Brewarrina to Bourke
Brewarrina to Bourke, 205 km, 7 days
Tues 11 Aug 2020, 23 km
Depart Bourke for Brewarrina, drop off box of Murray-Darling Journeys books to the Visitors Centre where I speak to Lara who will write an article about our journey to Bourke for the Brewarrina News (Sep 2020 Edition, page 8 here and full journey article in Nov 2020 Edition, pages 16-18, Article here). Do the Aboriginal fishtraps tour and then launch just below the fisheries at 11:55am (2 km mark) waving to our driver, Kevin, and Lara. Flow is about 900 Ml/day and we are paddling with the peak. Paddle to the 10 km mark and have lunch then paddle to the 25 km mark to camp at 4pm. Some rocky sections and some shallow areas such that the Mirage drive hits a snag once and the fin kicks up which requires me to remove the drive to straighten the fin. South facing camp with slightly muddy bank from recent rain.
Wed 12 Aug 2020, 32 km
Warm night with a few drops of rain. We launch at 8:15 am after a 2 hour pack up and breakfast. We make good progress on a warm day in the low 20s. There are a few flies about especially when the sun shines. Like yesterday we saw several ring trees, goats and pigs as well as sea eagles. At 2:50 pm find a south facing camp at 57 km with flat ground near the waters edge. Beautiful sunset and nice reflections. Good Telstra phone reception.
Thu 13 Aug 2020, 30 km
Packed up in 1 hour 40 min for 7:45 am launch. Sunny day becoming warm in the afternoon. Many sandy beaches today, red tailed black cockatoos and turtles that are difficult to see because they drop into the water as you approach so that you usually only see the splash. There were several near our camp and I was able to photograph one. Passed three giant noisy pumps about a km before our camp. Later estimate that 150 Ml/day were being pumped for three days based on river gauge data. Set up camp on a north facing bend at 2:15 pm at about the 87 km mark. Get prepared for a wet pack up tomorrow morning. No phone reception.
Fri 14 Aug 2020, 30 km
Rain started at about 2am and was more or less continuous till 7:40 am. Quick pack up and then launch at 8:15am. Rain coat and pants on as the rain started again. By midday the showers had generally finished and the sun came out. The banks became very muddy and very difficult to walk up including the camp which we had left. Fortunately there were some sandy beaches which would have made reasonable camps. At about 2 pm we pass the Bogan River confluence which was contributing little to the Barwon River flow. About a kilometre later the river was blocked by a raft of flood debris and and log across the river. At higher levels it could be possible to paddle over the log or around it but we had to line out kayaks under the end of the log. This was more difficult than it sounds as the bank was very slippery. We find a camp at the 117 km mark on a north facing sandy beach. There was enough sun to dry most our gear and we were able to start a fire was lots of dried gum leaves off the tree. There is very weak phone reception. Lose glasses and find them in the clod of mud under my boots. They must have been resting on my knee when I stood up. They are a bit bent but otherwise ok.
Sat 15 Aug 2020, 32 km
Foggy morning. Start paddling at 8:15am. Beautiful paddling in the fog. Fog clears and sun comes out then SW breeze comes up making for harder paddling. Pass the Culgoa confluence at the 122 km mark and paddle 100m up it. No flow. We are now on the Darling River and the Barwon River has officially ended. After about the 140 km mark the sandy beaches disappear perhaps due to the influence of the rocky bar at the 157 km mark. We find a westerly facing campsite at 149 km on top of a fairly steep bank at 3 pm. It's a bit muddy at the waterline but firm above that. Sunny and breezy afternoon is good for drying out the tent and other things after yesterday's rain. Very weak phone reception.
Sun 16 Aug 2020, 32 km
Cool night. Launch at 8:15 am after decanting treated water from the bucket. The water is clearer after settling overnight (after adding 1/2 teaspoon of alum to 5 litres of water). At 157 km there is a rocky bar forming a rapid that is easy to run but certainly not one to do with the Hobie Mirage Drive in place. There are more rocky bars over the next 5 km but are easy to pass thru at our water levels. Sandy beaches begin to reappear. Strong SW wind makes paddling on long reaches difficult although pedalling is not affected as much by headwinds. See first humans since the day we left Brewarrina (5 days) camped on the riverbank but they don't see me as they are facing the other way. At 3pm reach rocky ledge at 181 km. It's part of a high water shortcut. Not much shade but good on a cool windy day. Weak phone reception. Send a message to Ian Cole of the Western Herald regarding our arrival in Bourke (as suggested by Lara of Brewarrina Visitors Centre).
Mon 17 Aug 2020, 24 km
Beautiful still morning with mist rising from the water. Four degrees in Bourke. Paddle about 9 km to Mays Bend. Very soft mud on the inside bend and a old dead fallen ring tree a bit away from the water. Only a few campers compared to the many last year. Weak phone reception. Stop at Nth Bourke boat ramp for lunch. Good to have firm footing at the ramp rather than sticky mud. Meet Grace who has uncle and aunty who live Trilby Station which I may stay at next week. Paddle final 5 km to Bourke wharf arriving at 2 pm. Jodie of the Western Herald is there to greet us. She takes photos and does an audio interview for the newspaper and to be played on the local radio station 2WEB. Jodie is familiar with our book as she recently worked at the Back O'Bourke Centre. Unloading at the wharf is not the easiest especially carrying the kayaks up the stairs. A bypassing backpacker, Rhys, enthusiastically assisted. We get our room at the nearby Riverview Motel. I trolley my kayak and Derek drives our gear there. Dinner at Diggers RSL Club across the road.
Tues 18 Aug 2020, Rest Day in Bourke