Distance to Go: 1987km
This river is truly crazy. Every day has a different adventure and today was epic.
Today was all about crossing Lake Mulwala and getting to Yarrawonga. I managed to get a brief moment of phone reception last night and saw that a front was expected to come through at lunch time, so I decided leave early and get as far across the lake as I could before the front hit. I was so organised that I sitting the bank of the river waiting for it to be light enough to paddle. I was on the water as soon as the sun started to rise and was treated to a beautiful sunrise.
The first few hours of the paddle were lovely. There were lots of birds and the river started to widen as I got closer to Lake Mulwala. The forecasted winds were working in my favour and gave me fair bit of assistance as I paddled.
When I arrived at Bundalong, which is pretty much at the start of the lake system, the wind really started to pick up. While I was having a quick break at the Bundalong boat ramp, one of the local charter fishing operators said “geez… you’ll be able to surf across the lake today mate”. He wasn’t wrong.
The upstream part of Lake Mulwala is made up of lots of lagoons, creeks and wrong turns. You can just follow the main river path, but there are plenty of short cuts. After yesterday’s wrong turn, I decided to send up the drone and check out the best path. That worked perfectly and I found a very direct path across the lake.
Once I got into the middle of the lake, I could see the frontal system forming on the horizon. The northerly wind started to really pick up and the water became very choppy. Soon the wind was gusting at 48kmh (I checked online afterwards) and the waves were starting to get up to 0.5m with the odd wave getting close to 1m (with white caps). I have paddled this sort of water a lot in Sydney’s harbours, but never with a fully loaded boat and definitely not while trying to also dodge logs and trees. The wind and the waves were coming from the side most of the time, so they were crashing over the deck of my boat and pushing be sideways toward the logs and dead trees. After about 5km (about an hour) of this carnage I decided it was getting a bit wild and I needed to get closer to the shore (about 2km away). I surfed the waves towards the shore and then the wind really picked up. I needed to head north west to get around the curve in the shore, which meant I started heading into the wind which was unpleasant to say the least.
I got to the point were I just needed to get off the water before I was rolled or smashed against something. Unfortunately the river bank was all residential homes that had concrete and brick retaining walls along the bank. The waves were crashing against them and there was no way I could get close to them. After about 20 minutes of fighting the wind I eventually found a small beach, so I charged at it and jumped out of the kayak before it got filled with water by the waves.
So I was now safe of the land, but I was still 5km (by lake) to where I was staying. So I decided it was time to embark on a massive portage. I repacked the boat into portage mode (all the weight at the front), created a shoulder sling out of some strapping I had and started walking up the road. I then looked at Google Maps and it was going to be a 7km hike. Oh boy.
It was brutal. At Kath’s recommendation I took a pre-emptive anti-inflammatory knowing that it would destroy my back walking while pushing the boat. Fortunately, a small bit of relief was that I was walking through a new residential area that was being developed, and they had just finished a new concrete bike path that followed the road. This meant for most of the walk I had a smooth track and was well clear of the traffic on the highway.
After 5km of walking along the highway I came across a petrol station that had a pie shop, so I was able to sit down and have lunch before continuing. With a new found, pie and donut induced, energy I pushed on through suburban Yarrawonga, across the main street (which attracted a lot of odd looks) and then down to the Yarrawonga Holiday Park. As I checked into my cabin, the skies opened up and the rain associated with the front started to pour. At least I missed out on getting wet… well until I had to walk to the pub for dinner.
I am now absolutely knackered. As a result and to allow for this weather system to move through, I have decided to bring forward my rest day (planned for 2 days time) and spend 2 nights in Yarrawonga. So tomorrow is a day of video editing and recuperating.