So we left Airlie Beach yesterday after being out on the Whitsundays and it was pouring with rain, the roads are getting more prone to flash flooding the further North we travel and yesterday was no exception. Our journey time was meant to be just over 8 hours, but with all the road closures and doubling back on ourselves it took an additional 2 and a half hours. We've nearly made it as far as Cairns, but we have decided to make one last stop about 150km south at a place called Mission Beach, and boy is it hot and humid here. It only drops to about 26 degrees at night and with nearly 90% humidity its a lovely treat when we get a dorm with aircon thrown in.
Anyway as I was saying there are three main reasons why travelers generally stop here, to earn some extra cash banana picking, to do a skydive over the beach or to go white water rafting on the Tully River..... guess which one I'm here to do and yes I was seriously temped by the skydive, but I need to save something until later in the trip. That's right I've been wanting to go out white water rafting on the Tully River since the moment we started to plan this trip, it has some of the world's best Grade 4 class rapids and the river is dam controlled as there is a hydro-electric powerstation on it, which means with the amount of rainfall recently, the river is going to be pretty wild. Hayley has been undecided for a lot of the trip whether or not she wanted to try rafting on Tully as it gets classified as a high adrenaline sport and seeing as the stretch of river we would be traversing is 12K long and is over 45 sets of rapids, she was worried that she wouldn't enjoy it. I think the turning point in her deciding not to do it was when I asked one of the booking agents jokingly if there had been any deaths on the river, to which he informed us that some died a couple of weeks ago bring the death toll to 8 people in the past 5 years. Soooooo she neglected to take part in this particular activity.
Anyway I've had enough bangs on the head to knock any logical thinking out of me so I wasn't the tiniest bit deterred and couldn't wait to get out there
. I got picked up from the front of our hostel at 7:30 and then we made one other pick up from a nearby camp ground. As we pulled up and the doors on the bus opened I heard two girls shouting me. Through complete coincidence 'Tessy and Kristina' two girls from Switzerland that we had previously met at Myella farm and on our sailing boat on the Whitsundays where booked on the same rafting trip as me, so I instantly knew 2 out of the 5 other people I was going to share a raft with. The drive to the river was only about half an our, but something rare that we had the chance to spot as we drove along was an adult cassowary and three chicks that came running out of the rainforest and across the main road. The cassowary is a very large flightless bird native to the tropical forests of Australia and New Guinea, it is the third tallest bird after the ostrich and emu. Generally they are quite shy, but when disturbed or protecting their young they can disembowel a human or dog with one kick, with their long second toe claw cutting the gut open. So I was quite happy to just see it through the bus window, but not get to close.
We joined up with a coach load of rafters that had come down from Cairns and then we where off up to the starting point on the river, driving through banana plantations and winding our way along a small narrow road, some of which was washed away. As we drove along outside the window was some of the most beautiful and panoramic world heritage rainforest I could ever hope to see
. Once we had arrived we got kitted out with our helmets, lifejackets, oars, split into groups of six and assigned a guide, before jumping into our rafts. The instructors were really good at explaining all the safety precautions and going though various safety commands that would be shouted out and the corresponding action that we would need to take. Half way through our safety talk our raft managed to break free and we had to negotiate our first set of falls before we had finished the briefing, which I thought was hilarious, as nobody in the raft seemed to be working as a team, everyone just seemed to be paddling frantically in every which direction. Safety talk over we made a start on the 12K of river ahead of us and wow was it demanding. To name but a few I got elbowed in the face twice, butted in the mouth by someones ore crashed sideways into a rock face, (which hurts all the more because you sit on the side of the raft and paddle, you don't actually sit in it) and my personal favourite, at one stage we managed to capsize the entire raft and I ended up sandwiched with a rock below me and someone sitting on my head. What makes this my particular favourite is the current then dragged me down under the water and sucked me in under one of the rocks for about 20 seconds before I could finally swim back to the surface. Granted it seemed scary at the time, but I am seriously not moaning, its moments like these that make adrenaline sports worthwhile and memorable, its more fun and exciting if it's challenging
. Needless to say I was was battered and bruised from head to toe the next day, but it was so worth it.
Some of the rapids had really strange names like corkscrew, lava flow, take out, zig zag, heli pad...etc. We stopped half way down the river for a BBQ lunch on the river bank and a much needed rest before attacking the remaining 6K. In this section of the river we got to try some additional activities like tombstoning where you jump from a 8 meter rock face into the river below and when we where in stiller waters we would jump in and go for a swim to cool off. There was also a fresh water creak that joined at one section of the river, that was crystal clear and you could drink the water. The last 2K of the river however contained salt water crocodiles so you couldn't go swimming in this section or at least it was ill advised and you could see instructors frantically pulling any rafter that happened to fall out quickly back into the raft. After 5 hours of rafting we finally reached our final destination, tired, wet and happy. It had been a fantastic experience that had been challenging at times, but most of all had lived up to what I had hoped it would be..........now I just have to work out when I'm gonna get round to jumping out of a perfectly good plane for my next challenge.
* Sorry about the quality of the photos, but I wasn't gonna pay $100 for them on a disc so I got them at 'Tom Price' and just took a couple of pictures on my phone of the computer screens displaying them. *