When Kirsty signed up for a white water rafting expedition on the Franklin River with a group of mates, she didn’t really know what she was in for, so she went along for the ride and embraced each turn and fall as it came.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Palawa people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

The mind is a funny thing. The seed of an idea gets planted and the imagination fires up. It starts to dream, building expectations both good and bad.

With adventure holidays, you can never really know what you’re in for. Everything is so dependent on the weather, the gear, the people, and your own body’s capabilities. The expectation can often be quite different from the reality.

Our Franklin River rafting trip had been planned for most of the year. By February, everyone was in, May, it was all paid for, and in October off we went.

Ten mates, all flying into Tasmania from different parts of the country, five of us coming from Alice Springs. Gear was dropped at our accommodation for us to try on and make any adjustments, then we were off to the pub to catch up on all the time since we’d seen each other last and hype each other up for our upcoming adventure.

I’d been white water rafting once before, when I was 16 in Bali, but that was just a couple of hours. I couldn’t really remember it.

This was going to be a bit different – seven days rafting down the Franklin River, camping on her banks. Honestly I was pretty nervous, but I was committed.

I have a bit of a life motto: every year, do something that scares you. Get out of your comfort zone and challenge your limits. It’s incredibly empowering to realize that you’re capable of so much more than you think you are.

The closer the time came, the more nervous I became. Tasmania is notoriously cold and wet. I generally hate both of those things.

My mind was building this into a week of misery and fear – perpetually cold, physically strenuous (was I even fit enough?!), potentially dangerous… God, why did I agree to this “holiday”??

Going through the liability waiver didn’t help the increasing dread:

‘Please do not book this trip if you believe it to be perfectly safe. IT IS NOT.’

‘Each activity has many associated risks (hazards and perils)’

‘Potential accidents include, but are not limited to, drowning, hypothermia (cold exposure), hyperthermia (heat stroke), falls, food poisoning, cuts, sprains, bruises, fractures, arterial bleeding, concussion, spinal cord damage and death.’

For a quiet and anxious soul such as myself, you can imagine my hesitation as I signed that waiver. Oh well, I’ve had a good life, I guess I’ll die happy if this is the end!


Rafting the Franklin: An Exercise of Forgetting Expectations and Embracing Reality, Kirsty Imms, rafts, boats on a river, the franklin river

Ready, Set, Go

Day one of our rafting adventure. We grabbed a coffee for the road before the bus picked us up at 7am. It was a three hour drive to the launch point.

It was raining and it was cold. There was a knot in my stomach the size of a cantaloupe. We arrived and our three guides were excited to check the water levels – there’d been big rains the week before.

They told us we were a lucky group, the water level was just about perfect. They also said if it rained any more things might get hairy.

We ferried all the gear down to the water’s edge, had some lunch and then it was time. Wetsuits on, shorts over the bottom, spray jacket over the top, lifejacket over all of that. Helmet on. Ready.

A quick safety briefing and we were off. Three rafts, three guides – four people in two, three in the other. I don’t think any of us had any real idea of what we were in for. The mixture of nerves and excitement added to the feeling of adventure.

There wasn’t much time to acclimatize before the first big rapid was in front of us. Time to face the fear! To find out what it was all about.

‘Forward paddle!’

‘Left, left, left!!’

‘Hold on!’

The nose of the raft disappeared into the water as we held tight and followed, freezing cold water reminding us we were alive, bouncing down a vertical rapid.


Rafting the Franklin: An Exercise of Forgetting Expectations and Embracing Reality, Kirsty Imms, rapids, boat in wild whitewater, franklin river


I tried not to close my eyes. Then all of a sudden, we were through it and out the other side. A few more right-side paddles to get us in the right line of the current and we were floating peacefully down the river.

A Grounding in Reality

It’s a strange feeling when you’re reminded of how powerful the mind is. My imagination had led me to the extremes of every possible scenario.

My mind tends to prepare itself for the worst case so that whatever happens in reality ends up being a lot more straightforward.

Of course there are others who do the opposite, and others again who seem to not think too much about things at all, allowing themselves to just be surprised by whatever happens, able to enjoy an experience they hadn’t put any expectation on.

That first rapid brought some reality to what the next seven days might actually look like. And it wasn’t so scary. We floated down the river, paddling here and there, swapping banter with our guide.

It was beautiful. The Franklin, a stunning avenue of rock faces and forest taking us through a world that looked straight out of a Lord of the Rings movie.

The nerves subsided as soon as reality became the present and we settled in for the seven days ahead.


Rafting the Franklin: An Exercise of Forgetting Expectations and Embracing Reality, Kirsty Imms, people on a raft on the franklin river

It’s Not All Smooth Sailing

After a few more exhilarating rapids, our guide instructing us how to move through them with comforting and thrilling ease, we came to a big one. This one, we were told, was more than we were going to take on. Enter our first portage.

A huge fallen tree was wedged between two rocks that formed a steep drop masked by the rushing water. The combination of water flowing with such speed both over and under the log created a vacuum, pulling rafters straight down into a hidden chasm.

We were told about others who’d attempted it, getting dragged and pummeled by the water pulling them down between rock and log then stuck underneath. They’d survived, but came out of it with broken ribs and one less boat.

