Author Archives: rachel

Bungleboori Canyoning (2016-01-09)

As much as I enjoy exploratory canyoning sometimes it’s nice just to go and do a canyon that you know is going to be good! Many canyons of the Bungleboori have that exploratory feel to them with no tracks once you get off the old firetrail/main ridge, and given it was 7 years since my only previous visit to Luna Park it was almost like doing a new canyon.

IMG_8323

Scatters Canyon

IMG_8324

Swim/jump in Scatters Canyon (though we climbed around it)

IMG_8326

Views from the ridge above Luna Park

IMG_8327

James on our first (probably unnecessary) abseil

IMG_8329 IMG_8332

James about to jump

IMG_8336

James trying to get his descender over the lip of this tricky abseil

IMG_8337 IMG_8340 IMG_8341 IMG_8343 IMG_8344 IMG_8346 IMG_8347

There were some interesting patterns/currents in the water following a week of heavy rain.

IMG_8351 IMG_8359

James checking if the ropes reach! Fortunately for Tom his 20m recommendation was adequate…

IMG_8360 IMG_8362 IMG_8366

Beautiful Dingo Creek

Tabletop Traverse, Deua NP – October 2015

 

Just 5 days after getting back from our Africa trip was the October long weekend. Of course I needed to get away bushwalking! The trip was in the Deua NP 4-5 hours south of Sydney. After some fairly ordinary traffic getting out of town on Friday afternoon Caro & I got to camp at Snowball around 9:30pm. We had an early start Saturday with a big day ahead of us. The morning was spent descending to Woila clearing – it was fairly slow going with lots of undergrowth.
IMG_8029

Lunch at the creek was most pleasant, if you ignored the evidence of cows. We hydrated as best we could, loaded up the water before starting on the ascent for the afternoon.

IMG_8036

The afternoon was a constant slog up – and we were unfortunate that summer had arrived early – temperatures were around 30C.

IMG_8041

We got some fantastic views of our route – Scout Hat (right) and Tabletop (left) shown here.

IMG_8042

We ended up making camp well-short of our original goal. Camping in a saddle, our party of 8 found flat-ish spots where we could lie down for the night. It was very windy during the night which led to a mostly sleepless night.

IMG_8048

Another early start – with the immediate challenge of ascending Scout Hat.

IMG_8050

There was exposed scrambling on narrow ridges. The wind hadn’t really let up so it all felt a little precarious!

IMG_8058

 

Still a long way to Tabletop.

IMG_8061

A particularly exposed section of the descent off Scout Hat.

IMG_8067 IMG_8078

Once past Scout Hat it wasn’t completely straight-forward…

IMG_8083

Four hours after leaving camp we made it to Tabletop – the first flat ground we’d encountered in that time! We enjoyed a cup of tea and a long break here.

IMG_8085

Then we pushed onto Horseshoe Point, our camp for night 2 and where John had cached 18l of water. It was a lovely spot.

IMG_8101 IMG_8106 IMG_8109

Vivien and I collected some water from a nearby (40 mins walk) spring. We had split groups earlier in the day – with the advance party making an attempt on Mother Woila. They had collected water during dusk on their way back and clearly hadn’t managed to find the nice clear sump we filled up from.

IMG_8117

Day 3 was potentially going to be a boring fire-trail bash but our fearless leader decided on a cross-country short cut. It ended up being lovely walking. Good call.

IMG_8125

The final push back to the cars. A fantastic long weekend in rarely visited country.

IMG_8133

Southern Africa – Botswana (Part II)

From Namibia we headed to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The goal of this part of the trip was seeing animals. This page doesn’t feature pictures of many animals as most of the photos were taken on Tom’s cameras. It’s too hard to work out who took which shot, so they’ll all just end up on Tom’s website eventually.  IMG_7890

Transport around the Okavango Delta is fastest by small aircraft – you get great views too!

IMG_7895 IMG_7896

Our first “tented camp” at Kanana was a bit rough…

IMG_7898

Being a far less active holiday than our usual fare I was trying to keep up some sort of exercise regime.

IMG_7899

Our first camp had a number of water activities on offer. This is not one of them! This is a road and we are in a car not a boat.

IMG_7904

Our guide told us we were going to see a dead lion. We pulled up, and I was just about to ask “how long has he been dead?”… when the lion shook his head! Ha, ha. This was the pose most lions seemed to adopt during daylight hours.

IMG_7907

Elephant company at sunset on Day 1.

IMG_7910

Day 2 we headed out onto the water. This morning was in the mokoro, the traditional canoe – though made of fibreglass rather than tree trunks. It was very peaceful and a really good way to feel like you were really “in” nature.

IMG_7914

The mokoro were powered by the poler standing at the back – good balance required!

IMG_7919

Water lily

IMG_7921

Being on the mokoro meant we were very quiet which gave us the opportunity to see the very shy Sitatunga antelope. We hadn’t taken the DLSRs with us as we were worried (probably unnecessarily) about them getting wet, so this is my best shot of it!

