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Monday, March 21, 2011

Abseil Me Down

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Maori Tour was only part one of our Auckland experience that TEAN put on for us.  Part two was a Canyoning Trip.  What’s Canyoning, you ask?  Canyoning is “traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and/or swimming.”  Apparently it’s known as Canyoneering in the U.S.   Either way, Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize the word. 

Our canyoning trip included abseiling (rappelling) down waterfalls, both the sides and the middle.  It also included the hike up to the waterfalls, and the descent down the river afterwards.  The descent included such things as jumping, crawling, sliding, walking, and swimming.


So we began the day (Feb. 11) by jumping in two vans and riding out to literally a shed in a parking lot.  There we changed into wetsuits (top and bottom), old shoes, and helmets.  we then got in the vans again and travelled out to the trail.  There we put on a harnessy thing and practiced both the abseiling and the waiting with the rope for a fellow abseiler.  with that out of the way we began our trek up the mountain.  Now normally the trail we hiked would not have been a problem, but we were all in ill-fitting wetsuits and had an interesting time breathing.  Finally we reached the start of our real journey.  The top of a waterfall.  We were properly fitted into our gear and proceeded to jump into a freezing cold pool to swim out to the edge of the fall.  For the first descent we went down the side of the waterfall.  If you don't already know, I am quite afraid of heights.  As such, I let the big kids go first and hung near the back of the group, plucking up the courage to lower myself over the edge of a waterfall.  That done, I hooked up to one of two lines and slowly, ever so slowly, began my own descent. 


This doesn't look that imposing to be sure, but right where that rope disappears is a 90 degree angle.  So anyways, I took my sweet time to get down to the bottom.  Once there, I was extremely proud of myself.  However, that was only the first of four.  The third and fourth ones being the hardest, apparently.  So I swam through the pool at the bottom of the first falls and set myself up to go down the next.  The next one didn't even have water, though.  It was more of a connection between Point A (small waterfall) and Point B (big waterfall).  From the top of the second waterfall, it doesn't look that big.  even after you go over the edge.  Because guess what?  There's a second edge!


That's it.  I'm not sure if that's both waterfalls, but I would say at least the bottom 3/4 of it is the second waterfall.  I was shaking by the time I reached the bottom of that one.  Once there, I rejoined the rest of the group and we moved on, leaving a few people to finish up and join us.  We were guided to our next starting point where we all sat down and ate some tasty sandwiches for lunch.  While we ate, our guides prepped the fourth and final abseil.  The one in the waterfall. 


No joke.  Anywho, I once again let the rest of the group jump ahead.  This time I was seriously freaking out.  I went in some of the waterfall on the previous one, and I did not enjoy it.  So this, where the only way to go is down the waterfall, was not looking too appealing.  Add to that the rope burn I was getting on my hands, and I was not too confident that I would make it down under any sort of control.  Luckily, Cam, one of the guides, realized how panicked I was and offered to lower me down.  Yes, yes, yes, please.  And no, I was not the only person to choose this option.


I did enjoy the descent, especially since I wasn't in control.  Once at the bottom I disconnected and headed along the gorge to the dry waiting point beyond.  Once everyone was down and the gear collected, we continued on our way down the river and back to the trail to civilization.  I have to say this is the part I enjoyed the most.  Wading through the river, jumping off cliffs, crawling in between rocks, yeah, I can totally do that.