Pooncarie to Wentworth
Pooncarie to Wentworth, 240 km, 7 days
Thu 8 Oct 2020, 32 km
Warm and windy night is good for drying the banks so they aren't too slippery in the morning. Depart Pooncarie at 8:15 am and paddle 3 km to Old Wharf site, where the gauging poles are, and return the power box key to Pitstop Cafe. Paddle 2 km to the Pooncarie Weir (360 Ml/day). Do portage on left bank. Trolley is useful as it is a couple hundred metres along the top of the bank before descending. Portage takes about 50 min. Strong westerly winds but these are mainly a crosswind. Mostly cloudy and cool. At the 14 and 22 km marks from Pooncarie Old Wharf there are logs across the river but I can just manage to pass through. Otherwise dragging the kayak over the sandbanks would have been easy. I see a rainbow bee-eater and a flycatcher(?). Lots of sandy beaches but when I want one to camp on, the beach is not flat. At 3:15 pm at 29 km I find one of these and camp at the top of the bank. Weak phone reception. There is a brief shower after I have everything set up.
Fri 9 Oct 2020, 35 km
Dewy night. Dogs barking during the night from a homestead over a kilometre away. See some wallabies with dark fur. Launch 8:15 am. Calm with sunny skies with a forecast of 22 deg. See a red kangaroo. Budgies near Peaka Station. Get to weir at 40 km and I am pleasantly surprised to see that I can float my kayak through a rocky channel next to the left bank with only minimal scratching. The weir is built on a sandstone bar with red sand having been blown over the left bank. A SW breeze comes up which is sometimes a headwind for me. At 54 km there is a low level bridge that I can go under with minimal ducking. At 60 km there are the remains of a temporary weir and then soon after there is a log across the river and I only just scrape over it's lowest point. There are lots of good campsites from here to 64 km where I make camp on the right bank at 2:40 pm. I've done 35 km for the day which is what I need to do each day to get to Wentworth on Wednesday. Lots of flies so I need my fly net. Someone passes on the opposite bank on a quad bike with trailer. A while later they pass again with a load of firewood. Two utes with fishermen drive past. Since Pooncarie the stations seem to be more frequent and there are more shacks scattered along the river. No phone reception. Evening campfire. Flies are still a nuisance but I have not noticed any mozzies.
Sat 10 Oct 2020, 35 km
Cold night, lots of dew. I delay getting out of the sleeping bag until the sun shines on the tent. Depart 8:45 am. Start seeing rocky banks and small cliffs as well as crops on the red sand. There is evidence of logging, or at least firewood collection by cutting down dead trees. Low level bridge at 89 km, the deck being made of railway tracks. This bridge is higher above water than the one yesterday. Burtundy Weir seems to exert its influence at about the 80 km mark. The day is warm and the NW breeze is mainly a crosswind as this section of river generally flows SW. At 3 pm I camp at the TRK camp at the 99 km mark. This is about 3 km upstream of Burtundy Weir. To get shade I camp at the top of the bank and need to sharpen some sticks to use as tent pegs in the sandy ground. Evidence of logging in the river flats behind my camp. Weak phone reception but OK for a phone call. Goats making farting noises at me to get me to go away.
Sun 11 Oct 2020, 37 km
Decide to get an early start because I want to cover a similar distance as yesterday but I have the weir to get past which could take an hour or more. I depart at 7:45 am and a couple km later when passing Tunley Station a lady calls out to tell me to beware as there is a weir about a km downstream. On approaching the weir I see why she wanted the warm me. I could see the bridge just downstream of the weir but since the weir lip is perfectly level you do not see it. There are signs etc but no buoys. Fortunately the flow over the weir is not strong (240 Ml/day) so I can go close to the left edge and disembark. There is a concrete surface on which I can drag my laden kayak across to the downstream side. I put some branches on the concrete to minimise scratching of my fibreglass kayak. The whole process is done in less than 10 minutes and I did not hear any scratching although the sound of water going over the weir may have muffled the sound. Downstream the river is narrow and snaggy in a deep channel. In many places there are the dead stalks of plants and saplings that grew in the river bed in drier times. I see my first sulphur crested cockatoo for the whole trip and another two Major Mitchells. I see a turtle with a green slimy back. I see a pair of wood ducks with possibly 19 young. At Para Station there is a bloke fishing. He's the caretaker. There is an old farm stay sign and I think he says they are doing it up for visitors again. At 2 pm I realised that I had forgotten to put on my sunscreen this morning. TRK camped at 136 km three years ago but I suspect on the westerly facing beach. Fortunately, at the outside of the bend there is a flat area with trees that suits me better. It's a great spot. I reach here at 2:50 pm. Good phone reception.
Mon 12 Oct 2020, 39 km
Beautiful view from the tent at sunrise. Depart 7:45 am. A couple km downstream, where a tree has fallen across the river, I need to drag my kayak through shallows taking about 5 min. Shallow areas continue till about 145 km where the influence of the water backed up from the weir at Wentworth becomes apparent. Also many pumps at the Ellerslie area shows reliable water for the orange groves(?) in this area. Warm day with light winds. More possible campsites than I expected. I check out the one at 175 km where I think TRK stayed but not enough shade for the afternoon. I continue for another few hundred metres and find a good spot at 3 pm on the left bank just past the 62 km sign to the Murray Junction. Apparently there are signs every 2 km counting down from 70 km. Good phone reception.
Tues 13 Oct 2020, 34 km
Depart at 8:15 am. The sights and sounds of agriculture make their impact with the sounds of pumps and vehicles. Private property signs become more frequent. Near Avoca Station, which has accommodation and camping, at 185 km willows appear - the first for the trip. There is a boat ramp at Avoca which resolved one of my queries about Avoca i.e. ease of disembarking from a kayak. A shortcut at 200 km saves 3 km. Nice looking houses become common and private property signs also become more common. Unfortunately some houses are directly opposite good beaches for camping. Nevertheless I still mark these spots on my GPS as good camps especially as sites will become limited on the approach to Wentworth. The spot I was hoping to camp at just after 210 km mark has a house directly opposite so there was no privacy. At the next bend it was difficult to disembark but at about 3 pm I find a makeshift boat ramp on the left bank at about 212 km where there is shade from a large redgum.
Wed 14 Oct 2020, 30 km
Warm night, both vestibule flaps tied open. Depart at 7:45 am. Another beautiful morning with great reflections. No campsites beyond 215 km. Even on bends the water is deep at the shore. Lots of shacks and houses. Find a small private ramp on the left at about 220 km to stretch my legs. At 223 km I stop at Pomona boat ramp on the right bank to stretch my legs again as I don't know where the next opportunity will be. See small brown snake swimming across the river. This is the first snake I've seen in the whole trip. See some ring trees. Stretch legs about 10 km before end. Could camp here on left bank. Another short break at the Wentworth boat ramp just past the bridge then meet Christine at the Junction Park before the final finish at 1 pm. Return to the boat ramp to unpack the kayak and go for a drink at the hotel. In one way I am pleased that the journey has come to an end. I will look forward to the conveniences of civilisation. Setting up and packing up every day was becoming tedious especially on hot days. On the other hand I will miss the beauty of the mornings and the sense and achievement of self sufficiency in a remote environment.