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The Making of the Herbert

Any extended river trip takes a bit of organising. You need to ensure you have at least four paddlers, organise the logistics, sort out the gear and monitor the river level. But the Herbert was something different. It was a long way from Melbourne, a long way from major centres and there were crocodiles in it. First was the issue of hiring boats or flying them up. There wasn't much available to hire so that just left flying up. This turned out to be remarkably easy and cheap.

Paul was tasked with making enquires about helicopters. We had decided to finish the trip at Blencowe Creek. Below Blencowe Creek you get into estuarine crocodile country so this was a logical decision. The walk out at Blencowe was either described as one hour or a full day's slog and your worst nightmare, depending on who you spoke to. The first quote for the helicopter was $4,000. We didn't want to buy the helicopter. Paul is now an expert on helicopters and the various endorsements required and in the end he did find a local helicopter that would do the job at a reasonable price.

I had the job of organising the transport to and from the river. There were endless phone calls and e-mails until I managed to confirm Mr T Coaches. But what about the transport from the airport to the backpackers. I e-mailed the airport bus company. The kayaks wouldn't fit in their luggage trailer. It looked like storing them at the airport was the only answer. We eventually managed to fit the kayaks and our gear in a multipurpose taxi

During our enquires it became apparent that we might need various permits from various government bodies. We had to make enquires about an 'activities permit' which in the end we didn't need. Then a permit to fly over a World Heritage area, hopefully the helicopter would avoid this as this one was looking too hard. Finally a camping permit to camp in the national park. This was my job and it looked like we could get a permit easily via the internet. No it wouldn't be that easy. For a remote permit you had to ring the office. I rang the Cardwell office. Once I convinced him that people did paddle the Herbert River (he kept saying that it had crocodiles so couldn't imagine how or why anyone would) he advised that there were two offices. One did the trail permits and one did the camping permit. He didn't know which one would be the right one in this case but if I e-mailed them requesting a camping permit they would get it to the right office and in a week or so they would let me know if and where we might be allowed to camp!

We thought we had organised everything, jumped though all the hoops. We were now at Paul's just about to leave for the airport. It was then that Paul realised that Doreen had driven off in the car with his wallet. That hurdled cleared we made it to the airport. We hadn't brought any metho with us but I foolishly had matches in my bag. We also had foolishly packed metho stoves that had to be sniffed by the airport staff before they'd let our bags on the plane. Everything finally looked under control. Our bags were on the plane, our kayaks were on the plane so that only left us. But when Paul's carry on luggage caused alarm bells to ring we were looking shaky. He'd left his pocket knife in the bag.

The Herbert was definitely one of the most logistically difficult trips we've organised but it certainly make it all the more satisfying when all the logistics worked out. Maybe next time we'll search Paul's carry on luggage ourselves.