How to Experience Heart Pumping Adventure Travel in Australia
It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life and half way through this adventure, I wished I had never been stupid enough to try it. Yet at the finish of this adrenaline pumping experience, my tortured body was ready to start again.
How crazy is that?
Our gut wrenching adventure was trying to tame North Queensland’s mighty Tully River clinging to flimsy inflatable rafts and battling rapids and rocks on our watery journey from the top of the Great Dividing Range down to the coastal plain.
Adventure travel is big in Australia but few can match the pulse raising thrills of wrestling a tiny inflatable raft against the power of a raging torrent. I tried it and lived to tell the tale with memories that will last forever.
Fear and Anticipation
As our “Raging Thunder” bus towing a trailer loaded with rafts climbed to the top of the Great Dividing Range, the nervous group of men and women shared mixed emotions. Our admiration for the beauty of the pristine rainforest was tempered by the fear of the challenges that lay ahead.
Our fears turned to terror when we saw and heard our pathway to the bottom of the range. It was like a scene from the movie “Deliverance”. A fearsome white and brown bucking bronco was eagerly waiting for us.
One nervous backpacker from Tulsa Oklahoma took one look at the white, foaming torrent and said, “I can’t do it!” Tearfully, she retreated to the safety of the bus.
After some safety drills and instructions from our raft captain our intrepid group was ready to enter the foaming cauldron and tackle our first rapid. It was a twisting beast involving an almost vertical drop. Amazingly we survived, but other rafts weren’t so lucky and overturned.
Fortunately our captains were highly skilled and had well rehearsed safety drills. The overturned rafts were soon ready, together with their waterlogged crew, to tackle the next rapid.
The Calm Between the Rapids
In between the rapids, there were periods of calm where we were invited to jump out of the rafts and drift down this beautiful river on our backs like a flotilla of human rafts. Our compulsory life jackets kept us afloat.
The sheer pleasure of floating in the calm, warm water, listening to bird calls and being surrounded on all sides by dense tropical rainforest, was surreal. Ah what bliss!
Lunch was taken at a clearing in the rain forest. It allowed us time to share our adventures (and misadventures) as well as enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful pristine wilderness rain forest, miles from anywhere.
The afternoon journey to the last of the rapids was just as terrifying, but by this stage, we knew what to do and expect. I am sure the guides had sadistic pleasure from watching our reactions and telling about the terrors of the next set of rapids.
Sadly and suddenly, the adrenaline rush came to an end and over drinks at the end of the day, we laughed as we shared our experiences and ranked it as a “must try before you die” adventure.
A Less Challenging Option
If you think the level ¾ rapids may be a bit too challenging, Raging Thunder has half day rafting adventures on the Barron River, just a short 20 minute drive from Cairns. These rapids, rated 2/3 are simple and less challenging, but still great fun.
The company, Raging Thunder operates from Cairns and stops at the pretty coastal resort of Mission Beach on the way. The town has a wide range of accommodation including a superb Youth Hostel called “Tree house”. I stayed 3 nights at Tree house and used it as a base for exploring the area, including Dunk Island, one of a string of island paradises along the North Queensland coast.