(disclaimer: any puns in this article are either accidental, or quoting Rob)
Our days leading up to the big departure were spent learning the art of closing zip lock bags (hundreds of the barstards), casually buying 24 packets of mountain bread from the supermarket (that was all they had), 7kg of cheese.... For the 15kg of scroggin, we had to go straight to the warehouse as Eumarrah couldn’t handle such large orders. Regular bakery runs were necessary to keep up the energy levels during the big pack.
Sat 4th Jan:
We were at the sheds wondering how the hell we’d fit all our crap into the 3 cars, let alone 2 rafts on river. After a trip to K&D and every large auto store in Moonah, we had acquired the hardware to hold the trailer on and avoid another Bananamobile-on-the-way-to-Mersey-esque run in with the police trailer inspection regiment. Dropped gear off at Collingwood bridge and 4 of us proceeded to do the fine restaurant dinner in Strahan, oops I mean 4 hour car shuffle. While Bonnie’s bro’s hypersonic driving rendered Dave, Bonnie and myself in the brace position and incapacitated with terror, it was handy in that the local wildlife hadn’t time to detect the nearby vehicle and therefore make a
move to get run over by it.
Sun 5th Jan:
After packing several hundred kilos of crap onto the rafts, we realised that this would be no ordinary rafting mission. It was the journey of the… photo. I’d never seen so bloody many cameras in my life. The Collingwood was at a medium-ish level, ok, but could’ve been higher. Day 1 was sunny and hot, a few lined rapids here and there, lunch at junction camp where Ned performed the astonishing feat of turning himself into Mini-Me by standing in shallow water [see photo…]. Rob astounded us with a marvellous insight into the nomenclature of Bishop’s Butress, by declaring that “there’s this guy named Ress, and he was talking to a bishop and the bishop says ‘but Ress’”… Log jam was our first portage and quite a considerable one, but not as immense as the log jam that happened after we Gorged ourselves on a deluxe, 3 course sausage-fest that night at Loddon camp. Ned didn’t quite eat his share though, at odds with his Sausage-Boy standing.
Mon 6th Jan:
Floated along the river with cool and warm breezes blowing one after the other – quite weird. So peaceful as to almost defy thought. Then we got to this big place, and there was this notch, and it was quite nasty. I guess that’s why they call it Nasty Notch. Anyway, we portaged that. Except for our inflatable cow and dolphin, who we sent down and cheered on as they got churned to buggery on hideous stoppers. We later arrived at the serene Irenabyss, after a manic session of high-altitude, synchronised rock jumping.
Tues 7th Jan:
Rest day at Irenabyss, walked up Frenchman’s cap, in bare feet – see the photo to prove it! Not a bad day, we could see from Ben Lomond to the Norfolk Range to Federation Peak. Rob inflicted his stinky grotty jocks on everyone on the way down, by wearing them prominently on his shirt. Apparently he’s since been contacted by the rash department of the Guinness book of Records, and also signed a lucrative contract with a multinational talcum powder company. We agreed to someday come back, portage rafts to the top, and shoot the large rock slopes on Clytemnestra, thereby bypassing the Great Ravine.
Wed 8th Jan:
Ned’s alarm went off at 3am for him to check something unbeknownst to us, so we all had wretched dreams of torment and guilt for the next 3 hours, thinking we should be getting up. Packed up in the rain, and enjoyed a day of freezing cold rain and ridiculously warm river water, all the animals must have been pissing. The longest long-drop loo I’ve ever seen was at Fincham’s crossing, which is where in the 1950s the pioneering kayakers on this river had to walk out with all their gear, including guns, gelignite, smoke bombs and radio transceiver after smashing their kayaks to pieces in Descension Gorge. Couldn’t find a suitable campsite at the Crankle, so we kept paddling to Camp Arcane, I mean Arcade, arriving at 9pm. All very tired, so we were delighted when a delicious feast of pasta was pestoed upon us by an industrious chef.
Thurs 9th Jan:
Slept in slightly today – till almost 2pm. Raining. For breakfast we had semolina, sultana and sugar surprise. This is where we learned that semolina can be your friend, but also your enemy. Next course was a colossal bucket lunch (cheese, salami, CCs, mayo, salsa, tomato sauce all mixed up). Then a massive curry for dinner. Then to cap it off, or should I say crap it off, dessert: stove-top rocky road. Mmmm. Late today a team of 10 army rafters turned up, under command of “Mad Dog” (we tried not to say anything to piss him off). They camped beside us.
Fri 10th Jan:
First stop was at Blushrock falls, for a quick air guitar jam. Soon after this, Ned tried to test the structural integrity of the gear frame by hammering it with a paddle resting under his nose, whilst descending a large rapid. It was then that he became… tampon man! They worked like a charm, and his blood nose was plugged in no time.
