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Canyoning in the Blue Mountains

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Published June 7th 2012
If you like abseiling, are fit and healthy and are looking for adventure in the wild, you will love this!

Canyoning in the Blue Mountains gives you the opportunity to get in to a part of nature few get to see. Abseil down gushing, white waterfalls, where the pressure carves smooth bowls out of the rock face. Follow the water as it rushes on into deep plunge pools. Swim past water lizards standing guard, head raised on smooth stone outcrops in the river. Wonder at the light reflecting off the shallow, broad, calm river, to dance on the underside of the rock overhangs. Breathe in the fresh air where lush, green ferns line the canyon walls and trail in the water.
Start of Serendipity canyon
Abseiling in to the Blue Mountains wilderness is like stepping in to the past - you can understand why it was so difficult for the early settlers to get through this mountain range


Be warned you will have to work for these stunning sights.

River Deep Mountain High (RDMH) run half and full day canyoning tours out of Katoomba. I went on the Serendipity day tour. There were only four of us on the day plus our guide. RDMH will run a tour with as few as two people. This is my experience and tips:

Provided with a dry bag, wet suit, harness, lunch and whatever we chose to take, (be warned you have to carry your own supplies so don't go overboard here), we headed off at some speed in to the canyon. Our guide explained that the less time we spend getting in to the canyon, the more time we will have to appreciate it once we're there.

Tip: take a waterproof camera that you can attach to a bag strap/ your harness - once you get in to the canyon you won't have time to keep opening your dry bag to get your camera out.

I must say that once we were in the canyon, the pace didn't appear to slacken off, and I found myself at the back of the group. Walking through a canyon requires some concentration, you have to look where you put your feet so as not to slip or stumble on the river bed, a turned ankle will ruin the day.

It seemed my group was on some kind of endurance fitness race, but looking on the website, another group appeared to have more time to take in the natural beauty of the canyon, so I suppose it depends on the group and the guide. Looking back I should have asked the group to go at a slower pace so I could take more in.

That said, I did enjoy the time before and after each abseil, as the guide is extremely safety conscious and talks each member of the group through each abseil. This gave me time to look at the flora in the gorge, and appreciate the views, whilst waiting for my turn/the other members of the group.
The first abseil
Time to put my camera safely in my dry bag. A waterproof camera would have come in handy

On Serendipity we did two abseils and were lowered in to the river twice from cliff edges, where our guide deemed it too awkward to abseil, and we had to swim on down river. I cannot stress how much fun this is. The water in the gorge doesn't get much sunlight and is freezing. We were lucky to have a beautiful sunny day so after each swim, we could stand in a patch of sun and watch the steam rise from our wetsuits.

We enjoyed a lunch of sandwich rolls, crisps and snacks at the end of the canyoning section. Resting on a large boulder overhanging the river, we stripped off the wetsuits and changed in to dry clothes to enjoy lunch and admire the view.

Get close to the wildlife
We were surrounded by rather large and beautifully coloured water dragons, intent on stealing a few crumbs from our lunch
.

Unfortunately at the end of the abseiling, scrambling, wading and swimming through the canyon, you do have to walk yourself and your pack out of the gorge. This hike was hot and again at pace.

Tip: there is a lot of walking to get in to and out of the gorge.Wear layers you can strip off as you warm up. Once in the gorge, your wetsuit and movement will keep you warm enough. On the way out you will be very hot, (especially if you go during the summer months). Take an energy drink to replace the salt and fluids you lose when you sweat.

Our guide entertained us with his knowledge of the local flora and geology of the region as we hiked out of the gorge.
Back to the pub!
You have to walk yourself and your pack out of the gorge

Canyoning is an amazing way to really get close to nature, and/or get a major workout. This tour is not for the timid or physically unfit.It is a real adventure, and great fun. Despite not getting to see as much as I would have liked whilst down there, I would still recommend this as a great adventure activity, and think it is excellent value for money.

River Deep Mountain High have a website detailing:different canyoning trips available and other people's experiences on them: www.rdmh.com.au

They run out of an office in Katoomba:
2/187 Katoomba Street
Katoomba NSW 2780
Tel: 61 2 4782 6109
Email: fun@rdmh.com.au

Serendipity cost $175 per person. I recommend staying in the Blue Mountains the night before and after, as it is a fairly early start and a long day. Unless you walk 10 kms regularly, even if you warm up before and after (which I strongly recommend) you will ache for a couple of days after this experience. I would recommend a hot bath to relax those muscles before you go to bed.

Relax after your adventure: I enjoyed a refreshing shandy at the Old City Bank Bar beer garden, part of the Carrington Hotel, a short walk from river Deep Mountain High's Office in Katoomba, and good way to round off the day with the other members of the tour group. It was fortunately a short drive back to Blackheath Caravan Park, a BBQ, and a very sound night's sleep in one of their standard cabins. See my review of these facilities and other things to do while in the Blue Mountains here.
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Why? to challenge yourself and see nature at its most spectacular
When: Spring, Summer or Autumn - there are dry canyon tours that can be done in Winter
Where: The Blue Mountains
Cost: $175 for Serendipity, other tours range from $165-200, wetsuit, dry bag, harness, helmet and lunch included. You will need to wear suitable shoes and bring your own drinks.
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