for so much water. Yet it was completely safe. We walked through, water everywhere, warm and fresh. Yet there were no pools more than waist deep – this was called a “dry” canyon for good reason, the water just goes underground and the canyon is completely horizontal. So we walked through right to the end, where it opened out and the water all just seeped away into the ground. It was still bucketing down as we walked back up the canyon in reverse, everyone enjoying another good dousing. Candice said it was the prettiest thing she had seen so far in Australia. It was certainly very spectacular – an artwork of rushing water.

Back at our base camp, our tents still stood, but rather forlornly. Our morning fire had been well and truly put out by the rain, and some of the tents, especially the $15 one, were looking a bit bedraggled. It was time to get the fire going. This was easier said than done, but with intensive effort and with the help of Lilian’s table cloth, which everyone held above the fireplace to keep the rain off, a fire was eventually got going. Then a decision had to be made. Stay or go? Consensus was that no matter what happened to the weather now, canyoning on Sunday would be impossible anyway. That clinched it. So after all the effort of getting a fire going, we “Pressed on Regardless” back to the Ivanhoe for dinner! And what wild weather! The rain simply lashed down as we drove to Blackheath, and as we sat in the pub enjoying our pies and drinks, it hammered down outside. And later as we drove home, trees were down, rain had shredded leaves off trees, the wind was raging … I don’t think anyone regretted the decision to leave a day early.

And I don’t think anyone regretted going up in the first place either. We got a nice day of abseiling in a remarkable area and a spectacular taste of canyoning in the rain for all the new members and overseas students. Well worth it.

Ashley Burke