Echuca-Barham (19-22 October 2002, 190km)

This trip was performed solo since I had no one interested for the trip advertised in the canoeing program. I decided to do the trip anyway. The plan was to leave the car at Moama, paddle down the river to Barham or possibly Swan Hill and then catch the bus back to retrieve the car. From Canberra to Echuca or Barham, it is about 600 km and takes about 9 hours including several stops. The river heights were 2.65 m at Barham and 1.45 m at Swan Hill. For future trips downstream of Barham I should plan to do no more than 40 km/day (assume 30 km/day average) and I should plan to stop paddling at least 3 hours before sunset to allow time to set up camp, relax and cook in daylight.

Saturday 19 October 2002

I had camped the night at Moama Riverside Caravan Park and started packing at 5:10 am (first light), had breakfast, started loading at 5:45 am. At 6:50 am I had launched from the Moama Wharf at the 1714 km mark. There was a SW breeze which was a headwind on some of the reaches. I stopped for a break at 1702 km at about 8:10 am. That makes a speed of about 9.2 km/hr. The kayak seemed to be heavy in the bow-not surprising since I have about 8 days worth of food and a lot of water in the front compartment. I had further breaks at 1692 and 1682 which made for 30 km in 4 hours and 20 minutes including breaks. It was now partly cloudy and cool and the SW wind was coming in gusts. I had lunch at 1673 km and had to watch that my ryvitas did not get blown away. I launched again at 1:15 pm and arrived at Deep Creek Marina (1660 km) at 3:00 pm. This is a large marina with many house boats moored. From the marina I made a call to the Torrumbarry Lockmaster, to let him know that I would want to get through at about 1:00 pm the next day. I then continued onto about the 1658 km mark where I set up camp on a ledge just above water level on the Victorian bank. By 4:30 pm I was all set up drinking VB tinnies that I had bought at the marina. I had a campfire beneath a full moon and then went to bed at about 8:00 pm after a 56 km day.

Sunday 20 October 2002

At 3:40 am I woke up to the sound of firecrackers and approaching footsteps in the dry grass and leaves. The footsteps stopped near the tent and then I heard rustling thruogh plastic bags. Then I heard splashing in the water from ducks swimming about. I then realised that the rustling was my beard brushing against my sleeping bag and after hearing and seeing possums in the branch above my tent I realised that they had been making the noise walking through the grass and that the firecrackers were dry sticks breaking. I got up at 5:15 am, packed, had breakfast and launched at 6:15 am. I was a bit concerned about my left wrist which was a bit sore since packing up my tent (and there had been some twinges on the previous day) but it seems to get better the more I paddle. My shoulders are also sore possibly due to carrying the gear to the kayak at Moama. I have a break at 1648 km and 1640 km where I take some photos and see a number of birds. I set off again at 10:00 am with the wind strengthening from the SW and no current. I arrive at Torrumbarry Weir at 11:30 am. Here the water is right to the top of the bank. I ring the Lockmaster who says that he will be there at 1:00 pm. I have lunch and look at the Interpretation Centre. The Caravan Park is some way off and would not be a suitable overnight stop without a long portage. The process of passing through the lock takes about 15 minutes. The Lockmaster says that he only does about 50 a year. I am surprised that so few boats pass through. The scenery below the lock seems somewhat different, with the high banks and it is quieter. The water also seems colder having been released from the base of the weir. At 1618 km I find a flat grassy shelf on which to park my kayak and I set up camp on the top of the bank where I find a BBQ and nice views of the bend in the river. It is quite shady but no grass or bushes. By 3:30 pm I have set up my tent, sent an SMS to Christine and then have a quick swim. I am a few hundred metres down from an old couple who have two large tents and a dinghy. Unfortunately there is a dead sheep in the water on the opposite bank so I need to walk some way to get water upstream of it. Luckily I have the twelve litre folding bucket. I again have dinner by the campfire and go to bed about 8:00 pm after a 40 km day. I listen to the radio for a while but I have no inclination to start reading the book of which I have read one page.

Monday 21 October 2002

I woke up at 5:00 am. It was a cool night. The radio says 6 degrees, but it didn’t feel that cold. I start packing at 6:00 am, have breakfast and launch at 7:30 am. There is a southerly breeze which seems behind me or as a cross-wind. They forecast 23 degrees today and it is hard to believe that tomorrow it will be 28. At about 1609 km I saw a young cow in the water at the bottom of a steep bank but I could not help it. I stop at 1607 km, send an SMS to Christine and finish the film. At about 1601 km I saw a satin flycatcher preening itself on a branch 2 metres above me. At 1599 km I had another break and found to my surprise that I can send another SMS. This was about 10km outside the handheld mobile range. I continued on to 1592 km (which is sign posted 1590) where I stopped for lunch. I saw two restless flycatchers and a white-necked heron. A rotting cow in the water gave occasional whiffs of …rotting cow. I could access WAP internet but the weather forecast was either several days old or what I already knew. From here the river generally follows in a northerly direction and the wind was generally behind me. So I made good progress finding a camp site at 1568 km at 4:15pm. That’s 24 km in 2 hours 55 mins without stopping and 50 km for the day. The camp site, on the Victorian side across from the 1568 km marker, has a wobbly picnic table and a small ledge on which I could pull my kayak. The banks were not as high as the last camp site and this one had steps carved into the bank. My wrist was sore this afternoon. I think I aggravated it while stuffing things into my front hatch at lunch time. From here I can paddle to Barham in one day (44 km). It would be nice to take two days, but the forecast is for warm gusty northerly winds, afternoon thunderstorm, dust storm, cool gusty change with a few showers—not pleasant camping or paddling weather. I rang Christine and then heard gun shots in the distance. A blue 4WD ute approached the camp site. It turned around a hundred metres away when they saw me. I hoped there were no visitors during the night. I took an anti-inflamatory with dinner to help the wrist. I listened to the radio by the camp fire, then went to bed about 8:00 pm and slept soundly.

Tuesday 22 October 2002

I woke up at 4:30 am and started packing at 4:40am, launching at 5:40 am. Breakfast was some fruitybix bars in the tent. I didn’t feel the same wrist stiffness as the previous morning. It is calm and I feel good so I kept paddling. The northerly started as a gentle breeze at about 7:40 am. According to the map there were mud bars in the river and the current was faster in these sections. I chased three pelicans down the river for about 10 km until 1544 km when there were stockmen on the bank further down stream so the pelicans decide to fly back upstream. I decided to do 30 km non-stop and have done this by 9:10 am when I found a little harbour on the Victorian side in which I could easily disembark. For the last 5 km or so there were houses scattered on the NSW bank. I SMS Christine to book the bus for tomorrow. I launched at 10:05 am and paddled the remaining 14km to Barham arriving at 11:45 am. That’s 44 km in 6 hours. I landed at the boat ramp next to the caravan park and I was able to set up my tent about 50 metres away from the ramp. By early afternoon the northerly wind was very strong and I was glad to have completed the trip. The caravan park is conveniently located next to a nice club and very close to the main street. The next day I needed to catch a taxi to Kerang ($40), the bus to Echuca ($12.60) and a taxi to Moama ($12) to get my car.