Day 68 – The French Connection – Walker Flat to Mannum

From: Hettner Landing
To: Mannum Caravan Park
Distance: 58km
Time in Boat: 10hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2231km
Distance to Go: 152km

I had set my alarm for 3.45am so that I could start paddling as early as possible because I had 58km to paddle today and they were forecasting headwinds. My body clock naturally woke me at around 3.15am, so I was able to pack up and be on the water by 4am. It had rained a little bit over night, but as I pushed off from the bank it was fairly clear and there was a full moon to light the river up.

I had chatted to Ghislain, the paddler I saw pass me last night (see previous post), on Facebook and found out that he had camped about 6km past me. He said that he was going to also leave early, so at around 5am I saw the flicker of his head torch on the side of the river and I pulled up to the bank. He was just finishing packing up his camp, so I ate my breakfast in my kayak while waiting for him to finish getting all his gear together. We then paddled together in the dark, chatting about our river adventures.

Ghislain passing the Murray Princess, which is the Murray’s version of a cruise ship.

Ghislain is a student from France who came out to Australia to paddle the Murray. On arriving in Australia, he travelled to Albury and bought a second hand, sit on kayak from a bloke in Albury that hires out kayaks. His boat is a lot wider and heavier than mine, so he doesn’t go as fast, but he has been covering some incredible distances. He tries to cover 50km a day, which is more than the 40km that I try to average. He just paddles long hours each day. Very impressive.

We paddled together for about an hour and then agreed that I should paddle ahead because I have a faster pace (he was doing about 6kmh and I was doing 8kmh). Our plan was to meet up in Mannum and have a beer and dinner at the pub.

More cliffs and lagoons

About an hour later I got the drone out to do some filming and I sent it back up the river to see where he was. He wasn’t that far behind me. He was just motoring on at his constant pace.

Ghislain paddling along behind me.

I reached the 40km mark at around 11am, so I decided to slow down a bit and eat my cold pizza (left overs from last night). This allowed Ghislain to catch up. I had checked with the Mannum Caravan Park, where I had a tent site booked, that it was possible for him to also pitch his tent in the same spot. Ghislain is doing his trip on a budget and was tending to avoid staying at caravan parks to save money. However he was happy to share my tent site because it was going to be a long day and it didn’t look like there was much in the way of free camping near Mannum.

The weather today was once again a mix of sun and rain. The head winds did not really ever eventuate, so even though it was a bit wet we didn’t have to battle the winds.

I arrived at Mannum around 1.45pm and checked into the caravan park. Ghislain arrived about 40 minutes later.

The French and New South Wales embassies at Mannum caravan park.

We are about to head up to the pub for dinner and both want an early night because we are pretty tired.

I have 41km to do tomorrow. I will be staying in a cabin for a rest day in a caravan park about 5km past Murray Bridge.

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