Christmas 2014

I recently spent 3 days at River Island just after Christmas for some hiking. The place wasn’t as busy as I imagined it might be for that time of year, but as it turns out, it seems everyone was planning to be there for the annual New Year’s party.

I set out Saturday 27th and arrived in the early afternoon. Even though I was on my own, I decided to take our 3 room tent so in the event of rain, I wasn’t cooped up in our little two person tent.

The river was higher than I’d ever seen it before. Just before Christmas there’d been some heavy storms that took out the phone lines and the like. That meant a twenty minute drive back to the nearest place I could get a cellphone signal after setting up. I’d promised my wife I’d phone that evening. After the describing the camping arrangements to her, she sounded quite enthusiastic to check out the place with the kids one weekend.

I had enough time in the afternoon to walk up to the cascades. Normally you can make your way up the river almost mid stream. As it was, navigation was limited to the sides of the stream. The white water cascades were quite a spectacle with the water running so high.

My primary objective for the trip was to hike up into the surrounding hills. That required a river crossing which just wasn’t possible on the second day. The water level was still too high, and the river running too fast to do so without swimming.
Instead I hiked up past the cascades as far as I could go. About four hours roughly. Quite a good workout scrambling up over rocks etc.

After a rest stop in the pools upon returning, I decided to check out the river crossings. The river was running about as fast as I’d dare cross it. A German/Philippine couple I chatted to the next day must have thought I was insane as I waded out into the river.
Getting to the middle wasn’t so bad as there’s a rocky shallow there. Crossing the next section proved a little more difficult. The current was quite strong and just above the top of my thighs. I had to stop a couple of times to secure my footing, but I made it none the less.
The great thing about hiking naked is you can do river crossings and dry out very fast. On the way back I crossed the second crossing higher up which was shallower and slower. I decided in the morning that would be perfect for my big hike.

The third and last day I set off around nine am after breakfast. I hiked until about two pm in the afternoon. Probably about 30km return. For these kinds of hikes I take my 2L Hi-Serria hydration backpack. It carries the water, survival kit and trail mix.
There were quite sizeable wild goats up in the hills. I gave them a wide berth. From a clearer vantage point I was glad of the decision. They were very large billy goats with huge horns.

In the late afternoon I slept for an hour in my hammock. Absolutely wiped out. Amazingly upon waking, I headed for a swim in the river, and ended up hiking another 6km up to a natural spa in the river. The great thing about rapids is finding a little hole in a rock and soaking in it while the water rushes over you.

After some food at camp I realised if I packed up and headed home, I’d be able to sleep in a nice comfortable bed that night, rather than the not so comfortable air mattress. It was an easy 2.5h drive home that night and the family were very happy to see me again.

All in all it was a great trip and I look forward to doing another. Hopefully with the family next time.

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