I am finally catching up on my blogging. This is a mega post because I didn’t really have internet access for this leg of the trip. Sorry if it is a bit rough, writing this many posts is a lot of work, especially when you are tired.
Time in kayak: 7.5 hours
It hasn’t taken me long to get back into living “river hours”, when you go to bed just after sunset and wake up incredibly early. Even though I was in a comfy motel room I still woke up around 4.30am. Fortunately the bakery opens early so I was able to go down there and get some breakfast and a coffee (the last proper one for 6 days).
Once I was all packed up, I trollied (yes that is now a word) my kayak back down to the boat ramp before sunrise. Once again I was treated to a pretty amazing sky of colour. However, based on the forecast I was treating this as a bit of a “red in the morning, farmers warning”.
The first point of call was Lock 8, which was about 2km down the river. It doesn’t open until 8am, but I was pretty keen to get down there so I could get down the river before the weather set in. Arriving at the lock at about 7.40am, the lock keeper was quite happy to let me through early so he could get back to his coffee.
The highlight of the day was when I had the drone up to get some photos I spotted an emu swimming across the river. I didn’t know they did this, but apparently they are pretty good swimmers. I later saw 2 more doing the same thing. They look a lot like the Loch Ness Monster from a distance.
After a lunch of cheese and crackers, the clouds got darker and thunder started to rumble in the distance. I ended up getting one big shower and then patches of drizzle. Fortunately, as I approached my planned campsite, the bulk of the heavy rain slipped away to the south and missed me.
This campsite, which I found as a clearing on Google Earth, was great and I was able to set up my tarp ready for the rain. I then settled in and spent a leisurely afternoon under my tarp, reading a book.
The steady rain started around 3pm so I decided to put my tent up under the tarp and cooked an early dinner. Dinner was a lovely piece of steak with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and snow peas on the side. It was the first time I have cooked steak on a Trangia stove and it was great (if I don’t say so myself).
The temperature very mild so was able to sit outside the tent under the tarp after dark. No signs of mozzies yet.
Time in boat: 7.75 hours
Well it rained a lot last night, until about 11am. Once again I woke up early (4am) after a pretty good sleep. I knew there were going to be strong headwinds so decided to leave before sunrise and get a lot of kilometres done before the wind picked up.
It was a gorgeous morning and the water was very glassy. The wind didn’t really pick up until about 10am, around when I arrived at Lock 9.
The river has got very wide, but I am still doing around 8kmh. This has been pretty much my average speed since Mildura.
It was a fairly uneventful day overall. I listened to an audiobook, which is one of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books… perfect trash for a long paddle. I have been trying to paddle in the shade of the trees on the bank because it has been pretty hot and helps give a little bit of protection from the head winds.
I arrived at my campsite (Ned’s Corner) at around 2.30pm. I had a lovely a good afternoon drying the gear in the wind, sorting out my food supplies and even lit my first fire for this leg of the trip.
Dinner tonight was gnocchi with red sauce and parmesan cheese. Very easy and very palatable.
I decided to have another early night because the mozzies have finally found me.
Time in boat: 7.5 hours
I slept in a bit (6am) after a fairly rough night. I have developed a bit of a cold. First thing I did was a rapid antigen test (RAT or in this case Bush RAT) to check it wasn’t COVID. It wasn’t thankfully, but I guess if I had to isolate, this was a pretty good way to do it.
It was a lovely misty morning and I was on the water at around 7.30am.
Despite my cold (which seemed to be worst when lying down) I paddled hard for the first 17kms and arrived at Lock 8 at 10am. I had rung the lock keeper yesterday and told him I would be there at 10am and he was very impressed I arrived right on time. We had a good chat while the lock lowered me down the 2 metres.
It was a very warm day and there was no wind, so I spent a lot of the day baking under the sun.
The birdlife on this section of the river is very different from above Mildura. There are hardly any cockatoos, galahs or corollas. There are a lot more herons, spoonbills, quite a few emus and plenty of Mum’s nemesis, the ibis.
Today ended up being a 2 lock day. I rocked up to Lock 7 at 2.30pm. This one was a bit disappointing because it only dropped about 20cm. I was surprised when he pretty much shut the upstream gates and then opened up the downstream gates. I could have almost just paddled over the weir.
