Day 72 – Wellington to Narrung

From: Wellington
To: Narrung
Distance: 33km
Time in Boat: 7.5hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2329km
Distance to Go: 34km

This was going to be an exciting day. It was the day that I was going to start the crossing of Lake Alexandrina.

Lake Alexandrina can be a very dangerous body of the water for a few reasons. Firstly it is very wide (35km across at its widest point). It is also near the southern ocean and surrounded by low, flat land so it can get very windy and the choppy waves can be very big. All the way along the river and during my planning phase I had heard a lot of stories of the many kayakers that have drowned on the lake over the years. So over the last couple of years I have put a lot of planning into the lake crossing and had talked with many experts about it. I had planned a number of options of how I was going to cross the lake that I could choose from depending on what wind direction and strength I would get. Plus, if needed, I was also willing to wait a few days until the weather was suitable.

I was watching the weather forecast for about 2 weeks leading up to this day and it was always looking very positive. About 5 days out, they were forecasting gentle easterly winds which were going to be perfect for the crossing. My plan was always to try and do it over 2 days. Many people cross the lake (from Wellington to Goolwa) in one very long day, however I really wanted to take my time and allow time (and energy) to enjoy it and film it.

Since I was going to have predominately easterly winds, the plan for the crossing was to pretty much stick to the eastern shore of the lake and spend the first night halfway at Narrung Campground (one of the the only campsites on the lake). I would then paddle to the Towatchery Barrage and then to the Murray Mouth along one of the channels.

Planned route across Lake Alexandrina

I wanted an early start to take advantage of the morning’s calmer winds, so Mum and Dad kindly dropped me off at the Wellington Boat Ramp at around 3.45am and I was on the water by 4.20am. My plan was to get to Low Point right on sunrise because I had a 5km section of the lake to cross and I wanted to do that before the winds picked up.

It was a freezing cold morning. My weather app said it was -1 degree in Wellington and I had a strong southerly breeze at the start of the paddle that made it even colder. I had all my cold and wet weather gear on, so I was nice and snug in the boat.

After a couple of hours of paddling in the dark, I arrived adjacent to Low Point right on time. Once again I was treated to a beautiful sunrise. Since the winds hadn’t picked up much I decided not to paddle to the Low Point itself and chose to start a more direct crossing of 8km.

Sunrise at Low Point

This crossing was spectacular. There is nothing like paddling towards a horizon that you can’t see anything on. As I crossed the lake the wind picked up and the choppy waves increased in size. They ended up being up to just over a foot high which meant they would occasionally break on the deck of my kayak. This was fine because it is the type of water I pretty much always paddle on in Sydney. The wind was a southeasterly which was actually better than having a straight easterly, as it meant the waves were not hitting me side on. I could point the nose of my kayak towards them and cut through the waves.

Starting the crossing
Not much on the horizon

After about 1.5 hours I made it to the other side near Poltalloch Station and I stopped to have some breakfast on the edge of the lake. At this point the wind and the waves had shifted to be coming more from the East. This was perfect because I could paddle the remaining 10km to Narrung with the assistance of a tailwind and the waves to push me along.

Breakfast after completing the crossing

I arrived at Narrung Campsite at around 11.30am. It was a Saturday so the campsite was pretty full of caravans. However I was able to find a quite spot between a couple of vans and spent the sunny afternoon snoozing, sitting on the wharf, chatting to other campers and reading my book.

Narrung Campground
The Narrung wharf

After watching another lovely sunset, I got into my tent and fell asleep really quickly.

Sunset at Narrung

Day 73 – Narrung to The Sea

From: Narrung
To: The Murray Mouth
Distance: 34km
Time in Boat: 6.5hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2363km
Distance to Go: 0km

This was the last day of the Summit to Sea adventure. A small part of me was sad it was going to all be over, but I was mostly excited to get to the end and to have this 2.5 year project finished.

The weather could not have been more perfect for the final day (well, the final 2 days). I had clear skies and there was a gentle northeasterly wind blowing. This was great because I was going to be heading to the south west for more most of the day and it meant I would have the wind and waves to assist me. I got onto the water just before sunrise.

The plan had been to stick to the eastern shoreline for the first 10km and then cut across the lake (about 4km) to the small hand operated lock on the western end of the Towatchery Barrage. However, as I was paddling along, I found that the wind and waves were the perfect direction to allow me to just cut straight across the lake to the lock. It ended up being a 13km crossing and it was fantastic. The wind was gentle and the waves were very small. I was able to get the drone out and get some nice video and photos of the lake crossing.

