Monday, 15 December 2014

S 42.25.17 E 145.45.13 Whitewater Rafting the Franklin River in Tasmania

We first saw the Franklin River in late October 2009 and the mystery of the area has stayed with me.  It is only accessible by raft or kayak and the few areas where you can walk out in an emergency are two or three days hard trekking through mountainous temperate rainforest.  Add the connection to Sir John Franklin, who has a part as well in Canadian Arctic exploration, and my thoughts were that someday, perhaps, I would come back. Holidaying on Haida Gwaii in 2013 (another temperate rainforest with a history of locals protesting to save it) as I was planning our year of travel reminded me of the dream.

Although I’ve whitewater rafted a number of times, this was the first multi day trip.  The rafts needed to carry all we needed for the nine days with no option for provisions. That meant that some rapids you might consider running in a lighter boat needed to be portaged.  In addition, the weather on the Franklin is likely to be very wet and the water levels can change on a minute by minute basis – our guides all had memories of the river going up by two or three meters over night resulting in frantic relocation of camps and waiting for a day or two for the water to recede so you could continue our journey.  Or water levels so low that you were dragging rafts over rocks all day.  I expected that this would be a test of endurance and gave myself a number of pep talks about surviving wet, cold....

The reality could not have been farther from my imaginings.  We started out with good water following two days of rain before we hit the river and only had one night of rain while snug in my warm dry sleeping bag.  All of the portages could be done the “easy” way, i.e. without needing to remove all the gear from the rafts. Add to that the 5 star meals, including fresh fruits and vegetables as well as meats and deserts.  And morning chocolate – I learned that Cadbury chocolate actually started in Tasmania - as well as evening entree of assorted Tasmanian cheeses. Top this off with some excellent guides and great travelling companions and this was a stellar experience.

Between 400 and 600 people a year raft the Franklin, about 2/3 are with a commercial group and the rest are considered private trips.  Almost all are male and very few come from out of Australia.  The men in our group were quite eager to jump in and carry the heavier packs on portages, or assist with “lining” the rafts which meant directing the empty raft over a rapid that was not safe for people to be in the boats.  They were also very tolerant of the fact that both Sonya and I had problems with heights and slippery rocks. An expedition it was, but not overwhelmingly so.

Check here for more about the river and the fight to save it from being damned in the 1980s.  And Tasmanian Expeditions provides an excellent breakdown of the trip.

Putting in at the bridge on the Collingwood

0.9 meters means a good day.  Above 2 meters is a no go

A common sight - the guides surveying a rapid to determine how to get through.

The tree trunks would have come here with the water last year
About 8 to 10 meters above present level

Beautifully still water creating fantastic reflections

View to the loo - paddle up means the door is open

The Loo, including Groover.  By our Odyssey scoring system,
this is probably a 7/10

bugs and beasties.  I saw a Tiger Snake on our last
evening but didn't stop to take a photo.

"Lining" the raft with Jack watching

Meal time preparations. Yak, Oscar and Jordie preparing something fantastic

Freshwater crayfish.  Edible, but this fellow lived
to fight another day.

This time, the option was to R2 it - two guides only and all
the loose gear removed.

Gorgeous.  In reality, it was a water puddle on a rock.

Folks on the trip kept volunteering to take photos of me so I have proof that I survived the day of four (or was that five) portages with my smile intact. Trust me, the wall on the other side of the river needed a bl***y mountain goat to get across the almost vertical surface.  Or the patience of all the guides to get us (Sonya and I) one step at a time across the ledges.

Evidence of a great practical joke appreciated by all

Native Laurel.  Some of the leaves turn a spectacular red.

These ferns grow only on the Franklin and Gordon rivers.
One night we shared camp with another group that included one of the original protesters
who then became a forest ranger for the next 30 years.


View to the loo at Newland's Cascade

Boots at an old Piner's camp

Sonya (and Oscar) showing that girls can do all the jobs on a raft
(if you really need to)

Floating down the Gordon listening to tunes.
Roughing it means iphone in an open Pelican case gives not bad sound.

Jordie playing the paddle

Trust me, this is a platypus.
Fifth day out of the nine that one was playing with us.

Native Laurel in red.

Ancient Huon pine playing nurse tree

At the jetty.  Last week the stump was under water

Waiting for the boat to take us out to Struan
Playing with fisheye effect on my camera

Sir John (not Franklin) falls

It's official.  We are in the book.

Jordie making "snot blocks" for our last desert on the river.
Stuffy grownups call them vanilla slice.

I was actually watching this spider create the web.

Our ride home

The island where female prisoners were kept.
Check the small hole just above the greenery on the left of the white cliff.

Murals at our afternoon break.
 The only wombats and devils I saw on the trip.

Apparently, the best icecream and meals in Tassie.
Sadly not open til 5:00

Our group.  Jack, Bill, Sonya, Grant, Yak, me, Jordie and Oscar.

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