January 26th - Australia Day. A day to sit around a BBQ, listen to music, relax, drink beer and watch the cricket. That’s how we spend our patriotic Australia day here.
This year however we decided to mix it up a little, and do a river rafting trip on Australia Day (don’t worry, I still had a BBQ and beer throughout the Australia Day weekend). A few of my friends had done this river run before, and had a blast. A 10km stretch of river between two campsites.
The day started off early, 8am (on a Saturday!?!), even though everyone was running late anyways. We got to our launch point, pulled out our inflatable rafts, boats and canoes, and started pumping them up. A quick safety brief by our fearless leader/organiser Baz, and 15 or so of us were jumping into the water with our boats. We started paddling down to our first drop off section, and I found out quite quickly that my new cheap inflatable boat had very awkward length paddles. Too long and inconvenient to have 2 separate paddles, but joining them together made it too short to use it as just 1 double ended paddle. Sigh. But after a while I soon worked out a technique that would work for me, after a few hundred metres of paddling.
We arrived at the first steep drop off (a mini concrete dam), jumped out of our boats, climbed down, and continued on our way. It wasn’t long before most of us had to get out again, with the water being so low most of the boats weren’t making it over the rocks. And it was then that one of the group realised that they had a puncture. Not a great start really. If only we knew then what was to come…
After some duct tape, and a bit of a raft pump up, we continued on our way. Slowly floating down the river, mucking around, bouncing slowly over rocks and occasionally getting stuck, or having to get out and walk a bit. Below is a short video of the first hour or so of the trip – the fun part. Read on after the video to find out what the rest of the day was like.
After around 2 hours someone had to leave, to pick up someone from the airport (or something like that) and they got out of the river, and ran back along the shore to the cars. In the time between juggling people between boats, the group got split up, and I ended up in the back group, which only consisted of 4 of us, and 3 rafts. It was fine by us (mostly), but the water seemed to be getting lower the more we pushed on, and even the deeper water parts weren’t flowing, so we had to paddle the whole time.
The sun was beaming down, slowly burning us, we didn’t know how far we had to go still, and nobody had any idea what time is was. One of the boats was larger than the rest, so every single set of rocks that we came up against, they had to walk the boat over the rocks. It had been hours since we had seen anyone else from the group. I kept going ahead and scouting the river, trying to find out how much further we had to go. Hunger was setting in, and the decreasing amount of drinking water we had left was going to be an issue soon. We were all sunburnt on our arms, if not other places too.
Not knowing how much further we had to go was annoying, and we didn’t know whether to continue or try and trek though the bushland beside the river.
Then a small glimmer of hope appeared. In the form of the organiser of the river run, Baz was walking along the banks, trying to find us because we had all the car keys. It was already past 4pm he told us. No wonder we were tired, burnt and hungry. The remaining 4 of us jumped out of the rafts, and headed to shore, where there was a small fire trail back to the carpark. It was still a 2km walk from where we got out of the water. We were nowhere near finishing the run, so it was a good thing we got out of the river.
It was then, that the weather decided to turn. Thunder bellowed, the winds started blowing, and the skies opened up. For the final stretch of the day, walking to the carpark, the rain poured down, drenching us, and kicking our spirits even more when they were down. As soon as we reached the carpark – the rains stopped….
What a day! I don’t think much more could have gone wrong (except for an injury, so thankfully that didn’t happen). But you know what – all in all, I had fun. Sure I won’t be going when the river is so low again, but as soon as some good rains hit, I’m definitely keen to try this river run again.