Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tasmanian Steep Creek

Borneo boating was a bust.

It was too expensive and bureaucraticly challenging to get to Sabah's Maliau Basin with boats, so Roman and I hung out in Tawau for a week, nursing our dollars until leaving for Tasmania, Australia.

Tasmania is the closet thing to a New Zealand watered wildland, with native Australian animals, plants and birds. It's wild and thick, with few trails and a pretty little Hobart nestled in hills over tidewater, like Seattle in the sixties or Portland in the seventies. Parrots and lorikeets swoop through well-watered eucalypts, while strange marsupials you've never heard of come out at at twilight: quolls (marsupial "cats") and pademelons (foot high kangaroos) chief among them.

Cody Roman and I had come to meet Bill Hatcher to run the Franklin (which I ran in 2002 and feature in my book, Packrafting!). But first we had to warm up. So we ran the Picton in an afternoon and then a couple days later set shuttle for the remote and steep Anne River (400 feet/mile for about a kilometer or so).

The Anne is situated in the remote Southwest National Park and starts high in Australian Alpine country, near Mt. Anne and the Arthur Mountains, a stunning, once-glacial landscape of weird plants and craggy peaks. There in a campground we saw a raccoon-sized Spotted Quoll and its potential prey the wee Tasmanian Pademelon.

We hiked in a scenic trail for about 30 minutes to the put-in on a metal bridge and proceeded to boat-bushwhack a kilometer in 2 hours to where the creek steepens up and clears out into wild drops spilling through boulder gardens of sharp rock. Good thing the weather was good or we would have been in trouble. It's hard to exaggerate the Tasmanian brush -- worst in the world I reckon: makes Appalachian laurels, California manzanita, Alaskan and BC alder, Chilean quila, and whatever it is they call their scrub in NZ a look like stuff for pre-school kids who are too young to know what alcohol is, while the stuff down here is Tassie is for hard-core alcoholics on crack.

Anyway, retreat upstream or down except in boats was not an option. It took us ten hours to go ten kilometers down the wicked steep drops. Can't say it was the best boating I ever did -- can't say I'd so it again. Too much more water would be suicide for us. Any less would be a hike through world class stumble f*cking brush.

The lower Anne, its last four kilometers or so was dreadful and the Huon at 0.75 m on the Judbury Gauge was a tedious 25 km paddle through stunning eucalypt forests with 5 great drops in its gorge. We got out with our last scraps of food in the dark after 36 hgours of intensity and non-stop ending I haven't seen since the last Wilderness Classic I'd entered.

So, I think we're ready for the Franklin -- once our arms recover from yesterday's 12 hours of paddling.


  1. another great video - looks and sounds like a fun trip!

  2. Great video and trip report Roman. As a Tasmanian, it's nice to see our scrub getting the recognition it deserves!

    Packrafting is just becoming known here in Tas so it's great to see our rivers getting some exposure.

  3. Alliecat,

    Sitting here in Kuala Lumpur, waiting to fly north, I am already thinking about my next trip down. Now that Bill has got the Franklin out of the way (although he, too, is ready to do it again) it means that he'll be up for other rivers + hikes. It'd be neat to do the Frenchman Cap Hike via Fincham's crossing and then go down the Jane.

    Of course the McLaine-Brain Six Rivers trip is the packrafting/bushbashing testpiece that I'll likely never get to....


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