We got out of the rafts and the guides tied ropes in various places, they climbed up on the bordering rocks ready to pull them through.

Our group watched with fresh-faced naivety as our three guides yelled and threw ropes to each other. It took us a while to realise that the yelling was more than it might have been for an easy portage.

The first raft was stuck, bent in half around the log by the water, the extreme pressure of the flow making it near impossible to pull it back to straight.

Suddenly we were all involved, ropes were thrown to be pulled from all different angles. We struggled to find footholds on slippery rocks, our soft hands straining to pull on wet rope.

‘One, two, three, PULL!!’


14 people and one little inflatable raft against the surging power of the Franklin River. It was a battle of human vs nature. We pulled every which way with all the strength we could find.

It took us an hour to finally get the raft unstuck and move her through. The next two rafts followed with no comparable drama, the guides steering them clear to avoid it. Our exhausted group looked at each other and wondered how much more of this we were in for.

On the other side, we piled back into the rafts and pushed off into the river like nothing had happened. On we went.


Rafting the Franklin: An Exercise of Forgetting Expectations and Embracing Reality, Kirsty Imms, mountains, the franklin river, mist on the mountains

A Reminder of the Risks

A couple more hours passed and we came up to the last rapid of the day. We could make out some of it ahead of us, a few corners moving through walls of rock, flowing fast and loud.

Our guide yelled to paddle this way and that, steering through, holding on. He made it all feel pretty easy. We let out some whoops and cheers on our way through, loving every second of it.

Once we’d made it through, we noticed some more concerning yelling from behind. The raft behind us was pushed up against the rock, our friends paddling hard to move it on – one missing.

One orange helmet bobbed in the water, a guide shouting to let go, we made out the body attached to the helmet once she did. Our friend tumbled through the rapids, head in and out, big gulps of air whenever she could get them.

In our raft on the other side we watched in silence and shock, I could feel the beginnings of tears, was she alright?

An impressive display of calm in crisis, our friend remembered the safety briefing and flipped onto her back, feet out ahead to avoid smashing into rocks.

As she got closer we got ready to throw the rope. After a couple of attempts she caught it, we pulled her into our raft.

All a bit shaken, we set off again, our friend excused from paddling to settle her adrenalin. We floated along, chatting and processing, it was only a short distance to where we’d camp for the night.

We’d made it through our first day. Pulling into camp, we all took our positions in a human chain to unload all the gear.

Finally at Camp

Keen to get out of our cold wetsuits and settle in for the evening, we trekked our belongings up to the clearing where we’d camp and changed into our trackies.

Then we set up various tarps, tents and organised our sleeping arrangements. It felt like we were deep in the forest, everything a bit damp and green, but we could still hear the rushing river just on the other side of the trees.

Finally, it was time to crack a beer and unpack the day. It had been a huge first day on the Franklin. We retold events of the day with all the appropriate dramatics and individual highlights.

The day had been one big taste of a whole range of possibilities the river could bring.

Our guides had set up the ‘kitchen’ and put out some snacks which we happily gobbled up. We were given instructions on how the ‘toilet’ worked – essentially a lesson on how to poo in a bag. The guides didn’t sugarcoat anything and we appreciated that.

We found a good spot to finish our beers and watch the sun set on our first big day.

Dinner was shockingly luxurious considering we’d been carrying the whole kitchen, fridge, and pantry in barrels strapped to rafts.

It was a feast of fresh Tasmanian produce cooked up by our guides. A meal that had us all ready for bed not long after it got dark.

Settle on in for the Journey

And so went the days. Waking up at the crack of dawn to get in some coffee and breakfast before coaxing ourselves into our wet and freezing cold underclothes and wetsuits. Then we’d re-configure our human chain to pack the rafts and be back on the river before 9am.

Every day we paddled, floated, and hurtled through rapids towards the finish. No day was quite as dramatic as that first day on the river, although that day did well to strap us in and pay attention.


Rafting the Franklin: An Exercise of Forgetting Expectations and Embracing Reality, Kirsty Imms, river rapids, ferns, whitewater


There were more portages, unpacking rafts, and dragging all our gear from point-to-point, just to load it all up again and continue on. There were more man-overboard situations, one a bit hairy, others quite entertaining.

There were more delicious meals – so many more! We ate like royalty about five times a day.

As we paddled we listened to stories from the guides about previous Explorers, learned about the birds and the trees that lined the banks.

We witnessed clouds of green pollen exploding from Huon pines in elaborate displays of pollination. We played spotto and listed foods and animals for every letter of the alphabet. We cheered and high fived our paddles at the bottom of every rapid.

We read books and played cards around the campsite, soaking in the ridiculous beauty of the Tasmanian forest. We climbed rocky paths, skinny dipped in freezing cold water, and pooped in bags.

Seven days took us on a journey that none of us could have really imagined or asked any more of. We were a lucky group with near perfect conditions.

The expectations and fears I’d built leading up to the trip were smashed to pieces by the reality of an incredible adventure. It goes to show, you should never let your nerves hold you back from plunging into the unknown – you might just have the time of your life.