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Letters from the road
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Cancelled
Cancelled photo 2014-08-09182854.jpg

 

John Mellion had a famous dislike of Melbourne, this was his right as a Sydneyophile. I personally think Sydney is one of Australia's greatest dung heaps, and try to avoid it at all costs. Funnily enough though the  Airlines insist on sending me, and a lot of other's there at great expense both to myself and them. My friend and I where going to the Cook Islands which only has one direct flight a week, from you guessed it, "Sydney". That's why I found myself driving into the second worst airport in the world on a chilly Saturday night. I'd done the homework and decided to park at the Blue Emu carpark. Book online $99, expensive but cheaper than the other options. We park at the far end, and hop on the free shuttle bus to the domestic terminal. There we find the only way to get to the international terminal is a $5.50 five minute ride on another shuttle. After a ten minute wait,I fork out more of my hard earned and end up with a pocket full of shrapnel to take out of the country. Running Parking cost total $121.00. 

            Hey, in 6 hours we will be sitting on a beach, soaking up the sun rather than standing here in the rain. We are 2 hours early,  so we amble in and check the flights screen to find out what counter to go to. My eyes wander down the screen. 19.35, Check, Rarotonga, Check, Cancelled, Chec_ _ _ _  WTF.  FF to the counter where a frazzled Air New Zealand lady tells us it's cancelled due to bad weather and points us to a long line. We get to the counter, get told it's cancelled due to maintenance issues. Why didn't you ring us? We tried came the answer but somehow managed to miss the two hundred people at the counter. As for the poor suckers that came from Sydney they get to go home and wait, at least there going to put us up for the night, The bad news is the next fight is tomorrow arvo, and it goes via New Zealand. Be out front for the bus ride to the hotel in half an hour. We get 30 dollars in vouchers to spend on a meal while we wait. Two beers thanks, sorry you can only buy food and drink. But beer is both food and drink I plead. No good. I settle for a latte, and a muffin. 

         Out front, we wait with the mob in the cold for the bus. The mood is ugly, it's cold wet and where meant to be on our way to a tropical island. If the New Zealand rugby team walked past I think the pensioners would have ripped them to bits. The bus is meant to  be there at 9.20 to take us five minutes to the hotel. 9.30, 940. 9.50. The bus rocks up, we wait, 10.00. 10.10, the mob is about to head inside and rip the Kiwi's to bits. 10.20, I go inside, a bloke is pointing out to the frazzled lady the bus could have driven to the hotel 6 times by now. It's going shortly she says. 'Get your act together', he storms off. The bus driver sensibly has been hiding, finally he starts the bus. The idea of spending 20 hours at an airport hotel is not growing on us. Fortunately everything we have been told so far has been wrong, and so is the location of the hotel. We find ourselves at the Menzies a classic hotel in the heart of Sydney just around the corner from the Coat hanger. We check in and get a $100 room credit, which we head off to the piano bar to drink. Later on I wander out and take a few pics of the harbour. Big breakie, in the morning, and a bit more of a lie in until checkout. We wander down the rocks and check out the market. After lunch we jump a cab and head back to the airport. I check the screen, It's going and on time. I hand over my taxi receipt and get informed I need to ring customer service tomorrow then fill out a form which they don't have. Did you know I'm meant to be on a beach in a foreign country sipping Pina colada's by then, actually I'm meant to be there now. I get the costomer service number.

           A week  later. Sydney. It's still bloody raining. After a bit of searching we are at the eleven dollar shuttle stop. I check the schedule. It stops at 9.50. It's ten. We walk back to the other end of the terminal and catch a taxi. $17.10 plus a $4.00 fee for getting a taxi from the airport to the airport. If a virus started killing investment bankers I doubt anyone would bother to look for a cure.

The cab driver drops us off at the entrance to the car park  for the five minute walk in the rain to our car.  Total Parking cost total $142.10, not bad for 6 square meters for a week. 

