ROAD TRIP DIARIES # 21
Tully is popular among young backpackers on working holidays with its numerous banana and sugarcane plantations providing them with seasonal employment, but it’s the thrilling rapids of the Tully River that bring the visitors in. That said Charles and I only made the decision to brave Tully’s notorious rapids after two days of deliberation at Mission Beach.
The calm before the storm
It wasn’t our first white-water rafting trip, but for some reason we were both hesitant to jump into this adventure right off the bat. In fact, our last experience with raging rapids had happened just three months before our road trip, and the delightful flipping, swirling and tumbling in the water were still fresh in our minds. Perhaps we overestimated its difficulty and were intimidated by its tragic past. Tully River, also called River of Death, has claimed several lives.
Going, Going …
Truth be told, with my very limited swimming ability, I would rather bungee jump from the Burj Dubai, which I think is safer and less terrifying, than venture into the Grade 4 rapids of the Tully river. And I’m sure Charles would find cliff hanging on one of Yosemite’s rock walls more yielding and effortless than rafting for the first time on an unfamiliar course with a partner who can’t swim.
But then, we didn’t want to add it on our list of “things we should have done” so we ended booking a day trip rafting tour with Raging Thunder Adventures the next day. It included lunch and transfer from our camping ground in Mission Beach.
“So why did you choose Raging Thunder over the other?” I asked Charles while we were on our way to the tour company’s office. “Oh well, between the two, statistically this one has fewer cases of deaths and injuries and with thousands of tourists rafting it every year, most of them first-timers, I think it’s pretty safe.”
We registered our names and signed a waiver upon arrival at the company’s office, while waiting for the busload of tourists from Cairns. Wet suits and rafting shoes are available for rent but we opted to wear our hiking shoes, which badly needed a good wash anyway after the muddy Tully Show the day before. After signing the waiver and a quick brekkie, we found ourselves huddled in the bus with a mix of families, backpackers, and couples on holiday.
In half an hour, we made it to the starting point of the rafting tour. The trips are timed to coincide with the daily release of the floodgates by the hydroelectric company so thrilling whitewater is available all year round.
After the final briefing, like-minded people were grouped together and were assigned with a guide. There was an all-Korean team with a Korean-speaking guide; there was a family that included the grandparents all in one raft, while Charles and I were grouped with a Chinese couple and backpackers from England.
We rafted under surging waterfalls, free-flowed on the calmer parts of the river, jumped-off from a huge boulder and were purposely thrown out of the raft to the delight of our cheeky guide. It was 14 kilometers of pure fun and full-on rapids and in between the stunning scenery of the rainforest made the whole trip one of the best highlights of our road trip.
Our rafting team with our guide Ash
(This is part of our 6-week North Queensland Road Trip Series, which took place July- August 2010)
Australian Road Trip 101: A Vantastic Beginning
Road Trip Diaries # 1 – An Encounter with the Strangest Animal in the World
Road Trip Diaries # 2 – Of Strangler Figs, Leeches and Long Holidays
Road Trip Diaries # 3 - Exploring Finch Hatton Gorge
Road Trip Diaries # 4 – Cape Hillsborough: On Bush Walks Beach Strolls and Star Gazing
Road Trip Diaries # 5 – Cape Hillsborough: Sunrise and Wild Kangaroos
Road Trip Diaries # 6 – Airlie Beach: Beaches Babes and Backpackers
Road Trip Diaries # 7 – Ocean Rafting to the Whitsundays
Road Trip Diaries # 8 – Unexpected Encounters
Road Trip Diaries # 9 – Exploring Bowenwood
Road Trip Diaries # 10 – Townsville: Finding Nemo and the Sunken Pandora
Road Trip Diaries # 11 – A Visit at the Billabong Sanctuary and Castle Hill
Road Trip Diaries # 12 – Magnetic Island: What Captain Cook Missed
Road Trip Diaries # 13 – Paluma Range National Park: A Walk in the Clouds
Road Trip Diaries # 14 – Of Didgeridoo, Exotic Fruits and Why I love Camping in the Bush
Road Trip Diaries # 15 – Jourama Falls: A Gray Nomad Affair
Road Trip Diarues # 16 – The Bird Man of Tyto Wetlands
Road Trip Diaries # 17 – The Quest for Wallaman Falls
Road Trip Diaries # 18 – Hinchinbrook Island: Experiencing the Wilderness
Road Trip Diaires # 19 – The Tully Show: My First Aussie Fair
Road Trip Diaries # 20 - Mission Beach: Where Have All the Cassowaries Gone?