Days 65 & 66 – A Surprise Visit – Morgan to Punyelroo

Day 65 – Morgan to Blanchetown

From: Morgan
To: Blanchetown
Distance: 44km
Time in Boat: 8hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2106km
Distance to Go: 274km

Well that was an interesting night. I got into my tent around 7pm and promptly put my ear plugs in. There was a 4wd club having social drinks at one of the caravan parks near me, so I needed to block them out. They fortunately disbanded pretty soon after I got in my tent. However the couple in the caravan next to my tent, had settled in for the night under their awning and were sitting about 2.5m from my tent. I let them know that I would have my ear plugs in and they said they would try to keep it down. However over a bottle of bourbon and a couple of bottles of wine, they slowly got louder and had a very long chat. I did fall asleep for a while but woke up around 10.30pm and they were starting to discuss some pretty intimate aspects of their relationship. It was hard not to listen, but eventually I went back to sleep.

I woke up around 4.30am and just as it started to rain. I realised I had left all my wet weather gear in my kayak on the side of the river. So at around 5.30am, there was a break in the the rain and I quickly packed everything up and got into my kayak. It was a lovely morning paddling in the dark and I was treated to a nice sunrise (I haven’t had one for a few days) and a rainbow.

Paddling out of Morgan was a bit like paddling through suburbia. There were so many houses lining the river. In these parts, the South Australians call their river side holiday houses “shacks”. When I heard about these shacks I imagined run down little sheds by the river. How wrong was I. A lot of these shacks where modern, multi-story mansions. They looked like beach houses you would find in Palm Beach or Sorrento.

One of the bigger “shacks”

As the morning progressed, the sun came out and the weather started fining up, turning into a lovely day.

More cliffs
And some more

At around 1.45pm, I was on the outskirts of Blanchetown (my destination for the day) and just after I had called the Lock 1 (my last lock) lock keeper to tell him I was approaching, a small drone started buzzing around me. I saw some people on the bank who were fishing and I figured it was one of them operating it. It then started following me and started buzzing around me from all angles.

The persistent, mystery drone.

It was a bit confusing because I would have expected they would fly over, have a look and then fly away again, However this one was persistent. As I paddled under the Blanchetown bridge, just before the lock, the drone finally flew away.

Passing under the Blanchetown bridge, approaching Lock 1. (Shot by the mystery drone)

The lock was only a couple of hundred metres before the caravan park that I was staying at. As I exited the lock, the drone came back. I paddled towards the river bank at the caravan park and I saw the drone operator and I thought “gosh, that guy looks a lot like Sean” (my mate from Sydney). I then recognised his t-shirt and realised it actually was him.

That moment I realised it was Sean.

A couple of days before, Sean had the idea of coming down to meet up with me and to give me a beer on my arrival. He called Kath and between them they worked out that Blanchetown was the only place I would be in a caravan park on a weekend. So this morning, he took a flight from Sydney to Adelaide (2 hour flight), hired a car and drove the 1.5 hours to Blanchetown. He was watching my track on my tracker and quickly rushed to the river because he saw I was hooking along at 10kmh and didn’t want to miss me.

As I shook off some of my shock, he grabbed a couple of beers and we drank them on the bank of the river. I am still deeply touched that he did this. We chatted about it and I realised I would probably do exactly the same thing if he was on such and adventure too.

True friendship

We had a couple of more beers and then headed up (a very big hill) to the Blanchetown Hotel for dinner. Afterwards we sat by the fire at the caravan park for a bit and then both retired to our beds… well he had a cabin, so he had bed, I retired to my tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag.

Day 66 – Blanchetown to Punyelroo

From: Blanchetown
To: Punyelroo
Distance: 34km
Time in Boat: 6.5hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2140km
Distance to Go: 241km

After a good (beer induced) sleep, I got up around 6am and slowly packed my gear while drinking a cup of coffee. Today was going to be a big day because I had planned to paddle 47km to a potential campsite I had seen on Google Earth. Campsites are a bit more scarce in these parts because there are so many shacks lining the river and a lot of private property.

The forecast had predicted strong North Westerly winds, but the morning was fairly still as I departed from the caravan park. Sean got up to wave me off before heading back to Adelaide to catch an 11am flight back to Sydney.

Sunrise in Blanchetown

I was sort of dreading today because looking at the map it looked like it was going to be pretty much a full day of paddling due South. I thought it would not be very interesting, but after all the shacks I had passed yesterday, I was soon surrounded by cliffs and bush. It was actually quite pleasant.

Before the wind picked up.
Back in the bush.

The wind started picking up and soon got very strong. Fortunately, it was generally a tailwind and I was able to sit on a steady 9kmh with putting a lot of effort in. At around 12pm I reached the small town of Swan Reach. I saw that it had cafe near the river, so I parked my kayak near the ferry and walked up to the shop to get a coffee and a pie for lunch. As I was sitting on the bank next to my kayak, about dozen jet skis ridden by a group of blokes that looked like big bearded bikers, pulled up right next to where I was sitting. They promptly walked up to the Swan Reach pub.

Just a couple of jet skis

With still 20km of my planned paddle to go, I got back on the water and continued on my way. The wind got a lot stronger and started to swing around to be more of a Westerly, which meant I had a fairly uncomfortable cross wind. After about an hour of pushing along I came across a the Punyelroo Caravan Park on the side of the river. It looked like it was fairly quiet and had nice grassy areas on the side of the river. I quickly got out my map and did some rough calculations of distances and worked out that I could stop now and have a couple of longer days over the next 2 days down to Mannum. Plus, the wind is forecasted to be a lot less over the next couple of days, so it made sense to make today a shorter one. Also I really have no idea what my planned campsite was going to be like (I’ll see tomorrow), but it definitely wasn’t going be as good as this spot. So I walked up to the office and got myself a nice piece of grass on the river.

My spot for the night.

Just as I was unpacking my kayak, I could hear the jet skis coming back down the river. Knowing what many (not all but many) jet skiers are like (i.e. dickheads… the kayakers and jet skiers venn diagram circles don’t generally overlap), I quickly pulled my kayak out of the water and up onto the beach. As all 12 of them approached, as predicted, a couple broke off from the group and decided to do a fly by the beach. This caused large waves to wash onto the shore and would have flooded my kayak if I hadn’t moved it. So yes… confirmed… they were dickheads.

The weather this afternoon has started to get a bit greyer and colder. There looks like there is some rain coming in the next few hours so I have put my trusty tarp up over my tent for some extra protection and this time I have my wet weather gear ready.

This caravan park doesn’t have a camp kitchen, so I will be cooking myself some pasta on my stove tonight and probably heading into the tent pretty early to hide from the cold and potential rain.

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