Robinvale-Mildura (23-27 August 2005, 242 km)
Tuesday 23 August 2005
I camped the night at Robinvale in almost exactly the same spot as the previous October when I had paddled from Tooleybuc to Robinvale. I started packing at 6:30 am and launched at 8:10 am allowing myself plenty of time to paddle the 6 km to Lock 15 which I had booked to go through at 9:30 am. I paddled past the new road bridge construction which was started about a year ago and looks like it will take another couple years to complete. It was a cool morning with a light southerly breeze and a maximum predicted of 14 degrees. The current above the Lock was 1.0-1.4 km/hr. I passed through the Lock and paddle onto 1109 km for a break. There is a very good flow of about 12000 Ml/day which below the Lock provided a flow of 2.4 km/hr making for a paddling speed of 9-10 km/hr. At the first break I began to think that I did not lock the car which was left back at the caravan park. This thought persisted in my mind over the next few days especially since the radio news was telling of a recent spate of car break-ins in Swan Hill. I swapped the food box in front of my footrests for my clothes bag which originally was in the back compartment. This gave me room to stretch my legs in the kayak whilst still providing my feet with support which proved to be very successful over the coming days in preventing me from getting leg soreness. I had lunch at 1100 km after taking the shortcut at 1106 km. I stopped again at 1090 and 1084 before making camp at 3:20 pm at 1079 km across from a log shearing shed and near a reef the extends 2/3 of the way across the river. For much of the afternoon I had a moderate southerly headwind which resulted in a bit of soreness in my right wrist which I was worried would get worse the next day as I paddled further. I regretted that I may have overdone it by paddling 45 km on this first day. I had spaghetti for dinner and went to bed at 7:30 pm which is one hour after last light.
Wednesday 24 August 2005
It was a cold night; 2 degrees according to the radio. During the night the water rose another 10 cm. I re-lit the campfire and had coffee and muesli with warm milk for breakfast. I launched at 8:20 am on another beautiful day with mist on the water and a light S-SE breeze. My fingertips are cold at first but they warm up as the sun moves higher in the sky. I had a break at 1072 km and then continue another 6 km to Wemen where there is a store. Access to the store from the river is steep and difficult according to the map but I found that it was relatively easy from the store sign up the bank along a pump pipeline. An alternate access point could have been via the new boat ramp about a kilometre upstream. The store was basically a take-away food store so I buy a drink and call Christine from the phone box. Fortunately my wrist had not been a problem so I paddled onto 1058 km for lunch at 11:40 am on a nice sandy beach. I had another break at 1050 km and planned to make camp at 1042 km but this was not suitable because the sandy beach was overgrown with saplings. I paddled on to the big sandy beach at 1038 km and made camp there arriving at about 3:00 pm after 41 km for the day. I had now made it around the big bend in the river and from here it is basically NNW to Mildura. Unfortunately the water is only about 12 degrees so rather than having a swim I wipe myself over with a wet cloth. This leaves me feeling refreshed and clean. At about 4:30 pm a bloke went past in a dinghy towing another dinghy with a swag etc. I wondered whether he was doing a trip down the river or whether he was recovering someone's dinghy. I had spaghetti again for dinner and read and listened to the radio by the camp fire. The forecast for Thursday was 3-17 degrees with light winds. During the day whilst paddling I had been listening to the radio or my MP3 player and I have found that this greatly assists in passing the time, helped avoid a sense of loneliness and helped me to paddle at a more relaxed pace.
Thursday 25 August 2005
It was a cold foggy morning but this made for some good photography. I started packing at 6 am, was out of the tent at first light at 6:30 am and launched at 8:00 am. Its another beautiful day. I had breaks at 1020, 1011 and 992 km for lunch at 12:05 pm.
Along the way I had taken 14 km worth of shortcuts; namely Retail and Tapaulin Cuttings. Both of these cuttings seem to have formed over the last 100 years or so because the main river channel went around these bends, according to the map, but is now at least partly silted up. I hoped to get a photo of the 1000 km sign but it was missing. According to my GPS the current was flowing at between 2.7 and 3.4 km/hr. As I approached Colignan I noticed more houses, cars and campers along the river. At 1:30 pm I stopped at Colignan (984 km) and climbed the steep bank up to the store which, like Wemen Store, is mainly a takeaway shop. I bought a drink and called Christine from the phone box. I continued paddling and chased 2 parent shelducks with their ducklings along McGraths Island just downstream of Colignan. I had a short break at 975 km and at 3:30 pm made camp at 971 km on a sandy beach on the NSW side across the river from a relatively busy road. I had dinner and boiled some river water for drinking over the following days. I went to bed at about 8:00 pm after paddling 53 km for the day.
Friday 26 August 2005
I was now only 80-90 km from Mildura so my aim was to camp at Mildura on Saturday night. Therefore, I decided to start paddling early. I started packing at 5:30 am and launch at 6:40 am. Again it was a cold morning (4 degrees) and my fingers were feeling it. I paddled to a picnic table at 960 km and stopped for breakfast at 8:00 am. Just before the picnic table I spotted 2 wild goats on the river bank. I continued to 950, 944 (taking the shortcut here saving 2 km) and then at midday at the spectacular Mallee Cliffs at 936 km. I was beginning to feel tired, the temperature was approaching the forecast 21 degrees and the river was now under the influence of Lock 11 at Mildura. The current was between 1-2 km/h. I stopped again at 928 km, where there are some nice flowers on the bank and then paddled onto 919 km where I made camp at 3 pm at the Bottle Bend picnic area on the NSW side. There is a picnic table but very little firewood so rather than spaghetti I had a freeze dried meal for the dinner. After paddling 52 km for the day I was tired so I went to bed as it get dark at 6:30 pm.
Saturday 27 August 2005
I started packing at 5:30 am, had breakfast, went the toilet despite the lack of cover and launched at 7:20 am. It was a cool morning with mist on the water and beautiful reflections. I paddled past Red Cliffs which are disappointing due to the maze of power lines above the cliff tops. I stopped at the boat ramp at 909 km. There now was very little current assistance and a reasonable N-NE head wind. I was now paddling at about 7.0 km/hr. I stopped again at 903 km, smelt the aromas from the restaurant kitchen as I passed Trentham Estate Winery and then stopped again at 11:00 am at 896 km on a sandy beach opposite Bruces Marina. Here I had lunch and book my passage through Lock 11 for 1:00 pm. I stopped again at Mildura Bridge at 12:20 pm (887 km). Along the way there are many nice waterfront houses at Gol Gol. I entered the lock with a speed boat containing three blokes who told the lockmaster about a 200 km trip they did down river over three days in their speed boat and with a land support vehicle. They then asked where I had paddled from and I told them 240 km in 5 days from Robinvale. One of them made the comment that their trip paled in significance and asked if I would like a tow. After exiting the lock I paddled the final few kilometres to the caravan park at Apex Parkarriving at 1:20 pm. That was 38 km in 6 hours with little current assistance and some headwinds. The next day I caught the bus back to Robinvale and found, to my relief, that I had in fact locked the car and everything was intact.