*** WARNING *** In recent years there have been a large number of unprepared groups requiring rescue from the Wollangambe River. In the worst case, a young man died after his group became lost. Make sure your group knows that canyoning is a strenuous activity requiring good fitness. Completing this trip usually takes 6 to 8 hours, but large or slow moving groups will often require up to 10 hours. It requires a descent and ascent of 300 vertical metres, including an exposed climb up tree roots. It also involves long, cold swims and climbing around large, house-sized boulders. Ensure your group has the appropriate equipment, including a first aid kit, floatation, and thermals or wetsuits for warmth. Make sure you have a map and compass — and know how to use them — as mobile phones will not have reception. Exits can be easy to miss. Be prepared to spend the night in the canyon if you need to stay with an injured party member or run out of daylight.
Party: Tim Vollmer, Tim “T1” Gastineau-Hills, Angie Bulic, Joshua Hill, Drew Morcom, Alan Jackson and Dan Scheuch
The night was incredible, with fireflies floating around in the warm air and a stunning display of stars across the sky. Despite a tent being set up, none of us made it undercover, instead crashing out in the open.
Of course there was much drinking, talking, joking, massaging and other excitement around the camp fire first, but as per the first rule of Fat Canyoners Club, what happens around the fire stays around the fire!
T1 and I had plenty of energy, with our planned hard trip the day before turning into an easy effort through Popeye Canyon.
The next morning Joshua, Drew and Alan met up with us. While we were standing around in the carpark we also ran into Pete Raines who was doing a similar trip with another group of Sydney Uni Bushwalkers.
Despite my plans for an early start so we could cruise down both ‘Gambe 1 and 2, we ended up getting to the water mid-morning, and the faffing began soon after.
I’m not normally one for touristy lilo trips, but the ‘Gambe is a spectacular place to do it, especially on a warm sunny day with light reflecting off the ripples on to the towering walls around you.
These walls were a little less pleasant when I nearly leant on the most enormous spider I have ever seen, with a leg span at least the size of an adult hand, if not a little larger. It was the kind of thing that is incredibly beautiful, but only when a safe distance away!
Despite our eight-legged friend the solitude was exceptional, until Joshua and Drew broke into song (see video below). The relaxing nature of the float was also hampered when Alan’s $7 pool toy decided to spring a leak and head quickly to a watery grave.
He soon discovered that swimming the Wollangambe is nowhere near as nice, and was thankfully rescued by Angie who shared her very large, velour inflatable bed.
We stopped for lunch at the normal ‘Gambe 1 exit, watching a few other groups come and go on what seemed a fairly popular day for the river. Among them was Dan who had just finishing a solo canyon trip, so he decided to join us. We amused ourselves with some decent sized water jumps into a knee deep pool, although I was a little less amused when I lost my glasses in the process!
With them found and lunch packed up, we received an added ego trip when a random bloke with two kids in tow arrived, then out of nowhere asked: “Are you the Fat Canyoners?” Chuffed doesn’t begin to express how we felt, until someone pointed out he probably identified us from my unsightly belly rather than our faces.
We soon moved on, planning to go as far as Serendipity. This section was also nice, and the side trip up the much colder lower section of this canyon was great fun. Given it had been a few years, I’d forgotten just how good this classic beginner canyon is in the lower stretch.
Finally it was back to the exit track where we paused for some traditional nudity, including rather explicit water jumping and a rather cosy natural ‘spa’. Eventually, after terrifying the members of the group who were not use to this and using up the last of the days sunlight we got dressed and headed for home, enjoying a stunning evening stroll back to the cars.
Geography forced us to split up, but those of us heading back to Sydney still managed to make our way as far as Richmond for a well earned pizza and beer.