White water thrills on Barron River
BRIGHT red and yellow aren't the most flattering of colours.
But add a splash of white and the colours can give the wearer a spirited hue.
At least that's the case when adrenalin junkies don the Capta Group's R'n'R White Water Rafting safety gear to tackle the Barron River rapids, 20 minutes from the heart of Cairns.
Under overcast skies on Lake Placid, our media group joined another two eight-man rafts of tourists.
Wearing our red helmets, yellow lifejackets, togs and lace-up shoes, we must have looked a sight as we carried our craft, named Freaky Fella, to the water's edge and took a leap of faith off the rocks and into the raft.
Our guide, Hosannah (or “Hos” as he prefers), only made us a little nervous as he announced some of the aptly named rapids we would conquer: The Rooster's Tail, Lover's Leap, Kitchen Sink and Cheese Churn, as well as the moody and unpredictable Mother-in-Law.
Lucky for us, the natural watercourse is ideal for beginners and has only a few of the harder Grade 3 sections.
We started with baby steps – gliding along effortlessly, and meeting bubbling trickles of water head-on. Punch the air!
Soon we were used to sitting on the edge of the raft, bonding as a team, paddling in sync (well, almost!), and responding quickly to Hos's instructions.
This was no easy ride, though, with no room for slackers. We all had to put in the effort and keep our wits about us.
Most of the time, we were “on the job” – forward paddling to propel the craft onward, or back paddling to gain a better position.
Occasionally, we were churned around like a lone yellow sock in a washing machine – and loving every second.
From the rear of the raft, Hos expertly kept us on track for time and on course for fun.
On the job. Up and over. Easy does it.
On the job. Up and over. Relax and wait.
Glide. Up again, down almost vertically. Whoo-hoo!
A 360-degree turn. Yes!
Often, the voice of the running river was so loud, we strained to hear Hos bark out his commands.
But there was no mistaking his call of: “Get down!”, when we knew things were about to turn serious.
In a nano-second, we had to stop paddling, squat in the middle of the boat and HANG ON!
During all these “Kodak moments”, an R'n'R photographer was always perfectly positioned atop a massive rock to capture smiles as wide as the lake itself (even if our eyes were closed tightly with the fear of a six-year-old on a sideshow alley ride).
The 90-minute journey wasn't all hard work, though. We could embrace the scenery and the serenity while relaxing in the raft or floating feet-first downstream during a quick swim.
And when nearing the end of our journey, we were keen to linger longer in the calm waters, pointing out strangler figs, strange rock formations, a diving cormorant and the Kuranda train line through breaks in the dense, pristine rainforest.
Hos followed in the footsteps of his father, who set up the first rafting company in Tasmania.
And it's not hard to see why, when stepping into this green and gold “office” – one of the best in the north.
After a quick change, the bus was waiting to take us to Cairns' Blue Sky Brewery for refreshments. But even without that first sip of beer, we were all drunk on the euphoria of overcoming our fears and braving the Barron River wilderness.
We had been shaken and stirred, splished and splashed.
We were exhausted but refreshed, brimming with confidence and congratulations.
I could get used to this red and yellow fashion statement.