At around 10am I arrived at the lock at Towatchery Barrage. It was pretty choppy there because the waves were bouncing off the lock gates, so getting onto the small ramp next to the lock was a bit messy. I was worried that I would end up putting a hole in my kayak because it kept bouncing against the various posts and railings. There were lots of seals lounging around and on the lock. I had to keep shooing them away to I could get to the various lock winches. There was also a lot of seal poop around which stank and was pretty hard to not keep stepping in.

The lock at Towatchery Barrage

I basically had two options at the lock. I could carry my kayak and gear up the ramp, over the road and then down the ramp on the other side. This would have probably been a 15 minute operation. The other option was to put my kayak through the lock. I decided on the latter because I thought it would be an interesting exercise.

The first thing I had to do was tie a couple of long lines (my clothes lines) to the front and back of the kayak so I could guide through the gates from 2 metres above. I then had to wind the first winch that opened the upstream gate. It was pretty hard work winding the winch, but luckily I only had to partially open the gate to get my kayak through. After guiding the kayak into the lock, I then had to wind the winch again to close the gate.

Winding winches

The next step was to wind another winch that swung the road bridge to the side so that I could guide the boat past it with my lines. This was not so successful because the bridge got stuck half way, so I had to climb down the side of the lock and pass my lines under it to get my kayak through. Once I had done that, I could wind the winch to put the bridge back and then wind the winch to open the downstream gate. Once the kayak was out of the lock, I was able to shut the final gate and get back into my kayak.

The whole operation ended up taking nearly an hour. It would have been a lot faster and less effort to carry my gear over the road, but it isn’t often you get to single handedly put yourself through a lock.

The final 10km of the paddle to Murray Mouth was great. It was a beautiful sunny day and the flow in the channel was quite fast, so I ended up doing about 10-11kmh.

The Murray Mouth is often closed off by sand and when it is open, it can be very dangerous due to unpredictable rips and waves. Mum and Dad, who were waiting for my on the other side of the channel from the mouth (on Hindmarsh Island), told me that the mouth was open. I had decided that if it looked ok when I got there, I would paddle out the mouth and into the sea.

It was amazing approaching the mouth. There were plenty of pelicans, seals and even an emu on the beach. Just as I got the mouth, a seal started jumping and spinning in the air right in front of my kayak. It was like it was excited for me to have finished.

The excited seal

I could see that the waves outside the mouth were not very big or messy, so I was able paddle straight out to the sea. I had a quick surf on a wave but I didn’t want to push my luck as I had a kayak full of camping gear. I then pulled up on the beach and got out go my boat.

It felt amazing to have made it to the end. The ending could have not been more perfect. The lake crossing was amazing, the weather was great and the conditions (and the seal welcoming) at the Murray Mouth were just ideal.

I spent a little bit of time on the beach, trying to soak up the moment. I had just travelled a total of 2,363km from the top of Mt. Kosciuszko.

Contemplating what I had just completed

I then paddled across the channel to Hindmarsh Island and joined my folks for a lunch of Fish and Chips at the food truck next to the boat ramp.

As we were sitting there, waiting for our lunch, I heard someone call out “Andrew Robertson”. It was another Murray River kayaker, Brenton, who has a shack on the island and happened to be down there for lunch. We had a quick chat and he and his wife, Donna, ended up taking us to breakfast in Goolwa the next morning.

The following morning, after breakfast with Brenton and Donna, we had an appointment at 11am at the Goolwa National Trust museum with the team from the IRNMR (Inland Rivers National Marathon Register). The IRNMR maintain the official records of all people that travel down the Murray River. At a minimum you must travel from at least Hume Weir to Wellington to be added to the register. Ghislain, who had arrived in Goolwa the day before, was camping at the museum and had received his certificate the day before. However he joined us for my registration which involved a bit of paperwork and an interview to validate that I had indeed met the criteria for the certification. The IRNMR don’t officially recognise Mt. Kosciuszko as part of the Murray River, so I am recorded as having paddled 2,263km from Biggara to the Murray Mouth. After the paperwork was done, we headed out to the park where they had their photographer take some official photos.

Ghislain and I with our IRNMR certificates

I spent the rest of the day editing my final video episode and started packing all the gear ready for the 3 day drive back to Sydney.

