Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Barrington Tops White Water Kayaking

This is not a postcard pic. Imagine waking up to this view early in the morning...Breathtaking huh? Welcome to the Aussie countryside! :)

I must admit I've always thought the Aussie landscape was pretty much the same all round NSW - the usual dry vegetation dotted with bushlands and the same towns everywhere - but I was pleasantly surprised.

It was a spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment kind of trip. Friends of ours decided to drive up to Mt Barrington to visit their friend who owns an adventure centre and has offered to take them whitewater kayaking. Since there were no urgent matters to take care of in uni, Truffe and I decided to extend our holiday just one more day and happily tagged along. Yep, such is the pleasure of doing research in uni! *chuckle*

Brian is the affable owner of Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre and put us up in his lovely home which he - get this - built from scratch! His home also doubles up as budget accomodation for thrill-seekers and is fronted by scenic hills which you can take in leisurely on swinging chairs hanging on his verandah. I totally adored the high ceilings and the spacious, airy interior. The lodging was very comfy with bunk beds and clean linen provided, adequately canopied with mosquito nets draped over bamboo poles and a ceiling fan for a bit of ventilation on warmer nights. We had no need for it though since it was pleasantly cool.

It was all about taking it easy from the point of arrival, which suited us just fine since everyone was still recovering from the NYE parties. We kicked up our heels and lounged about the bar top near the open kitchen, chatting, sipping the aromatic coffee that Brian brewed for us and munching on peanut M&Ms. As Phil went out on the verandah to catch up with him, Vina and truffe decided to engage in some foozeball. Mon dieu, the french and their soccer. I remained at the bar top, browsing through adventure pamphlets advertising trekking trips to India and chatting with Naomi, Brian's partner, as she prepared dinner.

There were also these three mischievous little resident puppies that were irresistibly cute. Their proud and rather grouchy father, aka Ernie is a dingo/blue heeler cross and their mum a dingo/kelpie cross. Geez, I really miss having a dog. You should have seen the puppies jump in the water, half swimming half whining when we headed to the river for a dip later on. It was hilarious. Fuzzy friends aside, the river was a nice change from the usual beaches and there were no worries of jellyfishes or sharks or what not that you normally find in the sea. We swam upstream, then floated lazily back to the starting point. This is something I can get used to doing every week.

Dinner was served by candlelight on the verandah. We had worked up an appetite from swimming and ate and chatted as the sun slowly dipped beneath the hills. The meal was simple but gratifying - spaghetti bolognaise, salad and home made garlicky bread. Brian and Naomi retired early (they have early starts) as the rest of us washed up and lounged about for a quiet bit of guitar session and foozeball. (Yeah I'm an addict now too). I went out to soak up a bit of starlight. The sparkling stars seemed to surround you and stretched out way low on the horizon there. Tres beau.

I've been looking forward to the whitewater kayaking all day. After a hearty brekkie of bacon, eggs and toast as well as a good strong coffee, we suited up and hopped in the 4WD to begin the drive up to Barrington Tops. Well, sort of. Someone looks all set to go kayaking in style doncha think? lol. Too cute.

It was too bad I didn't have any pictures of the whitewater kayaking cos I had no waterproof casing! It was SO MUCH fun! The rapids were easy enough to tackle for beginners but were still challenging enough at the same time for you to go "holy craaaaapp!!" when the stream catches you and pushes you along. We tried 'surfing', ie you paddle upstream on a rapid and ride the wave as it crashes downstream. It isn't as easy as it sounds since it requires a fair amount of strength and constant manoevuering. I capsized twice and would have gone for a third time but didn't really feel like emptying out the boat one more time. Very exhilarating and fun though!

Under Brian's careful instruction and excellent guidance, we rode down the rapids, learnt to swerve into eddies and more importantly, to dodge tree branches. Yep. Dont do it right and you get a nice twack in your face. He went through the safety procedures rigorously from the start to the end which is really important in my opinion. This isn't exactly a risk-free sport and many people just ignore all the warnings in all that excitement. We broke for lunch midway at a nice quiet spot and finished off mid-afternoon. Headed back for more coffee and freshly baked date loaves. Where can you find service like this where your guides/hosts pamper you like this? :D It was with a bit of regret that we left after the delicious tea. Would have loved to stay one more day. Well, we'll be back though!

Other than the 1 day kayak tours, BOAC conducts mountain biking/kayak tours as well as overnight camping. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a brief respite from the city and a bit of adventure!

Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre,
PO Box 20, Gloucester
NSW 2422, Australia

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