So today I started the Stronglifts work-outs again, after over a year hiatus. It was pretty sad as I had to go right back to starting weights, except on the bench-press where I managed to start a whole 2.5 kg higher than “never lifted anything heavier than a cup-cake.” Does this mean I have hugely strong chest muscles and wasted lower extremities or have I been eating too many cup-cakes? On the down-side, it's kinda scary how fast you lose strength, but, as I always like to think “if you are lying face down in the gutter, the only way out is up.”
Anyway, after I recovered from that, I got on my bike and cycled up to Barron Gorge as there is rumored to be some small climbing crags up there. On the way there, I passed this interesting sign by a big poison (sugar cane) field where you get a view up to Stony Creek and Barron Gorge. Before all the toxic sugar cane was planted here, this land was actually used to grow real food like fruits and vegetables!
Freshwater Valley Heritage Sign
In 1879, there was also a rice mill on this spot that was owned and operated by Joseph Kipling, nephew of Rudyard Kipling.
I snapped my own picture of the view, toxic sugar cane in the foreground and then carried on towards Barron Gorge.
Freshwater Valley today with poison growing in the foreground
I cruised along Lower Freshwater Road until I reached Kamerunga Environmental Park where you can get on a nice pathway that takes you to an old weir across the Barron River. A bunch of council workers were sitting by the weir having their usual three hour smoko break before working a desultory hour on the weir until it was time for their next smoko. I just cruised on by. The sight of someone exercising could be enough to shock them into some kind of coma so I didn't think it wise to stop and chat.
To get to Barron Gorge, you have to ride up the appropriately named “Barron Gorge Road”. I wasn't really looking forward to this. This road should make a nice bicycle ride as it is shaded by big rainforest trees, has lots of access points to the river if you want a swim, and is just steep enough to easily ride up while giving you a good cruise on the way down. But, it's pretty narrow and I didn't fancy riding my bicycle beside crazed Australian drivers whose diet is composed almost entirely of pies, cakes and biscuits (Australian for cookies) and who are driving like maniacs because they are either coming down hard off a sugar high and craving a fix or feeling euphoric as the latest lamington spikes their blood sugar.
Not too far along the road I came to a big boulder called variously Split or Hinge Boulder. One of the local “climbing” companies uses this boulder for abseiling and climbing. I scrambled on top, around, through and over the boulder and my guess is a lot more abseiling gets done than climbing. On the uphill side, the boulder is only about 3 or 4 metres high and not really worth hauling a rope out for. While the downhill side is much higher, it is also situated in dense rainforest and is consequently seriously greasy. You could probably boulder here, but there are better bouldering sites around. There is a big cleft in the rock that houses a small colony of bats and is apparently part of the “experience” when you come abseiling here. For some reason I felt compelled to “experience” scrambling inside scaring out a few bats.
Looking out of the bat cave
The anchor bolts on top of Split Rock are pretty scary looking. Not only is a huge expanse of bolt protruding, but they are very rusty. I'm not sure I would be all that happy using them as abseil anchors, but, to date, they must have sustained the weight of at least a few dozen happy Australian abseilers. Aussies are inordinately fond of abseiling, which, to a climber is inexplicable as abseiling is just something you do as part of a climb not as a sport in its own right. It's a sort of zero skill activity with no appeal except as a way to get off a climb.
Typical scary looking Aussie bolt
There are two interesting things about Split Boulder. One is the nice big swimming hole right below the boulder, and the other is this cool fig tree that has swallowed up a smaller boulder with its roots.
Fig tree eats boulder
Anyway, after fully scoping out Split Boulder and deciding it was not worth coming back to, I rode up to the end of the road and the power station buildings. I had sketchy directions for finding three other crags and can only be certain I found Radiation Wall as that is the only crag with a photo on-line. I locked up the bike and walked down to the river and, after scrambling around upstream for a distance I found Radiation Wall and snapped a picture. Another little crag not worth coming back to.
By this time I was quite close to Surprise Falls so I decided to go over and see if I could find the old trail that used to lead up the west side of the gorge. A little cement retaining wall holds in a dark pool of black water and, on the north side of this, if you push through a cyclone fence (hole in the bottom) you will find the old trail to Surprise Falls. I think this trail has been closed since around 2000 when Cyclone Steve came through. It would be interesting to try and walk up the track but you may not get very far as vegetation grows pretty fast around this area.
Start of Surprise Falls trail
Finally, I set off downstream looking for Macka's Bluff. Apparently, some dude started the Aussie trend of “rap jumping” here way back in 1989. Rap jumping is supposed to be a "highly advanced form of freestyle rope work" that somehow enables you to "live life to the fullest." But I think that might just be bullsh*t advertising. The directions I had managed to find on the internet weren't all that clear and I didn't find anything that could possibly have “6 jump faces” as Macka's Bluff is advertised to have. It wasn't until I came back home and dug around a bit more on the internet that I worked out that Macka's Bluff is below the big cliffs that have a retaining wall built around them to prevent rock falling onto the road. I found a series of bizarre videos of people “jumping” off this eminence labelled things like “star” jump and “big” jump. Strangely nothing was labelling “f**king stupid jump.” Curiosity will probably impel me to go back up and check out Macka's Bluff if for nothing more than a sense of history gone by.
Pools on the Barron River
The last thing I did before riding home was have a swim in one of the pools on the river. This cooled me down for round about 10 minutes while I sailed down the road, but, once I got back into the cane fields near Freshwater, I was dripping out sweat again. As I came back over the weir on the Barron River I was surprised to see all the workmen up and on their feet. Musta been that short interval called work between smoko breaks.