Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 312 (122)
Friday 14th January (2005)
Somewhat of a milestone was reached this morning when we used our own supermarket purchases for breakfast. This is the first time on this trip that we’ve bought and cooked our own food as opposed to eating in restaurants or enjoying the hospitality of others.
Sandy was not feeling particularly well this morning with a bit of a stomach upset. She therefore decided not to take part in the river rafting fun this morning and I called to cancel her booking. Other than feeling tired and a little groggy, she seemed otherwise fine so I decided to go ahead with the trip myself and was collected shortly after eight o’clock accordingly. The bus took me clear across town (walking distance) to a café where I found a dozen or so other river rafting fun seekers all waiting to set off for the Tully River. Naturally, we each had to sign the necessary wavers before they would allow us on the bus. I cringe each time I’m forced to sign one of these things.
All of the guides were your typical stereotypic surfer dude characters and had the entire bus in fits of laughter by the time we reached the river. Once there, everyone sorted themselves out into three groups for the three rafts that were going to be used on this morning’s course down the river. Two of the boats took six passengers each, which left myself and another group of three to occupy the third. We all had to walk down a precarious trail through some thick tropical vegetation whilst the boats were lowered to the level of the river by means of a special purpose winch. Each armed with nothing more than a life jacket, helmet, paddle and a good dose of thrill seeking spirit, we took to our rafts and set off downstream. Our guide sat at the back of our flexible vessel and gave us a few instructions before we reached the first of what would be very many fun and exciting rapid sections. Essentially, all he required of us was to paddle forwards and backwards on his command. In addition to this, he needed us to all lean to one side of the raft as necessary to help with the weight distribution whilst moving between the rocks.
All told, we must have passed through thirty or more separate rapid sections with each being situated less than a hundred metres or so from the next and a slow flowing stretch of river between them. Weird and wonderful names are given to each of rapids based on the shape and formation of the rocks as well as the level of difficultly. The Tully River drops height quite rapidly and is fed by a huge dam much farther upstream. It is one of the only rivers in the world that can be rafted pretty much every day of the year.
Much to everyone’s joy, our raft, and indeed all the rafts, capsized on numerous occasions. Some of the rapids were so rough and fast paced that it was truly an energetic and adrenaline pumping experience. On one such capsizing, we were each thrown from the raft but it didn’t quite capsize completely and everyone was swiftly back inside – except for me. I somehow managed to get caught directly under the raft when it righted itself and was trapped beneath it for about ten seconds. They told me after the fact that it was just ten seconds but at the time it seemed like an eternity and I was getting seriously worried for my life, as I had been trapped without a lungful of air at the time. I kept trying to swim out from under the huge obstacle but it kept moving across the surface of the water along with me and for a second there, I felt like I was not going to escape.
The four of us in our raft bonded well throughout the day and we worked very well as a team. We never missed an opportunity to creep up on another raft and splash them enthusiastically with our oars. At various points throughout the river, we were invited to get into the water and to simply drift down the rapids in our life jackets. There was even an opportunity to climb out of the rafts and onto a huge boulder (known affectionately as Jabber the Hut) about four or five metres tall and to jump in. Everyone did so and it only added to the fun and jocularity of the day.
After we had traversed about a third of the course, we stopped at a clearing in trees just off one of the banks to sit and eat lunch. The burgers and hotdogs provided were about as skanky and manky as could possibly be but pretty much everyone was concentrating on wanting to get back into the water as quickly as possible anyway. The remainder of the day after lunch was spent navigating some truly thrilling white water rapids whilst taking in some breath-taking scenery along the way. All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out and, in retrospect, well worth the expense after all.
At the end of the course, we lifted the rafts out of the water and carried them up through the jungle vegetation to the nearby road and awaiting bus. After drying off and changing into some dry clothes, we took off and sped back to the sleepy little town of Tully and the café where it all began. There were several points along the course where a photographer was waiting to snap a few happy shots and these were paraded in front of us when we sat down at the café. At AU$15 (€9,15) per photo, however, I found them to be outrageously expensive and didn’t bother. Even though the camera that I took with me ran out of battery power half way down the course (we’d forgotten to charge it overnight), I was able to get a dozen or more shots with it throughout the morning before it completely packed up on me.
As soon as we were back into cell phone range again, I called Sandy to see how she was feeling. She’d spent much of the day sleeping off whatever the ailment was that she was suffering from. Asides from feeling groggy and tired from sleeping, she seemed to be fine with little more than an upset tummy. We cooked and ate the remainder of the food stuffs we had purchased yesterday at the local supermarket and spent the rest of the evening having lots of fun with several of the other backpackers here, playing drinking games. I’ve no doubt that I will sleep well tonight.