IMG_7923

Returning to the camp after our morning out. The water channels at Kanana were narrow and relatively shallow – perfect for hippos. The general approach seemed to be to drive the boats “James Bond style” i.e. as fast as possible so that if there were any submerged hippos they didn’t have time to cause any damage.

IMG_7926

Sunset on the delta.

IMG_7934

After two nights we moved onto our next “tented camp”, Okuti, in Moremi Game Reserve. It was really hot (high 30Cs) while we were here. And the siesta time in the afternoon could really only be used to pass out on the bed and feel the sweat roll off you.

IMG_7935

Okuti also offered boat trips, so we headed out on the water on our first afternoon. The waterways were much wider and deeper compared to Kanana so less hippos to worry about!

IMG_7940

Though we did get to see a few elephants in the water. This was after we’d backed off a bit – we had been parked on the right-hand side of the grassy patch when the elephant decided it wanted to be there!

IMG_7945

Okuti at dusk.

IMG_7951

Quality bridge construction in Moremi Game Reserve.

IMG_7954

During the afternoon activities our guides would find somewhere pleasant to have our chosen sundowners. Here is Tom hanging out with some hippos and a G&T.

IMG_7958

To get between the different camps we took small aircraft – using bush airstrips. This is the airstrip used for Okuti.

IMG_7961

Our third camp was the most ‘tent-like’ (or rustic) of the camps… it was tough but we struggled through.

IMG_7963

The first afternoon at Linyanti Bush Camp we relaxed by the pool and watched this fire race across the horizon. We were slightly concerned as it was large and moving quickly, though the wind was in our favour. The camp staff were not worried as the Linyanti marshes and river are between us and the fire.

IMG_7966

Sundowners after watching a large pack of African wild dogs.

IMG_7970

Southern Africa – Victoria Falls / Johannesburg (Part III)

From Botswana we travelled to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where we spent 3 nights. On our first night I found this little intruder in our accommodation.

IMG_7975

The restaurant which was located at our lodge was also a major tourist destination. Boma is known for serving up local African meats (warthog, eland, crocodile, guinea fowl etc) and traditional dancing. We all got ‘dressed’ as we entered as well. We just booked in because it was about 2 minutes walk from our lodge!

IMG_7976

After white-water rafting the Zambezi 19 years ago I was really keen to do again. After much cajoling I convinced Tom… View of the gorge from the cafe where we had the safety briefing.

 

 

IMG_7980

Our group (Tom & I on the left) about to get into the rafts.

IMG_9594

Tom and I got chosen to sit at the front of our raft for most of the day – which is good cause we’re in more photos!

IMG_9677 IMG_9683 IMG_9686 IMG_9689 IMG_9697 IMG_9783

Rafting video action can be seen at https://youtu.be/vK8iWvso5cI

IMG_9806

The following day we signed up for a helicopter trip above the falls. We were lucky to be upgraded to the 26 minute trip instead of the 12 minute one, as the other couple we were going with had paid for the 26 minute trip. (Though we were strictly informed to not mention our upgrade to them)

IMG_7987

This was our first view of the falls as we’d been rafting the previous day. It was the dry season but it was way drier than I was expecting. Apparently the previous rainy season had been poor.

IMG_7991 IMG_8001 IMG_8007

The almost non-existent flow on the Zambian side.

IMG_8008 IMG_8010

From Vic Falls we flew to Johannesburg and were hosted magnificently by Zig & Dave. We visited a local reserve and enjoyed a walk.

IMG_8021

Then visited the Johannesburg Botanic Gardens for lunch and eagle viewing.

IMG_8022 IMG_8025

Southern Africa – Namibia (Sept 2015)

In September 2015 Tom & I headed to Southern Africa for 3 weeks. Our first 12 days were spent in Namibia. We hired a 4WD with a roof tent and hit the road. We learnt our lesson from Utah a couple of years earlier, and enjoyed having a night in a bed in Windhoek rather than trying to drive anywhere after 24+ hours of travel and a 9 hour time change. Confusingly Namibia is the only country in Southern Africa to observe daylight savings and the time changed the first night we were there to put us back to an 8 hour difference. Bonus.

The next morning we headed for Sossusvlei via the scenic Spreetshoogte Pass.

Tom with Spreetshoogte Pass

Tom with Spreetshoogte Pass

We had about half an hour of tarmac before we hit the dirt. The roads were generally well-graded and we could comfortably cruise along at 80km/h. At Sesriem we bedded down early as we planned to get out to the dunes for sunrise (or as early as we could given the internal park gate opened at 6am).

