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Published: November 15th 2014
WILD TASMANIA...Wild Rivers N.P...Up the Gordon without a paddle.
One of my sisters was in the protest years ago. The Tasmanian Premier would have called her and others: a "ratbag collection of mainland unemployed''.
Others would later call them "Greenies".
Their banners were "No Dams" stickers on cars...in bus shelters...on telegraph poles...on our bedroom walls.
They formed a human blockade across the Gordon River in a campaign against a proposed hydroelectricity dam across Tasmania's Gordon-below-Franklin River.
It led to a massive court case.
The Greenies won.
The dam was stopped.
It led to groundbreaking environmental legislation.
The Gordon and Franklin Rivers are now part of a National Park...World Heritage protected.
Only one boat is now allowed way up the Gordon...and that little boat recently sailed up there...on board were Denise and me.
We left St Clair N.P. and continued west along the Lyell Highway to Strahan via Queenstown.
All the brochures said you had to pre-book in Strahan. This was a trip that we didn't want to do that. Each day we'd decide which direction to go...all depended which direction the wind was blowing.
time line was to arrive at a school friend's property in the north-west by a particular date and to catch the plane home which of course was pre-booked.
But Denise wanted to take a cruise when in Strahan so we ended up booking that while on the road.
There are luxury cruisers...downstairs cattle-class...or upstairs with the Captain...definitely not cattle-class upstairs all the reviews make clear!
But Denise's eye was on a sailing craft...the Stormbreaker. On her enquiries she was advised they were going up the Gordon to collect some kayakers and staying overnight on the river...and there was room for us to join them if we so desired.
The big cruisers can enter the lower reaches but only this sailing boat can go further.
We had stayed overnight on a sloop on Milford Sound in NZ...awakening to zillions of waterfalls spilling from the cliffs...anchored next to a glacier.
Pretty easy to say yes to the offer to sail up one of the world's wild rivers...the Gordon below Franklin.
So that is what we did.
The highway west traverses saddles between volcanic spires of mountains,,,past lakes...through forests...winding up and down.
A sparse bowl of white, red, speckled rocks...then winding down precipitous tarmac...steep drop one side...rock face the other in vivid oranges, pinks and reds...to Queenstown nestled at the base of the mountain from whence we had come.
Then to Strahan...the best known town on the west coast...centre of tourism...the entrance to the massive stretch of water of Macquarie Harbour into which flow the wild rivers.
I imagined a fishing town perched at the base of a cliff...with little blue and white boats bobbing in turgid seas.
As usual one's imaginings are nothing like reality...but was a pleasant enough town...jetties for giant cruisers and flying boats.
Had booked a site at the caravan park as sites were sparse as was holiday season. But one checkout was enough to cancel our stay...narrow sterile blocks crammed like a container terminal...not really...but hey...we'd stayed in beauty to date and that wasn't going to change!
Someone suggested a spot way out of town at Macquarie Heads...17 kms down a dirt road...so that's where we headed.
An oasis by the lake/harbour...$6 for the night...no power but fires allowed...pit toilets...green shady spaces aplenty...others more than willing to provide us with firewood...to
sit around the fire for beer, wine and a yarn.
'Twas there I started getting excited with the exotic colours I was capturing with my lens...excitement that in the coming days would became palpable.
Noon aboard the Stormbreaker...9 passengers...2 crew...beautiful clear day...$2 to park the van for 2 days.
Took a few hours down Macquarie Harbour to get to the mouth of the Gordon...past the massive salmon leases...Tasmania's oldest penal settlement on Sarah Island...water royal blue...heavens sky blue.
When we entered the river everything changed.
The water was like a kaleidoscope...reflections of the trees...playing spot the huon pines, myrtles and leatherwoods...the water cut by our bow...light dancing and skidding off the glassy surface...blues mixing with shades of greens and browns...the kaleidoscope of reflections surging around us.
I had a leak down below...the kaleidoscope from the round porthole just above the water surface calling me to bring my lens...hogging the loo as I did just that...gotta say that river was another world.
The Franklin River flows 125 kms from the Cheyne Range to the Gordon River.
Rafters usually commence their journey at the Collingwood River, 49 km west of
Derwent Bridge, and finish at the Gordon River. Rafters can then either catch the Gordon River ferry at Heritage Landing, or charter a float plane or yacht to pick them up from Sir John Falls camp. The trip takes about 8-14 days.
The Stormbreaker is the yacht that collects kayakers from St John Falls.
The best time to raft the Franklin is between December and March when the weather is relatively stable. But come prepared as SW Tasmania is renowned for its wild weather and high flood levels can occur.
The kayakers were waiting on the pontoon as we glided towards them. Our captain passes them a slab of beer and some steaks and their spirits lift immediately. The smell of BBQ and merriment soon cutting the air.
It had rained a lot on their trip...sometimes not sure whether it was wetter in the river or out...tales of hardship and triumphs...of camaraderie and new friends...most glad they had done it...all glad they had endured.
We had a kayak ourselves...Denise showing the skills she does in our kayaks near home...the river really deep around here...the thick rainforest silently watching as we glide by...eerie feeling.
walk to St John Falls along a boardwalk. There are the Falls...into a pool of myrtle tea...webs of white foam from the tannin making delicate patterns on the brown and purple surface.
Wow. Hope you like the pics...the scene was fantastic...tried my best to capture it.
And at night we returned to this spot and the glow worms made a fairy-light palace around us.
We slept well in our cabins...rising to a misty morning...the colours again exciting me.
The kayakers under the trees...sleeping bags laid out...no tents last night.
Setting off as the mist rose from the water...the reflections ethereal and surreal.
Past the island my sister and others formed the human chain to change the course of environmental law...marveling that many knew this ecosystem was worth saving...marveling at the rare beauty of Wild Rivers National Park.
It's great to be alive...greater still to be here...yep...it's great to be alive.
Relax & Enjoy,
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