Monday, January 16, 2006

Canyoning - Topsy's Tale

Ok, lets face it. I just wasn’t fit enough or experienced enough for the trip. I made a point of mentioning the fact that I was kind of overweight and didn’t exercise enough. I also had no idea as to what I was getting myself in for.

Still, it was an awesome trip and despite the fact there were times near the end when I thought I was going to die, I wouldn’t trade the memory for anything!

I was pretty much OK till the end of the canyon. The abseils down the black hole of Calcutta and the canyon immediately after was the real highlight for me.

The canyon at that point is extraordinarily beautiful. The walls rise up perhaps 100 m (I’m guessing here) to reveal a thin ribbon of sunshine bordered by emerald ferns. Were the canyon travels in the right direction to let enough sun in the ferns cling to the walls. It’s the kind of scenery that makes you think of dinosaurs or Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

Ah, abseiling! The last time I abseiled it was with Scouts when was 16. That was 22 years ago. That was also down the flat, dry, concrete face of a climbing centre. On the walk in to the canyon Scruffy and Nik had us all abseil down a short cliff just to check we could all do it without freaking out. That was OK. It was also a dry, flat cliff face.

The three abseils down the black hole were on cliffs that were sheeted in water and cut with concave channels. Surprisingly, that was totally cool! Abseiling down beside, and sometimes in the waterfalls, was just awesome!

I have to admit that I suffered from a severe misconception as to what reaching the end of the canyon meant. I thought the at the canyon would open out into a beautiful valley with little hobbit houses and getting back would be a leisurely stroll up grassy hills. How totally WRONG!

We got to the ‘end’ of the canyon and all I could see was cliff. When I enquired into where the hobbits were Nik pointed at a narrow channel that seemed to go up at about 45 degrees in large steps. Oh fuck!

This is where things mostly started to go wrong for me. On the climb out there were numerous occasions where I looked at the next step in the rock and thought ’I can’t climb that’ followed by ‘I don’t have any choice, I have to try’. I surprised myself on many occasion by what I could achieve and there was always someone there to give me a leg up when the going was just too tough.

I was totally exhausted. Scrambling up the canyoning started to turn into agony for my overweight, unfit body. Every step became a nightmare. It got to the point where I had to stop after every step and take some time to gather the will to take another one.

My muscles started cramping. Nik reckoned it was likely due to salt loss through sweat. I sucked down some vegemite from a tube of the stuff he had. I don’t think anything tasted so good in my life and it did seem to help stop the cramping.

Then, to help matters, it got dark. I think I need to point out that because I was going so slowly I reckon I delayed the team by anything up to 3 or 4 hours over the 13-hour trip. If it weren’t for that delay they would have made it out in daylight.

At some point someone put a headlight on me so I could see my footing better because I was stumbling a lot. It’s odd, with the light on I could only see the ground at my feet but that made carrying on easier. Since all I could see was my feet I could just concentrate on taking one step after another and forget looking up and seeing the interminable distance ahead.

When we reached the fire trail it was all OK again. I was still fucked, and there was still a ways to go but I knew I’d made it out. The journey for me seemed to end at that point.

But for all that a good deal of the trip was horribly unpleasant for me, and I ache all over, my memory of the trip is that I had a great time. My muscles will stop aching in a couple of days and I’ll mostly only remember the cool stuff.

Scruffy and Nik did a great job getting me through it. Sorry to have been such a burden.

Next time I’ll be better prepared.

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