Campsite at Sesriem

Campsite at Sesriem

As it was our first time packing up the roof tent, and it was going to be in the dark, we left ourselves plenty of time. So much so that we were ready at 5:40am so we figured we’d head to the gate and wait… except the gate was already open. Off we headed into the thick soupy fog which made driving very tricky! The fog also put paid to any visible sunrise, though we did get to share whatever it was with about 50 other people at Dune 45. We soon continued on to Sossusvlei where I bravely decided to tackle the ‘4WD only’ section from the 2WD car park. Fortunately Tom had insisted we put the car into 4WD mode before I started driving as I had badly misjudged how thick the sand was going to be. We got through the 5km but not without a few nervous moments for both the driver and passenger. We enjoyed a solitary breakfast but just as we finished up the hordes began arriving.

Dunes

Dunes

A foggy, solitary breakfast at the 4WD car park at Sossusvlei

A foggy, solitary breakfast at the 4WD car park at Sossusvlei

Deadvlei was pretty cool – a clay pan studded with blackened dead trees, surrounded by huge sand dunes. It was still clouded over which made it feel extra surreal. Taking advantage of the cool temperatures I decided to climb the massive dune (“Big Daddy”) at the head of the pan. Over 300m high – though of course when climbing sand you’re mainly going 2 steps up 1 step back – it was pretty hard work. In the steepest section I was reduced to doing 30 steps, 30 seconds rest, repeat. Interval training? The views at the top were great, and then I proceeded to bum slide back to the bottom.

Deadvlei

Deadvlei

Looking back at Deadvlei from the top of "Big Daddy"

Looking back at Deadvlei from the top of “Big Daddy”

The sun eventually poked out and changed the colours completely. It is such incredible landscape.

Deadvlei with some blue sky

Deadvlei with some blue sky

Dune landscape

Dune landscape

Both driver and passenger were much happier with Tom taking the wheel for the drive back to the 2WD carpark where we hung out in the shade for a few hours. Later in the afternoon we walked to Hidden Vlei and took in some more of the desert landscape before a late afternoon stop at Dune 45.

en route to Hidden Vlei

en route to Hidden Vlei

Not quite so early the following morning we visited Sesriem Canyon. I wasn’t expecting much, so was pleasantly surprised it was actually a slot canyon. We meandered through it for a while before starting the long drive to Swakopmund.

Tom in Sesriem Canyon

Tom in Sesriem Canyon

The drive was broken in Solitaire where there was supposedly amazing Apple Strudel sold. I was sceptical that it was one of these things that all the tourists get told to do but it was actually pretty good.

The aptly named Solitaire

The aptly named Solitaire

Walvis Bay was a detour, where we found the flamingos and spent the best part of an hour photographing them. After all the sand in the Namib Desert we were happy that we’d been booked into a lovely B&B for the night.

Flamingos at Walvis Bay

Flamingos at Walvis Bay

Photographing flamingos

Photographing flamingos

The morning was spent restocking, getting permits and buying bird/mammal field guides. We finally got away around midday and headed for the Welwitschia Plains. The Welwitschia plant is quite curious and the surrounding moonscape was spectacular.

Namib Desert Moonscape

Namib Desert Moonscape

Welwitschia Plant - estimated to be 1,500 years old

Welwitschia Plant – estimated to be 1,500 years old

Then on to Spitzkoppe our destination for the night. Spitzkoppe is a dramatic granite peak which rises distinctly out of the flat plains. Next to it are the Pontok Mountains which are also spectacular. The camping areas were well spread out nestled into the rock outcrops around the area. We arrived in time for plenty of photo-taking, which extended well into the evening as Tom wanted to play around with his flashes and some star photography… Yes, the results are probably worth it but I got bored halfway through and went and had a cup of tea.

Spitzkoppe (left) and Pondoks (right)

On approach to Spitzkoppe (left) and Pontoks (right)

Natural rock arch

Natural rock arch

Sunset and Spitzkoppe

Sunset and Spitzkoppe

Scenic campsite

Scenic campsite

The next day we took a guided walk to ‘Bushman Paradise’ – unfortunately the rock art wasn’t in great condition but the views from the walk were excellent.

Euphorbia

Euphorbia

I was keen to get as far up Spitzkoppe as I could (to get to the summit requires proper rock climbing) but Tom decided his foot wasn’t up for it, so I left him trying (in vain?) to photograph dassies (hyrax). My first attempt ended up being a climbing approach route and I got funnelled to the base of a climb (complete with shiny new bolts) rather than the saddle. We moved around to the other side of the peak where there was a much easier approach, though by this point it was around midday and fairly warm. I made it up to the saddle, with what seemed enormous effort towards the end, took in the views and a few photographs before heading back to Tom.

View from Spitzkoppe Saddle

View from Spitzkoppe Saddle – the little outcrop where we camped is the barely visible bumps centre right

Views from Spitzkoppe

Views from Spitzkoppe

With the exploring at Spitzkoppe we didn’t get to The Brandberg, home of the “White Lady” until 4pm. We hadn’t realised the walk to the “White Lady” was ~2 hours return – sunset was around 7pm and we still an hour of driving to get to camp. We ummed and ahhed and when pushed our guide said 5km so we figured we could probably do it in less than 2 hours so off we went. The “White Lady” is in fact a drawing of a male witch doctor surrounded by plenty of other rock art in far better condition than the Bushman Paradise collection. Quite incredible.

