Tilpa to Wilcannia
Tilpa to Wilcannia, 275 km, 7.5 days
Tues 1 Sep 2020 afternoon, depart Tilpa, 15 km
I launch at Tilpa at 1:15 pm. After about 5 km frequent sandy beaches appear, the best since Kallara apart from the weir. I start to see red tailed black cockatoos again after not seeing them since Louth. I also see a white faced heron for the first time having previously only seen Pacific herons. I also see a parrot that looks like a large red rumped parrot. I find a west-facing camp at the 15 km mark at 3:30 pm. Since Kallara the banks have long green grasses/weeds. There must have been good rainfall. I must very careful for snakes if going to the top of the bank as it is the start of spring and the next two days are forecast to be in the low 30s. I open one of my food parcels to find 3 packs of biscuits and a Mars Bar added and am informed that the other parcel also has treats. I'll open the second package in a few days time. Since I still feel full from lunch, I have soup and biscuits for dinner. No phone reception.
Wed 2 Sep 2020, 37 km
Gets windy overnight with strong NW winds forecast for the next two days. See a black fronted plover from my tent and photograph it - the tent acting as a bird hide as the bird got closer. Launch at 7:45 am and paddle and pedal continuously for 4:30 hrs. Left elbow still giving me twinges occasionally. A rope is stretched across the river at about 28-29 km for no apparent reason. At the 50 km mark there are rocky outcrops right across the river followed by an island. I take the left channel in both cases. There are two ring trees near each other on the left bank of the left channel. I see a fisherman who has caught some yellow belly. During the day I see two groups of several cockatiels and a sea eagle being harassed by a raven and corella. Also see lots of black fronted plovers and several groups of wood ducks with young ones. Camp at 52 km (same place as TRK) on a nice sandy site that has afternoon shade on a hot day and firm sand at the waterline. Too hot for a fire tonight.
Thu 3 Sep 2020, 34 km
Full moon. Willy wagtail and what I think is the little plover calling thru the night - mating calls or protesting my presence. Warm night with some high cloud makes for a good sunrise so I have my muesli and coffee at the top of the bank ready to take photos. Depart at 7:30 am. Hear some budgies and see one flash by. At 65 km there is a rocky section immediately upstream of an island. Most of the water goes down the left channel but it appears that it may be blocked by fallen trees. I couldn't quite see but there was just enough water for me to take the right channel through the rocks. I pass an underground and underwater gas pipeline. It is marked on the topo map as a dashed line and on the riverbank there is a pile of rocks. Signage on the top of the bank confirms the pipeline. At 75 km I climb a bank and get weak phone reception but enough for the internet to work. NW winds pick up at about midday. I am aiming for the TRK camp at 88 km but at 86 km, at 1:30 pm, I find a broad sandy beach on a bend facing east just like last nights camp. Being a hot day the shade cast by the trees onto the beach is welcome. Firm sand at the waterline again. At the top of the bank there is weak phone reception. Flocks of budgies fly over the river from SE to NW. As usual I'm into the tent by 6 pm. No fire tonight, it is too hot and windy. In the tent I listen to the radio. I still can receive 2WEB from Bourke and many ABC stations from NSW, QLD, VIC and SA in the evenings.
Fri 4 Sep 2020, 39 km
Depart at 7:40 am. Lots of budgies in the trees along the river for the next 5 km or so then none. Managed to photograph some high in the trees. Also got a photo of a parrot that I've seen quite often on this trip. Cooler day with southerly breeze. Quite frequent sandy beaches at first but then they become infrequent. Just after the 125 km mark, at 2 pm, I camp where TRK camped (I think). The beach is quite steep and comprises fine sand over mud. It's not the best landing but I put timber at the waterline to stand on so I don't sink into the mud. There is a flat area for my tent and good afternoon sun to recharge my battery. The phone doesn't charge well directly from the solar panel. The best arrangement is to charge the power bank with the solar panel and charge the phone from the power bank. Fire in the evening and bed at 6:30 pm.