Actual track across the lake (in Yellow) versus the planned route (in Green)


I am now back in Sydney and I have just finished washing all my clothes and packing away the camping gear. It is great to be back home with the family and the dog. Apparently it has been raining for weeks here in Sydney but, now that I am home, the weather has cleared up. Perfect timing.

This adventure has been amazing. I haven’t really stopped to reflect on it all. However I have a lot of photos and videos to sort out over the next few days, so I am sure that will help kick start the reflection process.

People keep asking me what the next adventure is. Well it is time to switch from kayaking mode to ballooning mode. In a few weeks we are heading up to Burketown (in NW Queensland) to do some adventure ballooning. We are then heading to Europe in September to fly in the Austrian National Ballooning Championships and then the World Championships in Slovenia a couple of weeks later. So there is plenty of more adventures on the horizon.

However, in the meantime, I think I will go for a paddle in a couple of days. I am already missing being on the water.

Thank you everyone for following my crazy adventure and all your support and encouragement over the last couple of years. I have made a whole lot of new in persona and virtual friends during this process.

If you want to follow my future adventures, please follow me on my main blog or on Facebook.

The final leg of the Summit to Sea Journey down the Murray River from Wellington to the Murray Mouth.

Day 71 – 35km – Murray Bridge to Wellington
Day 72 – 33km – Wellington to Narrung
Day 73 – 34km – Narrung to the Murray Mouth

Total Distance for the leg: 102km

Total Distance from Summit to Sea: 2,363km

Note: Day 72 at the 8:38 mark should say Wellington not Murray Bridge. Sorry it was my token typo.

From: Murray Bridge Marina
To: Wellington Pub
Distance: 35km
Time in Boat: 6hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2309km
Distance to Go: 65km

My body clock is really messed up now. I went to bed last night at about 7.30pm after falling asleep on the couch in my cabin. I then woke up this morning at around 3am and tried to snooze for a couple of hours. At around 5am I gave up and decided to get going. I had 35km to do today down to Wellington and I wanted to get the by lunch time.

My parents were going to meet me at the pub around noon, so getting on the water at around 6am was the perfect time. Mum and Dad drove from Binalong (near Yass) to Mildura yesterday. They picked up my car and then this morning they drove from Mildura to Wellington. They are going to hang out on Hindmarsh Island (which is near the Murray Mouth) and wait for me to finish the paddle.

It was cold this morning. When I paddled out of the marina it was about 2 degrees. There was a lot of mist on the water and it was very pretty.

I knew that today’s paddle was going to be pretty boring, because it was going to be similar to the paddle into Murray Bridge. So paddling in the dark for an hour was one way of making it a bit more interesting.

I really wasn’t wrong about the river being boring. It was very wide, straight and there really wasn’t anything on the banks to really look at. Plus the highway runs very close to the river, so there was pretty much a constant drone of truck noise. The only point of interest was passing the town of Tailem Bend and even that was not particularly interesting (sorry if any readers are from there).

Big and wide

At almost exactly 12 noon I arrived in Wellington. Wellington is considered to be the official end point for people paddling the Murray River. If you travel from the Hume Weir (near Albury) to Wellington, then you have officially paddled The Murray. This is because the Lake Alexandrina crossing can be hazardous and should only be attempted by experienced paddlers, with the right gear and in the right conditions.

Carrying kayak up to the pub (Photo: Rob Robertson)

Mum and Dad arrived at the pub about 10 minutes before me. So as I arrived they were standing at the pub chatting to Ghislain, my new found French paddling buddy. He is staying at the pub (camping on their lawn) for a couple of nights. He decided yesterday that it was not going to be possible to cross the lake with his sit on kayak in the forecasted conditions. It is a shame he can’t do it but I think it was the right decision. Mum and Dad are going to take him down to Clayton Bay tomorrow (after I have left), which is on the other side of the main part of the lake. This will allow him to paddle the final 12km to Goolwa on one of the channels.

Great to see the folks
Talking river stuff with Ghislain (Photo: Rob Robertson)

So tomorrow I am starting my crossing of Lake Alexandrina. The weather is looking really good for my planned route. The forecast is for Easterly winds tomorrow and North Easterly winds on Sunday. So my planned route (see map below) will be to stick to the eastern side of the lake so that there is more shelter and so the waves don’t have as much room to grow. I plan to camp at Narrung tomorrow night and then head down to the Murray Mouth the following morning. The plan is to get on the water tomorrow morning at around 4am so that I can take advantage of the calmer winds of the morning when I get to the main part of the lake.