IMG_7823

The “White Lady” (more faded image bottom centre) and other rock art

From there it was an increasingly dark/anxious drive to get to Madisa Campsite without hitting any wildlife. We arrived just as it was getting properly dark and we felt guilty that Wayne our host had likely just been sitting around waiting for us. We soon had the roof tent set up, and I enjoyed the open air, cold (by choice) shower. No sign of the desert-adapted elephants which sometimes pass through camp.

IMG_7827

Camp at Madisa Campsite

The next day was meant to be a short day. But with visiting the Organ Pipes/Burnt Mountain (the only thing we visited and paid for that felt like complete tourist gouging), Twyfelfontein, the (official) Petrified Forest and having to detour into Khorixas to re-fuel and get cash we found ourselves yet again chasing sunset on our way to Hoada Campsite.

Organ Pipes

Organ Pipes

Rock etchings at Twyfelfontein

Rock etchings at Twyfelfontein

Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest

We arrived a little earlier than the previous day – maybe 20 minutes before sunset. Just enough time to park the car and walk back to reception and the amazing bar they’ve built up in a granite outcrop with wonderful views. A cold cider went down very well! And it was good to chat with some of the other guests who were staying there.

Sundowners at Hoada Campsite

Sundowners at Hoada Campsite

Sunrise at Hoada Campsite

Sunrise at Hoada Campsite

We were then on to the final stage of the road trip – Etosha National Park.

IMG_7848

Early wildlife sightings

We were heading into the Western Gate which is a less common approach and staying on the Western side for 2 nights. The campground itself was not signposted and we drove past it initially. It was largely treeless and somewhat desolate. But I guess if you’re going to put a campground in the middle of a national park you’re not necessarily going to get a picturesque spot. The camp had a hide next to the (man-made) waterhole and when we arrived there were 2 elephants in having a bath.

Elephants visit the waterhole next to the hide at Olifanstrus Camp.

Elephants visit the waterhole next to the hide at Olifantsrus Camp.

 

Olifantstrus Camp

Olifantsrus Camp from the walkway out to the hide. Our car is the ute closest to the fence.

Our time at Etosha was spent looking at (or looking for) animals. Etosha has many man-made waterholes which means finding animals is relatively easily. Basically drive to waterhole, chances are there’ll be something there. There were two main highlights from Etosha. The second night that we stayed at Olifantsrus Camp we decided to head out to the hide later in the evening. The waterhole is floodlit, we had been out the previous evening and seen nothing so weren’t expecting much. We’d been sitting there in the dark for half an hour with nothing showing up. I was just about to call time and head for bed when a hyena appeared, with a cub. Kind of interesting as we hadn’t seen any hyenas up to that point. Then another hyena appeared. Cool. Then a rhino ambles out of the bushes. About the same time the hyenas start having a fight (out of the lit area but they made plenty of noise). That freaked out the rhino, bugger. Hyena fight moves ‘on stage’ and then peters out when one concedes defeat. The rhino reappears, awesome. Hang on, here’s 3 more rhinos from stage left (including mum & baby)! Oh wait another rhino stage right. We spent the next hour or more watching the rhinos drink, huff & puff a lot, have mud baths (baby still getting the hang of that one), scratch up against trees and scare off anything else that thinks getting drink about now is a good idea.

Impressive Weaver Bird nest

Impressive Weaver Bird nest

The other highlight was from our third day, on the Eastern side of the park. We’d only seen one lion (at quite a distance) up to that point. Checking the sightings at Okaukuejo we saw one of the closer waterholes had lion sightings that morning. We decided to head there in the late afternoon and see if they were still about. Initially when we turned up there was nothing at the waterhole – kind of unusual normally there were at least some zebra or springbok around. We decided to stay for a while given we were on a quest for lions and this was where they were last seen. Using the binoculars and the zoom lens (and noticing the people in the car next door point at something) we managed to spot a pride of lions on the far side of the water hole. Over the next 2 hours they eventually moved from basically out of sight to the naked eye to ending up about 10m away from the car. The pride consisted of 1 male, 7 lionesses, a young male and 2 cubs. The lion might be ‘king of the jungle’ but when these elephants came racing in the whole pride moved pretty quick…

Elephants show who is really boss out there

Elephants show who is really boss out there

Back at the car depot - all in one piece but pretty dusty!

Back at the car depot – all in one piece but pretty dusty!

We had thought we were being a bit ‘different’ going to Namibia… not if you’re German! It seemed half of Germany was doing the same thing as us – our route was, as it turns out, a fairly unoriginal loop south to Sossusvlei, up the coast to Swakopmund, through Damaraland to Etosha National Park and then back to Windhoek.

Namibia_route

All up we covered 2,650km over 11 days.

