I’ve never seen my mother take instruction from a dreadlocked fellow less than half her age with such obedience. ‘You’ll just slide off this log, drop seven metres into the pit, then fly out the laundry chute, okay? 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 this six-hour canyoning trip through Cradle Mountain’s heritage-listed majesty – I just 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. 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 being perched on a slippery log at such a lofty height.
He counts down. I resist. He counts down again. Next moment I’m in flight, squealing in my very own rock-walled amphitheater. It’s not the time to appreciate the 800 million year old surrounds, some of the oldest in the land. I plunge into the four-degree water, screams muffled only by my submersion. I pop up just long enough to realise I’m floating 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 gasps turn to laughter.
I begin to laugh so hard between splatters of mountain water I’m not sure 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.
Although I grew up just 90 minutes’ drive from this iconic playground, never have I felt such a rush from its surrounds. I’ve bushwalked countless kilometers of the park but never leapt into the river by the walking track. Canyoning takes you where no walking track leads. And with experienced guides, you’re assured that every leap of faith is grounded in utmost safety, even if your mind’s little voice disagrees.
It’s a mental challenge as much as physical. Following the 45-minute walk in, once you abseil 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, floating, jumping and abseiling down six waterfalls; that’s seemingly how a powerful sense of freedom and exploration is forged.
But don’t worry, each jump has a special name to help you get comfy with the river. Tea Cup Falls sounds terribly harmless and dainty, doesn’t it? Log Slide sounds soft, and The Pit conjures 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.
Cradle Mountain Canyons
1300 032 384
*Leap of Faith first appeared in RACT Magazine, Oct/Nov 2015 issue.
Your launch pad for exploring Tasmania like a local.