Experience every heart-stopping, exhilarating moment of Andrew Bain's unforgettable Cradle Mountain Canyons adventure.
I’m inside Dove Canyon, beneath the skin of the world in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and the noise is reverberating from the cliffs like a pulse. It’s the sound of a waterfall as it disappears into darkness beneath cliffs and boulders in this 500-metre-long canyon.
And we’re about to head down over it.
I pull in my elbows, wriggle my butt, and suddenly the river takes me, firing me through a chute of rock at cannonball speed. I’m riding on water, but also on faith that there’s a pool somewhere below to catch me. And there is. I splash back into sunlight, bobbing up to continue our journey through this most narrow and unexpected of places among the buttongrass slopes at the national park’s northern edge.
The Laundry Chute is just one feature of a day-long canyoning trip with Cradle Mountain Canyons, a day in which we will abseil, swim, wade, leap and slide our way through the tortured natural architecture of Dove Canyon.
It begins with a 10-metre-abseil into the canyon, dunking us like teabags into the Dove River. We must now navigate our way through 500 metres of canyon, beneath quartzite cliffs that rise up to 50 metres overhead.
It sounds so simple, but the way is chock-full of features and obstacles. It will be a puzzle as much as a journey, and one of the most exciting and enjoyable adventures in Tasmania.
“This one is called the Sheep Dip,” guide Leon says from a rock ledge just a few metres downstream from our abseil entry, giving my harness a gentle tug and rolling me into the river.
Let the games begin. More ledges await – shelves of rock from which we will leap into deep pools of cliff-rimmed water below. The highest of the ledges is around six metres above the river. At this height, everything amplifies and the water suddenly seems kilometres below.
I pause at the edge, breathe in courage and finally throw caution and myself to the wind. There’s a moment where I seem to hang, then icy water is rushing up my nose. It’s like having my brain washed from the inside.
A short distance ahead, the river suddenly vanishes underground, taking us with it through the Laundry Chute on a ride that’s like luge on water. By now it feels like we’ve seen everything this canyon can conspire to create, but three major obstacles still wait. We will abseil down one, leap from another and slide through a chute again at the third.
There’s no hesitation now at any of the obstacles. It’s all fun and no fear. The Queensland man whose eyes had been as wide as saucers when we abseiled into the canyon is now the one doing somersaults as he leaps into the pools.
Across the mouth of the canyon, at trip’s end, an enormous log is wedged between rocks. Leon explains that it’s a King Billy pine, felled in the 1860s and sent down the river for milling. It caught here and has never dislodged – 150 years of water has poured under and over it. We climb past the log and we’re out.
Emerging onto a pebbly riverside beach, beneath a green mat of rainforest, the only heartbeat I can hear is my own, hammering almost as fast as the Earth’s.
Images: Cradle Mountain Canyons