I had always wanted to have a look in Checkmate or Woolongabba Darkie as some call it. I had see old YouTube clips, strange carpark installations and read online about it from my first burgeoning interest in exploring underground. Aydun had suggested we go there first on what we had both hoped would be a long and prosperous night of multiple drain explores. Turns out Checkmate had more to offer than we had bargained for.
On our meeting at Aydun's car he mentioned he was planning on traveling light and just taking his small camera bag and tripod. After a few seconds of mental groaning, I decided this was probably smart and dumped by backpack filled to past capacity in his boot, opting for the same.
We plodded off to the first entry point Aydun had been in before and slipped through a fence to check it out. Having had a week of rain preceeding our arrival there was rather more rocks and refuse piled on the large grate than we thought sensible to remove in the light of day.
I hopped over first, drawing on fence hoping skills long lost in foggy memories from the past. Landing with a thud the other side and having misjudged the ground thanks to the long grass, it wasn't long before I was lying on my side exclaiming expletives.
After some more plodding along we noticed ahead light streaming in from the outside and a large opening. We were expecting it but it was novel to see the place so often photographed. No park benches were in residence today, but the voices of passers by and patient commuters could be heard waiting and chatting. We silently took to photographing from both sides for a few minutes and then moved further into the darkness down the duel tunnels, where Aydun noticed a set of dog paw prints heading down stream, imprinted in the concrete.
Further down the line another beam of daylight streamed in on some step irons and prompted yet another pause for snaps. Daylight made the drain a much different creature. This is about when my dry spell ended as creeping along the side of the chamber avoiding the flooded middle, the submerged sand bar in the middle started to look the dim light like it crested the still waters and allowed for the footing of an unbalancing drain walker. A second later my error in judgement punctuated with splashing laughing and cursing, nearly set Aydun into the water also. I consoled my self with hollow statements about it not being draining if you didn't get wet and sloshed onwards.
Brick eventually subsided and concrete resumed before opening up into a large chamber split down the middle by a short wall. Opting not to put my tripod in the gunk atop the wall I wrapped it around some step irons on the side and tried to capture the sense space, fairly unsuccessfully.
A walk further down stream eventually led us to some awkward impromptu drain posing and a confused jogger. We headed further in, bit the tide was getting worse and worse, so turned back in decision to attempt an earlier side channel under some expensive land in Woolongabba. We had previously decided against heading up this way as it was fairly wet, but seeing as we were both soaked by this time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We both sloshed back upstream to the off shoot.
It didn't take too long to get back and we headed down the flooded area retreated from previously, this time boldly sloshing past the invisible barrier.
A long way down the tunnel the features changed and the drain took on a very Aquacave appearance, if rather wider. We kept going and it kept shrinking, the walls narrows and every so often the ceiling would take a step down. The bottom was also becoming more and more filled with sand and rubble and my socks were now half filled with grit and sand, providing me we a new and awkward hobbled gait. We kept suspecting that others may not have ventured here as the usual slew of signatures and dates had long since ceased.
We decided to take one last stretch down into the offshoot and see if we could find the exit we were looking for, but after a while it became too uncomfortable hunched over in the water and thoughs of the long return trip started to nag. So we gave it up and headed back past the thrumping manhole and all the very long way back we had come.
By this time, the entertaining light from the world above had long since abandoned us under here and all we had for comfort were eels and cockroaches. As we passed under the large opening now un-torched to avoid calling attention to ourselves a yahoo from above yelled at "HEY!" at something above, startling us into a splashing dash in the dark soaking shoes anew.
Eventually we arrived at an exit, opting for a slightly different one to entry. We hopped out into the cold darkness and peaked over the road to see if anyone was around. Sure enough the oldest man in history was slowly unpacking groceries from his car, up his steps and back again. We hesitated once and just as we were about to go the turtle emerged again and another wait ensued. This time as he entered the house, we didn't dally, we climbed the first fence and took a brisk walk to the second, we're we hoped over it and made off for the car where the rest of the nights adventures waited.
All up it wound up being 3 and a half hours there and back and a total of about 4.5km, and we didn't even look upstream of where we entered. Quite a drain.