I woke up in my plush, 4-star bed in Brisbane, Australia. I snuggled up as I searched for things to do in the area. I wanted to relax and enjoy the hotel while getting some writing done, but I was afraid of “wasting” my time in Brisbane, which was shorter than I would have preferred.
I spent most of the day writing and relaxing, and then at 3:00 pm, I walked down to the riverfront for a tour of abseiling (rappelling). The first time that I had ever abseiled was two months earlier when I went deep into a canyon in Karijini National Park. That was a thrilling experience, with many life-lessons.
This time, the tour offered abseiling but no climbing back up. Thankfully, we took the stairs. I arrived at the tour shop that was on the riverfront and signed the necessary paperwork. There were just two other people on the tour – a young couple from Japan who didn’t speak much English.
Once I filled out my forms, I used the toilet one last time (didn’t want any accidents) and put my bag in a locker. The guide had us put some equipment on and carry the rest. Then we walked 10 minutes to the rock wall.
The 20 meter (65 feet) wall was on the riverfront path, right in the city! It was a natural rock wall cliff, but the city added stairs to take people from top to bottom. It’s called Kangaroo Point Cliffs. We stood at the bottom, and I looked up the steep wall that seemed to reach the sky. It had jagged edges with a few lengthy kinds of grass and plants trying to grow. It was crazy to think that my dive certification is for 20 meters. I imagined that being the depth of the ocean.
Our guide, Chris, appeared to be in his 30s. He gave us instructions while we were still at the bottom. We would abseil down one-by-one and then take the stairs back to the top. He would get us set up and stay at the top to ensure he could hold the rope in the event of a fall. We were each allowed to rappel down twice. Our group didn’t talk much, which seemed to annoy him. I was nervous and focused on his instructions.
We climbed the never-ending stairs, and once we were at the top, Chris gave us more instructions. There were a couple of men farther down the wall also abseiling, but other than those men, it was just us. Occasionally, runners and walkers passed below us on the walking path, looking up to see what we were doing.
There was another walking path and views of the river and city skyline at the top of the wall. It was beautiful, and the sun shined brightly against the blue sky.
The first to go was the young guy from Japan. I stood there behind the two-foot barrier wall, watching. I am afraid of heights and don’t know why I keep doing things like this. When I worked at Target, I couldn’t go up more than two steps on a ladder, or I’d freeze and then start shaking and sweating. I freak out when I feel unstable. I’m ok on a mountain top because it feels sturdy.
The young guy struggled to get from the first standing position to the L-shape that you need to be in. I had learned this two months earlier, which really helped me. The hardest part of abseiling (in my opinion) is getting into the seated position, allowing the rope to hold you.
The guy eventually made it down, and it was my turn. My adrenaline was pumping fast, and my heart was racing. Chris got my straps hooked up and assured me that I wouldn’t fall, and he was there in case something went wrong.
I stepped to the ledge, facing the rock wall and Chris. I needed to sit down and straighten my legs, shoulder-width apart. The hard part about leaning back is that it feels like you’re jumping off the wall until you feel the tension from the rope. I also knew that if I didn’t have my feet and legs positioned correctly, I’d fall sideways against the wall.
I explained to Chris that I was having a hard time letting go (that could be said both literally and figuratively). He grabbed my left hand so I’d feel more comfortable. It helped, and I leaned back. Once I felt the tension, I got my body into an L shape.
I had gloves on, and my right hand was holding the rope behind my back. That hand would slowly release the rope, allowing me to descend. Keeping it behind my back helped, so the rope didn’t slide too fast through the clip near my belly button.
I started to slide down, using my feet to jump from rock to rock, keeping myself from hitting the wall. My arm began to hurt because I grabbed it so tightly and tried hard not to go too fast! As I descended, I only looked at the wall because I was afraid that I’d freak out if I looked down. I had good form and speed, which was giving me confidence.
I told myself that I was Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie. I pretended that I was on a mission and needed to repeal to save the world. My speed increased, mostly because my arm was struggling to slow my pace.
I made it to the bottom, and my whole body was tense and sore. I looked back up the wall and couldn’t believe I just abseiled down! I felt accomplished and proud.
I climbed up the stairs, and the young girl from Japan was struggling to go down. She was all hooked up but couldn’t get herself to take that first bend to lower herself. The three of us tried to encourage her, but I’m not sure that she understood Chris and me.
It took a long time, so Chris said he would unhook her and have the guy and myself go down while the girl decided if she wanted to do it after all. Right after he unhooked everything, she decided she wanted to go down. The girl got herself into the position and very slowly abseiled down.
The guy went next, and then it was time for my final descent. Chris took my picture, and I tried to look happy, but was also terrified! I was so tense that my arm was really hurting again. I lowered myself and began to go down.
Halfway down, I stopped at a spot that Chris told us was an excellent opportunity to take a rest and take in the view. The ledge was about a foot deep, so I could stand on it. I looked around and saw some fantastic views! I was even able to take some pictures.