Windhoek – Sesriem 319
Sesriem – Sossusvlei – Sesriem 126
Sesriem – Swakopmund 356
Swakopmund – Welwitschia Drive – Spitzkoppe 245
Spitzkoppe – Madisa Camp 232
Madisa Camp – Khorixas – Hoada Camp 354
Hoada Camp – Olifantsrus 242
Etosha game drives 148
Olifantsrus – Okaukuejo 202
Okaukeujo – Windhoek 426

Kimberley exploring (June 2015) – Part II

In our second week we headed to Emma Gorge and the Cockburn ranges. Despite being only a couple of hundred kilometres apart the landscapes were quite different.

IMG_9495

We got an exciting preview of our week to come as we got a helicopter to drop us off at the other end of the range.

IMG_9499 IMG_9501

We got very excited by the Boab trees.

IMG_9504

And had a most delightful morning tea stop swimming at this waterhole.

IMG_9505

But soon we were into the narrow gorges…

IMG_9507

and more packfloats!

IMG_9510

Our campsite on the first night was the worst of the trip. I don’t have any photos of the crocodile eyes gleaming out at us, the numerous cane toads hopping around us or the 2.5m python which decided Caro’s bed was pretty comfy. On the positive side there was this amazing bower (made by a bower bird to woo his lady).

IMG_9511

Relaxing in the close quarters of camp.

IMG_9512

First thing next morning we had a pack float (one of the reasons we’d stopped where we were the night before).

IMG_9513 IMG_9514

There was a lot of water weed in the waterways in the Cockburns.

IMG_9516

Morning tea views.

IMG_9520 IMG_9523 IMG_9526 IMG_9532

Camp night 2 was far more spacious – and also featured a bower (on right behind the tree). This one had little skulls in it (amongst other bones), as the bower birds in the north of Australia collect white objects rather than blue.

IMG_9533

We explored the amazing ‘bat cave’. This photo can not portray the sulphuric smell which encompassed us as we swam through guano-filled waters with our mouths firmly shut!

IMG_9537

Amazing slot canyon.

IMG_9542

Emerging from the sulphuric corridor.

IMG_9545 IMG_9547

We had hoped to explore a little further afield but found some of the tributaries dry.

IMG_9548

 

So we continued up the main gorge where there was plenty of running water.

 

 

 

IMG_9551

Another amazing slot near our third campsite.

IMG_9557 IMG_9564

The best campsite of the week.

IMG_9567 IMG_9569

Dryfall – this creek system would have been amazing had there been flowing water.

IMG_9572 IMG_9573

Many of the tops had been recently burnt which made for pleasant walking.

IMG_9574

We saw a lot of snakes in the creeks – we think they were mainly tree snakes.

IMG_9581

We tried to descend the ‘bat cave’ canyon from the top (as we’d got to a drop we couldn’t get up when ascending it). Unfortunately we were confronted with a 12m overhanging drop and we only had a 6mm handline.

IMG_9583

So had to be happy with a lunchtime swim instead.

IMG_9585 IMG_9588

The top of the dryfall we’d visited earlier.

IMG_9590 IMG_9592 IMG_9596 IMG_9597

Tom all tuckered out.

IMG_9600 IMG_9604 IMG_9609IMG_0005 IMG_0009

Not many campsites come with existing washing lines (& carabiners)!

IMG_0010

Beautiful spot for our last campsite of the trip.

IMG_0011 IMG_0016 IMG_0019 IMG_0020 IMG_0023 IMG_0025

Emma Gorge with the hoardes (out of shot).

IMG_0030

Kimberley exploring (June 2015) – Part I

In June 2015 we visited the Southern Carr Boyd Range in the magnificent Kimberley region of Western Australia. Our trip started with an early morning boat trip on Lake Argyle to our drop off point.

IMG_7551 IMG_7557

With the boat departing we are truly isolated for the next seven days.

IMG_7558 IMG_7559 IMG_7566

Many of our campsites were on gravel river beds where we managed to find just enough space for 5 spots.

IMG_7569

Some of the walking was true bush-bashing through long grass and my nemesis – pandanus!

IMG_7572 IMG_7576 IMG_7578

But the bush bashing is all worth it when you unexpectedly come across waterhole gems like this one.

IMG_7584

We had a couple of steep climbs on our walk but generally we were on flattish ground.

IMG_7590

The views were great.

IMG_7591 IMG_7594

The colours amazing.

IMG_7601 IMG_7607 IMG_7609 IMG_7612 IMG_7616

This was a stand-out campsite. An afternoon of entertainment with jumping opportunities from three sides of this amazing pool.

IMG_7626

 

IMG_7629

Our food group delivered some amazing meals. Later that evening we had butter chicken with pappadums, and chocolate mousse with smashed raspberries and chocolate shards. MasterChef eat your heart out.

IMG_7627.

There were days of awesome gorge walking on flat rocky platforms.

IMG_7636

With more swimming holes and jumping opportunities

IMG_7637 IMG_7643 IMG_7644 IMG_7646 IMG_7647

The route had its challenges from climbing down waterfalls…

IMG_9356

to compulsory pack floats…

IMG_9363

to large amounts of rock-hopping

IMG_9387

and more pack floats!

