Day 19 – Yarrawonga to Disappointment

From: Yarrawonga
To: Near Barooga
Distance: 42km
Distance to Go: 1945km

Today started off so well. I got up early and walked into town (about 1km) to visit the bakery and Yarrawonga’s excellent coffee shop (Harduck Coffee Co.). I figured since these places were open at 6.30am I might as well have a good breakfast before starting my 6 day paddle to Echuca.

It looked like it was going to be a good day. The sky was clear and there was only a gentle headwind. Despite heading into town for food and coffee, I was still down by the water, below the Yarrawonga Weir, at sunrise and paddling soon after.

It was a good day. The water was deep, there was a slight flow from the water being released from the weir and the weather was nice. My body was feeling good, I was motivated and paddling well.

At lunch time, while I was sitting on the bank eating cheese and cabana on crackers, the clouds came over and it started to get really cold. So I put all my warm gear on again and started paddling again.

And then…

At 1.20pm I got a message from Kath saying “Victoria is going into a 7 day lockdown”.


They have apparently had a run of covid cases (I am a bit out of touch from the news and reality) and they were going to go into lockdown from midnight. More importantly for me, I could not enter Victoria (the lefthand bank) after 4pm or I would have to go into self quarantine at home. As mentioned in previous posts and videos, the river itself is in NSW, so I was fine as long as I did not step foot on the Victoria (left) side of the river.

So with a lot of calls and chat with Kath, Mum and Dad, we came up with a plan. Mum and Dad would drive down from their place at Binalong (about 4 hours away) with the trailer and pick me up. I will then go to Binalong and wait there for the lockdown to end.

The first challenge was that I was in the middle of nowhere and it was already early afternoon. As (also) previously mentioned, all of the camping sites and access points are generally on the Victorian side. The NSW side is mostly private property. Also, knowing that it would be dark by the time Mum and Dad got to me, I needed to find somewhere that would not require too much crazy bush bashing to get to me. After some intense studying of Google Maps, I found a part of the river (which happened to almost be across the river from where I was planning to camp) that looked like it had a track to a road. My only fear was the bank would be too high to scramble up with all the gear.

So at about 3.45pm, I rounded the last bend and saw that there was a lower part in the bank that I would be able to get up and I was able to land. The spot ended up being quite a nice little camp site right on the edge of the Murray Valley Regional Park. Someone had even left some firewood so I could have a small fire, to keep warm and to keep the mozzies away, while waiting for my folks to arrive.

Mum and Dad showed up at around 7.45pm. We packed all the gear into the car and lashed the kayak to the trailer (it sort of fits). We then headed into the nearest (NSW) town called Barooga (which I had never heard of before) and checked into the motel.

It is obviously pretty disappointing that I have to push pause on the trip, but we knew there was the risk it may happen. We have been watching the borders “slam shut” for the last 18 months and even though things looked like they were better, it was always possible it would happen at some point. Fortunately there is no rush and we can just roll with it.

I have had a few suggestions from people about how I can continue in the current scenario, such as technically you can camp below the high water line of the Victoria bank, or just camp on the NSW side, or you can still get food from supermarkets during lockdown. Now that I have had a night to think about it, I wanted to address the reason I have decided not to do these things and I why I am pausing the trip for a week.

Basically I am here to enjoy the river and river life… the whole river. I don’t want to skip visiting the towns, the shops, the bars etc. in Victoria. I was going to be arriving in Echuca later in the week and I did not want to miss all the history and paddle steamers there. Also, I was meeting my family for a few days in Echuca and again this would not work. Plus, technically, if I stepped on to the Victoria bank, I would not be able to get onto the river again because on entering NSW I would have to go into self-quarantine (at home) as I am not a border town resident.

With all of this sort of stuff hanging over the paddle like a big black cloud of ambiguity, it would not be enjoyable. I am not trying to rush to the end of the river, I am trying to experience the river. So the old cliche totally applies here, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey.

I will keep you posted on the plans as they develop.

Yarrawonga Weir
The extraction point.
The track down to the extraction point
My first campfire of the paddle.
The rescue team
Mum enjoying the complimentary beers at the motel.

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