With our excursion on the Franklin River over, we had most of Saturday to wait until the boat came to pick us up at 4:30pm. The weather was excellent and the location was fantastic, so it was a pleasant and relaxing rest day to end our trip.
For breakfast, we each chose the best of whatever suitable food we had left, and also shared fresh toast and butter. The yachties on the other side of the river had given us a loaf of fresh bread they’d made yesterday!
There were several resident tiger snakes under and around the hut, including three spotted in one patch of grass. One of them favoured sitting right next to the water tank, making using the tap a somewhat more delicate exercise that it ought to be. Another one enjoyed sun baking in the middle of the track to the toilet block. As if this wasn’t enough, there was a nest of Jack Jumpers under the step right at the hut door. Jack Jumper ants are pure evil – far worse than tiger snakes in my opinion (and more deadly according to statistics).
We spent most of the morning lazing around the hut and the beach. I spent a lot of time sitting in my raft reading the final pages of my novel in the sunshine down on the beach. A float plane from Strahan landed on the river near the Sir John Falls jetty a couple of times during the day, carrying tourists wanting to see the South West from the air.
For lunch, Jess made falafels to share and I made cheese toasties for everybody with optional home-dried tomato and/or tuna. After my first attempt back at the hobbit hole, I now perfected the bush cheese toasties by folding the mountain bread around the cheese and other contents first, then toasting on the pan. It worked a treat! Everyone loved the toasties and the falafels. Some even had falafels in their toasties.
After lunch we packed our gear into the rafts for the last time and paddled the 100m back to the jetty to spend the afternoon waiting there until the boat arrived. Once the rafts had dried out, we deflated them and packed them up for the last time. It really was over.
Some of us had another quick swim and wash in the Gordon River. The water was very cold and I had the record for the longest time in the water that day, at 45 seconds according to Sean’s stop watch.
Commercial tour boats are not permitted to go up the Gordon River any further than Heritage Landing which is several kilometres further downstream than Sir John Falls. We were very fortunate to have connections in our team with people who own a few boats at Strahan and had kindly agreed to time one of their recreational trips up the Gordon in their private boat so that they could pick us up.
We had been told by Paul that this boat was a large catamaran. No! Even larger than what we were thinking. No! This boat is huge, claimed Paul. It was difficult for the rest of us to grasp what “huge” meant until we saw it.
About five minutes before it peeped around the corner we heard it coming. And it didn’t actually peep around the corner, but rather the top of the cabin peeped over the trees before the bow became visible. This thing completely dwarfed the ocean-going yachts that were moored on the other side of the river. I was later told that it’s about 60 foot long.
It was an amazing site to see this massive thing cruising towards us with a group of much-missed spouses, partners, and loved ones on the deck waving at us. Of course, I knew my wife wouldn’t be able to make it to meet me, due to some logistical issues, and would be at home looking after our kids, but one of the distant voices I could hear sure sounded like hers. Then Paul said, “Hey, there’s kids on that boat! There’s only one of us here with kids” (of that age).
Sure enough as the boat got closer I could see my wife and our five year old daughter waving frantically at me amongst the group on deck. I broke down in tears, I was so happy. Although I’d missed my family, I did not realise how much until that moment.
I soon became concerned if they could manoeuvre a boat of such magnitude so close to the shore as this short jetty was, but the boat turned towards the jetty and gently touched it. We quickly threw all our gear onto the deck and jumped aboard so that the boat could get away again and we could great our loved ones – and there was much rejoicing.
The trip from Sir John Falls to Strahan took about three hours, even on a large powerful boat as this (partly due to speed restrictions on the Gordon River), but it was three of the best hours of my life. Our partners had brought beer, wine, cheese platters, and various other nibblies. Later the ship’s owners wheeled a BBQ out on to the stern deck where they cooked sausages, rissoles and vegie burgers. This was a Gordon River cruise like very few people ever get to do it. Much farther up the Gordon than commercial cruises go, a huge ship all to ourselves, and the exhilaration of having just completed rafting the Franklin River. I felt like we were being treated as royalty. My daughter wanted to show me everything about the boat and was loving the experience too. It was fantastic to be with my wife again a day earlier than I’d expected.
We spent the cruise down the Gordon River and across Macquarie Harbour telling our families about our adventures, taking in the sights (including great views of Frenchman’s Cap) and revelling in being safe and together again. Eventually we floated into port at Strahan just after dark, mooring in a prime position right next to the road. Unbelievable.
At Strahan we had full use of a large house that was owned by one of the team members relatives. This meant that we had time and space to have a nice hot shower and relax. We even got to sleep on real mattresses before the long four hour drive back home the next day.