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.