Finally, my White Water Rafting day arrived. Pickup was the usual time: 7:30 am. Aussie Drifterz was always on time! The warm up event was tubing this am and rafting in the pm. Sweet. (Photo’s were taken by the Aussie Drifterz guides – Sorry, W/s didnt turn out as she wished).
We corralled the rest of the group making several hotel / hostel stops. Stopped by the main staging area for a bus change and picking up gear. Off we went. No rain. Looking forward to a great day. It is the rainy season. So far we have been lucky.
An hour later we unloaded and the guides had the tubes inflated. A few instructions, introductions, a couple of stories and we grabbed a life jacket, tube and strolled down the bank. There were three guides, one to lead, one to follow and one to take photos. While W/’s phone is water proof, searching for it in a fast moving rocky stream was not high on our list of things to do. One tidbit of info the guides stressed was that ANYTHING not attached to you or not worn by you, expect to lose it. It is always best to listen to those who know!
We headed down the bank, sank into our tubes and floated out into the creek. W/ first and I followed. The water temp was cool enough to keep us awake and not warm enough to bathe in. Paddling was by hand over the sides of the tubes. For W/ paddling was more like fingering. Her hands would only brush the water as she tried to paddle. Big tubes.
The first minor rapids we slide down everyone stayed upright and I lost W/. I looked around and didn’t see anyone with their head sticking out from the tube. Looks like somehow she moved ahead of me. So I began paddling, lazing along, paddling some more, trying to catch the group. She must be in there. As I closed in on them I still couldn’t see her.
Five minutes later I find that she hitched a ride. All the guides used Kayaks. Kayaks are faster and more maneuverable than tubes. The guide picking up slackers had thrown W/ a rope for a tow. She hung on while he brought her up to the core group. Cheater!
The creek had several small rapids the guides hinted might be a grade 2, maybe a 3. Keep your hands and feet off the bottom as you are flushed through. Attempting to grab a rock or plant your feet in the bottom is a great way to end up racing to the hospital. Water is not forgiving. With your foot or hand stuck the water will push and twist you around forcing you to flow downstream. Should you find yourself in the water, lay flat with your feet out front and bob along till the current slows and you can climb back on / in the tube.
That… was good advice. Somewhere around the 1/2 way mark; while being flushed down between a couple of boulders my tube hit a wall of water. The tube stopped, I didn’t. I grabbed on to it and started to lay back with my bum receiving a not so nice massage from the rocky bottom. At one spot i thought I could put my foot down and climb back aboard. Soon I saw the error of my way. The guides were spot on. Once the depth thinned out I was able to stand and reposition myself in the tube.
No further events interrupted the day. We came to a flat sandy area and there we reloaded the gear heading back home. This afternoon was going to be my high point. The last day in Cairns, the last tourist event of our trip. River Rafting!
A wet ride back and a light lunch. We dried off and were ready to go again. The cattle bus (tourist bus) came by and we climbed aboard. Two hotels later we had picked up another group and waited on the bus for some time. Ten minutes later the driver returned. He said the rafting was being cancelled and our money refunded. There had been a great deal of rain in the Table Lands, and the river had risen 2 meters in less than an hour. The flash flooding makes the river extra dangerous. Sorry.
As cruisers we have learned to accept how fluid plans are. We understand. Weather changes, waves change, an anchorage good one day may be uncomfortable the next. However, accepting the change does not mean liking the change.