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Day Three in Sydney started at the ungodly hour of 4:30am. Why? Because I was awake. I couldn’t get back to sleep. Since it was mid-day in NYC, I got some work done, caught up with Meagan, and essentially just used the time wisely. Tourism Australia had me starting out at 6:30am for an all day “adventure day,” so I figured, what the heck, I was up.
Fortunately, next door to my hotel is a 24 hour Pie Face (CUTEST WEBSITE EVER. CHECK IT OUT.) So a hot cup of coffee or three helped me start the day.
Duglass, my guide for the day, picked me up. I went into the lobby, and a nice woman introduced herself to me. Turns out, in Australia, Duglass is a woman’s name. Who knew.
Nice person, Duglass. First words out of her mouth were “if you want to sleep for the two hour trip to the mountains, I’ll shut up.”
1) TWO HOURS?2) MOUNTAINS?
“No, I’ll stay awake, thanks.” I guess I’d been told what I was doing, but in my ADOS way, I totally forgot. I figured we were hiking, and not wanting to sound like more of an idiot than I already was, just kept my mouth shut.
My first indication that this was going to be an amazing day was fifteen minutes into the drive – All of a sudden, it starts pouring – then – within forty five seconds, it stops, clears, and this appears.
Driving on, I learn that Duglass had gone to burning man several times, put on numerous Earth Day concerts all around Australia, and in general, did pretty cool stuff.
As we continue driving and leaving Sydney behind, we enter the Blue Mountains. I’d done
tons of no homework on where we were going, so I just enjoyed the ride – Until Douglass pulled off at an overlook, and encouraged me to take some photos. Wow.
It was as if Avatar met Myst. Stunningly beautiful scenes, in any direction you looked.
Jumped back in the car, and arrived at our first destination – an office, right on a main road. I was like, “OK, are we hiking… up some stairs?”
I was then introduced to Corky, from River Deep, Mountain High, who smiled and said, “So you’re the one I’m taking Abseiling!”
Having never heard that word before, I assumed it was another word for hiking. That’s when Duglass looked at me and helpfully chimed in with “I think you call it Rappelling.”
I looked at her like she’d told me Australia was reverting back to a Penal Colony, and I was their first prisoner.
“I’m sorry, what? Like, with ropes?”
“Yeah,” said Corky. And you’re lucky there’s been so much rain! You’re getting a chance to go through some canyons that are totally flooded! Massive waterfalls! Lots of high jumps! Tons and tons of water! With the canyons the way they are now, we should leave now, we’ll be back by around 4:30pm.
It was 8:15 in the damn morning.
Corky threw some wetsuits at us, along with ropes, (ROPES!!) helmets, some water, tons of surprisingly decent food (more on that later,) and “Wet” and “Dry” bags.
Five minutes later, Duglass and I were following Corky’s jeep deep into the heart of the Blue Mountains.
Sometimes, when I’m about to try something dangerous, or something new, I like to have a quick conversation with 14-year-old Peter, and let him know that hey, his life might suck balls at 14, but it’s gonna get a lot better, and he’s gonna get a chance to do really amazing things, like one day go to the Blue Mountains in Australia, and rappel down waterfalls with Corky, who just stepped out of Central Casting for a ChapStick commercial. Sometimes I like to think that 14-year-old Peter can hear me, and it makes his horrible teen years just a little bit better.
14-year-old Peter responded this morning with, “Are you f’ing kidding me? You’re going to rappel down a damn WATERFALL?”
14-year-old Peter really needs to learn to shut the hell up sometimes.
Arriving at the parking lot of our hike/rappel/climb/adventure, we took one photo of me, dry for the last time in the next eight hours.
Note how white my sneakers are. Note how sweat-free my shirt is. Note how non-bloody I am.
We start making our way down the fire-road towards the path. This is the last time I’ll be on anything even remotely resembling the words “road” or “path” for the next eight hours.
