We’ve all got a list of our own personal fears. Snakes, spiders, confined spaces, clowns, heights, to name a few common ones.
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Thankfully, heights doesn’t make mine and that means a whole bunch of adventurous experiences are unlocked without having to talk myself into things or even push out of my comfort zone.
It means I can settle straight into enjoying the fun zone.
Looking for a unique experience to take a friend to for her 40th, I came across the fascinating concept of a picnic while suspended by climbing gear and sitting on a portaledge propped against the side of the sheer cliff face of Mt Buffalo in Victoria’s High Country.
Knowing that kind of thing is not everyone’s cup of tea, I had to suss her out before just going ahead and booking such a thing.
I mean, it had the potential to be the worst birthday present ever otherwise.
I had high hopes — pun intended — she’d be down with it, and she was.
The day came and it was teeming with rain.
Through the torrential downpour, we made our way towards Porepunkah, reduced to 90km/h on the freeway because the wipers couldn’t keep up with the volume of water that was plummeting from the sky.
It was not looking promising that we would even get out on the ledge that day, but we pushed ahead, hoping that unpredictable mountainous weather would grant us a merciful hour or two of sunshine between showers at just the right time.
Arriving before time, we stopped to hike up to Ladies Bath Falls on the mountain, where not only did the rain keep falling, but the thunder joined the chorus of sound to add to the ominous energy, yet we pushed on, desperately hopeful our journey hadn’t been in vain.
We met our guide at the Mt Buffalo Gorge car park, who had just looked up the most recent forecast and was pleased to tell us our timing, much to everyone’s surprise, was perfect.
So we got straight into it, starting with a couple of warm-up abseils down a small section of rock (probably only 20m to 30m high), where the rain intermittently continued to remind us it was going to disturb our parade.
My friend, harnessed up, looked at me sideways and gave me the bird before disappearing below the rock.
I giggled. “She’ll thank me when it’s all over,” I thought to myself.
Satisfied we were competent enough at abseiling, our guide led us to the descent point of our cliff picnic.
Just as he was saying not to be too nervous about our footing on the walk there, as no-one had ever slipped over on his watch, despite it looking slippery, what did my unco self do?
Slipped fair on my rear!
Thankfully our harness carabiners were clipped to an anchor before we were close enough to the edge of the gorge for there to be any risk of slipping into it.
Although, the height of my unco-ordination at times would have me second guessing that even 100m away would be enough to save my clumsy butt.
One by one we lowered ourselves to the portaledge that had been put in place by our guide before our arrival.
A few deep breaths and we wriggled ourselves nervously into comfortable positions before being lowered a picnic basket full of delicious fresh, gourmet eats from local producers, a couple of stubbies of non-alcoholic cider (this activity requires .00 BAC) and blankets to keep us warm.
As terrifying and anxiety-inducing as you’d probably imagine it should be sitting there 300m above the valley floor on just a bit of canvas stitched between aluminium poles, at the end of a tangle of ropes, it was actually an enormously peaceful experience.
My friend and I were in awe of our view, sitting there proud of ourselves for not turning back in the rain and for not chickening out at the site of the portaledge and the drop beneath it, as the four seasons of that day rolled by us.
In our 90 or so minutes on the ledge we had clear views of the valley, we had moments of sunshine to thaw us out, and we had cloud engulfing us so that it felt like we were literally on a cloud.
We ate, we giggled, we drank, we relaxed and we soaked it all in.
When it was time to climb back up, our guide threw us a rope ladder.
The ascent was not practised in the way our descents had been with the earlier abseiling.
Nor was it as easy.
And despite being harnessed and anchored, climbing this ladder even when you’re not usually afraid of heights was pretty scary.
As they say, the trick is to not look down. (Unless you get a kick out of panic!)
Of all the thrilling things I’ve been lucky enough to do in my life, this was up there with the best.
I might’ve taken a friend there for her birthday, but I gave myself a pretty impressive gift, too.
What: Cliff picnic 300m above the valley floor.
Where: Mt Buffalo Gorge.
Cost: $449 for two people (minimum booking is for two).
Includes: Fresh (local) picnic hamper; all safety equipment; blanket; digital photos.
Duration: 2.5 hours (includes safety briefing and warm-up abseils).
Wear: Sturdy shoes; suitable (and warm) clothing.
Bring: Water bottle; sunscreen.
Extras: Proposing? Celebrating an occasion? Let the staff know.
To book or for more info: www.brightadventurecompany.com.au