Posted by bondrj at 10:41 PM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 19 August 2014 11:16 PM NZT
Sunday, 27 July 2014
MONA

Mona photo P7141549.jpg

 

The Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA , sits buried in a old vineyard on the outskirts of Hobart. The sign on the front of the building says Sunny Dale shopping centre, the bright reception area would be at home in any corporate office. It's only once you've entered, getting sucked down into the cavernous concrete bowels that you start to realise your in for a different sort of experience. Once you,ve decended to the bottom, you slowly work your way back up through the meseum towards the daylight. The place is full of challenging art, spread out so you never feel like your in a gallery, or crowded out by other punters. There is the pulse room where 200 lights throb with your magnified heartbeat thumping as a backing track, Water fountains spitting out meaninless words. Caverns of display screens full of random data, or unique art from someone who I hope is firmly locked up at night. There is even a whole room dedicated to a huge scientific machine that turns food into poo. I have two of these in my backyard already, and they don't need 3 people to oversee them. The building itself is equal to the works, contrasting and amplifying the experience, full of little nooks and follies, it would be worth the visit even without the exhibits. David Walsh punter mastermind behind it has created something unique and special.

A perfect place for an evil genius to plot the conquest of the world. Sleepy Hobart, who would suspect a concrete fortress, armed with evil death rays hidden under pyramids sheltering yuppie art lovers. Sure the top three basements are an excellent art museum, but we really know there is another ten floors below hiding rooms full of technicians plotting the overthrow of world order. You heard it here first, after all I should know, I am 007.


More pics here.


Posted by bondrj at 12:01 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 27 July 2014 1:56 AM NZT
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
The Mine
Whirly Whirly's photo x1Stitch.jpg

 

 

