Party: Sky, Monica, Clinton, Vicki, Michael, Yumi
Leader: Sky & Mon
Trip report by: Mon
Date: Saturday 15th March, 2014

Sky and I were keen to get into a canyon, as we hadn’t had time for one in several months. After a distinct lack of interest in Butterbox for the weekend, we changed it at the last minute to the easier WDWDIITR and ended up with an awesome group of 6 intermediate canyoners.

Our plan was to complete WDWDIITR the usual way (i.e. not nude), then leisurely lilo downstream, on the sunny Wollangambe to the W2 exit.

SUBW had several lilos available and rather than have everyone buy one, I picked up a bunch with the ropes. Before picking them up, we were warned that the lilos were pretty old and could do with a bit of going over. It was a hectic week, so I just brought a few extra and figured that surely 5 would turn out to be useable? Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure our lilos were in the photos of SUBW from the 60’s that Greg Wootton recently posted.

We all met at the North Richmond shops that morning, with the usual Sydney Transport weekend shenanigans (i.e. trackwork) delaying a few of us. At the shops, we debated whether the Bakehouse outside or Dad’s Bakery inside the shopping centre, had the most superior baked goods. Deciding on the Bakehouse, some of us bought a little breakfast, while Sky and Clinton picked up some pasties for lunch in the canyon.

We arrived at the Cathedral campground and distributed the gear. We carefully inspected the lilos, making sure each one had at least one stopper and appeared hole free. Before we could finish, we noticed a very large group of 20 heading out on the trail. Their trip leader gaily told us they would be doing the same canyon, but he would let us through if we caught up. We hurriedly finished our lilo inspections, stuffed our packs and scurried onto the trail.

Despite our rushing, we didn’t catch up with the large group until reaching the canyon. They were a beginners group from Newcastle Uni and the leader was belaying them from the top as they descended. He kindly let us set up a second rope and abseil through.

At the second abseil, a small commercial guided group was just finishing their descents. We descended and began the pleasant creek walk to the canyon sections. The guided group was also kind enough to let us pass by on the creek walk and they caught up with us again as the last of our group descended the first abseil into the canyon section.

The final section was the best part of the canyon, but all too short. We swam and made a few more descents, choosing not to do any jumps. At the final abseil, through a small waterfall, I watched Clinton descend. As he disappeared out of view, I suddenly heard a horrifically loud gurgling and glubbing! Hearing him gurgle out an “I’m fine!”, I waited a few moments for the ”Off rope!”. Finally, I was relieved to see him swimming away, helmet askew and laughing. Unbeknownst to him, the waterboarding was going to be nothing compared to the torture of the ‘Pasties of Death’ to come.

Upon reaching the Wollongambe, we enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the sun and blew up our lilos. We heard noises of another party coming to the end of the canyon and just assumed it was the commercial group. When we turned our heads to see who was giving us a cheery “Hello!”, it turned out to be Dave, Pete and Sebastian! We all enjoyed our lunch together, sharing snacks and chocolate. Sky and Clinton ate their pasties and were extremely unimpressed with their hastily chosen lunch.

Dave and Co, swam off downstream, they hadn’t bothered with lilos. We blew up our lilos, finished lunch and got in the water. For 20 minutes all was sunshine and floating and the lilo experience we had dreamed of. But gradually, the ‘Lilos from Hell’ began to show their true nature. Accordingly, the sky began to darken as the afternoon storm that had been in the forecast, drew near.

Once in the water, the lilos rapidly depleted as water seeped in through the stoppers. Wanting to delight Clinton a few more times, his pasty decided to make a reappearance. Hopefully, the fishes enjoyed the ‘Pasties of Death’ more than Clinton and Sky.

Sharing lilos or doubling them over for buoyancy, we kept moving. Vicky had brought her own trouble free lilo and happily shared it. We reached the bottom of Whungee Wheengee and I took a quick peek inside, but didn’t go too far. With the state of our lilos and the gathering clouds, we pressed on, wanting to climb out before the storm hit. Without the sunshine, it was getting cold and we were eager to move on.

We finally passed the exit for Waterfall of Moss and flopped our water logged lilos onto the beach with the W2 exit. Yumi poured several litres of water from her backpack and instantly lightened it from 400 kg to 200 kg. We squeezed our lilos of water as best as we could and made our way up the gully. Just as we neared the top, Michael drew our attention to the thunder rolling in.

With the burnt land and no scrub, the trail was easy to follow and we quickly walked back to camp through the storm. The thunder cracked and the sky flashed with lightening. The wind seemed to roar loudly, but we couldn’t actually feel much wind. Big fat drops of rain fell, but it wasn’t a heavy rain. By the time we reached the firetrail, the storm had passed and we were already dry again.

We got back to the cars and prepared to leave. A party camping nearby had done the same trip as us. We chatted about our day and they cheerfully let us dry our toes by their fire. We all harboured environmentally unfriendly thoughts of burning our lilos back to the 1960’s and after some frantic de-leeching, we clambered into the cars and headed back home. Driving back with the heater blasting, we reflected on our day, agreeing that great company and fun times more than negated the ‘Lilos from Hell’ experience.