I launched from Wentworth and paddled to Renmark over 7 days, caught the Greyhound bus back to Mildura, taxi and Coomealla Buslines bus to Wentworth to retrieve my car. The weather over the week was mainly fine with temperatures around the low twenties and minimums from 5 to 12 degrees. Flies were a bit of a nuisance at the start but by Renmark they were not much of a problem. There were no problems with mosquitoes. Due to the remote location I hired a satellite phone for $140 per week from Watts Communications in Fyshwick.
Monday 3 April 2006
I launched from the Willow Bend Caravan Park on the banks of the Darling River at Wentworth at 8:20 am, passed thru’ Lock 10 (832 km where the flow is 5700 Ml/day) with a river boat on a 7 week round trip from Goolwa, had a break at 826 km, 816 km and lunch at 808 km at 12:45 pm. There were a few drops of rain but light winds. I passed Fort Courage Caravan Park (805 km) but did not stop there as it had steep banks and a boat on its boat ramp. I continued on to the “Red Sand” on the NSW side at 798 km where I made my camp at 3 pm. I pitched my tent up on the bank, where the vegetation is drastically different from the waters edge and where I found that there are many small prickles and lots of broken glass in old fireplaces. I made a fire down by the waters edge. Later a houseboat moored a couple hundred metres downstream. There was weak CDMA reception up on the bank. I had dinner before going to bed after sunset at about 7 pm. I had paddled 34 km for the day and I felt tired.
Tuesday 4 April 2006
I started packing at 6 am, launched at 7:15 am and followed the houseboat as it made its way downstream on a calm but cloudy morning. I paddled at about 8 km/hr with a current of about 0.7 km/hr. There were a few fishermen camped on the banks. I had a break at 791 km and 783 km where I passed the houseboat which was again moored on the bank. There are four blokes on the houseboat and they were using it as a base for fishing. I took the shortcut at 780 km which required me to carry my kayak over a rocky ford which saved me from paddling 2 km. I arrived at Lock 9 (770 km) at 11:30 am, pass thru’ the lock and had a break at the boat ramp just downstream. A bloke, “PJ” calls me over to his caravan and made me a cup of tea. He had been living there since December. I returned to my kayak and had lunch. The flies were a nuisance especially on the sores on my foot. I continued to 764 km for a break and then on to 759 km “red bank” to set up camp at 2:45 pm. I had a swim and then ring Christine on the satellite phone which has reasonable CDMA reception. I cooked dinner on the campfire and went to bed and listened to the cricket (Australia vs SA) on the radio. I got good reception on 5RM even in Mildura. It was a clear calm night of 10 degrees and I could hear the trucks on the Sturt Hwy about 10 km away.
Wednesday 5 April 2006
I started packing at 5:30 am, had breakfast in the tent and launched at 6:50 am. It was a nice morning with a light NW breeze. I had breaks at 754 km, 746 km and again at 739 km where there were some picnic tables. The wind was quite strong now from the west and was difficult to paddle into. I arrived at Lock 8 (732 km) at 12:10 pm and had lunch. There was CDMA reception here so I sent a message to Christine. I went through the lock at 1:30 pm after a restful lunch on the lawns at the lock. I continued paddling until I could find a campsite clear of trees. This was desirable due to the strengthening winds of the cold front that is about to pass through. At 3:20 pm I found such a place on an island in the mouth of a creek opposite the 720 km mark. Again there were small prickles on the ground. I set up my tent before being hit by a few squally showers each followed by sunny skies. It was too windy to have a campfire so I had 2-minute noodles cooked on the gas stove between rain showers. I went to sleep early because I am tired after paddling 39 km.
Thursday 6 April 2006
During the night the wind died down and it was a sunny but cool morning. I started packing at 6:00 am, launched 7:30 am and had a break at 713 km. I saw some emus at 711 km and had a break at 707 km at 9:45 am. Generally on the inside of the bends the water was shallow and there are extensive areas of weed which was difficult to paddle through and had carp which can give you a fright when they suddenly swam away. I arrived at Lock 7 (702 km) at 10:45 am. Again there are nicely kept grounds. I find the Lockmaster and asked for some rainwater. Below the lock the water was more turbid but there were more sandy beaches. I stopped at about 696 km for lunch opposite a red escarpment. I had another break at 688 km and then arrive at Devil’s Elbow (681 km) at 3:00 pm again after paddling 39 km for the day. This was a spectacular sight from a distance as you come around the last bend. Unsure of the etiquette of camping on the same beach as someone else, I ask the occupants of the houseboat if its OK for me to camp there. They have no problem so I set up camp on a sandy beach around from a houseboat, paddle downstream 200 m to a beach on the NSW side and climb to the top of the cliffs. There were good views and good CDMA reception up here. I returned to my kayak, have a swim and then had spaghetti for dinner. Just as I finished I was invited by the houseboat people for a drink around their campfire. Their names are Fred and Pam, Jenny and David and two others. They invited me to stay for roast dinner which had been cooking away in a camp oven. It was a lovely meal. I had two serves and fruit salad. I went to bed at 9:30 pm but I didn’t sleep too well because I felt bloated and kept thinking that the sore on my foot is infected.
