Party: Me, Jimmy
(James), Lukas and Leo

Photos: Leo and I




/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;

Jimmy, Gumbshoe and I awoke
around 6, and after some breakfast and final packing started on the 2hr
drive to meet Leo. We passed by Lukas’s place to grab his forgotten
EpiPen (Epinephrine)
and Phenergan (antihistamines). I had been a bit slack organising the
trip and when I returned Leo’s missed call I didn’t even have pack rafts
ready! Luckily Leo was close to a store and picked up 6 rafts making a
total of 7 (3 spares). For our primary rafts
we went with the $30 Hydro-Force RX-3000 from Kmart. The extra cost of
these proved to be justified due to the better pumps, easy valve release
design and perhaps most importantly the redundancy in the
multi-compartment outer chambers.

Lukas got confirmation that he
could get the day off work and came over to join Jimmy and I in
packing. Being my first packrafting trip, I still had a lot of work to
do and spent several
hours reading emails people had sent me so I would have some idea on
what we could accomplish. Based on this I figured Wollemi Ck to the Bob
Turner’s Track should make a good 4 day trip. With the high water I
thought we might finish a little earlier and when
making my laminated maps, also added the section down to the Upper Colo
Bridge. It was well after midnight when this was all finished, and
morning came too soon.

We met
with Leo on the Putty Rd and after positioning the cars for some
shuffle action
struggled with laden packs down the distinct track to Wollemi Ck. I had
walked here before but only found the track on the walk out last time,
it proved very distinct and was so wide there was little risk to the
exposed rafts strapped to our packs. The lookout
on the way was better than I remembered but the raging waters were a lot
higher… what were we getting ourselves into? Last time I had rock
hopped up the middle of the creek. This time you couldn’t really see any

We inflated our crafts (raft?)
in a pleasant little cove and soon set off in our shiny
new rafts. It was smooth sailing – or rather drifting – and after a
light rapid, we thought we were doing very well. But as we rounded the
corner a roar could be heard… with a grin, Lukas turned and gave the
thumbs up and disappeared over the top of the rapids.
We all followed. It was very rough. I think at least two people
capsized. Jimmy broke a paddle. I got a huge gash in the bottom of my
boat and also bruised my foot… it wasn’t the best start. We retreated
to the side and after licking out wounds and a late
lunch, scouted ahead and decided to portage the next set which looked
worse than what we had been down.

We struggled through the
scrub, the vines pulling us backwards giving me more time to think on
the sensibility of the trip. Since Jimmy’s pack had fallen to pieces we
needed to cut
a hole through the frame and thread the strap through.

We reinflated our rafts and
floated down to the junction with Colo. The water here was also very
brown but the river was much wider and seemed much more placid. We
reclined in the
sun watching the various caves and waterfalls in the clifflines float
by. Jimmy was quite impressed by the vegetation growing on the ledges,
or floating gardens as Jimmy called them. Perhaps there are more
claystone layers in this part of the mountains?
Eddies created by submerged
rocks(?) twirled as around allowing us to watch the water dragons and
goannas on both banks. There were also some fish which would now and
then jump out
of the water and birds swooping to catch insects on the surface.

But the water was moving
quickly and there were many rapids to test ourselves and our boats. We
all capsized many times and many paddles where broken. One of the bad
rapids had a horrible
back current. I dropped a meter or so into a low spot where I found a
capsized Leo trying to escape. I went over the top of him. It looked
like he was struggling to stay above water and clinging to the side of
my boat I tried pulling him to the side of my boat.
He soon went after his boat leaving me to struggle to escape. It felt
like I was in there for ages, and I could feel my arms weakening as the
water threw me about. Eventually me and my raft broke free and I
scrambled back in.
Because of the late time we
reached the Colo, we kept going to quite late. However, after pulling
over at a terrific beach camp I translated some of the bearings I had
been taking
onto the map. A west followed by a south placed us somewhere after
Pinchgut Ck. We were much further than I had expected. Yay!
After getting a fire going we
began unpacking bags and found that nearly everyone had wet gear. Lukas
and Jimmy both had dripping sleeping bags and clothes. Leo’s thermals,
down jacket, etc was wet, but luckily the sleeping bag had an extra
layer of protection. I was lucky and only had a few damp spots on my
sleeping bag.
Funnily enough on my last (and
only other) Colo trip, I didn’t have sleeping gear and found that a
covered pit-fire works quite well. Sleeping in their wetsuits this is
what they did.
We slept in a bit the next
morning and awoke to an overcast day. After repairing some boat injuries
– Duck Tape worked well – we were back on our boats. It was colder
today and we
were glad to have wetsuits. We continued downstream passing Canoe Ck.
Leo had walked here before on a Northern Three Peaks trip and had some
memory of the normal water levels.

Not sure where Jimmy is trying to go!

The cliffs where probably less
spectacular at this point, but there was still much to see including
Platypus Rock, and some spectacular gums!

Leo topping up Lukas’s raft – a slow leak.

Inflating one of our back up boats.

