Kayaking the Gordon River in Tasmania

By Australian Geographic 13 May 2019
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AGS-sponsored kayakers capture the hidden wilderness of Tasmania’s Gordon River and it’s once-impassable gorges in this short video.

“I GO OUT THERE to get in touch with the land, to get in touch with myself. When you get out there, you don’t get away from it all. You get back to it all. You come home to what’s important; you come home to yourself” – or so said late Tasmanian conservation hero Peter Dombrovskis.

Dombrovskis and fellow wilderness photographer Olegas Truchanas were the inspiration that had led AGS-sponsored adventurers Ro Privett, Dave Matters and Dan Kozaris to find themselves precariously balanced on the banks of the Gordon River in early 2016, ready to set off on an epic white- water kayaking expedition.

The team were about to paddle down the Gordon River Splits in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Thankfully the outflow from the upstream Gordon Dam was turned off, transforming the normally thundering perilous rapids into something more manageable, or so they hoped.

They had abseiled down to the river with their kayaks in torrential rain, but nevertheless were “presented with an awe-inspiring gorge that had us speechless,” Ro says. “The forces of nature were well and truly on show.” The channel was packed with huge glistening boulders, some the size of houses.

The kayaking was tough going and they were cautious in their approach to paddling as the bounced through many boulder-strewn rapids. Flanking them far above on the high banks were unmistakable Huon pines, among the oldest living trees in Australia.

A few hectic days of alternately paddling and scrambling by foot over boulders along the river banks later, they rounded a bend in the river and were presented with the final split or gorge – the narrowest of them all. “It was a mass of boulders, old wise and patient, lying at the foot of vertical cliffs… There was a stunned silence between us,” Ro says.

To get into the water here, the crew had to abseil once more into the water carrying their kayaks, as there were no rock ledges to speak of on either side of the river. Once in “I could see both the boys just below me in an eddy – with grins from ear to ear,” he says. “I helplessly followed suit as I floated through. We were there. We had made it… It was one of those moments where our hearts and souls agreed; we hadn’t lived many a better day.”

Once back at home and able to reflect on their time in the wilderness, Ro adds: “We were more fulfilled. We had a clearer understanding of our lives and a better connection to both family and friends. We felt whole and had re-discovered our passion.”
As Dombrovkis says of Tasmania: “It is a wild land and I think that there is a certain wildness, a certain wild element in man’s nature that is essential to the humanness of man. If man becomes contained, too docile, programmed, then he becomes less human. And this wildness in the wilderness allows the wildness in man an expression.”

The trio are working on a full-length documentary, called It’s Only Natural. Here’s a preview. We’ll keep you posted on it’s release date.