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River of Dreams

On land and water, Tasmania's west coast is home to some of Australia's most ruggedly beautiful wilderness. The Franklin and Gordon rivers that came to the nation's attention during the 1970s and 80s environmental activism - and the small town of Strahan are today focal points for a burgeoning different kind of outback tourism.

Story: Matt Newton

ImageThe bird arrived like an unexpected bright idea and landed on his head.

We stood and stared with an acceptance usually reserved for dreams, in which the absurd is common and understanding not worth pursuit.

The sodden rosella just sat there and shrilled.

It was our third day on the river, a misty rain was falling and our world ended where the low cloud began just metres above our heads.

It took us the best part of two hours to drag our small wooden punt and all our gear up through the rapid and for the entire time the rosella flew in circles, landing on each one of us.

It was if, after days of rowing upstream, we were becoming part of the place or at least less of another place.

ImageAbout half way down the west coast of Tasmania lies Macquarie Harbour - a giant expanse of water twice the size of the one upon which Sydney is found.

At the northern end sits the small fishing and tourist town of Strahan. Fifteen kilometres past the distant horizon at the southern end is the mouth of the Gordon river, spewing more water into the ocean than any other in the country.

The Gordon's major tributary is the Franklin River, which holds a special place in the political and wilderness landscapes of Australia.

Each year a few hundred more people bob and squeal their way through the deep folds in the landscape that hide the river's great gorges and dark pools.

In doing so they undertake one of the last great wild river journeys in the world. Story end

Full story: Issue 13 October-November, 2000

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