Hot,  Damn Hot. 
That's how I remember the mine site. Twenty Eight deg before the sun comes up,  smoko  past forty, lunch forty five/six/seven , still in the low forties after the sun goes down. An egg takes ninety seconds to cook on a black grate, want a cold shower,water comes out the cold water tap at 42 degrees, at least it was easy to dry your washing. My mate rang me, "Do you want to come do a couple  of months work in the Territory". It was late October. "No, to bloody hot, " was the reply. "Think about it, it's dry heat, and I need you here by the end of the week.' Dry Heat a NT euphemism for not that humid your brain starts  to rot along with your boots and cotton work gear. So I found myself at Tulla, with 30 Kg's of tools, three sets of shorts, a stubbie holder and a pair of thongs. A couple of hours to Alice, time for a beer, then back on the tarmac to Narrajimita Air's finest.  Six seats, two fans, a dozen  instruments most of them marked unserviceable ,two other idiots, and a pilot. We weigh ourselves, our bags, and climb in. I weigh 96 Kilos.
The flight time is two hours, The flight heads NE over the Macdonald ranges past the spy base and out into the desert. Not much to see from 10,000 feet, the odd survey line, a glimpse of the dirt track that passes for a road out there. Lot's of red dust. I glimpse over the pilots shoulder at the clock, almost three, were just about there. fifteen minutes later I look again, almost three, "of course", the clock is not a flight instrument, it doesn't need an unserviceable tag. Finally my new home appears in the distance. A few large hole's, a few big  tanks, a few of pipes , a few dongas, and couple of large lakes chokers full of cyanide tailings. There's a flat bit beside the camp that passes as a runway. The pilot cranks the gear and the flaps down, surprisingly they both work. As we pass one hundred feet I remember thinking it's not that hot, the temperature shoots up 20 degrees in the next 20 seconds. We taxi up to a couple of fuel drums. Home sweet Home.
I'm here to build a mining camp, so there isn't much more here than a pile of blokes living in tin sheds working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. That's the good part because there aint much else to do here. First job build a shed, to build some other stuff. The only problem the shed isn't here, neither is the other stuff. We are at the end of a 3000km  supply line, every thing comes from somewhere else, via somewhere else. We pass our time throwing rocks at other rocks, and watching long lines of caterpillars crawl around in circles.. The routine is get up at five thirty in the dark. Off to the mess for breakfast, cereal, bacon and eggs coffee, ect. Make lunch, Limp salad or Peanut butter sandwich, dealers choice. Fill 5 litre water bottle with hard undrinkable water. Add ice to make drinkable, Safety meeting, start throwing rocks, Smoko , Lunch, refill empty water bottle, 6pm ,Knock off, wet mess, beer, dinner, back to the ally, sleep. At night we play basket ball and bocce, talk, and drink. Well mostly drink. Our donga line , named by the cleaners, has gone from Barcon Ally, to Beer Can Ally, to Baygon Ally. Any thing to pass the time, I lend one of the guy's my hair clippers one night, the next morning I walk into the mess to find 30 bald heads. We sneak off one night to Rabbit Flat, 50km down the road. petrol and beer triple the price of Alice Springs. You can get away with that if you are the only bar for 400 KM. Time marches on, What day is it ?, doesn't matter it's groundhog day, every day.
Why build stuff out here at all you ask. We are 680 km up a corrugated dirt road, Any thing that gets here has to be rebuilt because it has fallen to bits on the journey. . We tried getting a pre built site office sent up. Before it had reached the Alice Springs outskirts the room air conditioner had fallen out of the wall and gone under three trailers worth of ten hundred truck tyres. By the time it got to the site both the window and the door had fallen off somewhere along the track, and the ceiling was on the floor. Eventually our work shed and some other stuff turns up. Not what we need but at least we can get started. The boss flies en to give us a rev up. I get  yelled at for cutting up studs to make noggins so we can start building walls. I apologize, we spend an hour looking for noggins, Boss apologizes, I cut up more studs. Some how the new camp starts to emerge slowly out of the ground. It rains, it's three weeks till we see another supply truck. One night we have a fantastic view of a passing comet.
While we are baking in the sun the rest of the world goes on with its business. People have children, my brother buys a house. This presents problems because I'm the trustee of my mothers estate, and I need to sign stuff so he and I can get a loan. The mine has one phone line that gets switched over to the public phone box after 6PM. There are 120 blokes in the camp, and a long line for the phone. It's 1995 the internet is yet to arrive. Fortunately I have just invested in a bit of new technology called a Fax. Just about every day some one  drive over from the mine office just to hand me a new fax. I can  see fifty kilometres but my world has been condensed into a small square. The only time we leave the site is to go to the dump, an old mine pit we chuck all our rubbish in. We take to calling this the therapy run. After 11 weeks I head of to Darwin for a couple of days of sanity. I weigh myself and bag on to the plane and tell the pilot his scales are wrong. He jumps on and says there OK. I drop the bag and hop back on, I weigh 85 Kilos.
My work mates all have names like Dicko, Choko, Rosco, Davo, and Rambo. Dicko is the boss, Choko is the blackest black fella in the camp, Davo's name eventually changes to Crazy Dave, Rambo has been in three plane crashes flying to mine sites, he's as calm a a bag of cats at a greyhound meeting. Every one except the black fella's come's from somewhere else, though most of them call them selves "Territorians", a status that takes about three weeks to acquire. Their all good characters, most of them have spent way to long in the bush, and all have plenty of stories to tell to pass the time. Compared to the miners they are almost sane. The cleaners are pointing at me one night at the bar, so I wander over and find out what their talking about. Seems I'm weird as I have some photos in my donga of stuff that they have all checked out while their cleaning. A waterfall in Mexico, some snow and ice in Antarctica, some friends, you know stuff to  remind you there is a real world out there. Normal stuff, I thought. A couple of weeks later we have to go back and fit some AC units to the newly occupied miners quarters. About have a third have one photo of a wife/child/motorbike. A third have a poster Harley Davidson, cylinder heads 1947 to 1965, the classic years. The other third just have a large fruit can full of cigarette butts. Out of boredom I try talking to the miners every now and again. Conversation goes like this. What you doing on your swing (week off). "Go Harley shop , then get inked up". No need to mention they would be pissed and stoned for the whole week. Can't really add much more to that. We've all been drug and alcohol tested before we started, one guy failed after partying for 48 hours straight, he got a warning. Fortunately were never tested again. 
Eventually we get into the swing of things, The first building took 2 months to build, by the time we get to 17 they take 2 weeks. My two month stint has turned into five. Strange stuff happens, the mine starts production, most of the construction guys slowly leave. Two weeks before I leave, I borrow a jumper from my mate  in Alice, in my last week I turn on the hot water tap in the shower for the first time. On my last night I wear long pants to the bar. We pack up the truck and the last five of us drive the 600 odd kilometres to Alice, just so we can say we did it, I don't weigh myself , time to get out of here, it's to bloody cold.