It wasn’t easy to get back into position because I had to sit back down in the L shape, without the help of Chris’s hand. I was successful and decided to look around more as I descended. It was scary as I looked down and saw how far the bottom was!
I was thrilled that I did it! Chris told me that I did great and my form was perfect. I had wanted to abseil again to make sure I didn’t lose the training that I received in Karijini. Thankfully, the lessons stuck, and I pushed through the fear.
Once Chris cleaned everything up, we walked back to the shop to turn in our equipment. I was treated to sunset views against the skyline. The calm river reflected the sun, and I soaked it all in.
Once I left the shop, I walked to the other side of the riverfront and ate at a sushi restaurant. I never thought I would be able to abseil in the middle of a city, and I was glad I experienced it.
The next day, I signed up for a bike tour. I loved bike tours because it’s a great way to see an overview of a city and learn some history. This tour, however, was long! It was a total of four hours in 94 °F heat (34 °C). The guide told us that it’s not usually that hot in early September.
The tour started in the morning, and I had to walk a long way to get to the meeting point because I couldn’t figure out the ferry system. The riverfront was beautiful, with sculptures and a small beach with sand. There were businesses and restaurants once I got close to the side I needed to be.
Our tour guide was a middle-aged man, and there were just a few of us on the tour. My stomach was hurting, and while the guide got everything ready, I ran to the bathroom. Unfortunately, it was an eight-minute walk away. I wasn’t feeling too well, but I pushed through the pain.
We rode through the plaza and by the riverfront. Then, we rode our bikes up to the bridge. There was a narrow bike lane to the side of the lanes of cars rushing by. Our path had fencing all around it, which made me feel better about not falling off.
The views of the city were great – Brisbane is a large, clean city with modern buildings. Once we rode across the bridge, we took a path to the other side of the river. We stopped for pictures along the way and, at one point, breezed through a neighborhood.
We didn’t learn much about the city, or I didn’t get good notes because of how I felt. I felt completely out of energy and exhausted from the heat. Once the tour was finished, I took an Uber back to my hotel.
I didn’t get back to my room until 2:00 pm. I ordered room service and then napped for a few hours on and off. I was so wiped out, but I was resisting that I might be sick.
That evening, I had another tour that I had already paid and signed up for. This time, it was a prison ghost tour. I forced myself up and headed to the prison because I don’t like wasting money.
The 20 of us stood outside of the old prison, waiting for the tour to begin. There was a tall, thin Australian guy in his late 20s with short blonde hair and glasses standing around in all-black clothing. When I wrote about the prison tour in Fremantle, I mentioned this guy, but he was actually on this tour (I’ve since updated that post).
The guy was often near me because we were the only solo travelers. Everyone else was in a group or a couple. He talked with sass, and when he grabbed the small torch (flashlight) that we were all provided, he said, “I might as well blend in with my all-black clothes.”
The guy was talking with a mother and her grade-school-aged son when the son did a popular dance. The guy dressed in black explained that he works with after-school kids, and they dance well too. The mother said something about ghosts, and the guy said, “That’s nothing. I’ve had crazy things happen. I was rocked to sleep by an old woman ghost when I was a kid.”
As we walked inside, I asked him, “So you’ve had some crazy experiences, huh?” The guy elaborated, “Yeah. I was actually possessed for a while.” He spoke fast and mumbled, so I clarified, “You were possessed?!”
The creepy guy said, “Yeah, it happened when another family member was possessed, and the spirit didn’t leave correctly and went inside me instead.”
The tour started, and I was a little afraid to be too close to the guy. Maybe a spirit would try to possess him again. The guy said he was there because he wanted to see if he could sense any spirits.
The tour guide was tall with a large belly and a big beard. He took us into various buildings with the lights turned off. We used our torches when walking from place to place. Here are a few things he told us:
- The gallows executed 42 people in division one: 39 men, one woman, and two teenagers.
- The death penalty was in place until public opinion shifted in the early 1900s. The executioner went from being respected to being spit on.
- The prison was a women’s prison because they thought women were going on crime sprees. That never happened, and they turned it into a men’s prison.
- Many guards had reports of seeing ghosts as they walked the yard. They believed the souls who died in the walls were trapped forever.
The tour guide said that he hadn’t seen or experienced anything in the six years he had been giving tours, but he’s had guests say they were poked or saw something. The story is always the same, making it seem more legitimate. On our tour, a woman said she was pricked, and the man in all black said he was scratched on the finger.
We had the chance to look at old cells with things written on the walls. One said, “Fuck the U.S.A. kill kill kill the poor!” The cells were rundown, with some having so much paint peeling from the walls, it looked like it was falling apart. It was hard to see some of it because of the darkness.
I didn’t see any ghosts, but a gigantic bat flew into the tree next to us when we were standing in the outdoor courtyard. That was enough to scare me. The many deadly creatures in Australia are more terrifying than the possible ghosts.
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