My wife and I travelled from Melbourne to raft the Franklin River in October and it was a breathtaking experience! This is an absolute must for anyone who is curious to discover real nature and real adventure – not the sort you see on Getaway! The Tasmanian southwest wilderness is one of the largest, oldest and most remote temperate rainforests in the world and the scenery on the river was sublime. There are ancient gnarled trees, sheer and overhung cliffs, aboriginal caves, picturesque waterfalls, roaring grade six rapids, massive tranquil pools, unexplored ravines, beautiful campsites, towering mountains, cheeky spotted quolls (and perhaps a Tasmanian Tiger…), artistic limestone formations, and multi-coloured pebble beaches, to name just a few of the fascinations along the river. When you aren’t pumped with adrenalin for the impending grade three or four (or sometimes even five!) drop or cascade, you’re gazing in awe at the spectacular natural amphitheatre that surrounds you. The major rapids along the river have appropriately ominous names like Thunder Rush, Pig Trough, The Churn and The Cauldron, but once you’ve surmounted the dangerous obstacle that they present, you come to appreciate their wondrous beauty. This truly is one of the top natural wonders of the world.
Apart from the unspeakable beauty of the river, the Franklin trip is an unforgettable social and historical experience. It’s rare that you’re able to spend so much time with a small group of people in a remote environment. The physical and mental challenges of the trip mean that you form strong bonds with your fellow rafters and there’s a great sense of community and accomplishment as you sail out on the Stormbreaker yacht with a cold beer in hand at the end! As we made our way down the Franklin River, we found ourselves reflecting on all the people who have come before us – the first maniacal adventurers who attempted the river in wooden canoes, the convicts who escaped Sarah Island and resorted to each other’s flesh for sustenance, the hardened loggers who sought the precious Huon Pine trees that line the banks, the ancient aboriginal tribes who made the river their home, and the famous political activists who saved it from ruin and changed the course of Australian politics. There is a powerful sense of history and mystery that pervades the river – you feel you are part of something far more special and great than your particular moment in time, and ordinary life becomes a distant murmur.
Finally, I should mention our brilliant guides! There are a number of companies that raft the Franklin River, but there is only one locally owned Tasmanian company that exclusively specialises in rafting the river – “Franklin River Rafting”. Elias Eichler and Franziska Reutz, owners of Franklin River Rafting, guide the river themselves, which means they take great pride and care in their work. We thought this would provide the most authentic and adventurous experience of the river and we were not wrong! We can’t speak highly enough of Elias and Franzi. We felt completely safe throughout the trip and you could see their expertise come to the fore when portaging the grade six rapids, where they seamlessly lined the boats through rapids that have claimed both rafts and lives. Even under this intense pressure, they remained relaxed and treated all of the crew members with respect. They were also excellent campsite guides and took their hospitality as seriously as their rafting, cooking outstanding gourmet meals (Mexican night was, quote, “pretty much the best moment of my life”), telling hilarious stories (Elias’s series of awful jokes on the lower Franklin despite inclement weather was particularly memorable!), and reassuring members of the crew who were struggling with the challenges of the trip. They are fantastically genuine and charismatic people who want you to enjoy the river as much as they do. This couldn’t have been any clearer than when Franzi said that their whole motivation for starting the company was to be on the river they love. Elias and Franzi have done wilderness rafting and kayaking on rivers all over the world for the past decade, and their return to Tasmania and the Franklin River says it all.
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