For those of you interested the Tanami mine site is here, 120 km past the Granites on the Tanami road. 

Posted by bondrj at 3:53 PM NZT
Thursday, 12 June 2014
Light Keeper for a Day
The Light keepers quarters photo 2014-06-08144855.jpg

 

 

   I can't remember how many times I have been to the Wilsons Promontory Light Station, but it's still is one of my favorite trips. My first trips there where with "Uncle Reg" on his old cray boat in the 70's. At that stage the Light was still a manned light station and you where only permitted to visit on a prearranged trip. The light was on open Tuesdays and Thursdays, ten till two. A crusty old light keeper would begrudgingly show you around the place after opening the gate at the bottom of the hill. If you where lucky you got a ride up the last hill to the light in his land rover. As I got older we walked in, and camped at Roaring Meg Creek. You'd get up in the morning and race off for the hours walk to meet the Light keeper, and trudge back to the campsite for another night of sleeping on rocks and dehydrated food. My aunties once walked all the way there and back in one day. Not a bad effort as the walk in is 19km, 38 return, Lanie said she was a wee tired after that one. It would of killed me, but they made them tougher back then.

      In 1995 AMSA automated the light house and handed the site over to the parks service. Shortly after we walked out and spent our first night sleeping in the old keepers quarters. Chris the ranger was not happy. He had been a the last light keeper there, and had transferred to the parks service when the light was demanned. AMSA where hopeless, but the parks where even worse. "They had no idea how to run a lighthouse." Lighthouse keepers are generally solitary creatures, so the addition of regular visitors to his schedule probably didn't help his day. He was full of great stories about the light, and the daily life of the keepers, if you agreed that the parks where a bunch of no hopers you'd get on fine with him. 
    The great thing about walking to the light these days, is it's bush walking without the hardship. You stay in old buildings that are a bit like farm houses. They have a big cosy kitchen, lounge and a couple of bunk rooms. Hot showers, 24/7 power, remoteness,and great all round 360 deg views, make it unlike any other campsite in Victoria. Standard walking supplies for this trip are, a leg of lamb, a cask of red, and a supply of good cheese and dips. Rock up ,chuck the lamb in the oven , hot shower, entr'ee, red, and you've forgotten about the walk in already. Book a doona and you don't even have to carry a sleeping bag. We stayed two nights, gives you a day to check out the place and recover. Then gentle walk back to the car, and a real coffee. Whats not to love.

Thanks to Mick for the logistics, and Emm, Hoola and Brendan for the porterage services.
The photos are Crap as I coulden't get the SD card to work in my real Camera and my phone was taking low resoloution photos. Sorry                                                                                                                                  007

Posted by bondrj at 2:22 AM NZT
Updated: Thursday, 12 June 2014 2:28 AM NZT
Tuesday, 3 June 2014
Grand Ridge Bike Ride
more signs photo 2014-05-31105414.jpg

 

     When I organize a bike ride I generally Plan the route, get the food, supply the transport,cook the food and drive the support vehicle. When Mick organizes one he plans the route, and I do the others. Don't know how this happens, good delegation Mick !   There is a election on the horizon so my brother though he would do the right thing and have a bit of charity fundraising for his favorite political party. A weekend riding along the Grand Ridge Road from Ellen Bank to the Tarra Vally Guest House, Total distance 80km over 2 days. Throw in a bit of food and luxury camping in the bush, small donation for costs, profits to the party, whats not to love. 6000 emails later, and no takers we decided to do it anyway.

    The Strzelecki ranges are a low lying group of hills in between the Latrobe Vally and the coast. They contain towering mountain ash trees, a temperate climate, matching rain forest, and winding dirt roads.Even though they are only a short way from Melbourne, most people don't even know they exist. Once populated by hill farmers, and remote saw millers, they are now mostly State parks and forestry reserves. Through the center of all this runs the Grand ridge road, Victoria's only (mostly) dirt highway.