IMG_9389 IMG_9397

And then we were amazed to discover slot canyons!

IMG_9400

No, this is not Karijini but it sure looks like it.

IMG_9401 IMG_9402 IMG_9403 IMG_9412 IMG_9415 IMG_9417 IMG_9419 IMG_9421 IMG_9422 IMG_9425

The flora was incredible.

IMG_9459

Oh and did I mention slot canyons :)

IMG_9460 IMG_9461 IMG_9464 IMG_9465 IMG_9469

Stunning vistas

IMG_9473 IMG_9475

And a really long packfloat! (and a large freshwater crocodile which was fortunately spotted after we’d all made it to the other end)

IMG_9477 IMG_9484 IMG_9486

Fortunately the helicopter found us at the end. Otherwise it would have been a really long walk!

IMG_9491

Explorers Brook (17-18 Jan 2015)

Explorers Brook had been one of those canyons that had been on our agenda every summer for as long as I had been canyoning. Several years ago I’d been on a trip where we only got through some of the upper sections (unclear what we were aiming to achieve that day?), and Tom had separately visited some of the upper creek. We were scheduled to do Explorers Brook on a club trip last summer but due to illness and injury had missed out.

I was quite surprised when Tom suggested Explorers Brook for the coming weekend. I’d been angling to do it for the last couple of months and he’d never seemed that enthusiastic, citing the need for a car shuffle as a major impediment. Yet, despite having no capacity for a car shuffle, and Tom still recovering from a few injuries he’d picked up on our post-Christmas Coorongooba trip it seemed that it was the go. Fortunately these days we frequently do overnight canyoning trips, so preparation comes easily, despite little planning time it was easy to throw together our gear on Friday night.

The car shuffle concerned me, and I suggested we were better off dealing with it on Saturday morning then on Sunday afternoon. Tom was relaxed; we would just be able to hitch a ride on Bells Line of Road… and if not it was only a 6km walk to Mt Banks! We then discovered a friend was canyoning in the area on Sunday and on Saturday morning while en route to the canyon we tried to make arrangements for him to relocate our car. North Richmond is a common meeting point for canyoners and when we arrived there on Saturday a large group from our club were also there, preparing to do Bowens Creek South. Some quick thinking and we managed to sort out a car shuffle on the spot. Sweet! Except that if for some reason we had to bail out from the trip early on the first day (potential given Tom’s injuries) then our car was nowhere near by.

It was windy and not overly warm when we left the Mt Banks car park. We decided to go in from the North, off track, rather than taking the southern fire trail. We were hoping the ridge would be reasonably easy going, and the scrub wasn’t too bad. As we got onto our minor ridge where we were planning to drop into a side tributary we were surprised to find a large rock arrow (1m+ long) pointing down the ridge – a far more elaborate marker than the usual cairns. Someone had clearly spent a lot of time constructing it, and for what purpose?

img_7299

A couple of dodgy scrambles and we found ourselves in the side tributary. We had morning tea in a pleasant overhang before finding ourselves in Explorers Brook. I recognised some of the earlier sections from my trip back in 2008, but soon we were into unknown territory.

img_7302

The creek was pleasant and very canyoniferous without really being canyon. We had put our wetsuits on when we hit the first swim, but they weren’t necessary for much of the morning’s walking. It was a warm day and we probably would have been better off leaving them off until we stopped at the main drop in the creek for lunch. We’d seen photos of parties abseiling on the true right, as well as down the main drop so knew we’d have options for our approach. Tom found a sling on the true left so we decided to head down that way.

img_7311 img_7314

From the bottom of that short abseil it seemed a long way to the bottom! I was concerned our 20m ropes might not reach and we might need to change tack and head down the right-hand side. Tom threw our second rope, while leaving our first in place, to see if it reached. We couldn’t see the bottom. Hmm. I didn’t really fancy testing it as it would be a long prussic back up. And Tom still having a hand issue from a slip a few weeks earlier was unlikely to want to prussic either.

img_7315

Fortunately on the second throw I could see the rope hit the water (not much to spare), so we rigged from where we were. The top of the waterfall was full of beautiful arches of varying sizes – though difficult from our position to photograph.

img_7318 img_7325

(Photo: Tom doing his best Smiffy impression below the main fall)

Once that drop was done we de-harnessed as we were under the impression that was the only drop requiring abseiling. We were somewhat surprised to almost immediately get to another drop! There was an old seatbelt tape in place, but not long enough to get all the way down (or at least not unless you were into dodgy jumping onto rock!). In the end we ended up abseiling, though I’m sure there would have been alternatives had we wanted to invest time looking.

