Blanchetown-Wellington (15-21 September 2006, 198 km)
Friday 15 September 2006
I got up at 6:15 am hoping to launch at 8 am but I got talking to Vera, who was 67 and interested in the trip that I was doing, and then the caravan park owner. Earlier I saw 3 woodduck ducklings desparately trying to find their parents whilst a nearby pelican observes them perhaps concerned for their welfare. Vera told me that there were 4 ducklings but one was taken by a whistling kite to its nest across the river. The ducklings eventually disappeared into the reeds. I launched at 9 am, had a break at 268 km and then again at 261 km where I walked up a track to the cliff top where phone reception was much better. A houseboat “Deckadence” was coming down the river. I would see it again at Swan Reach, Nildottie and then in two days time at Bowhill. I went on to 255 km where I stopped for lunch across from the Swan Reach- Stockwell pumping station. It was a beautiful day with light winds and lots of cliffs. I stopped at Swan Reach (246 km) and got a cappuccino from the General Store. I continued onto Punyelroo Caravan Park (241 km) passing the PS Marion which was on its way to Swan Reach for the 50 year anniversary celebrations of the 1956 flood. Across from the caravan park is a channel to the lagoon on which Punyelroo Cave is situated but it is not obvious where it is located so I did not go any further. I arrived at the caravan park at 3:45 pm after a 33 km day and got a site close to the river for $9. I had tortolini for dinner (cooked in my cup) and then listened to the AFL in bed.
Saturday 16 September 2006
It was 3 degrees during the morning with a lot of dew. It was forecast to be 25 degrees. I launched at 8am and passed some great cliffs at Big Bend. There were many cockatoos and corellas in holes or on ledges on the cliffs. I stopped at 231 km and the corellas in the trees objected to my presence by screeching at me. I passed more great cliffs almost all the way to Nildottie at 224 km where I bought pies and a drink for lunch from the General Store about 500 m up the hill. I launched again at 12 pm, passed more great cliffs just down from Nildottie, stopped at Wongulla (216 km), see a large fish floating in the water at 212 km and then found a campsite at 211 km after a 30 km day. The campsite was not perfect as it is on a slope and had a vehicle track behind it but I suspected there would not be too many campsites for the next 10 km due to cliffs and shacks either side of Walkers Flat which is 4 km downstream. By 3:30 pm I was all set up and enjoying the view. Today has been characterized by magnificent cliffs but also more traffic on the river including water skiers. During the night I was disturbed by yobbos who walk pass by my tent and talk about coming back to "shoot the car headlights" onto my tent.
Sunday 17 September 2006
It was a noisy night with the yobbos and a pump that was switching on and off every few seconds for about an hour around 2 am. I started packing just before 6 am, launched at 7:05 am, stop at Walkers Flat, call Christine and buy some water from the store. There were plenty of campsites opposite the cliffs at 201 km. There was a light breeze with 29 degrees forecast. I stopped at Bowhill next to “Deckadence”, bought lunch from the store and by chance met Vera and her husband Stan who are on their way home in Mt Barker. Whilst talking to them speed boats went past and cause waves to splash over my kayak. I had a long lunch break (12-1:40 pm) and then set off again with skiers passing by for the next 11 km till I found a campsite at 175 km next to private property where several houseboats were moored. I ate some oranges that Vera gave me earlier. They were very sweet and juicy. Like last night there was very little firewood around so I cooked pasta on my gas burner. There were a few mosquitoes around so I went to bed at 6:15 pm after a 36 km day.
Monday 18 September 2006
It was a warm 18 degrees during the night with a few drops of rain but I slept well. I launched at 7 am on a calm morning with some high cloud. There were plenty of camping spots on the spit between the river and Lake Carlet at about 170 km. I stopped at Younghusband (168 km) and bought a drink then stopped again at the Marina at 162 km. The clouds are darker now and it is windier. I stayed close to the bank in the shelter of the willows which line the bank continuously. I stopped again at Noa No Landing (156 km) where William Randell started the steamer river trade. I arrived at Mannum CaravanPark (151 km) at 11:50 am and got a site close to the water. Later in the day I watch the “Murray Princess” depart from the wharf for a cruise. I had dinner at the Pretoria Hotel which overlooks the water.
Tuesday 19 September 2006
It was very windy for a few hours during the night and I began to worry that I would not be able to paddle today. However, before sunrise the wind eased so I decided to get an early start for the 33 km paddle to Murray Bridge. Another reason for the early start was that a change with strong winds was forecast for early afternoon. I started packing at 5:30 am and launched right on sunrise at 6:15 am and realised that my map is inside the packed up tent but I left it there. I had a light tailwind down to Caloote (143 km) where I stop briefly to get my map. I stopped again at Wood Lane Reserve (133 km) to sculpt my foam seat to relieve pressure on my coccyx. According to a local that I spoke to further downstream, this was where fuel wood was loaded onto paddle steamers in the old days. By now there was a strong NW tailwind behind me till I reach the boat ramp at 126 km. The wind was a worry over such long stretches of water because if I fell off my kayak there were few landing places due to the continuous line of willows on the banks. I was now expecting a hard paddle as I turned the corner into the wind but my luck continues as the wind has died down. By the time I reach Avoca Dell Caravan Park (118 km) at 12:30 pm there is only a light breeze but the clouds are getting darker. Minutes later, whilst I am booking in at the office 200 m away, strong westerly winds sprang up as the change came through. I showered, did some washing, booked the buses to return to Blanchetown (via Adelaide) to retrieve my car and had lunch. There was some light rain and strong winds.
Wednesday 20 September 2006
It was a cool night at 8 degrees but a calm sunny morning. At 6:50 am I started walking into town which is 6 km away via the wetlands. I caught the 9:30 am bus to Adelaide and then from there the 12:15 pm bus to Blanchetown. By 2:30 pm I was back at my car and I returned to MurrayBridge by 5 pm via Walkers Flat and Mannum.
Thursday 21 September 2006
I had intended taking two days to paddle to Wellington 42 km away but the forecast for Friday was for another change with strong winds. Therefore, I decided to reach Wellington in one day as favourable winds were forecast. It wa a calm sunny morning and I launched at 7:45 am. I paddled past MurrayBridge, had short breaks at Swanport Reserve (107 km) next to the Sailing Club, at 102 km and at 94 km. I continued on along the 15 km straight with a good tailwind to the hotel landing at Tailem Bend (88 km) where I had lunch at 12:25 pm. I launched again at 1 pm, passed some housing developments, am sheltered from the crosswind by the willows and arrived at Wellington (76 km) at 3 pm. I got a Budget room (inc TV and ensuite) for $35 but needed to carry everything up a very steep bank. A better landing/launching site is from the Old Courthouse lawn next to the car ferry. The next morning I caught the school bus back to Murray Bridge and then visited my friend Jim in Adelaide.