    Wave goodbye to the dogs (no car space), and four starters packed into the wagon for the hour long trip up the hill. The forecast all week had been rain,rain,rain, not unusual for this area, so we where pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a sunny day when we pulled the bikes off the  carrier at Ellenbank. The next couple of hours where spent gliding along the rambling road, past farms and old sheds,to Mirboo North and lunch. It's market day, and the center of town is full of people selling eveything from old tools to healing crystals. Lunch consisted of a snag in bread from the CWA van, followed by a couple of beers at the Mirboo North Pub, and  cake n coffee at the bakery. A diet designed to keep those calories up for the strenuous riding ahead. A couple more hours meandering through the hills and we arrived at Turtons Creek our stop for the night.

    Set up the bedding, Light the fire, nibblies, a couple of heart starters, send Frank off to clear the track, right, lets hit the pub for dinner. I can recommend the Exchange Hotel Foster. Eye Fillet on the menu, Footy on the telly, Frosties on the Bar. Next day after, a fine nights sleep, a shower, and, the breakfast smorgasbord, we head back to the hills. To day is much less rural. We ride through the high mountain ash forests, with sweeping views appearing now and again through the trees. Every now and again there is a sign to a community long gone. A school here, a hall there, all that's left is impenetrable bush. No pubs or Markets today, so we stop at Ryton Junction for a break. We see three cars along the road all day, and  one of them is stuck in the bush after taking the corner to fast. Finally we come to the end point Balook and the Tara Vally Guest House. Hot Coffee and a Sunday Roast before 3pm. Whats the time, 3.30, Oh we well Settle for the Scones and Cream. We pack ourselves into the car,and head down the hill towards town. It starts to rain, got away with that one.


more pics here


Click here for the route it's also good drive if you don't want to ride it.

Posted by bondrj at 2:51 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 June 2014 12:46 AM NZT
Friday, 23 May 2014
Start at the center
The Geographical Center Of Victoria photo 2014-05-22120738.jpg

 

We started off at the center and worked our way out. Mick had agreed to orginize a bike ride route for the Greens senetor elect, to tour her new terrtory, on the way to her new job. I got the job of driver. Keep off the main roads and see the real people was the brief. We got lost, almost bogged, had plenty of small town coffee stops, and we saw a lot of nada. Shep to Benella is going to be a ripper. There is still time to jump onboard ride leaves 15/6/14.

 photo greens.jpg

Bendigo Advertiser Click the pic to read the story


Posted by bondrj at 12:51 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 27 June 2014 5:06 PM NZT
Sunday, 18 May 2014
Antarctic Life
Moon over Vincennes Bay photo 4-16-2014_035.jpg>

A few more pics from the Great White Hell. Spent most of the arvo scanning old relly pics. I found a box of random stuff from my time at Casey. Every thing from the Donga Bar, Jolly's and even a bit of work. It did happen somtime when Wensday night and being "in the field" didn't get in the way.


Posted by bondrj at 9:20 PM NZT
Sunday, 6 April 2014
Updates
Saturday night, nothings on tv, I must be bored. Photobucket improved there website by making it less user friendly, and as a consequence most of my old links stopped working. I've been back through the blog and updated all the photo links so they now work for me. If you own an Ipad you will need to download the photobucket app. Its here

Posted by bondrj at 12:00 AM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 5 April 2014 11:06 PM NZT
Saturday, 5 April 2014
The Five Iron Classic
Winners photo 2014-04-03220806.jpg

 

Yes Gents,

                  It's back, Bigger than Texas and, Crazier than a paranoid schizophrenic with a megaphone hollering at a manic depressive with a chain gun. Thirty years ago the inaugural 5 iron comp was played by a band of brave golfer warriors on the royal and ancient Morack course. These brave path finders pioneered  the modern game of golf as we know it today.

    In honour of these great men a game of golf using the historic original 5 iron rules will be played. True lovers of the game are invited to take place in this grand reenactment which will be followed by a awards presentation ceremony and BBQ.

 

Where        The Royal Public golf course

When         Thursday the third of April.