 

From there we had a 2m water jump and swim, some beautiful canyon sections. And before we knew it we were at the junction with King Georges Brook which we had visited last year.

img_7329 img_7330 img_7333 img_7334 img_7337 img_7339

Downstream from the junction there was lots of boulder scrambling and we were glad to reach a camp cave about 6:45pm.

img_7340 img_7341 img_7342 img_7343 img_7346 img_7347

Fortunately lots of eucalypts from the cliffs above had dropped branches so we were had a large pile of suitable firewood fairly quickly. We were both stuffed and were in bed as soon as we’d made our way through cheese, port, soup, dinner and hot drinks… so 10pm! The glow worms were outstanding though I struggled to keep my eyes open to appreciate them.

img_7349

I slept badly, continually waking up and being unable to believe that the sky was not even beginning to lighten. The best sleep I had was from about 6:15am till 7am when I woke with a start as we normally plan to be up at 6:30am. We were away from camp just after 8:30am.

img_7350img_7357

It took us an hour to get to the junction with Carmathen Brook – passing some beautiful cascades on the way. The pool and rock shelves at the junction were lovely – somewhere you’d love to spend a hot day lazing about – if it wasn’t so far from everywhere!

img_7355

The going up Carmathen Brook was much faster than Explorers Brook. We were able to stay on the bank a reasonable amount of the time. We had set off with wetsuits on but we’d encountered very few wades, let along swims. The zip on my wetsuit was rubbing on my back, along with feeling like I was in a sweat suit, so at morning tea I dispensed with the wetsuit. Of course, shortly after morning tea we encountered our first canyon section and swim, but I managed to bypass this by climbing high onto a shelf on the right. We met a few more wades/swims but it was another warm day and I decided the wetsuit could stay in my pack.

img_7362

At the end of one long swim there was a slightly tricky climb up a waterfall. Tom with his broken body was struggling to get any traction but fortunately I managed to get up with the help of a low foothold from Tom. After I hauled Tom’s pack up Tom just managed to get himself up. More pleasant creek interspersed with canyon sections followed. We were at the bottom of the Claustral exit at 1:40pm – we expected to see some parties completing Claustral or Ranon but no one came past while we were eating lunch.

img_7367

From there it was just the three hours to exit via the now established new Claustral exit. Every time I do the Claustral exit I am surprised at how difficult it is, and how few incidents there are. We met a party of three, a father and 2 teenagers, at the Camel’s Hump where we chatted for a few minutes. Tom was initially asked if he was Dave Noble, and then I was accused of being very familiar, before I let them in on who Tom was. A celebrity in the canyoning community ;)

 

My legs were running out of steam by the time we left Claustral Brook and headed up the final climb to the car. Tom, on the other hand, had found his second wind, our roles reversed from the rest of the weekend. He steamed on ahead while I struggled to keep plodding on. After enjoying the view on the large rocky outcrop before the road we signed the logbook before arriving at the cars around 5:20pm. The bag of chips in the car didn’t last long and soon we were on our way home, Explorers Brook finally ticked after too many years.

img_7369

When we got home we found this guy in our sink. Not sure what sort of spider?

img_7374

 

Coorongooba Canyoning (26-31 Dec 2014)

After accommodating flight schedules, family lunches and the like we were able to convene in Lithgow mid-afternoon on Boxing Day. From there we made our way to the start of our 6 day trip into the Wollemi Wilderness. Clearly I didn’t think anything interesting happened in the first 24 hours as I took no photos (perhaps preserving an almost flat camera battery?). We just walked into a campsite in the late afternoon of Boxing Day. It was a cool and slightly drizzly evening and I ended up wearing almost all the clothes I’d taken with me!

The next morning we headed down a creek that a few of us had previously visited, before getting to some unexplored territory. I seemed to still be getting over the cold I’d developed earlier in the week and I opted for some quality nap time on side of the river while the the others went off to explore. They returned for lunch which I had to prepare since Tom had jarred his right hand badly in the canyon and could barely lift up pieces of cheese to put on his crackers! Given Tom’s hand and my lethargy we headed straight for camp while the others explored a second creek in the afternoon.

Here’s camp for night 2 before the others arrive.

img_7119

Fortunately Tom’s hand improved enough overnight that he thought he could keep going. And I had regained some energy; so our full contingent set out to explore on the morning of day 3. We had some good views from the top of our pass over to our target creek.

img_7120

This canyon proved to be one of the better ones of the trip. And as the weather was still overcast my photos came out ok!

img_7121 img_7122 img_7123 img_7124 img_7126 img_7128 img_7129 img_7132

After lunch we explored another nearby creek which had an interesting cave at the top. Unfortunately the creek had no canyon in it so we were back to camp fairly early.

img_7140

From there various endeavours were undertaken. Tom and I looked up another creek which didn’t have any canyon. Simon tried to find a better camp cave (unsuccessful). Mel and Rich went for a walk up the major creek, and Sue relaxed. The forecast had been for a reasonable amount of rain so we were keen for a camp cave but the one we had found was not great. There was nicer camping at the nearby junction but in the end we opted for the cave in case of the rain. (Of course it didn’t end up raining.)

img_7141

The next day we went over a pass into a perhaps too-highly anticipated canyon. It had two deep abseils which were lovely but it was over all too quickly. The weather also cleared up and we had brilliant sunshine for the rest of the trip – unfortunately this meant many of my photos were completely blown-out, hence not many.

img_7146 img_7148

We then explored a nearby creek which turned out to be a pass.

img_7152

img_7156

Then we headed up a nearby tributary, which we managed to reverse (some more easily than others). It proved the value of low expectations as I think we enjoyed it a bit more than the anticipated canyon from the morning.

img_7159 img_7163

Simon and Rich ready to do battle in the jungle!

img_7164

From there we dumped packs at a junction and headed up the major creek with our day packs to explore a couple more tributaries.

