If you are out to impress your partner this Valentine’s Day, hauling a treat-laden picnic basket to your local park may not cut the mustard, especially if your lover has an adventurous streak.
However, if that picnic basket happens to be perched on a platform dangling from the top of a 60-metre cliff then you will likely earn those brownie points you were looking for. And more.
While cliffnics, as dining while hanging off a cliff-top has been coined, have been tempting thrill-seeking Americans for several years, the concept is still quite new in Australia.
Currently the closest operator to Canberra is Outdoor Raw in Nowra, where owner and former Kaleen resident Kyle Jones has been, as he likes to put it, “dropping people over cliff-tops for the last 12 months”.
“It’s a very un-natural thing for people who see it for the first time, but for the climbing community, eating on a suspended platform during a long climb has long been a necessity,” Kyle says. “Cliffnics for tourists are obviously much more streamlined as we do all the preparation and setting-up.”
As you’d expect, while the prospect of dangling over a precipice and munching your way through an indulgent gourmet luncheon attracts many like-minded friends, according to Kyle “the most common client is actually someone out to surprise their adventurous partner”. Really!
“We recently even had a marriage proposal,” says Kyle, who confesses he was “on tenterhooks until she said ‘Yes’.”
“I’m not sure how well the picnic would have gone if she had said no.”
Looking closely at the ropes and equipment (oh, and that drop), you’d think cliffnics are only for the bravest of seasoned climbers, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to Kyle, “You don’t need any abseiling or climbing experience as you are only lowered a few metres over the top of cliff. In fact, over 85 per cent of our customers have never climbed before.”
Kyle, who has been climbing recreationally and teaching for more than a decade, has custom-picked a range of lofty locations along the Shoalhaven coast and inland to Tianjara Falls, each as romantic as they are spectacular.
“Each day, we choose the cliff location carefully to ensure the picnic is as enjoyable as possible, taking into account factors like wind and exposure,” he says.
However, despite this smorgasbord of dramatic settings, Kyle says Outdoor Raw’s main point of difference compared with other adrenalin-charged picnics, is its “culinary edge”.
“We aren’t dropping muesli bars and cans of drink over the side,” he says.
Kyle creates individual menus with produce sourced from local artisan suppliers. Even the coffee is prepared with love.
“My partner is a barista so she decides, depending on the coffee blend chosen by the customer, whether it’s better brewed in an aero press or on a camper stove top.”
Remarkably, on finding out the nature of their surprise, Kyle hasn’t (yet) had one single partner abort in a hissy fit at the cliff-top.
“Most people understand their partners pretty well and know in advance whether this is for them or not,” he says.
In fact, the scariest moment in more than 12 months of cliffnics was the result of a wayward cicada landing on the platform.
“This lady went crazy, she was much more freaked out about the over-sized insect than the fact she was hanging off a 60-metre cliff,” he says.
“That said, the riskiest part of the whole day is the drive to Nowra,” Kyle says.
“A cliffnic is a perceived risk activity only as our guides do all the work and we have back-up safety procedures for our back-ups.”
While his daredevil picnics are already heavily booked for Valentine’s Day, Kyle is expecting a brisk trade in gift certificates this week.
But before taking the plunge and booking in, best to check whether your partner is alarmed by a cicada call.
Cliffnics: Dine on local wine and produce while suspended from a clifftop, overlooking rivers, mountains and beaches. From $400 a person. Ph: 0491 160 662. Web: outdoorraw.com.au
Mailbag: Cricket capers
Last week’s inaugural Test match at Manuka Oval brought back memories for John "Tav" Taverner of Jerrabomberra of the day, in 1963, as an 11-year-old, he pilfered the historic ground’s scoreboard sign emblazoned with Don Bradman’s name.
“It was Bradman’s last ‘official’ game, playing for the PM's XI against England and a big crowd had piled into the oval,” says Tav, who recalls the day as if it was yesterday.
“Bradman’s first shot was a boundary, hitting the fence with a thud, his second a defensive prod, but on the third ball he was bowled,” Tav says. “Talk about a downer … the crowd went silent.”
“After the game I looked on with total amazement as adults and kids were digging up the pitch with sticks and spoons, souveniring the dirt where Bradman stood,” says Tav, who at that moment conjured up his own memorabilia snaffling idea — under the cloak of darkness to sneak back into the ground and filch Bradman’s sign from the scoreboard.
“Back then it was a much smaller scoreboard than the current one but I still had to fossick through all the metal signs trying to find the Bradman one,” he says. “In the murky light I could see: ‘Benaud’, ‘Cowdrey’, ‘Dexter’ … and then there it was: ‘Bradman’!”
With the sign of the world’s greatest cricketer wedged under his arm, Tav snuck back through the fence to the adjoining Manuka Pool, which at the time his dad managed, and high-tailed it back to his Bougainville Street home and hid it at the back of his family’s shed.
“When dad found it, I thought I was in for a hiding-and-a-half,” he says.
However Tav needn’t have worried for his dad’s surprise response was,“Son, grab some nails and we will hammer it on the shed door.”
“The Bradman sign took pride of place on the shed door and many a game of backyard cricket was played under it,” he says.
“However, around a year later it mysteriously vanished”.
I wonder where it is now? Hopefully not at the bottom of the Mugga Lane Tip.
Contact Tim: Email: email@example.com Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.
Where in Canberra?
Clue:If the north can have light rail then the south can have a steam locomotive.
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Ed Wensing of Nicholls on being the first reader to correctly identify last week’s photo as "Kulla’s Ripple", part of a sculpture, by Tim Spellman, located in the Chifley Meadow, outside the library of the same name at the ANU.
It was an easy win for Wensing, who just beat Greg Royle of Red Hill and Stephanie Anderson of Curtin to the prize, as for the past six years he “has regularly walked past the sculpture while undertaking a PhD on Indigenous Land Justice”. Wensing submits his thesis later this month, so hopefully he can use his prize to celebrate.
Constructed from brick waste, the structure is actually one part of a pair of brick installations that form the complete sculpture and pays homage to Kulla, the ancient Babylonian brick god. Spellman, who studied at the ANU School of Art, describes his work as the attempt to create wholeness from the dualities of past and present, the physical and the spiritual.
Still on ancient gods, according to Jordan Gannaway of Kingston, “interestingly the Babylonian god of the sky was named Anu”.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday February 9, 2019 will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.