And so the call went out to the faithful.
    Fourteen men answered that call, and eleven actually turned up. The first five iron was first played in 1984. Thirty men would turn up on a Wednesday night once a month armed with little more than a pocket full of golf balls, single club, pair of blunnies and a six pack. The carnage was huge and legendary.
    For the
Uninitiated The five iron rules are simple.

    1. Every shot must be played with the same club, putting included.
    2.Three steps must be taken before teeing off on the last hole.
    3.A full six pack of beer must be drunk between teeing off and putting out. Beers opened before your first shot are social  and do not  count.


The Results were as follows. Most of us play better with a single club than a full bag. Burt who can count a seven deck shoe of cards can't count 8 holes when he's had six beers. Des can't either and was forced to scull three beers on the seventh hole after Burt told him it was the eighth. Some peoples running tee shots are better than their standing tee shots( some aren't ). The old fathers who used to play in the 80's were younger than we are now, mind you there still soft as none of then turned up. Six cans of beer doesn't help your game.
     and for those of you who are interested Des and Pastie won.
Click the pic for more photos and the link below for a bit of running tee shot tutorige.

Posted by bondrj at 3:11 AM NZT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 June 2014 11:41 AM NZT
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Rafting the Franklin

Rafts on the Franklin photo Rafts.jpg 

        Some times Mick has a few to many lattes at the lounge room and comes up with something out of left field, travel the Silk road, bike around Europe, Axis of evil Tour, pogo stick across the Sahara. generally as the caffeine level drops he comes to his senses. Some times they stick. Raft down the leach filled ditch in SW Tassie made famous in the 80's by the Franklin river blockade seemed to fit perfectly as another loopy idea. What's in it for me? Cold water, Bugs, and no room service, surly he would come to his senses. Allas no.
    So it was on a cold March day I found myself out side a hotel in Hobart meeting my fellow condemned travelers. A few I already knew, Fitzy the property developer, Jimmy the mining engineer, myself the idle tradie and Mick the latte king. Apparently the greens where invited but they've lost interest since it's been turned into a national park.. As this is a guided trip, I put in much more perpetration than usual, reading the packing list and finding out the meeting point. This was more than Jimmy who having arrived with family from Canada the day before had assumed the start date was two days later. This gave him ten minutes to explain to his wife he was leaving her in charge of a uncompleted new house, three year old, and eighteen months worth of bills. Some people like to live on the edge. At the meetingWw tried on a couple of wetsuits and,got given a stack hat, spray jacket and rubber bag for our possessions. We where also given a luxury thermorest, two words that should not be used together, to sleep on. We then headed off to try and stuff all the rest of our gear into what space was left in the bag before our 6am start.
    Back out the front of the hotel the next morning we quaffed one last latte before jumping into the bus an heading off. By this stage our party had grown to ten. Frazsi and Elias our guides, Micheal, Larrissa, and Adan, fellow rafters and the bus driver. A quick stop at Ouze for a pie, Derwent bridge for another pie and by one we where standing under a bridge in the middle of nowhere. Watching the bus drive off.
    Fortunately our guides are very experienced rafters. They have done this trip many times before, and in no time we have the rafts pumped  up. They are also telling us useful things , like what to do when you are floating down the river under an up turned raft bouncing of rocks. We don our wetsuits and kiss our ass's goodby. Last night there was a 150mm of rain so the Collingwood river which we start on is quite full. This is good, the last trip took 4 hours to get to the Collingwood/Franklin Junction. We jump in the rafts loaded with 300kg of gear, and 23 minutes later, after a few small drops,we are at the junction. One the way Franzi informs us there is only one driver and she is it. We only need to remember a couple of things, paddle forward, back paddle, over left, over right, get down, hang on, and paddle forward said with  a really loud an anxious voice.