Lukas’s “She’ll be right” thumbs up!

I think that’s me in the middle of the rapid!
We were getting better at
negotiating the rapids by now and were experimenting going down the
rapids in tandem or even larger groups. We successfully made it down
quite a rough rapid
by joining together by our sides and riding the rapid down like a snake.
My boat had no floor at this point and it was nicknamed the Fred
Flinstone boat and required a seating variation involving sitting on the
After the Wollangambe we
started to find quite a lot of flotsam. Much of it quite high up in the
trees as the river peaked at 8m a few days prior. One thing we carried
out was parts
of a blue inflatable canoe. There were also a couple of inflatable
rafts, a foam roll mat, amongst other things.

A hole already? Unfortunately…

Doing a wheelie in the Flindstone boat!

The rapids where much worse than they look in photos. Here is a series of stills Leo took on one of the smaller rapids.

Some flotsam up quite high in a tree.
We were getting tired by this
point but I wanted to push on further past the last serious rapid called
“The King”. We joined forces. “It’s a long way down”, “Down there!?” It
was said
almost as a joke, but as we neared the brink it turned out it *was* a
long way down and there was a reason this rapid was named. There was no
turning back now. One after one we curved down in a vortex of water.
Lukas who was first apparently capsized in this
first pool. I was on the other end and didn’t really see this happen.
The water pushed me up over a giant boulder, whilst Jimmy was pulled
down to the left forcing me to let go. I then plunged down a couple of
meters down before impacting with the water and
falling through the floor of my boat. I clung to the sides for a few
more rapids whacking my bum on a rock before scrambling back aboard. One
more rapid and I was through. “The King!” I yelled and received at
least one reply. I looked around and saw Leo, a
pack and an upturned boat floating by. On my other side I saw Lukas in
his boat. Wait! did he make it down? No. He had somehow landed in Leo’s
boat. Jimmy was also struggling in the water heading towards a beach.
Leo swam passed me a paddle and I grabbed Jimmy’s
pack which had a ripped strap where it had been previously been
attached. We lost some of the rubbish we had collected.

The King Rapid, and in the foreground, an upturned boat, a pack and one of the roll mats we found.
After reassembling our wounded
party we started looking for camping spots. There wasn’t anything great
and in the end we navigated to Mailes Cave. After a quick scout I found
the fire
ring and we slowly hauled all the gear up and got a fire going in the
fading light. I have to say I was quite underwhelmed by the spot and the
overhang didn’t seem like anything especially notable. Maybe there is
something historical behind the spot, or perhaps
a good story? – let me know if you know! In the log book there were only
two entries for 2015 and one for 2014.

It had been a long day and we
all had injuries. Leo and I had sore bums, Lukas had a swollen hand and
Jimmy had a sore knee (x2), shin, hip, ankle and but and also proclaimed
he had “broken every bone in his body”. We were close to the original
exit point and Jimmy decided he would exit whilst the rest of us would
add an extra leg and float down to the Upper Colo Bridge. This would
save the rest of us a substantial amount of time
so there wasn’t much effort put into talking him out of the idea.

In the morning, we did some
more raft repairs and enjoyed our first rapid of the day almost
immediately. At Hungryway Ck we collected a whole lot of rubbish (and
usable gear!) before
leaving Jimmy to walk out with the hungry wild dog that was prowling the
picnic area.

Spider eating its catch.

To save carrying Jimmy’s gear
out, we created a gear raft which we tied to my boat, and then later
tied all our boats together. There were a few rapids after this point
but in general
the river was very flat and in spots very slow. To finish at a
reasonable time we started rowing. It was tiring work and we had many
rests in which we retreated beneath helmets and the blades of our
paddles to escape the burning sun – foolishly we hadn’t brought
any sunscreen.
There cliffs had reduced to
mountains and these reduced to hills and we slowly made our way around
giant S’s in the river, paddling for 6 k’s to be only 1km from where we
had previously
been! A couple of canoers past as traveling at least three times our
speed – and that was against the current. Soon we were bounded by
private property and began seeing buildings and small farms. We stopped
to talk to a couple of ladies sitting in the river.
They helped settle the debate about what river the Colo flowed into. It
turns out the Nepean and the Hawkesbury are the same river. From the
confluence of the Grose and Nepean the Hawkesbury is born. And this is
where the Colo enters – I think Leo won that

We continued down passing many
people in the river probably down from the campsite we saw marked on
the map. We were all glad to see the bridge I think, and saw Jimmy
waving at us
from the middle. We passed under before struggling to the side slowly
ferrying the gear up my awaiting ute. We had some delicious junk food
and then set of to get Leo’s car. This took around an hour and by this
time the service station where we were planning
to have dinner had closed. 😦

We parted ways and it wasn’t
till after midnight that I was relaxing in a comfortable bed. We had all
learnt a lot I think. Life jackets and helmets are a must. Sunscreen is
more important
that any of us thought (we all had sunburnt hands, and faces). And
scouting class 4-5 rapids is probably a good idea…
also we need to get better at water proofing!

The End.