So in two more days this will be all over. Amazing. On one hand I am sad it is over, but on the other hand (with my aching body) I am ready for this to be finished.

The second last leg of the Summit to Sea Journey down The Murray River from Waikerie to Murray Bridge.

Day 63 – 50km – Waikerie to Graeme Claxton Reserve
Day 64 – 11km – Graeme Claxton Reserve to Morgan
Day 65 – 45km – Morgan to Blanchetown
Day 66 – 34km – Blanchetown to Punyelroo
Day 67 – 33km – Punyelroo to Walker Flat
Day 68 – 58km – Walker Flat to Mannum
Day 69 – 43km – Mannum to Murray Bridge

Total Distance for the leg: 272km

From: Mannum Caravan Park
To: Murray Bridge Marina Caravan Park
Distance: 43km
Time in Boat: 7.3hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2274km
Distance to Go: 110km

Last night was another pretty rough sleep. At around 2am, a bunch of galahs (the bird type) decided to have a massive fight in the tree above my tent. Not only did it keep me awake, they also pooped all over my tent. After putting ear plugs in I got another couple of hours of sleep. At around 5.30am I got up and made a coffee and started packing up.

Ghislain arose just as I was packing my tent. We decided to basically split up today and paddle separately. I was pretty keen to do these last few days on my own and because it was going to be strong headwinds, I also wanted to go at my own pace. So I pushed off at around 7am and was again treated to a nice sunrise.

I have to declare that today was the most boring stretch of river. It was just wide and straight. It quickly became just a case of getting on with it and commuting down to Murray Bridge.

Getting a bit boring

At around 9.30am the headwinds started to pick up. The next 4 hours then became a real slog. It was probably some of the hardest paddling I have had for the last few weeks.

Not enjoying the headwinds

At around 1pm I finally reached Murray Bridge. The caravan park I am staying at is about 2.5km further down the river, but there was a club on the river bank selling coffee, so I decided to have a coffee break before doing the last few kilometres.

A well deserved coffee

I have a cabin booked for a couple of nights at the caravan park. So it is time for a well deserved rest days after 7 days and 284km since Waikerie.

Once I got all my gear out to dry and had a shower, I rang a taxi to come and drive me to the closest shops (which are not close) to get some food for dinner and my rest day. After 30 minutes of waiting it didn’t show so I rang them and they said it was still going to be 20-30 minutes. So I gave up on them and decided to walk. The walk ended up being 40 minutes each way to the closest shops which really was the last thing I wanted after a hard day of paddling.

So now I am wrecked and going to have an early night to prepare myself for a day of editing videos.

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.

From: Punyelroo Caravan Park
To: Hettner Landing
Distance: 33km
Time in Boat: 6hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2173km
Distance to Go: 208km

I knew today was going to be windy, so once again I decided to get up early (around 5.30am) and quietly pack up my gear as not to wake up the other campers. It had rained a bit overnight and some light showers came over just as I was getting into my kayak. As I started padding, there was a brief sunrise and then the clouds came over again and snuffed it out.

A brief sunrise

A slight breeze had already started and just after sunrise a large cloud drifted over and it started to rain properly. This rain continued for about an hour but then it quickly cleared up and all of a sudden it was lovely blue skies.

15 minutes later… not raining

The wind then started to really pick up. It was a North Westerly and because I was heading West for the majority of today, it became a bit of a pain. I hugged the side of the river to get as much shelter from the long reeds or the cliffs as I could.

Sheltering under a cliff

In the late morning, just after I had put another coat of sunscreen on, another big cloud moved across and it started raining again. So I put my Goretex jacket on again and 15 minutes later it was blue sky again. I just couldn’t win.

Around lunch time, after about 6 hours of paddling, I came to my planned campsite at Hettner Landing. It is a free camping site on the bank of the river. It has a very clean, flushing toilet and the Walker Flat General Store is about 400m away.

Hettner Landing

As I was setting up camp the wind really picked up. It was probably gusting around 50kmh. For the first time on this entire trip (including last year), I had to use the guy ropes on my tent to stop it collapsing or blowing away.

Once the tent was satisfactorily secure, I walked up to the shop to get a burger with the lot (food of athletes) from the store. I then sat on the waters edge, below the bank to protect myself from the wind.

