Morgan to Mannum
Murray River, Morgan to Mannum, 170 km, 17-21 March 2021
Wed 17 March 2021, Morgan to Blanchetown, 46 km
The plan was to paddle from Morgan to Blanchetown in one day but to do this I needed to make sure I made the last lockage at Blanchetown before 4:30 p.m. I set the alarm for 5 a.m. with the aim of launching by 7 a.m. I actually launched at 6:50 a.m. which was about 25 minutes before sunrise but light enough to paddle. There was a light headwind at first but it remained a headwind for most of the day. For a few kilometres downstream of Morgan there were what the South Australians call shacks but many of them are more like mansions. See cockatoos in cliff crevices. At about midday I spoke to a couple on a houseboat who gave me a banana and apple. At about 6 and 16 km before Blanchetown I saw two ring trees and several canoe trees all on the right hand side near lagoon areas. This must have been a site of significance for the Aboriginal people. Just before Lock 1 I passed under the twin concrete Sturt Highway Bridges, one obsolete, and just downstream of Lock 1 there are many pelicans fishing. The caravan park is just downstream of the lock at the 274 km mark. I stay in one of the basic rooms for $55 a night. It is the same type of room I stayed in 2006. I have dinner at the hotel which is up the hill a bit and was built in 1858.
Thu 18 March 2021, Blanchetown to Punyelroo CP, 33 km
Launch at 7:50 am. Light winds. See a couple hot air balloons. More birdlife with spoonbills, cockatoos and corellas. Pass some areas of old redgums with thick growth of saplings underneath. It is good to see some regeneration (perhaps from 2011 flood). This was an unusual sight on the Darling. Get to Swan Reach (246 km mark) at 12:30pm and decide to buy lunch at the hotel like 15 years ago but a coach full of old people get there just before me so I buy a burger and a coffee at the takeaway store just below the hotel. The store has been renovated and is looking nice. When I leave, two cars towing Cara Boats are outside. These seem to be an interesting design of boats that function also as caravans. As I am leaving a small boat "Reed Warbler" passes. I pass what looks like a tug boat and later a grey boat that looks like a small navy patrol boat. Reach Punyelroo CP (241 km mark) at 2:30 pm. I ask if I can set up my tent on the flat ground with shade near the boat ramp (like I did in 2006) but I am told there is no camping there. Instead I am given a spot in full sun on wet grass up the hill for $32.
Fri 19 March 2021, Punyelroo to Wongulla, 24 km
Warm night. Launch at 7:50 am. Paddle to Big Bend and paddle under the undercut. Paddle along magnificent cliffs, taking lots of photos, to Herman's Landing at Nildottie at 11:30 am (226 km) and walk up to the general store to buy coffee and some pies. Launch again with the intention of getting to 211 km where I camped in 2006. Good tailwind. At 217 km on the left bank there is a clearing just before a fence and private property sign and I decide to camp there. It's just before and across from Wongulla. Weak phone reception. Nice sunset.
Sat 20 March 2021, Wongulla to Bowhill, 32 km
Launch at 7:50 am. Light winds at first but there is a long SE reach past Purnong that is a moderate headwind but OK when peddling into it. Pass the houseboat Gunnadoo which I remember seeing in 2006. I average 6 km/h and arrive at Bowhill (185 km mark) at 1 pm. My Wikicamps app says there is free camping for self contained vehicles beside the toilet block. I ask at the general store if camping is allowed but they say no, I explain that I'm paddling down the river and campsites are limited due to private property. Later whilst having a coffee the lady asks if I am wanting to stay only one night and, if so, then it should be ok and that I could also camp on the grass near the water beyond the boat ramp. (It is noted that there is a monument, near the ramp, stating that Sturt camped here in 1830 within metres of a no camping sign.) I fill in the afternoon culling photos and writing this and will set up the tent after 6 pm. Singing honeyeaters are in the wattle above me and they get excited when butterflies fly past. The store sells beer and meals for dine in or takeaway and has a nice view over the river. I set up camp near two fishermen who catch four carp. The Murray Princess goes past just on sunset.
Sun 21 March 2021, Bowhill to Mannum, 35 km
Start packing at 6 am and launch at 7:20 am just before sunrise. I must be getting faster at packing. Calm conditions, the expected 20-30 km/h tailwind did not eventuate. Very light breeze making it feel a lot hotter than the forecast 28 degrees. I pass a houseboat moored to the bank and they offer me a coffee which I accepted and had whilst in my kayak tied to the back of the houseboat. We talk for half an hour or so and they give me some cake. I have a toilet break at the Younghusband boat ramp. Between the 164 and 158 km marks there are some clearings on the left bank that may make suitable campsites. Perhaps they are taken by houseboats in busy times. I arrive at Mannum CP at 2 pm where I have a cabin booked for two nights.