Stopped for lunch at the churn at 11:30, and commenced an unfriendly portage – pulleyed the rafts up a steep track on river left, then carried them along and lowered them down a sheer 15m cliff. The rest of the gear had to go much further along the track then back down the hill, using Rich’s handy pulley skills (where do you get them from Rich?). We then found the army crew settled in at the 5 star Coruscade Grand Chancellor campsite, we even fished one of their sleeping bags out of a churning undercut rock, but still had to settle for the upper Coruscade YHA instead.
Sat 11th Jan.
Got to sleep in till 4am – this was our Great Ravine day. Bugger. Got our gear in the rafts and over to the Grand Chancellor for the big Coruscade portage by 6:30. Lined Sidewinder, then portaged Thunderush. Army shot the gnarly bottom section of this first; one raft got caught among rocks and had to be dragged out. Then our turn – 1 near swim experience and near wrap later, dry mouthed and hearts pounding, we were through. I here sacrificed the unviolated bucket to the river gods in an overzealous bailing ceremony. No doubt this offering is the reason we survived our 11-day ordeal. But no one has thanked me yet!
Next was the Cauldron – a hideous, undercut collection of terrifying, snarling rocks, ravenous to eat up unsuspecting swimmers. With the army dudes help (yeah – the army dudes are our friends!), the loaded rafts were dragged up onto a flat rock amid the roaring maelstrom, then lowered the ~2 metres while tethered to a rock anchor. We jumped into the rafts from our safe platform, all striving in vain to replicate Michael’s elegant flourish of embellished aerial limb waving. The rope was cut, and, adrenalin pumping through our veins and the Chip Taylor song pumping through our heads, we were off on the Wild Thing! Only to get jammed on the first large rock and have to heave for over a minute. But soon we were on Deliverance Reach, and the majestic Eagle that had watched us enter the Great Ravine sat on a branch high above the river, observing us depart. I wonder what it was thinking… “go forth and create peace between man and beast, and harmony on Earth”, “you’re all lucky barstards to be alive”, “I must find food, sleep, have sex”? We then slapped our paddles on the water hard, and the great bird took flight.
We got to Rafters Basin, all a little tired and burnt out. And I’m not Basin that on blind speculation. Nice vegie curry, using the first of many tons of overcatered (Ned, JUG!) sweet potatoes. Accompanied by the usual top shelf drinks from the barrel called Boonie (top shelf of the gear frame only). He’s getting lighter now. The “Fat barstard” lunch barrel is also getting slimmer. Groover (the shit box) is getting correspondingly heavier.
Sun 12th Jan:
By now we are realising that bringing poorly sealed (now cracked) eggs in the eski was a bad idea. Phew! Even groover was emanating staunch disapproval. Today brought us past lots of very nice rapids, including the Trojans (shot) and Ol’ Three Tiers (lined and dragged). The most ugly rapid was the Pig Trough, which was like the result of a large rhinoceros stacking it whilst barefoot skiing. After finishing portaging it, we drifted past the majestic Rock Island (which was famously photographed by Dombrovskis, and less so by all the try hards that have since tried to copy his shot). Shooting the grade 3+ rapids was a great end to the last of the “hard” days, and we set up camp at Newland Cascades, which is everyone with taste’s favourite place in the world.
Mon 13th Jan:
Weather: Sunny, 30 degrees +. UV factor: extremely high. Fun factor of shooting the Cascades on lilos: extremely high. We also explored an extensive cave – “wirr Richawd get eaten by hungwy dangewous cave spider?? PRACE YOUR BETS!”. Bucket lunch. Army kayakers arrived – it turns out that one of them smashed their ankle at Nasty Notch and got a free chopper ride. I went on a photographic mission that afternoon, and succeeded in plunging my hot camera into a refreshing stream. It did not appreciate this gesture, and is still in a coma as this goes to press. Every corner I rounded in my search for good shots, I found Ned searching for some solitude. Or was he finding himself?
Rob’s deluxe sushi was delicious, but the wasabi started several small scrub fires. Praise for this gourmet cuisine was on everyone’s lips, though poor Michael had to make do with the customary serve of beans and pasta. Another Rich effort to dent the custard powder stores ended in tears. Custard powder can definitely be your enemy, and we realised that the transport of water into our rubbish barrel in the lumpy, discarded remains which we had to carry out would soon exceed the output of the entire Franklin catchment. In an act of ecological barbarism, we chose not to call for the C-130 to evacuate the rest of our custard powder stockpile – forget gelignite, this is dangerous stuff.
