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Letter from Huw Kingston on his way Melbourne to Hobart : Franklin & Gordon rivers


In 1987 the Franklin River wove it's watery magic over me ( so much so that I named my first house "The Irenabyss" after one of it's gorges). Now 17 years later, after 12 days on the Franklin (and Gordon), the effect has been no less. The heart stopping rapids, tough portages, deep gorges, noise, silence, snaking foam, isolation all go to make it a very special place.

Hard to believe that fools wanted to kill the Franklin, drown it under it's own waters in the early 80's. I thank again the thousands of passionate people who understood the true value of wild rivers, the hundreds who were arrested and who ultimately saved the Franklin. A river once famously described by the then Premier of Tasmania as nothing more than a "dirty
brown leech ridden ditch"! Robin Gray has now moved on, in retirement, to sit on the board of Gunns Ltd, currently responsible for reducing to woodchips swathes of Tasmania's ancient old growth forests. Enough of the diatribe.....

Paddling the Franklin in late April had me expecting cool and wet conditions but Ant and I were blessed with a spell of generally settled weather. No major floods to contend with and the sun appearing pretty much on cue. We ascended Frenchmans Cap, one of Tasmania's finest mountains, from the river on a stunning day with cloud beneath our feet and views forever. We dragged, hauled, deflated kayaks and gear for hour after hour above the huge rapids of the Great Ravine- The Churn, The Cauldron,
Thunderush.........- in dry weather. The sun came out as we came out of the Ravine to dry gear. No major dramas. I had 2 swims, Ant had none. As a newcomer to whitewater, it was a fact he loved to remind me of!!

After 9 days we came to the Gordon River, flowing much faster than expected. Again luck was on side as in the original planning of the whole trip I'd thought of paddling UP the Gordon as far as possible before taking to the banks to bush bash towards the Frankland Ranges.I wouldn't have got far and was pleased to turn right to go with the flow for 50km down the
Gordon, out onto Macquarie Harbour and in rare millpond conditions headed south up Birches Inlet to where I am now, at a little hut built as part of a project to save the orange bellied parrot.

We saw no-one on the Franklin. Before that I'd walked the Overland Track, Australia's most popular multi day walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. An opportunity for Wendy to join a section as well as marie-Clare, a good friend who had flown over from the UK to walk the track with us. It was another great week, another great walk. It did however bring home to me
once more that bushwalking, so often held as the holy grail of outdoor activity is so very, very destructive of the environment through which it travels. All the more so in such a fragile landscape as Tasmania's sodden peat heathland and rainforest. Hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars spent on boardwalks, track stabilisation, huts and composting toilets. All
flown in by helicopter. All in a vain battle. All to allow more feet to trample more landscape. If i had to give up an outdoor activity because of the concern I had for the environment, then walking would have to be it. The Overland or the Overdone Track?

It's day 44 since Melbourne and the realisation has struck that after over 500 days of wandering from City2City there's potentially only 25 days left. Tomorrow a charter boat will meet us here, bringing in Warren and walking
gear and taking out Ant and paddling gear. 20 days through the wild South West of Tasmania ahead. The enjoyment of the relatively benign weather of recent weeks tempered by the knowledge such luck cannot hold. Could a benign April be replaced by a real South West May?

The rain falls steadily as I write.............


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Read Huw's Perth2 Darwin:

Read Letter 1: Perth to Carnarvon

Read Letter 2: Carnarvon to Broome

Read Letter 3: Update from Drysdale River Homestead

Read Letter 4: Farewell to Western Australia