RAGING THUNDER: Tully River

Have you ever booked an experience and not really known what you might be in for? Usually I’m hot on the details about every trip, tour, hotel, restaurant and adventure we go on, but with Raging Thunder, well it was rather spontaneous.

We were told that if we happen to find ourselves in Mission Beach along our almighty East Coast road trip, then we most definitely have to experience White Water Rafting on the Tully River. Known as Australia’s premier rafting destination, with grade 3-4 level rapids (not that that means anything to me) through Queensland’s tropical rainforest we couldn’t turn the opportunity down. We booked through Peterpans Travel with the company Raging Thunder. With 30 years plus experience on the river, we knew we were in for an adventure.

Originally we’d booked the extreme rafting experience (obviously being the extremist adventurers we are…NOT), but just days before the trip we were contacted to say that the tour would not be going ahead with minimum numbers not having been met. We were give three options; 1 move our dates, 2 join the normal tour or 3 cancel the tour altogether.

I thought it was superb that we were given a number of options, but with limited time and not wanting to cancel we joined the larger, less extreme group. Looking back, I’m actually so relieved. The rafting we did was still terrifyingly fun with near death experiences here and there, but I feel I wouldn’t have come back from the extreme group. It honestly could have been the end of me.

On the day and on route to our starting point we were divided into groups by means of a number, informed of what the day will look like and were given the all important safety (you could die) chat. We reached the river bank and were quickly geared up and joined by 4 Americans and our lovely and very knowledgeable river guide Paul Harro, making our boat total of 7.

Paul didn’t waste any time and after a quick “hello”, it was helmets on and time to hit those rapids. I was terrified. Quite clear shaking with nerves kind of terrified. Why?! I have no idea. Snap out of it Steph, embrace it and enjoy it. That’s what I did and my only condition was that I did not want to fall out of the boat once.

Before we hit the real rapids, we practised our guides instructions – “over right”, “over left”, “get down” and got use to rafting as a team. We were not the best team at first in reacting quickly but we soon learnt this fault could lead to chaos. It’s safe to say that our response time to Paul’s words rather rapidly.

Nervous as ever, we were off into the unknown rocky rapids and within an instance adrenaline took over. We tumbled, paddled and crashed into rocks and white water, laughing, smiling and at times wanting to cry (happy crazy adrenaline cry). We even practised capsizing and going overboard just to know what it felt like. I didn’t like this.

After the one and only time that I agreed to voluntary fall out the raft, Paul told us to swim into the rapids. Well… the four Americans and Farley did not do that. No, it was just me that decided to take those instructions and BAM I was hurtling down those rapids like lighting. I have never battled so hard with water in order to get back to safety. Never again Paul, never again!

I was slowly getting use to the rapids and embracing my nerves when suddenly we seemed to have found ourselves at the bottom of a cliff. Anyone for a spot of cliff jumping? Erm, I don’t think so. Farley jumped and I was so proud of him. I was a disappointed in myself that I didn’t but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

After each rapid I’d ask Paul “was that the hardest one?” and each time he’d say yes but then each time after they kept getting bigger but still scarily fun! Soaked through and almost lunch time, Paul paddled us straight through a waterfall! He said it was warm water…why did I believe him?

Lunch was included as part of the day and they were not short on portions. It was a delicious Aussie BBQ with tea/coffee/squash and the option for seconds. It was also the time for a toilet stop, a shady break from the sun and a top of factor 50+++++ protection before the afternoon excursion.

The morning was most certainly the more action packed adrenaline part of the day whereas the afternoon was not as wild and gave us the opportunity to soak up the sunshine and the phenomenal tropical rainforest. We had a second opportunity to float down the river on our backs which was surprisingly and pleasantly peaceful and also a second opportunity to cliff jump. Again that I did not do.

Despite my inevitable nerves, I had heaps of fun. I jumped way way way beyond my comfort zone and did something I have never thought I’d ever experience. I white water rafted down some serious hardcore rapids!

The team at Raging Thunder, in particular Mr Paul Harro, were brilliant. They looked after each and every guest, had the greatest knowledge of all time about rafting and the world they work in and they made us laugh, smile, fear for our lives and have a lot fun.

After the day we had, that is why I was relieved we hadn’t done the extreme. I feel that for me I wouldn’t have been brave enough, so even though we had to rearrange plans, it was no faff, the team looked after us and I was pleased with the outcome.

The whole day cost us around $194 each including the levy charge for the National Park. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it. My only criticism would be that I couldn’t take away more pictures from the day. Had there have been the option to purchase photos singularly this would have been perfect. However you could only purchase the entire bundle which exceeded my budget!

I will tell you as I was told, if you ever find yourself in Mission Beach or even Cairns, go challenge the Tully River. It’s a bucket list experience.

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