It was great to find that most of the gear we’d hung over rocks and trees overnight was now completely dry for the first time in several days. It had been hard to keep things dry during the recent rainy days, especially the two days at Hobbit Hole.
My sore hip was starting to feel better, but the cut hand was beginning to get painful. It required re-dressing and disinfectant. The rib cage was still quite painful as well.
A satellite phone call last night had finalised the arrangements for our boat pickup on Saturday afternoon in two days time. We planned to get to the pick up point at Sir John Falls on Friday (the next day). This would give us an extra half a day in case there were problems along the way. Or we could use any spare time to relax if everything went smoothly.
We had two days of paddling to complete the journey. There was still a substantial distance to travel so we knew that we had to make today count.
It was a long day but there was no mandatory portaging. Apart from Jamie we all lined two fairly substantial rapids. At one of these I merely paddled to a ledge on a lesser current at the side of the rapid, stepped out, pushed the boat over, and jumped back into the boat.
There were a few more good rapids at the start of the day today that we all rafted, including one right near the previous night’s camp site. We were entering the lower Franklin and the water was mostly flat with long stretches of paddling required.
The landscape was also beginning to change. Previously we had been in high sided gorges but now the river was lined with low hills, and a generally flatter topography. We were able to get a good view of the Elliot Range as we paddled past. The river banks also changed to include long sections of caves and unusual rock sculptures.
When we reached our camp site for the evening, it was quite difficult to moor and unpack the boats because of the steep, muddy and slippery river bank, and the untidy collection of logs in the river close to the bank. We ended up tying a rope from tree to tree up the bank in order to make climbing up and down easier. The empty rafts were then stacked in two piles of three still floating on the flat water.
Although the camp site appeared to be well used, we thought that it was a bit further beyond the Man Tree camp that we’d been aiming for. David said that he had seen steps leading up the river bank a short distance back up the river that was probably Man Tree camp.
There was a substantial cliff behind the camp site, with a large round hole in it, about five metres from the ground. We thought this may have been what our notes referred to as Kutikina Cave and that it could be navigated for some distance into the rock. The awkward mess of dead branches underneath the cave entrance and the late hour of the day discouraged us from climbing up the cliff to it. We later found other people’s pictures of Kutikina Cave and decided that this was not it after all. For lack of any better name I now refer to it simply as Holey Cliff.
Although it had been fine and sunny for most of the day, it began to drizzle again late in the afternoon. Tarps were erected in the camp site so that we didn’t feel like we had to be confined to the tents or raincoats for the remainder of the evening.