I had planned to camp on a beach just near the lock, however I saw a table symbol on the map a couple of kilometres further on. The small luxuries in life become pretty important when you are living out of a kayak. So I pushed on and found a nice shady spot with a table.
My cold was feeling a bit better today but I was really tired and hungry. I soon felt better after a dinner of pesto flavoured instant pasta.
Time in boat: 9.5 hours
I woke up really early again (4am) after a moderately better sleep. I decided to get up and get on the water before sunrise.
I really love paddling in dark (with a head torch). Looking up at the stars and listening to the birds all waking up. There was another lovely sunrise with a mist sitting on water. I was also able to see the aligned planets (Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn).
There were some amazing cliffs with great geology at Devils Elbow. This spot is a very sharp 90 degree bend and apparently (according to my source of all river knowledge, Peter Phillips) the paddle steamers used to have to go backwards around the bend because it was so sharp.
There were lots of amazing cliffs all along this stretch of the river.
This section of the river also became a lot narrower and was more reminiscent of the river above Mildura. There were a lot more bends and willow trees.
It was so pretty and such nice weather, I even stopped on side of river for and got my stove out to have a coffee break.
I had originally planned to camp well before getting to the SA border, but I ended up getting to my planned campsite at around 1pm. So I decided to keep going because I was very keen to get into South Australia. I got to the SA/NSW border at around 3pm and found a campsite (on the Victorian side) soon afterwards. The New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian borders are pretty confusing because when they originally surveyed them, they planned to have them follow the 141 degree longitude line but the NSW and Victorian survey teams ended up missing each other by about 6km (due to the inaccuracies of clocks and sextants in the 1800s). There is an interesting article about this here.
Once I got to camp, I was totally knackered after spending 9.5 hours on the water. So I ate my dinner and went straight to bed as soon as the sunset.
Dinner was an instant Pumpkin Risotto. It was really bland and I didn’t eat much of it.
Day 54 – SA/NSW Border to near Wilkinson’s Cutting
Time in boat: 8 hours
Another early morning and once again I was on the water around sunrise. I totally forgot about the fact that SA is in a different time zone and once I got on the water (crossing from Victoria to SA) it went from 7am to 6.30am.
It was another lovely day, with a just a gentle breeze. I pushed pretty hard in the morning to do the 26km to Lock 6 because it closes between 11.30am and 1pm and I didn’t want to miss that window. I got there around 11am and once through the lock (a much more impressive 2.5m drop than Lock 7) I pulled over for a cup of coffee on the bank.
My body was very tired today and my cold was getting to me a bit.
I had originally planned to camp just past the lock but it was only 12.30pm when I got to that campsite. Plus I had already decided I would go further today to make tomorrow’s trip to Renmark (and it’s shops full of treats) a bit shorter.
I ended up paddling about 8km further and camped just past the Woolshed Brewery. A lot of people have told me I have to go to the brewery and due to some pretty bad planning I have got here on a Tuesday, which is one of the only days it is closed.
I was too tired to cook dinner tonight so I just snacked on all the various things in my food bags. The night before a food resupply is always good for being able to eat leftovers and all your snacks.
Time in boat: 6 hours
Today I started paddling just after sunrise. I wanted to get to Renmark as early as possible to get lunch and to begin my 2 night my rest period.
Once again I had a lovely sunrise and the water was very glassy.
After about an hour of paddling I got to Heading Cliffs, which are truly spectacular. I timed it really well because it was blue skies and no wind. There were incredible reflections on the water which made it perfect for photos and video. I just drifted down the river marvelling at the cliffs.
Just 20 minutes later, the weather suddenly turned. It became overcast, drizzling and windy. I then had to fight against the headwind for a couple of hours.
I finally got to Renmark just after 2pm. Renmark has a beautiful foreshore, but it is designed for houseboats with a wharf that is about a foot high, so there was nowhere to get my kayak out of the water to go to the shops. So I had to paddle the extra 2km to the caravan park where I was staying.
Fortunately I was able check into my cabin early and I could have a quick shower before walking the 30 minutes back into town.
I realised that this is the first time I have been back to SA (where I was born and lived my first 8 years) since 1990… 32 years ago. I started getting a bit nostalgic about things that are very South Australian, like stobie poles and YoYo biscuits.