Menindee to Pooncarie
Menindee to Pooncarie, 295 km, 11 days
Thu 24 Sep 2020, 33 km
Depart Broken Hill at 8am, arrive Menindee 9:15 am, pack Kakadu kayak and launch at 10 am. Wave goodbye to Kevin who may have to drive home on the sealed roads via Broken Hill due to last weeks rain. Paddling the Kakadu is easier than the Hobie. I average 6 kph in the Kakadu vs 5 kph in the Hobie on the weir pool. I see a scar tree with two scars. It's 14 km to Weir 32 and I arrive at 12:20 pm. I portage on the right with gear going up the bank then down again to a beach whereas the kayak is manhandled over the rocks. I have a quick lunch and launch again at 1:20 pm. There are surveyors on the other side seemingly surveying the river bottom just downstream of the weir. One of them is in a kayak holding a modern looking surveyors pole. Below the weir there are many large beaches which would make good campsites up till about the 28 km mark. The river has noticeable flow in places, is narrow, snaggy in places and shallow in places. My luck continues, at Menindee the flow is about 400 Ml/day, up from 200, as they are trying to encourage fish breeding. The increased flow may continue till January. At 4:20 pm I find a camp on the right at about 33 km with a nice view downstream to the south. I originally had intended to camp at the weir considering I had to come from Broken Hill and had four days to complete 94 km. However the weather forecast was for strong winds tomorrow and headwinds the day after so I decided to make use of the good conditions today. That leaves me with 61 km to complete in 3 days. Weak phone reception but good enough for phone calls and some internet.
Fri 25 Sep 2020, 19 km
Light rain in the early morning so late breakfast and pack up. Depart 9 am. Westerly winds become strong but fortunately it is mainly a crosswind as I am generally heading south. Have a couple breaks to stretch the legs. River is narrow and snaggy. I like it. I am glad I don't have the Hobie here because there are quite a few shallow areas where my paddle hits the bottom. Dog from Wanda Station follows me along the bank for several kilometres. Not a huge number of campsites so at 12:15 pm when I find something suitable at 52 km just past Bono Station I take it. Unexpectedly reasonable phone reception. Sunny but windy afternoon.
Sat 26 Sep 2020, 18 km
Depart at 7:30 am. Cool morning. SW headwind but does not affect me too much. A few good camps just after my campsite. See a pig. Interesting river, windy enough and snaggy enough. Have a few brief breaks to stretch the legs. At 11 am find a camp just before the 70 km mark. Large fine sandy beach with lots of flat ground. My left arm feels a bit strained on the inside of the forearm near the elbow so it's good to have another short day. Accommodation is booked at Bindara so I can't get ahead of schedule. Very weak phone reception at the top of the bank. Spent the afternoon doing some washing, reading, dozing and stitching the seam of my long pants.
Sun 27 Sep 2020, 24 km
Cold night. Dew and condensation on tent. Dry most of it in the sun. Launch at 8:30. Nice morning with light wind. See two pelicans in different places with injured wings such that they can't fly. See an echidna. Have a few breaks but at the midday break I get engulfed with flies and they bother me even whilst paddling. Arrive at Bindara Station at 94 km at 1 pm. Barb shows me the room etc. I ask about the food parcels but they have not arrived. The mail is delivered once a week on Thursdays but last Thursday it did not get delivered. The road was open but it was used as the excuse for no delivery. Hopefully it will be delivered tomorrow as a special delivery. Lovely roast chicken dinner with apple pie dessert.
Mon 28 Sep 2020, Bindara Station rest day
Do walk along river and see scar trees including 18 ft canoe scar for long distance canoe travel, apparently the largest in the district. Food parcels arrive.
Tue 29 Sep 2020, 28 km
Depart Bindara at 9 am and pass what looks like an old punt on the bank and on the opposite bank is an old wooden ramp. Further on there is a brick structure which seems to have been an old pumping station. At 2 pm I arrive at the Darling Anabranch (122 km) where there is a large, easterly facing sandy beach and decide to make camp since it has become overcast and rain is forecast. It looks like water only goes down the anabranch when the Darling is a couple metres higher. There are several scar trees here. Very good phone reception.
Wed 30 Sep 2020, 33 km
Light rain from 7 pm to midnight, probably only a few mm. Clearing sky at sunrise. Launch at 7:30 am. At about 9 am see a large scar tree that could be for another large canoe. The river is quite snaggy in places but no problem getting through. Quite a few sandy beaches on the bends mainly. Brief stops every hour or so to stretch the legs. Large orange bank at about 150 km with small cliff similar to those upstream of Renmark. See a Major Mitchell Cockatoo. At 1:15 pm I find a south facing camp on a large beach at 155 km. Flies are a nuisance again and I require a fly net whilst setting up camp and anytime outside the tent.