Friday 7 April 2006
It was an overcast morning. I launched at 7:30 am and paddled to 672 km for a break. The current was 0.7 km/hr and I could sustain a speed of over 8 km/hr. There was a SW breeze which I hoped would ease. I passed the spectacular Lindsay Cliff and took a photo. As I am doing this, Paul from “Kulcurna” came over and asked if I needed water or anything. He says he had photos of the cliffs taken over a hundred years ago which show that the cliffs were vertical into the water in contrast to the present day where large chunks of the cliff lay at the water’s edge. He also said he drinks the river water “like a dog” without any treatment and had done this all his life. I paddled on to 660 km where there were red dunes and cliffs up ahead, then on to the SA-NSW border (649 km) for lunch at 11:50 am. I turned my watch back 30 mins to SA time then paddled on to the Customs House at 636 km arriving 1:45 pm. Again I had paddled 39 km plus an additional 6 km in shortcuts. Again I felt tired but I set up my tent and bought an ice cream from the store. No fires were allowed here so I have mashed potatoes and peas for dinner cooked on the gas stove. The sun went behind the hill at 5:40 pm so I went into the tent soon afterwards.
Saturday 8 April 2006
After a cold night of 5 degrees I packed and launched at 7:45 am. There was beautiful forest along the banks. I entered Slaney’s Creek and paddled up to the weir. It did not look like an easy portage around the weir due to the steepness of the banks. I paddled on to 630 km where there was a red sand hill alongside a cliff. I climbed the sand hill to take some photos. It was a beautiful calm morning. Further along I saw a flock of at least one hundred corellas and one galah all flying together low and fast over the water into the distance. By the time I reached Lock 6 (620 km) at 10:30 am I had not yet seen another person that day. The first person I saw was the lockmaster to who I waved to indicate that I wanted to pass thru the lock. It would have been difficult exiting my kayak here because the banks were covered in a thick impenetrable mass of willows. First I had to wait for a houseboat to pass thru the lock heading upstream. I had a break at the beach just downstream of the lock. At 617 km I saw a houseboat stuck on a sandbank and also the forest here was to be dead-perhaps due to salinity and the lower water levels downstream of the lock. I stopped, for lunch, at 612 km and then again at 606 km. At 3:00 pm I arrived at a nice sandy beach opposite spectacular cliffs at 599 km after paddling 37 km for the day. This was the beach recommended by David two nights earlier. Unfortunately there was a houseboat moored here. As I passed, still unsure of the etiquette of sharing beaches, I asked if it was OK for me to camp at the far end of the beach. The bloke was not very enthusiastic saying that there are many spots along the river at which to camp. I thought “yes-but very few sandy beaches suitable for kayak disembarkation”. His dog then fell off the houseboat and, while the dog was being rescued I paddled away determined that I would camp there anyway around the corner just out of sight. As I paddled away he said yes it would be alright. I had dinner and watched the cliffs turn orange in the setting sun. Also, to add to the sight, a vintage WWII plane is doing aerobatics over the cliffs. I went to bed at 6:30 pm and fell sleep at 8 pm.
Sunday 9 April 2006
After another cold night I launched at 7:50 am. It was another beautiful morning and I soon passed Headings Cliff. I had a break at 594 km and then followed a houseboat for another 7 km till 587 km where I stop at the former Woolenook WWII Internment Camp for Japanese prisoners who were set to work cutting wood for paddlesteamers. I had another break at 579 km and then followed another houseboat until my lunch stop at 572 km across from some cliffs. I found that I could actually paddle faster than the houseboat but I did not want to cut across in front of it on the bends. My final 6 km into Renmark was very relaxing as I paddled past wetlands on a calm sunny day. I arrived at the Renmark Riverside Caravan Park at 566 km at 2:15pm after paddling 33 km for the day.