Blue Mountains: Abseiling in Jim’s Backyard

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It’s finally springtime and the heathland was in bloom, our perfect excuse to head back to the Blue Mountains. We were mainly here for the screening of the 6th Reel Rock Film Tour; a film festival that features palm-sweating and nerve-wracking climbing flicks from around the globe. It was also an opportunity to catch up with our friends (Jim and his partner Regina) who have a house in the Blueys (Blue Mountains’ moniker) and a gorgeous World Heritage Listed National Park for a backyard.

 

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This annual film festival was quite exciting for my limestone-hugging partner who at some point in his life has travelled around three continents mostly for rock climbing. I was also looking forward to doing some outdoor rock climbing and abseiling after gaining a bit of confidence from trying out the indoor climbing gym near our place.

 

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Sandstone Hills

 

Summer is just around the corner and the lovely spring weather gave us the energy for some active, calorie-burning endeavors. It’s been a number of months now since Charles proposed to me in one of his favorite spots in the Blue Mountains, and now we were back once again, this time literally bush bashing our way to the top of an overhanging cliff.

 

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Checking out the cliff

 

We started our walk a few steps from Jim’s wooden cabin in Blackheath on a walking track that was supposed to be for Hazard Reduction Purposes (bushfires) and probably should be off-limits to visitors. Walking on the marked trail was effortless but pushing our way through the thick scrub once we left the track was rather laborious. It was my first taste of real bush bashing which managed to yield a few minor scratches on my exposed shin.

 

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Lovely heathland vegetation but tricky to navigate without a trail

 

The view however was breathtaking. Colorful flowers were in bloom punctuating the drabness of the open heath, a low growing shrubby vegetation common in the Blue Mountains. Eucalypt trees spread out in the valley below, ringed by spectacular rust-colored sandstone cliffs. The highlight of our walk for me was seeing a few kangaroos that seemed to be a tad friendlier than their wild neighbors in Queensland.

 

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Flora and fauna

 

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In between double-checking my harness and anchor, Jim shared that the town of Blackheath possibly got its name from what looked like charred open-heath vegetation. I surely won’t forget it after all the scratches it gave me. The surroundings were a bit hazy at the time and for me it looks clearer and more desirable for photos in the morning and during cooler months.

 

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Are we there yet?

 

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A little while later, it was my turn to abseil down the exposed 30-meter wall. It was only my second time, but my first abseil was down on a 50-meter waterfall in the Philippines so I didn’t really feel scared. We abseiled a few times and alternated belaying each other. I reckoned it was more to prep me up for a more difficult route the next day where other friends would join us.

 

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Jim was the first to go

 

I had so much fun (especially since it was easy and quick to go back on top) but after three attempts, I was more keen for a cold Strongbow Cider and hot chips. I had been craving for fish and chips even before we started the walk and I was unsurprisingly quite famished. It was a long day for us after all. We woke up early and travelled for two hours by train from Sydney before meeting Jim in Leura and went straight into the bush after just a few minutes of idleness at his place in Blackheath.

 

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The cliff wall where we abseiled

 

Less than an hour later, we were in the company of cold bottles of beer, chilled wine, slices of rock melon and a bowl of chips unhesitatingly consumed under the Aussie sun. Their friend Allison who also drove up to the Blueys to check out the film tour joined us for the afternoon drinkie followed by a quick dinner at Mt Victoria Hotel. My craving for fish and chips was overruled by a hefty serving of mee goreng while Charles gorged on kway teow (we are obviously still suffering withdrawal from all the delicious Malaysian cuisine that we feasted on during our recent visit to the country)

 

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We capped the night watching the palm sweating and death defying collection of climbing movies from Reel Rock Film Tour in an old-fashioned local cinema at Mt. Victoria. Somehow it made me think whether these crazy stories of dare devils would really inspire new breed of climbing enthusiasts or just scare the crap out of them (or worse their parents) and give them an impression that it’s a dangerous sports. Either way, it was entertaining and after watching the films, “extreme” and “dangerous” suddenly have a whole new meaning.

 

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