    At the junction I relax. Floating down the river is quite pleasant, the water is not that cold, the rafts seem pretty stable even with all the gear. Its about 40 min to our first campsite. We leave the junction and drift into the first little drop. All of a sudden its dark, cold, and  I seem to be bouncing off hard things with a raft on top of me. I have vague memories of some one talking about this earlier in the day. what was I meant to do. "Stick with the raft", all of a sudden this seems like good advice. After a while I surface, which is an improvement. I have still go hold of the paddle so I swim to the raft which is heading rapidly down river. Elias drags me up on top of it, good. The next rapid seems to be coming up very qiuckly. Then he tells me we are going to have to flip the raft because it is upside down, Bad. We stand on one edge holding on to straps attached to the other side, it comes, up we go down, I'm wet again, I get dragged back into the correct side of the raft,paddle forward in loud voice, and soon we are in a quite little eddie. I cough up my first taste of lovely Franklin water, Micheal and Larrissa the other evicties have been picked up by Franzi. Possibly a bit more excitement than I needed, but we all seemed to have survived. I promptly christen Elias "stunt driver".
    With no more impromptu swims, we soon arrive at our first camp. It's a natural set of small caves in an overhanging cliff face surrounded by the forest. While I'm getting changed, Happy hour is called. A couple of fine Tassie cheeses, dips, and a bit of cask red to wash them down with appear. The Guy's have a couple of stoves roaring, Hot drinks appear, and stuff is chopped and tossed into the pots at regular intervals. We are informed that we all have weird dietry needs, Not one of us is Gluten intolerant, vegan, lactose allergic, dislikes the colour orange. A first. They have never catered for a bunch of freaks like us before. Shortly a green chicken curry and rice is produced, as good as any I have had on Victoria street. Over the next week we get, Penne Arrabiata, Steak, and veg, Veggie Curry, Spaghetti Carbonara, Man soup and a whole pile of deserts like Tiramsiu, and cheese cake. I'm not going to get thin. I head off to my cave and spend a pleasant evening reading a book I pinched off Jimmy,"The Wit and Wisdom of Keating". I'm soon dropping off to a sound sleep.
    Over the next couple of days, the rapids get bigger and we enter the Franklin Gorge. We have a rest day and climb Frenchman's Cap. Some one needs to explain to our guides the meaning of rest. This is apparently the hardest day walk in the universe. 1400 meters of straight up/down climbing, all condensed into a short 12km trip. The weather is brilliant and the view is well worth the pain. Mick hopes to be walking again by 2017.
    Every now and again we get to a rapid which is unnavigable. These have names like The Churn and the Calderon. Generally we walk around them, and the guides "line" the rafts down them by attaching a rope to the front and back of the raft and guiding it unmanned through the rapids. Sometimes we all have to lug the full rafts over a couple of rocks, and once we had to unload the rafts and manhandle them down through the drop. Because the water is relatively high we only have to do this half a dozen times the rest we "shoot". At first all is calm, then you hear a gentle roar. Your floating at a slow rate towards a line of water that seems to end abruptly. Franzi starts to give instructions like "paddle forward" then "Relaxxxxx" a bit more frequently while trying to get the raft lined up for the first drop. The you go over the edge, the front bounce's back  as you hit the bottom, the load hits you in the back, the water splashes everywhere. Vaguely in the back ground someone is yelling "getdown,hold on,Paddle Back,stop,Paddle forward. Depending on how things are going you may be giong down the subsequent drops forward, sideways, backwards or all three. Think of a pinball and you get the general idea. At the bottom it's paddles up for a high five and you sit back to watch the next boat plow through.
    As we get further down the rapids decrease and we paddle more. Our biggest day was about 30km, Every night we stop and either put up tarps or sleep in natural caves. Most of the campsites are spectacular. In the mornings we have pancakes,cereal, toast and espresso coffee, brewed in a classic Atomic coffee machine. So much for toughing it. We stop at the Rock island Bend made famous in the Peter Dombrovskis photo and indulge in a group pic. Finally we hit the Gordon river, and drift the last ten Klicks to our final campsite.
     A boat ride and we're back in Straughn. The world returns, mobile phones become mobile again, money is more than worthless paper, the group goes it's separate way's. Things are the same but we've changed. Thanks Guy's.
   

We went with Franklin River Rafting who where Fantastic, you can check out there website here.


Posted by bondrj at 11:23 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2014 11:27 PM EADT

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