March 24, 2004, 18:40: Cairns, Australia - Pete's Backpackers
I survived! I was convinced the white water rafting trip would be a deadly extreme activity. Having done it now, I can lay those thoughts to rest. It was a fun day, and certainly took a bit of energy out of you. I'm enjoying all this outdoorsy stuff, as much as I hate to admit it. I got picked up early in the morning (what's with all these sadistic touring companies with their early morning stuff?) and we set off for the Tully River. The Tully River is set in a gorge in the mountains of Queensland. I'm quite amazed how green it is. It really is a tropical rainforest, and I quite like the place. Very laid back, beautiful scenery. This river has been dammed to make power, and they "turn on the tap" in the morning till the afternoon for the people that opt to throw on a life jacket, helmet, grab a paddle then jump into a large inflatable boat to get thrown - sometimes violently - downstream into, over, and on rocks in the middle of turbulent white water. Apparently this is quite a popular activity, with multiple tour companies operating trips out to this river. Madness.
I got suited up once we arrived, and headed to the river. I got teamed up with some people and we got introduced to our tour guide. It instantly struck me that I know someone just like him - Al from my work. It was incredible, he acts just like him, all laid back and joking around - he just has the same demeanour - and he looks very similar to him, red beard to boot. Maybe I was just looking for anything I could to trust the guy that would be guiding us down a life threatening river on what looked to be a simple dingy. A few exercises had us bouncing off rocks, jumping from one side to the other in the boat, and holding on for dear life. In case you hadn't noticed - I was quite apprehensive about the whole thing at first. We set through the first rapid, and it didn't seem too bad at all, other than just getting used to the sensation of gliding over barely submerged rocks at a fair momentum. We were then led to the first "real" rapid, ever so aptly named "alarm clock". I don't remember anything specific about this rapid other than it was a hell of a lot bigger than the first small set we went through, and it was a hell of a lot more fun. I liked this.
The rest of the trip was pretty much like this, sometimes going down rapids backwards for fun, or jumping out of the boat to go for a "swim". One incident that stuck in my head was when the guide took our paddles, put us all in the front of the boat, turned the boat around backwards, and set us on the course to go through a very narrow and fast gully that was pretty much a waterfall, without actually falling. He went over first, we dropped about 8-10 feet, and once we hit the bottom, the sheer weight of us just fell backwards and we were in the river. Nice. On the video replay (yes, they have video replay at the bar after), it was shown that the guide pushed us off. Haha. Nice. It was all in good fun, and I'm eager once again to see what the photo shop will have in store for me tomorrow. I also got a copy of the video from the trip. I'm such a tourist.
Last night, at the get together after the scuba trip, we had a photo competition. To my shock and surprise, I won the contest with the photo of the turtle, and I got my choice of a t-shirt. I guess my thinking was right that if I took 4 cameras, and took the opportunity to rent a "pro" one, I'd get at least one good shot. Tomorrow, it's ATV time. The total rain here over the past few weeks has been absolutely crazy, making for some pretty crazy mud. Should be wild, I can't wait. That will be my last day in Cairns, and I'm really growing quite fond of this place. The people are universally laid back, and it's just like a big party/vacation town (from what I've been exposed to). Not looking forward to leaving just yet.