Sat 5 Sep 2020, 37 km
Depart at 7:40 am. No budgies but some cockatiels. Several flocks of red tailed black cockatoos. At different times a corella and red tailed black cockatoos circle overhead squawking at me as I paddle past. Several rocky bars but no problem to negotiate. At midday I stop at the sharp bend at the 150 km mark. At the outside of the bend there is a large flat area for easy landing and at the top of the bank there is a lot of open area for camping. There also is mobile phone reception. The nicest camping is often on the inside of bends where often a sandy beach forms. However, on the Darling River the outside of the bends can sometimes have ledges or a gentle slope to the top of the bank where the tree cover is more sparse than the inside bends. This is something to bear in mind when searching for a campsite especially if suitable sites are limited such as today. I eventually camp at the Coach and Horses Campground at 162 km at 2:10 pm. I pitch my tent near my kayak rather than the numbered sites. There are picnic tables and toilets and mobile phone reception. There are several other campers here. One couple said that there were lots of budgies around Bourke. I think they must be migrating to the outback now that rains have come.
Sun 6 Aug 2020, 37 km
Father's Day. Receive messages from family. Depart at 7:45 am. Cool morning, 7 degrees in Bourke. Light winds, make good progress. Not too many spots for camping but there is a good one at the beginning of the island at the 180 km mark. Flat and sandy with weak phone reception. No problems getting thru the right channel. The left is dry and would be an easy portage if necessary. I noticed that since entering the Paroo-Darling NP there has not been any goats. I see a few on leaving the NP. I also see a sow and piglets near the 180 km mark. Once they were aware of my presence they scampered up the bank. I don't see the sandy beach that TRK refer to before 195 km. At 1:30 pm I find a small camp at 199 km. There is only enough flat ground for one tent but otherwise it is quite good. Weak phone reception at the top of the bank. The campsite is nicely shaded when I arrive but for an hour in the late afternoon it is in full sun. There is no wind and I find it unpleasantly hot. The flow at Tilpa is nearly 1100 Ml/day and at Wilcannia it is 1000 Ml/day.
Mon 7 Sep 2020, 37 km
Depart at 7:15 am. Beautiful paddling early as always. Good sandy beach at 210 km and from there on there is a reasonable selection of camps especially after the Paroo River confluence. Dilapidated windmills at 213 km have me thinking that the only windmills that I have seen on this trip have been broken. Perhaps modern pumps are more cost-effective. Quite a few sheep just after the windmills creating their own dust cloud. The Paroo at 218 km is a dry creek bed but if it only flows a few times each century it must be a very old river considering the depth of the channel. It's a warm day of 29 degrees and I want to find an east facing camp anywhere after 235 km. At 236 km (1:30 pm) I find it with afternoon shade and flat ground near the waterline for my tent. There is mobile phone reception at the top of the bank.
Tues 8 Sep 2020, 37 km
Warm night. Depart at 7 am. Good campsite a few hundred metres past where I camped. A hazard of early starts is that if the sun is directly behind you, the ducks fly straight towards you and you think they will hit you. Waving the paddle seems to get their attention. On another occasion three galahs went to land on two ducks, thinking they were snags, until all suddenly realised and panic took over by all. See some old style irrigation pumps including one that looks like it was powered by a steam engine and another one with a pump on rails to cater for different river levels. See some pigs by the water's edge and the first kangaroos since the Brewarrina to Bourke section (which was only a couple kangaroos). Campsites diminish on approach to Wilcannia due to the weir. Arrive at Warrawong at 1:20 pm. The landing is not easy and it takes an hour to transfer gear to my room etc. It's hot (34 forecast) and a shower in the room is welcome. Internet is not particularly good so uploading photos is very slow, disappointing since we are only 2 km from central Wilcannia. I am now half way down the Darling, 850 km in 4 weeks. I now have two rest days.
Wed-Thu 9-10 Sep 2020
Rest day at Warrawong on Darling at Wilcannia. Walk into town. Do minor maintenance on MirageDrive. Shock cord in pedal breaks which means pedal is not in upright position when not in use - minor inconvenience but I can use the shock cord from the FWD/REV handles and replace them with an elastic band.