Walker Flat General Store

The other interesting thing that happened during the afternoon was that I happened to look at the river and I saw a kayaker going by. He was loaded with gear and fighting with the wind. It was a guy, named Ghislain, who is also paddling the Murray River. I have not met him before, but I saw on the Murray River Expeditioners Facebook page that he was just behind me. He did not see me and I was a bit late to call out to him, plus he looked very focussed on dealing with the wind. I am sure I will leapfrog him tomorrow.

Another Expeditioner

I only have 5 more paddle days to go now. It really is starting to feel like this adventure is nearly over. I have been keeping an eye on the forecast for the final Lake Alexandrina crossing (in 5 days time, on Saturday and Sunday) and it is looking pretty good. I plan to do it over 2 days, sticking to the East coast of the lake and camping half way near the Nerang Ferry. The forecast is for not very strong Easterlies and North Easterlies which is perfect for this route. So fingers crossed it remains that way.

Tomorrow is a really big day. I have 56km to do down to Mannum. It is looking like I will have headwinds again, but not as strong. My plan is to get up around 4am and do the first couple of hours in the dark while the wind is calmer.

However, for now I will probably head back up to the store shortly to get myself some dinner. I am just not in the mood to cook tonight.

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.

Day 63 – Waikerie to Graeme Claxton Reserve

From: Waikerie
To: Graeme Claxton Reserve
Distance: 50km
Time in Boat: 8hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2050km
Distance to Go:

I had a nice rest day in Waikerie yesterday. Apart from a visit to the supermarket and bakery in the morning, I really didn’t do much in town. I spent the day pretty much finishing the weekly video, planning out the final 10 days of this journey and having an actual rest.

This morning I woke up around 5am and slowly packed all the gear while eating my breakfast. I started trollying everything down to the river (about 400m from my cabin) just before sunrise. It had rained a bit over night but it was only a light drizzle by the time I was on the water.

Grey skies over Waikerie

The day was pretty straight forward. My shoulders were feeling good and I quickly got in the paddling rhythm.

More cliffs

After a couple of hours I happened to look down at my gps and saw a waypoint on the screen. It was a lock. I had completely forgot that I was going through Lock 2 today. Fortunately I was 2km out (about 15 minutes) so I could call the lock keeper and warn him I was coming.

Barry, the lock keeper, was great. All the lock keepers have been very friendly, but Barry was the friendliest. We had a good chat and he kept chatting after the gates were open, ready for me to leave.

It was great paddling weather today. It was grey and cloudy but there was no wind. Plus, Barry told me he had just started letting out more water today so the pace picked up to 9kmh (1kmh more that I had been doing). It doesn’t sound like much but over 8 hours of paddling it makes difference.

At around 1pm I arrived at my planned campsite after 36km of paddling. Unfortunately there was a “private property” sign on the bank so I couldn’t stop there.

I knew that there was a big reserve, called Graeme Claxton Reserve, about 14km away and since it was such a nice day for paddling, I decided to push on.

I arrived at the reserve just after 3pm and found a good spot for the tent and a picnic table to set up my kitchen.

My kitchen table
My bedroom

There are a couple of caravans here and they have all been very friendly. Darryl and Veronica, from Orange, had their friendly kelpie dog with them, so I got my playing with a puppy fix. They also gave me a beer that went straight to my head after 8 hours of paddling and little food.

Just after sunset, once I finished my steak and salad, it started to drizzle lightly which was my cue to get into the tent. I am sure that it won’t take me long to fall asleep after I finish writing this.

Dinner. I call this “salad” because it has more than one vegetable

Tomorrow was always going to be a short day of 25km to the town of Morgan, where I am camping in the caravan park. Now that I have knocked off 14km of that distance today, it means they tomorrow is only going to be about 2hrs of paddling. I have a few longer days (45km plus) after tomorrow, so I figure I can justify having a lazy easy day. After all, there is no rush to finish this.

Day 64 – Graeme Claxton Reserve to Morgan

From: Graeme Claxton Reserve
To: Morgan
Distance: 12km
Time in Boat: 2hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2062km
Distance to Go:

Last night was a pretty rough night. The ferry, which was about 300m upstream, would occasionally do a crossing in the night. Not only was the moan of the engine loud, but the clanging of the gates were very loud. Then at midnight, it sounded like a huge downpour of rain started, but it was weird because there was no rain falling on my tent. What I worked out was there were automatic sprinklers on the green grass area that kicked in at midnight and went for an hour. About every 2 minutes the water would blast against the tree trunk next to my tent and this also made a huge amount of noise.