Corky randomly turns right and walks us into what I believe to be a tree – turns out, there’s a few inches where we’ll be walking down towards the canyons. As we start making our way down, and down, and down, and as the sounds of the world disappear to be replaced with nothing but our feet and the occasional buzz of a much faster insect, it’s truly like we’re headed towards the center of the earth.
About 45 minutes later, (during which time I could only imagine how much the walk back up was going to suck,) the silence starts being replaced by the sounds of rushing water – softly at first, then louder and louder until I can only imagine a massive ocean below us. Sure enough, we get to a clearing, and there, to our left, is water rushing over rocks to an unknown destination down below.
I stupidly assume we’re going to simply hike down to get into the water, and as we stop to put on our wetsuits, rappelling equipment and helmets, I realize how stupid my thinking was.
“OK, Peter – watch Duglass here.” She slips a rope into her harness, and disappears into the rushing water below. About 20 seconds later, the rope goes slack, and I hear “Woo-hoo!”
“OK, Peter! Time to get wet!”
“OK, Corky. Time to come back to reality.”
As I’m explaining to him the myriad of reasons why I can’t do this, (I’m too heavy and will break the rope, I’m allergic to rocks going through my skull, etc.) I notice that I’ve been roped into my harness, and moved to the edge of the rock.
“Hold this rope, and let it out a bit.”
And that was about all the instruction I got. Well, that and “have fun!”
I took one step over the side of the rock, said a quick prayer, and leaned back, with 20 or so feet separating Shankman, Peter, from S, Plat. As I let a millionth of an inch of rope out, I found myself moving down, by a millionth of an inch.
A few mind-numbing seconds later, and I was doing it again, and again, and again, until “thump,” my feet were touching the ground, about three feet under the water, and the rope went slack.
I’d rappelled, was at the bottom of the canyon, and was still alive!
This. Was. Awesome!!
About 45 minutes later of hiking through the canyon, falling over into the water more times than I care to admit, and having several things brush my leg in multiple Homer Simpson-like “eewwwwww! Slimy!” moments, we came to the second rappelling site, and I survived it again! By this point, Duglass had become my biggest cheerleader, and was all “Go Peter!”
Finally, we came to the first “jump” point, where we had probably a 15 or so foot jump from one rock, into a pool of water below. After saying a small “please don’t let their be a random rock that landed under the water yesterday” prayer, I jumped, and with a tidal splash, landed in the water, giggling like I was five.
Then we got to enjoy the current for a bit, with our wet-packs and dry-bags keeping us buoyant, as we transversed more of the canyons.
Finally, we came to a decent sized rock on the side of the river, and I was told that our canyon adventure was pretty much done – time to eat lunch, then make the trek out of the canyon back up to the car.
We were joined for lunch by a new friend. I named her Lizzie. She liked Pumpkin dip.
As we’re packing up from lunch, I look down and notice I’m bleeding. I didn’t remember cutting myself, I assume I’d gotten nicked by any one of the large rocks. Corky told me otherwise.
“That’s a leech bite. They hit you with an anesthetic so you don’t feel them bite you, then inject you with an anti-coagulant, so you don’t stop bleeding. When they’re full, they fall off.”
Last time I remember getting hit by an anesthetic, I was about to have a colonoscopy, and the anesthesiologist was a LOT cuter than a leech. I’m just sayin.’
Packing up, we made our way out of the canyon, in a vertical climb that would have given Superman a run for his money. Out of the canyon we climbed, past the treeline, past the highway, past Australia, past the Moon, and well into Alpha Centauri. OK, while it wasn’t actually that high, it was a solid, brutal 90-minute climb.
Arriving back at our car, a little over seven hours from when we went in, we were tired – but DAMN accomplished. As I write this, a few hours later, I’m in such pain, it’s not even funny – But it was well, well worth it.
I can’t recommend this adventure enough. What a day.
Tomorrow is a day of travel, I bid adieu to Sydney and head over to Queensland (After a quick coffee with the head of Facebook Australia – come on – you know damn well I can’t go for five days without scheduling at least ONE meeting – Sheesh!) then on Thursday, it’s the Great Barrier Reef! Woot!
I must sleep now. For reals.