Franklin River Day 14 – Holey Cliff to Sir John Falls

It felt very odd to sleep by a quiet part of the river where I could not hear the loud noise of nearby rapids all night.

Breakfast at Holey Cliff camp site (photo David Tasker)

This was to be our last day on the Franklin River.  It would include few rapids and was mostly flat water, meaning constant paddling with less help from the current.  More brawn and less brain.

Setting off from Holey Cliff camp – as for the previous several days, Jess had to re-inflate her leaky boat every half hour during the day (photo David Tasker)

However, there were still a small number of good fun rapids early in the day.  We were able to shoot both sections of ‘Double Fall’, but that was as adventurous as the day got for us.  Jess and I accidentally did part of it backwards, but at this end of the journey going backwards down a rapid was second nature to us and was not a problem.

Lower Franklin Rock Formations (photo Jamie Warburton)

The banks of the river were frequently lined by fascinating rock formations including caves, arches, and other weird indescribable shapes.

Lower Franklin river bank (photo David Tasker)

When we reached ‘Big Fall’ we unpacked the boats for our last portage.  Big Fall has killed several people and at least one of the bodies has never been recovered.  Apparently, at very high water levels, it’s quite safe to paddle through being just a bit of a dip in the river.  At most water levels it is exceedingly dangerous for rafting, even if though it may look safe to some people.  None of us thought it looked even remotely raftable.  Thankfully the portage was quite short.

Big Fall (photo David Tasker)

A little after midday we stopped for lunch on Pyramid Island at the confluence of the Franklin and Gordon rivers.  I regarded this as the beginning of the end of our journey.  Everybody was excited to have now completed rafting the Franklin River, although perhaps a little sad that this part of the journey was now over.

Celebratory photo of the team on Pyramid Island (photo David Tasker)

After lunch we faced six kilometres of paddling down the Gordon River until we reached our final camp at Sir John Falls where we were to be picked up by boat the next day.  The Gordon River is wide, deep and flat from here on, with very little current.  The usual north west winds of Tasmania are directly in the face of rafters trying to paddle down the Gordon and paddling an inflatable dinghy against the wind is a body breaking and mind bending experience that none of us were looking forward to.  However, as we paddled down the Gordon River there was not a breath of wind.  We were blessed with mirror-still water reflecting the rain forested hills around us all the way to Sir John Falls.

Nik exiting the Franklin River around Pyramid Island (photo David Tasker)

I soon found myself well out in front for the Gordon River paddle.  Contrary to my expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed paddling through this silent stretch of river and rainforest and did the whole stretch non-stop.  I felt like I was out there alone for that final six kilometres.

After reaching the jetty and pontoon at Sir John Falls, I stripped off and had a quick swim and wash, then I paddled the last 100m to the beach in front of the old Hydro hut (one of the remains from the abandoned dam constructions days).

Apart from the six of us there were three retiree kayakers staying in the hut.  Across the river at Warners Landing, three yachts were moored with six people between them.  After unpacking our gear we headed down to the beach to relax for a while.  We were soon joined by the kayakers and the yachties also putted across in their various dinghies.  They generously shared their beer, wine and nibblies with us.  It was an unexpected and delightful surprise to celebrate the end of our expedition with a small impromptu beach party while still being in out in the bush.

That night in the hut there were four snorers, each with their own repertoire of strange noises, and one of our group who I know snores wasn’t even asleep yet.  Lots of people were tossing and turning noisily.  I knew I would not get a wink of sleep if I stayed in there.  I lay awake for a couple of hours and then started trying to think of where I could go to get some sleep.  Certainly not on the grass outside the hut as we’d seen several tiger snakes there!  Then I remembered a suitable spot that Sean had noticed amongst the trees behind the beach.  I grabbed my tent and mat, and in the middle of the night crept out in only my undies and set up camp.  I returned to the hut for my sleeping bag and pillow (a bundle of polar fleece clothes) and then zipped myself into the tent in peace.  I slept quite well that night and my tent dried out as well.