White-Water Rafting the Tully River Queensland

The adventure of White Water Rafting the Tully River starts with a preamble … enjoy.

Tully River Queensland

Tully River Queensland

As an Aussie living on the Gold Coast, flying to Cairns in the hottest month of the year wasn’t, in terms of climate, the smartest thing to do. The upside, if any, was that the Goldie was experiencing a heat wave similar to what Cairns endures as a regular event.

I had some business to attend to and went about that with my usual fervour. I went to my hotel to check-in. By Hotel, read Hostel, as I prefer Hostels to Hotels when travelling solo. Whilst the hostel accommodation wasn’t 5 star (although I have stayed in some amazing Hostels around the world, the best of all being in Istanbul) I prefer to meet up with new people. This trip was set from the start not to disappoint.

Firstly I should point out that I am not 20 something or even close. Try 50 something. So why stay in a hostel by choice? The answer is the people. Whether you are in the room (this time it was a 4 person dorm room about the size of a typical hotel room) or the foyer or the bar or the pool, someone is going to be happy to chat with you. I am yet to come across a miserable person at a hostel. Everyone seemed to be a good mood and happy to learn about your travels / life experience / employment and so on.

I checked-in and went to the room to drop my bag. Upon opening the door I was greeted by two guys. One from the Ukraine and the other from USA. A third would join us. He played NFL in Canada. We all chatted for a bit and then decided to adjourn to the pool. It was getting late in the day so we have a few sherbets. One of the guys had booked to go Rafting the next day. I had wanted to do this for decades so I took zero nudging. To make things even sweeter, he had a spare ticket due to his mate having a better offer. Read “new girlfriend”.

The new mates went out for dinner, stupidly in jeans and shirts, for a few drinks and a feed at the Marina. Fabulous view however the heat was melting us so rather than loose our body weight in sweat we went back to the hostel. Which hostel? Gilligans. Quick plug. Go there!

Gilligans Hostel Cairns

Gilligans Hostel Cairns

The next morning it was a 6am rise amid groans from Eric and I and from the others trying to sleep, such is Hostel life. We would be on a bus bound for the Tully River some 2 hours south. A mad rush to get some coffee ensued and then the  bus arrived.

The last 1/2 hour of the bus trip was filled with Safety Information which to be honest, put the wind up me a bit. Visions of a broken skull, missing teeth or death flashed before my eyes. The instructions include how to float in White Water and how not to rearrange the face of a fellow paddler with your T-Grip. The T-Grip is the handle of the paddle and I can assure you that it would be 100% unforgiving. See, I was paying attention.

We arrive at the departure point educated but with completed waiver forms. Getting off the bus, I realise that I hadn’t thought about my clothing, so it was off with the cotton t-shirt. I managed to find a rashy that was my size, put on the life jacket and helmet as instructed earlier, picked up the paddle and it was all systems go.

We met our Captain Ben who again took us through our Safety Instructions.

Allow me to digress for a paragraph and introduce Captain Ben to you. He is Benjamin Webb of both MaranonExperience.com and MananonWaterKeeper.org. Ben is an unassuming young man with adventure in his blood.

The first of websites is Ben’s Tour website, which is full of the relevant information. The second, which seems to be closer to his heart is his work with conservation largely to do with NOT damming the river and I quote “The Marañón River is under threat from an estimated 20 hydroelectric megadams (exact number remains undetermined, due to “muddled policy and lack of transparency in government”). Parties responsible for these developments are the Peruvian Government and large multinational companies. The Brazilian infrastructure giant Oderbrecht is behind several of these projects including one of the most contentious, Chadin II; this company is currently facing corruption charges for its involvement in the Petrobras scandal and links to the destructive Belo Monte dam in Brazil.” Have a read.

So back to the Tully River. Ben was at pains to get us all to focus on the task at hand, some dozen rapids graded 3 and 4 were on the menu. He repeated the same instructions again. We all nodded. Whilst the raft was tied to the shore we boarded and practiced “get left” and ‘get right” and “hold on” and “get down”, all with added notations as to the risk if you don’t.  Ben added that when he says “forward paddle”, he doesn’t mean sometime soon, he means NOW and HARD. We pushed off from the shore. This s*!t just got real.

White Water Rafting Tully River Qld Australia

White Water Rafting Tully River Qld Australia

This looked easy-ish although my heart was pounding. After the first easy rapid (in hindsight) we pulled to the side and Ben said “OK, everyone overboard”. We looked at him as if he was joking. Nope, he wasn’t. “Get in and show me that you know how to float in the White Water Float position.  Getting back on-board was also a training exercise. Some of us could manage to use the side rope to push ourselves up high enough to flop into the raft like an aged walrus whilst others, including me, were dragged (as instructed) aboard by the life jacket shoulder straps.

We pushed on. From here on, aided by a little confidence, the grade of the rapids did a number on us. Ben told us that the highest grade rapid that insurance companies would insure was a grade 4. We would be doing several of these today.

White Water Tully River Queensland

White Water Tully River Queensland

The mission was to not fall out. Alas the tour operators had planned a number of “accidental” dunkings. The upside of dunking was the cool crisp water on your tied muscles and a rest drifting down stream.

White Water Rafting Tully River Qld Australia

White Water Rafting Tully River Qld Australia

White Water Rafting Tully River Qld Australia

White Water Rafting Tully River Qld Australia

After a few hours and about 8k on the river, lunch was served and it was yummy and well earned.

The second half of the 5 hours on the water was promised to be calmer than the first half. Was it? Hmmm well it is true that the trepidation of a rapid had gone to some extent and the process of “hold on” “get down” and so on was now almost automatic. The rapids themselves, to this novice, seemed about as dangerous.

By the time we came to shore again, I was ready to call it quits. It had been a very physically demanding day and wasn’t over yet as there was still the need to lift the raft and get it up to the trailers. It was carried on our heads.

After changing out of our wet clothes, we boarded our bus and headed up the road for about 30 minutes to a pub, to enjoy a coldie and get the photo/video sell. I did a deal with the others tipping in about half myself and we bought the package.

Back at Gilligans at about 6pm, it was all I could do to eat a slice of cheese and I hit the hay. Brilliant Day!!!!! The following video sums it all up.

 

Cameras used. Nikon D500 and GoPro Hero5 Black.