Tues 14th Jan:
Nice, sunny weather spells an annoyingly low river level. Jusht enough water to not have to get out and drag over a shingle rapid. Shenshational. Our scroggin stop at flat island was punctuated by Rob’s grotesque line of sight juxtapositions with the horsehead, which is a large penis (I mean horse) -shaped cliff on a distant mountainside. We lunched at Kuta Kina cave, disposing carefully of the oxygen absorbers in the mountain bread packet, lest we trigger an atmospheric catastrophe by leaving them in the open air. The more grotesque of us seemed Kina to eat the Salmon Moose (plus tinned salmon chunks complete with skeletal fragments) than see the cave. Anyway, the silly cave had railings everywhere, and we couldn’t go and trample or take souvenirs from this irrepleacable aboriginal relic. How suckful. Oh – and Dave caught a fish today, who we called Dog. Dog was soon liberated back to his natural home when Rob tripped over with the bailing bucket. The highlight of the day was our foray into Pengana cave, contorting ourselves through pitch black, narrow passageways to appear at a luxurious penthouse verandah high up the cliff. And we weren’t even at verandah cliffs yet! But soon we were, and eating too. “Wirr Wichard and Wobb die from hypogracemic reaction after eating horribre chocorate and tang powder? Prace your bets!”
Wed 15th Jan:
Groover is very full now. Almost a cam strap job. Short day of flat paddling, lots of big Eddies. Who is Eddy anyway? Struck down by several cases of severe spanner water at the confluence with the Gordon, as we swam into water that was suddenly 10 degrees colder. We enjoyed the faster, very large flow of the mighty Gordon and soon arrived at the Sir John Falls jetty, for cold cans of Boags. Is this not the best of all possible worlds? However, 3 kayakers had stolen some of the army’s VB and they obliviously flew out in the nick of time, thereby escaping the wrath of… Mad Dog. Sitting on the jetty, we played dice with human biology and tensile physics of the stomach wall, by eating even more of Rob’s sweet potato cakes and chick pea curry, mmm. Sometime after midnight, the Stormbreaker majestically pulled in under the dusky moon while we peacefully slept.
Thurs 16th Jan:
After a tranquil morning cruise, complete with the wonder of toast, on Stormbreaker, the hardships were not yet over. Rob and myself were forced to perform an emergency Caesarian on the jam-packed rubbish barrel, which we proceeded to placeinta the dumpster on Strahan wharf.
Luckily that was the only medical procedure for the day, even when Ned obliterated himself on the open passenger door while attempting to get into my reversing vehicle at Derwent Bridge. Ned’s jug count is now so large that we need to use scientific notation. JUUUUG! Many nourishing chocolate milks, pies and custard tarts later, we were back at the sheds to unpack and sleep for several days.
Afterword: Occasionally, some of us showed a really Dry-Bag sense of humour on this trip. Jokes got a bit Boulder than usual, and our one-Liners Rapid-ly got out of hand. Especially at campsites and meal times, we got a bit Curried away with our funny jokes, went Pasta point of no return, and some of us had to Lilo for a while. After many bad jokes, it finally Twigged that we should Leaf it alone, and Stopper Barking the first bad puns that come into our heads. Huon I have better things to read/write about than such Vera bad humour, well now we’ve Biner and done it. I did think, though, that by the end of the trip I was being a little Picton.
On the serious side, this trip has been an absolute highlight of my time in Tassie. To have seen these wonderful places on this wild and inaccessible river makes me feel very privileged indeed and the impressions will last a long time. Everyone on the trip was fantastic and could even put up with lots of bad jokes. What a great bunch - thanks Dave, Ned, Bonnie, Richard, Rob and Michael for 2 awesome weeks. I’d like to particularly thank Dave and Ned, firstly for doing the painful and hard organisation without which no trip would ever happen. Thanks for motivating everyone else to get off their bums and do a bit too, but really it was you guys that made it happen, I know I’m a lazy prick and didn’t do my share of organising. The logistics of planning and guiding an 11 day trip are massive, and so much went on behind the scenes and probably unappreciated. Like checking/buying gear, organising menu, budget, transport, meetings and all the countless things that are essential for a big trip. Thanks also for doing the guiding which is a bloody hard task and a lot of stress… anyway, the only wrap on this trip was a big wrap to Dave and Ned for getting us down the river... boom tssschhh (insert cymbal sound). Cheers guys, thanks a lot.
Appendix: Final jug counts:
“Never a bad joke” Angus………………………………………………..………….…..0
Bonnie “Lies over the magical Franklin” ………..…………………….………………..3
“Frisky catchup bushwalker”, Dave “reckoning”..…..……………………………8
“Prace your bets” Richard……………………………………………….………….…..16
“Cauldron ballerina, river sand man” Michael…………………………………………64
“The Jug King, sausage wimp and T-grip nosestalgia man”