Total Distance Travelled: 1623km
Distance to Go: 851km
After a ten month break, I have finally got back on to the Murray River. A few days ago I drove to Mildura and spent two nights in town. This gave me a day to buy all my food and get everything ready for the paddle. A good friend of mine, Doug, kindly flew up from Melbourne to spend 24 hours with me and it was great opportunity to hang out in the various drinking establishments that Mildura has to offer. We also caught up with some local ballooning friends (Kerry, Robyn, Ian and Carol) for dinner.
On Wednesday morning, Doug and I headed down to the Mildura District Canoe Club on the outskirts of Mildura to launch my kayak. I had originally planned to start in the centre of town (at the Ornamental Lakes) and go through the Mildura Lock (Lock 11), however I rang the lock keeper the day before and he told me the lock would be closed for the day due to maintenance. I am glad I called, because I would have packed all my gear in the boat, paddled 15 minutes and then would have had to unpack all the gear again and carry it all around the lock. We were soon joined by the farewell committee of Kerry, Carol and Ian. It was lovely to have some friendly faces wave me off.
The paddle on Wednesday was really short (only about 14km) which took only a few hours. My original plan (last year) was to paddle the 50km from Mildura to Wentworth in one day. However, since I had not paddled my full loaded boat from 10 months and I am less fit than I was back then, I decided to split the first day into two.
I didn’t really get back into the rhythm of paddling for most of the paddle. I did a lot of drifting and took my time to just enjoy being on the river again. At around lunchtime I found a great camping site on the Merbein Common, which was quiet and gave me lovely views of the river, so I decided to grab it. With an afternoon to kill, I decided to go for a walk around town (about 30 mins away) and some of the local parklands.
Total Distance Travelled: 1636km
Distance to Go: 838km
After a fairly uneventful evening and pretty good sleep, at around 6.30am I opened the tent flap to check the weather and saw that there was a pretty amazing sunrise forming. So I quickly grabbed the cameras and the drone and went to work capturing the beauty of the morning.
I was packed up and on the water by about 8.30am and started making my way down to Wentworth. The river is a lot wider and slower than I remember it being above the weir in Mildura. I quickly realised that I have lost a lot of my paddle fitness but I eventually got into the groove.
After a couple of hours I came to a spot where there was a shortcut, that would mean I could skip about 8km of the river (near Dareton). I sat there for a while struggling with the moral dilemma of whether I should be lazy and take the shortcut or if I should continue along the main part of the river. Since it was such a nice sunny day, I decided to stick to the river and do the extra hour of paddling.
At around 3pm I finally reached the town of Wentworth. Wentworth sits on the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers. The Darling is Australia’s third longest river (Murray 2508km, Murrumbidgee 1485km, Darling 1472) and is famous for having all sorts of ecology and environmental issues. It has a lot of issues with salinity, lack of water, mass native fish deaths and major issues with carp. The water is the colour of chocolate milk because (as was explained to me by a paddle steamer captain in Bourke last year) the carp have eaten all the grasses on the river bed and as a result all the silt just flows down the river.
I had originally planned to stay at the caravan on the river bank, but it is closed for renovations. So instead, I had to put the wheels on the kayak and walk up to the town’s one motel.
One of the highlights of Wentworth was that I got to see the statue of Captain John Egge. He came out from China in the mid 1800s to be a cook on a paddle steamer. He then purchased a lot of land and started a paddle steamer company, making him a very powerful person in the region. He also (somewhat scandalously) married an English woman and had 8 children. Apparently half the town is related to Captain Egge. The reason this is so significant is because a good friend of ours in Sydney, Colin, discovered a couple of years ago that Captain Egge was his great great grandfather. He didn’t even know that he had Chinese blood. So it was great to be able to meet Colin’s ancestor and get some photos for him. If you want to read more about Captain Egge you can go here.
Tomorrow morning is going to be an early start because I have to walk back to the river and paddle down to the Wentworth lock (Lock 10) by 8am. I have 6 days of being remote coming up, so I have done my last shop for supplies and am now enjoying my last beer and pub meal before going bush.
So there probably won’t be any posts or photos for the next week because I don’t think I will have much in the way of mobile service. So see you in a week.
P.S. Sorry if this blog post is a bit rough. Been a while since I have written one.