Thu 1 Oct 2020, 45 km
Cool night. Dew and condensation on tent fly. Depart 7:30 am. Nice conditions for paddling. Lovely reflections. I think it looks like an avenue of redgums. The next day I am reading the Boney novel Madman's Bend which is set on the Darling. He describes the river as an avenue of ancient redgums stretching for two thousand miles. See a budgie and hear a few at one location. I haven't seen many since Nelia Gaari. I see a couple (people) on the bank close to the road. We chat for a few minutes. I see a couple babblers and a bird that looks like one of the little plovers but isn't. I see an echnida that goes to the water. I see a monitor swim across the river and then climb a tree. I see a scar tree with possibly three scars. I aim to do at least 40 km today. It will be above 30 degrees for the next three days followed by a cool change perhaps with rain on Monday. Therefore it will be good to get to Pooncarie on Sunday. Camp at 200 km mark on an easterly facing beach which already has shade on it at 3:15 pm. The forecast is for 25 deg today and the shade is welcome. Lots of flies but perhaps not quite as bad as yesterday. No mozzies until I'm in the tent. I see the TRK carving. They also camped here three years ago. A family across the river call out. They are from Bordertown and camped about 5 km downstream as the crow flies. They tell me about the PS Rodney wreck just downstream from their camp. Freeze dried meal tonight. I then put water into the bag and see if I can boil it on the fire. I can - useful trick if I forget to bring a pot! Full moon tonight. No phone reception.
Fri 2 Oct 2020, 36 km
Depart at 7:20 am. Sunny with a NW breeze. Nice reflections. Talk to a family of four who are from Polia Station who tell me that the PS Rodney may be about 4 km downstream. After a while I think I must have missed it but at 218 km I see it on the right bank. It would be hard to miss at this water level. I take quite a few photos because the lighting is difficult. There is a plaque on the top of the bank. At 221 km I come across a bloke with two young kids in a tinnie who ask if I'm the one paddling down the river. Mick from yesterday afternoon told him about me. At 228 km there is a log across the river. I was about to drag the kayak across the sandy bank when I realised I could feed the kayak on a tether under the branch. At 2 pm at 236 km I camp on the bend facing east. TRK also camped here. Hot afternoon (32 forecast) but I have shade. Weak phone reception. Text messages only. Wash some clothes and sort some food. Not many corellas since Menindee. Possible double ring tree behind my tent.
Sat 3 Oct 2020, 39 km
Depart at 6:50 am. Pleasant paddle in the cool of the morning. Still some decent camps for a while then they become difficult to find. River does two big loops and 10 km of river can be grown by a crow in 1 km. There's a couple shortcuts but the river would need to be 1 and 2 metres higher respectively. Just after the first one at about 252 km a tree across the river was negotiated by paddling under a branch. A while later another tree had been cut to allow a narrow channel to get past. From about 260 km it feels like the flow has diminished- effect of Pooncarie weir 35 km downstream? A bit later the river cuts into a red bank. It looks like red sand has been blown into the river. I see some babblers. In a few places I see green scum on the surface. It looks like blue-green algae. Perhaps just starting with the hot weather (36 deg and 38 deg forecast for today and tomorrow). Find a camp just before 275 km mark on the right bank at 1:40 pm. TRK have left their mark when they camped here 3 years ago. It has good shade so the hot afternoon is bearable. Good phone reception. In the last few days the filtered water has an earthy taste - before that it was fine. An echnida comes close to the tent and a kangaroo swims across the river during the night.
Sun 4 Oct 2020, 13 km
Daylight saving has started. Hot night, didn't sleep well. Two mozzies in the tent didn't help. Mozzies are bad in the morning. Depart at 7:50 am. Take shortcut at 282 km which is now the main channel saving 3 km. Arrive at Pooncarie Multi Purpose Park at 291 km at 10 am. I find a good spot about 100m upstream of the boat ramp and camp amongst small trees near a picnic table (site no 2). I have a hot shower - $1 for 5 min. I then walk 10 min across the golf course to the Old Wharf Cafe for lunch.
Mon-Wed 5-7 Oct 2020, rest days in Pooncarie
Large canoe tree across the river from the campground. Beautiful sunset. Get key for powered site to recharge phone and batteries. No extra cost apart from a $20 deposit. Rain forecast for Wednesday so an extra rest day.