Review: Embrace your inner Bear on a beginner’s Blue Mountains canyoning tour
The spectacular Blue Mountains National Park west of Sydney offers terrain that can test the metal of the most experienced of adventurers. However, even a novice can get their Bear Grylls on during this exciting canyoning tour.
This Blue Mountains canyoning tour for beginners offers an awesome day of adventure. You’ll see a different side of the Blue Mountains National Park as you swim, wade, abseil, bushwalk and more. Enjoy the pristine beauty of the canyons you conquer, which have been carved out over many millions of years. This experience is conducted under the expert supervision of fully-trained guides. Duration: 6 hours (approx.)
A lot of preparation goes into an adventure these days, but I guess even celebrity wilderness adventurer Bear Grylls has to do a fair bit of that.
Our adventure with the Blue Mountains Adventure Company begins at their office in Katoomba with the assembly of wetsuits, thermals, harnesses, ropes, rain jackets and more. We’re joining the company’s Blue Mountains canyoning tour for beginners and it all looks rather daunting. As someone who finds a walk to the shops a challenge, I get the feeling that today will see me closer to emulating Bear than I ever thought I would get!
Kitted out with fluro orange backpacks and a good dose of anticipation, we set off along the highway towards Blackheath and the Grand Canyon. Just two hours’ drive west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains is home to around 1,000 canyons and Australia’s greatest known number of slot canyons (deep, narrow trenches). Canyons can be either filled with water or dry.
From the road we descend towards the canyon through native foliage, including what’s commonly known as the ‘mountain devil’. Our guide, Dan, stops to point out another shrub with pale emerald berries, an indigenous currant packed with vitamin C. The taste is sour and sharp, yet sweet.
With seven years of guiding experience behind him, Dan also holds a Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation (with specialisation in multi-pitch canyoning), wilderness area first aid training and a Royal Life Saving Bronze Medallion. The latter is required in case of a dangerous situation involving water on these Blue Mountains canyoning tours. However we’re assured by Dan that the Grand Canyon is one of the safest canyoning spots in the mountains.
Passing under towering rock escarpments and giant Coachwood trees, we approach an overhang of rock and peer down into a dark crack. It suddenly dawns on me that we’re going down there!
The abseil is 18 to 20 metres down with a free fall of 8 metres once over the lip of the cliff. Dan gives instructions with great patience and his thoroughness with safety procedures assures me we’re in skilled hands.
Magician-like, Dan deftly ties knots and attaches a second safety rope and more from his box of tricks. Easing the rope slowly through my clenched fists as Dan has demonstrated, I inch slowly backwards, before free-falling the final distance like a giant spider on a thread. As I land gently on the canyon floor, a ‘conqueror of the world’ euphoria rushes over me. I have to stifle a scream of joy! I’m getting why people do this kind of thing. I want to do it again!
Down here at the base of the canyon lies a tranquil, softly lit realm. The cool air is filled with the musky scent of rotting leaves and the sound of trickling water from secret streams. Scrambling over boulders and mossy logs, we continue our journey. Dan teaches us to bend as we step forward, positioning our feet into secure spots and using our hands to crawl or slide forward. ‘Think of Gollum in Lord of the Rings’, he suggests.
We swim through several pools of bone-numbingly cold water. I’m thankful for the wetsuit and I discover that my backpack also serves as a flotation device. Floating on my back, I stare upward at the light shining through the narrow slit in the rock. It’s a surreal moment.
On a sandy bank we stop for lunch and a cup of hot tea made with water from the canyon. We devour our rolls, lollies and tea, observing the common peculiarity that food enjoyed in the bush tastes so much better than any restaurant meal ever could.
This Blue Mountains canyoning tour for beginners is more than just a terrific day out. It’s a chance to challenge yourself and discover your inner Bear!
Linda Moon is a freelance travel, health and lifestyle writer. Her work has appeared in Voyeur, the Sun-Herald, the Sydney Morning Herald, the NZ Journal of Natural Medicine, Nature & Health magazine, the New Daily, Essential Kids, Australian Family magazine, Weekend Notes, WellBeing magazine, and Retirement Living Today. Based in Katoomba in the beautiful Blue Mountains, Linda has been blessed to explore the wonderful cultures and magical lands of Vietnam, Cambodia, Switzerland, Tahiti and Moorea, Japan, India, Koh Samui, Vanuatu, Lifou and New Zealand.