Home' Journeys : Oct Nov 2015 Contents I’ve never seen my mother take instruction with
such obedience from a dreadlocked man less than
half her age.
‘You’ ll just slide off this log, drop seven metres into
The Pit, then fly out the Laundry Chute, okay?’ he
says. ‘Just remember to keep your elbows in.’
It sounds so absurd I’m not sure whether to laugh or
hide in a cave. It had been my idea to embark on a
six-hour canyoning trip through Cradle Mountain’s
heritage-listed majesty – but I hadn’t considered the
finer detail. I peer into the black abyss of tannin-
stained waters churning down below. Under her
dripping red helmet, my mother’s eyes lock with mine.
Her three words are rather direct.
‘You go first.’
I concede it’s only fair, considering she’s rafting down
a 50 metre-deep quartzite canyon without a raft, all
because of me. We’re in Cradle Mountain-Lake St
Clair National Park on a Cradle Mountain Canyons
adventure. We’ve opted for the Dove Canyon because
it’s supposedly more thrilling. So, in 17 millimetres
of wetsuit, I take my Michelin-man self down to the
launching area. I listen absently to more instructions,
a little distracted by my lofty perch on a slippery log.
He counts down. I resist. He counts down again.
Next moment I’m in f light, squealing in my very
own rock-walled amphitheatre. It’s not the time to
appreciate the 800 million year-old surrounds. I
plunge into four-degree water below, screams muff led
only by submersion. I pop up just long enough to
realise I’m f loating straight for the Laundry Chute.
Before I know it I’m sucked down what could best be
described as a birth canal and spat out like a human
salmon, shot over a waterfall and tossed into the
calm waters below. When I finally bob back up to the
surface, my gasping breath turns to laughter.
Between splatters of mountain water, I begin to
laugh so hard I don’t know what’s come over me.
Am I grateful to be alive? Am I so invigorated by the
experience I’m overcome with emotion? Or have I
simply been reborn by my Dove Canyon experience?
All I know is that it feels incredible – it may sound
treacherous and wild, but it’s equally restorative.
When you have that much pure alpine water running
through your ears and up your nose, it’s a full body
Having grown up just 90 minutes’ drive from this
iconic playground, never have I felt such a rush from
its surrounds. I’ve bushwalked countless kilometres of
the park, but never leapt into the river by the walking
track. Canyoning takes you where no walking track
treads. And with experienced guides, you’re assured
that every leap of faith is grounded in safety, even if
your mind ’s little voice disagrees.
It’s a mental as much as a physical challenge. After
a 45 minute walk in, when you have abseiled 12
metres into the canyon, there’s no going back the way
you came. The task is yours to navigate the upper
stretch of Dove River by climbing, f loating, jumping
and abseiling down six waterfalls. That’s how the
powerful sense of freedom and exploration is forged.
Just ask Mum.
But don’t worry, each jump has a special name to help
you feel comfortable with the river. Tea Cup Falls
sounds terribly harmless and dainty, doesn’t it? Log
Slide sounds soft and The Pit might conjure bright
sunny thoughts. It’s really only the Laundry Chute
that you shouldn’t invite your mother down. But then
again, judging by Mum’s beaming grin, this was a
laundry visit she’ ll never forget.
When the email came through that Cradle Mountain
Canyons plan to offer heli-canyoning, my mother
happened to be sitting beside me. I casually asked
if she might like to join the first tour, leaping from
a helicopter and into a canyon below in the Cradle
Mountain wilds. Her eyes grew wide. She held her
breath for what seemed like the same amount of time
required for the Laundry Chute.
‘Count me in for that one.’
For someone who has never seen the inside of a
helicopter, I can only hope heli-canyoning becomes
a bookable adventure in Tasmania so I can see my
mother perform her James Bond-style canyon drop.
Pigs might f ly. So might mothers.
opposite: The Pit. this page, from left: Via ferrata cable descent; Laundry Chute; Petrifying Falls;
Tea Cup Falls. photos: Rob Burnett and Cradle Mountain Canyons
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2015 Journeys 41
LIFE ON THE MOVE
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