Abseiling and Front-Running
Trip Start Mar 10, 2007
188Trip End Jan 08, 2008
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First, it must be said that abseiling here is not as restrictive as it is at home, where a top rope secures you in case you do something stupid like let go of the rope (very difficult by the way, survival instincts kick in and you, for some unfathomable reason, keep a firm grip on that rope). As I have found, the top rope is fairly limiting in an abseil as it restricts your speed, but to abseil without it, when you are used to it being there is a fairly daunting experience, its just you, the rope, and a very long drop - not too much to ask then. Once you get going however, it is infinitely more fun than the top rope method, you have complete control over how fast you go, and there is someone holding the rope at the bottom in case you are really so daft you let go (so don't worry mum) which will stop you just as surely as if you stopped yourself
The run to the top of the abseil was up a narrow gorge, which on rare occasions also becomes a waterfall, though we were in no danger of that as it has to really rain, in the exact right place for that to happen, still, it happens enough for vegetation to grow out of the cliff faces, living off what little water there is in the rock, and we also saw trees which have adapted to the climate by killing off limbs to survive in a drought, rather than just dying off in full - never camp under one, the dead branch can fall at any time, and they are heavy (who said abseiling wasn't educational.)
After a couple of runs, we were given the option of front-running, which is pretty much what it sounds like, you face the floor and run down the cliff, except you don't so much run as give the impression of running by shifting your legs while you fall down the rope. Still it is an incredibly exhilarating experience!
After we finished the abseiling, not that we wanted to but then all good things do have an unfortunate habit of ending, we wandered down onto the bottom of the Z-bend gorge to see the river, which is actually more a series of shallow puddles at the moment, but which is due to flood fairly soon and can rise about seventeen feet up the canyon, which is fairly incredible when you consider the width of the canyon and the complete lack of water in it at the time of writing
The views from the mid-height were nothing less that spectacular, with the low green tinged mineral enriched pools contrasting beautifully with the rich and varied reds of the sandstone canyon, which does not have level sides due to wind and water erosion, and which has dramatically varied hues of red and yellow striations in the rock. This is topped by the vivid greens of the bushland on the National Park plain, overlaid with the clearest blue desert sky and the whole is, quite simply, stunning. My photographs do not do it justice.
The Z-bend itself is formed by the river running into a natural crack in the earth, and as water follows the easiest course open to it, the river diverted course from one end of the crack to the other before continuing down toward the ocean, on a course horizontal to that which it followed before intersecting with the crack
Slightly more disturbing than running down a cliff face, and something we encountered before abseiling, was the size of the prehistoric scorpion tracks that can be found dotted around the park, some of the tracks indicating that the scorpion would have been very large (the largest set that has been found belonged to one approximately two metres in length). Our guide was very chirpy though and told us not to worry as they were not that big anymore, they only got up to a metre in length now. With our minds fixed on the upcoming exercise of swinging down a cliff face we all looked at our guide with fear in our eyes, not realising that we would have heard of metre long scorpions before we came out to Oz if they were not just tracks in sandstone. But we didn't, and he took great pleasure in his April fool, which had suckered us in completely because we had all been thinking about our impending drop from the rock... What can I say, concentrate on one thing too much and you will end up looking the fool, all I can say is that I was not the only one - thank God, and we didn't see any scorpions, metre long or otherwise, though we did get fairly familiar with the cliff!!!