Here’s Tom boulder scrambling in the major creek.

img_7165

The first creek we managed to reverse. It was quite interesting, with a tunnel section near the start. Tom unfortunately jarred his ankle when he slipped on a slippery climb-up. So to add to his hand injury he now had a stuffed ankle.

img_7169 img_7172 img_7174 img_7179

Finally we explored our 5th (?) creek of the day. This one we couldn’t reverse but we managed to climb onto the ridge nearby. We descended a low quality canyon which ended  with a long abseil back to the creek. From there we headed back to camp after a pretty full day.

The next day we headed back upstream to explore a couple more creeks. They both yielded some canyon – the first one reasonable quality but short.

img_7193 img_7196

The second one lower quality but a little longer.

img_7200

Having met our objectives for this section of the trip we then had to start thinking about how we were going to get back to the cars. After a leisurely lunch we headed up on to the tops in the heat of the day and then dropped into a different creek system.

img_7202

We descended a tributary that Tom & Rich had partially explored on an earlier trip.

img_7204

We then headed up the major creek in the hope of finding a campsite. Camping was not great but given the plan for the next couple of days we settled on using another less than ideal camp cave. Sue, Simon, Mel and Rich set off to do a canyon which Tom, Rich & I had done on a previous trip while Tom (stuffed ankle) and I (chafing) contented ourselves with a late afternoon finish.

img_7215

Our final day saw the party split for the morning activities. The weak and wounded headed straight up a pass and directly for home, while the keen people headed downstream. We reconvened several hours later at a cave, us having had a leisurely morning of extra coffees, while the keen people tackled obstacles and scrub. We had lunch before we all descended a final creek, which turned out to have some canyon sections, on our way back to the cars.

img_7222

img_7225

Wollangambe Wilderness Canyoning (a.k.a. destroying ourselves)

With a long forced shut-down over Christmas we had opportunity both before and after Christmas for extended canyoning trips. Our pre-Christmas jaunt was a 4-day/3-night adventure in the Wollangambe Wilderness.

Our first day was relatively short as we had skipped doing any canyons en route to maximise our time further into the trip. So some ridges, creek crossings and more ridges later we were somewhat surprised to come upon the canyon about 400m earlier than expected in our creek.

img_7008 img_7010

Given the time of day, and unknown camping options downstream we decided to camp in a small overhang we found. The next morning we were straight into the canyon. Fortunately it was a warm day as we were swimming almost from the get-go.

img_7018 img_7023 img_7025

img_7029 img_7031 img_7034 img_7039 img_7043 img_7046 img_7048 img_7053

After the canyon ended we continued downstream, in what became an increasingly frustrating creek. Plenty of low river gums, boulders and general scrub. We were both “over” the creek walking and had been trying to find somewhere to camp for a while – with no options apparent. Eventually we came across a small flat dirt patch which we could probably landscape to fit 2 people. It was the best thing we’d seen in ages… we were going to camp, but (fortunately) Tom said he’d just go on 5 minutes and see if there was anything else. I was pleasantly surprised when we returned and said to keep going. We ended up camping on a lovely sandy beach at the junction of two major creeks.

img_7055 img_7058

The next morning we had our only excursion of the trip without full packs. We visited a small canyon which had 2 interesting sections and a beautiful abseil.

img_7066 img_7070 img_7074
img_7077 img_7080

Then it was back to more lovely creek walking.

img_7082

And a slog up a scrubby pass which seemed to go on forever. “This canyon better be good” I grumbled as we tripped over yet more vines in our ascent.

img_7083

The first views into it were good. In fact it was very good. So good we only got out just on sunset!

img_7084 img_7086 img_7091 img_7094

img_7098 img_7099 img_7102 img_7103 img_7104 img_7106
With darkness rapidly descending and knowing our issues the previous day of finding a campsite we settled on a large flattish boulder in the middle of the creek. A solid 12 hour day under our belts.
img_7109 img_7111

The last day we had planned on another canyon but given we had a long way to get back to the cars we decided to go with the “easy” option and just walk out. With half a day of creek-bashing and the other half ridge-bashing (in a thunderstorm) we were pretty happy to see the cars at 5:30pm. We were both destroyed and definitely in need of a 4 day recovery period before our next multi-day trip.

img_7115 img_7117

1 3 4 5