At about 6am I got up and quietly made myself a coffee as not to wake up the caravan folks. I was then the water around 7.30am. I only had 11km to paddle to get to Morgan (which is a bit ridiculous) so I tried to take my time, with lots of drifting and zig zagging down the river.

Zig zagging down the river

I then arrived in Morgan at about 9.30am. That’s right, my paddling day was done at 9.30am.

The historical Port Morgan

So I had a plan. I was going to go to the Morgan cafe and get myself a coffee and an egg and bacon roll. I would then sit in the lovely park on the foreshore and have a nice morning in the sun (which was forecasted). This plan, like many of my plans, did not quite work out that way.

I first walked up to the one cafe in town and on the door it said “closed for an indefinite period”. Great. Then I saw on Google Maps there was a bakery on the other side of the town (and up a big hill). So I walked up there and found it too was closed. So I walked back again and to the Friendly Grocer store and bought a loaf of bread. Toast on my stove was my new plan. One of the locals told me the Bakery owners retired 3 weeks ago and that the had no idea what was going on with the cafe.

Oh did I mention that the forecasted sun never showed itself either.

I then walked over to the caravan park to see if, on the off chance, I could check into my campsite really early so I could use the camp kitchen and showers. I finally had success with something and was able to eat toast in the camp kitchen.

The only 2 other places (other than the grocer) that are open in town are the 2 pubs. So I decided to head back into town and go to the pub for lunch. I had a nice pizza and was accompanied by the pub dog (actually belonged to one of the regular patrons), Sheba, who like our dog just sat there and watched me take every mouthful.

I feel like I am being watched

The rest of the day involved sitting by the river, at a very solid concrete table, catching up on a whole lot of emails and socials.

My office for the afternoon

Plus meeting and chatting to the neighbouring caravan folks. And when I say neighbouring, I am not kidding. We are all very close.

A bit cozy in this caravan park.

I am now heading back to the pub for an early dinner because it is Friday night and they are going to be busy.

It will be an early start tomorrow because I have 45km down to Blanchetown.

Sorry this post is a few day late.

Day 60 – Moorook to Somewhere

From: Near Moorook
To: Somewhere in the Bush
Distance: 32km
Time in Boat: 5.5hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 1968km
Distance to Go: 422km

I woke up to a gorgeous morning. It was about 1 degree and there was a pretty mist floating on the glassy water. My shoulders felt a lot better after a good night sleep and a good dose of anti-inflammatories.

Over the next 2 days I have 70km to cover until I get to Waikerie, so my plan for today was to paddle at least 30km and then find somewhere nice to camp. I didn’t really want to push my shoulders and there was no point in getting to Waikerie tomorrow too early because I wouldn’t be able to check into my cabin.

The paddling was very easy today because there was no wind and I reached Lock 3 after a couple of hours paddling.

As planned, after 30km I started looking for a campsite and I soon found one in a quiet spot. It was only 1pm, so I was able to have a very relaxing afternoon on the bank, watching the birds and reading my book.

My campsite

Once again I was treated to a lovely sunset.

Day 61 – Somewhere to Waikerie

From: Near Moorook
To: Somewhere in the Bush
Distance: 38km
Time in Boat: 6hrs
Total Distance Travelled: 2000km
Distance to Go: 482km

This morning I was on the water just on sunrise. It was pretty cold again (0 degrees) and for the first time (this year) I had to put on the neoprene paddle gloves to keep my hands warm.

About 10 minutes after leaving camp I camp across some more spectacular cliffs called Telegraph Cliffs. The rising sun was shining on them making it perfect for photos and videos. I am glad I had not paddled past them yesterday because the lighting would have been nowhere as good.

Telegraph Cliffs
Telegraph Cliffs

The weather today was absolutely perfect. Sunny, but not too hot, and no wind at all. I cruised my way down to the river and arrived in Waikerie just after lunch.

The big milestone was as I paddled into Waikerie I reached the 2000km mark. That is 2000km travelled since leaving the top of Mount Kosciuszko almost exactly a year ago. So that is a pretty big milestone.

The kind folks at the caravan park allowed me to check in to my cabin early, so I was able to have a shower and head into town to get a late lunch at the bakery.

Home for the next 2 nights.

I have a rest day in Waikerie tomorrow and then I will start the penultimate leg of the trip, down to Murray Bridge. There is only about 10 more paddle days left of this adventure. It is starting to feel like it is coming to an end.