Well the date has now been set. I will be resuming the paddle down the Murray River, from Mildura, on the 27 April 2022.
So it is time to resurrect this blog, dust off the cameras and to get ready to document the next stage of the Summit to Sea adventure.
I had previously planned to pick up the adventure at the end of May, after the 2022 Australian Hot Air Balloon Championships, which were going to be held in Western Australia in early May. However, last night we found out that they are postponing the event again (probably until May 2023), so I have been able to bring the Murray trip forward a month.
I have approximately 890km remaining to paddle, which should take me about 4 weeks to complete. I have reviewed my original plan for this section of the river and I have decided to stretch it out by a few extra days. Let me explain some of the reasons for doing this.
Firstly, I am not as fit as I was when I had reached Mildura last year. After 2 months of paddling all day, every day, I was pretty much at the peak of my fitness and I had no problems paddling 50km+ days. Over the last 9 months (including 3 months of lockdown), I have lost a lot of that fitness and endurance. So shortening the days (especially for the first couple of weeks) to between 30-45km will help my body get back into the swing of things.
Secondly, after watching my videos and reading my blog posts again, I can see how much the COVID border issues were occupying my mind and were detracting from the whole experience. This time I won’t (fingers crossed) have these issues, so I want to give myself some extra time to just cruise down the river, drink cups of tea on the river bank and just spend more time enjoying my thoughts. I will also get to spend time in more of the towns, experience more of the campsites and meet more people.
The great thing is that this time I don’t really have any deadlines, so if I decide while I am on the river that I want to go faster or slower, or even take a day off if the weather is crappy, I can. My parents will be driving down to South Australia to pick me up (as Kath will be working) at the end of May, so I will need to give them about a week’s notice of when I plan to reach the sea, but other than that I can just go at my own pace.
Restarting at the end of April means that I only have 2 months to prepare for the paddle. So here is a breakdown of what I need to do between now and then.
The first thing is obviously fitness. I actually started getting fit again a couple of months ago. 3 months of lockdown and Christmas were not kind to me, especially to my waistline. I went from living on the river for 2 months, eating about half what I normally would and burning a lot of calories each day, to being locked down with a full pantry and a once substantial wine cellar. As a result I became a lot heavier, very quickly. To put this body fluctuation into perspective, let me put some numbers to it…
Over the 47 days and 1,587km of paddling I lost 7kg (8% of my body weight), going from my normal weight of 94kg to 87kg. Then, after 3 months of lockdown and then Christmas I quickly put this weight back on and some. I added on 11kg in about 4 months going from 87kg to 98kg.
Thankfully I have now lost some of those extra “bad” kilos and have found (hidden under all that Christmas cheer) that I had actually put on a few kilos of muscle. So now that I can see the belly shrinking, I am feeling a lot better about the condition of my body.
I have a weekly plan in place for the next 2 months, which includes doing two long paddles, a couple of runs and two gym sessions with my Personal Trainer. I recently started working with a Personal Trainer to help with my flexibility and to strengthen my core. Last year I found that my body was fine with the paddling, but spending hours sitting and sleeping on the ground in the tent was the hardest bit. So working on flexibility should help me no feel like an old man when I wake up in the mornings.
The gear is all pretty much still packed and ready to go. There is still a lot of Murray Mud that I haven’t got around to cleaning off things. I just had to throw out a whole lot of food that had expired, but other than that everything (I think) is still pretty much organised.
I plan to do a 3 day paddle next week at the Myall Lakes as a bit of gear shake down. It will give me a chance to get back into the routine of paddling and camping, and hopefully remind me of some of the things I wanted to change or add to my massive pile of gear. It also looks like is going to be miserable weather, which is perfect, because I will be able to find any leaks or gear that needs patching and will help me remember what it is like sitting under my tarp for hours in the pouring rain.
The trip will also give me a chance to get back into the swing of things when it comes to creating videos and photography. I haven’t really had a chance or desire to create any videos over the last 6 month, so I am sure it will take me a while to remember how to talk crap to the camera and to get the perfect pelican shots.
As I have pointed out numerous times in my videos and posts, the mental aspect of these long solo journeys can be the hardest part. I actually love spending time in my own head and I am really looking forward to being on the river without the stresses that I had last time.
For a couple of months after I came off the river, I was very much in the mindset of “I just want to finish the damn river” and, to be honest, I wasn’t really very excited about the next 890km of the Murray. I just wanted to get to the end. But as time has gone on and having spent so much time at home without being able to go out on proper adventures, I am now really looking forward to the actual journey and in a way don’t really want to get to the end.
So mentally I am ready and super excited.
Anyway, I will be posting more often as I prepare for the paddle and the videos (which people have been asking for) will start again soon.