Yarrawonga-Echuca (27 September-1 October 1998, 9 October 2001, 277 km)
Sunday 27 September 1998
This trip coincided with flood waters from the Ovens River entering into the Murray River just upstream of Yarrawonga. We launched from the boat ramp immediately below the weir and adjacent to the caravan park. The river was wide and swift and we were able to average about 10 km/hr. Due to the flood we were about 4 metres higher than the normal river level and we were about level with the surrounding flood plain. There were a number of picnic/camping sites along the way in amongst the red gum forest. The sky was blue and there were many cockatoos flying from tree to tree screeching. After about 40 km we found some high ground and made camp here in mid-afternoon. Later we heard an enormous crash on the other side of the river as a huge branch of a red gum came crashing down, startling the cockatoos who screeched for the next 5 minutes.
Monday 28 September 1998
On Monday we paddled the 60 km to Tocumwal, lunching at the river park in Cobram and after viewing several flooded toilets on the river bank along the way. We paddled about 1 km past the Tocumwal Caravan Park before realising our mistake. It was a hard slog up against the current after a 60 km paddle to get back to it. The caravan park had been on flood alert with all residents evacuated and doors taken off toilets and showers etc. The flood warning had been revised down (much to the annoyance of the manager who lost a lot of customers) so we were allowed to stay. The water had come up about 30 cm during the night but our tents remained dry.
Tuesday 29 September 1998
The next day we paddled the one kilometre to the Tocumwal Wharf and did some shopping in the town. Again the weather was perfect and we enjoyed a relaxing paddle through the forest, spotting koalas high up in the trees. Lunch was at a beautiful spot on an irrigation levee at about the 1860 km mark. In the early afternoon some of the party left at Morgans Beach and the two of us continued on. From here the river seemed to flood into the forest and few dry campsites were available. Those that we saw were only about 30 cm above water level and we feared that these would flood during the night. We thought we might have to tie our kayaks to a flooded picnic table and sleep on top of the table. At about sunset (6 pm) just as we thought we would even be lucky to find a flooded picnic table we found a raised irrigation levee at the 1831 km mark. It was a beautiful campsite with green grass and (young) red gums.
Wednesday 30 September 1998
Another beautiful morning was marred by me having diarrhea (little did I realise that my bowels would not return to normal for about 12 months) probably due to drinking the river water – although I always used puritabs and boiled the water. We paddled 41 km onto Picnic Point passing through more forest (cattle on the Victorian side) and with diminishing current assistance. We camped at the caravan park.
Thursday 1 October 1998
The next day there was more excellent weather but on the hot side as we paddled the 26 km to Barmah, arriving at lunch time. From Picnic Point onwards the land and vegetation seemed a lot drier than in the earlier part of the trip. Overall we paddled 225 km in 4 ½ great days.
Tuesday 9 October 2001
The 52 km section from Barmah to Echuca was performed solo in one day. We were camped at Echuca Caravan Park and Christine dropped me off at Barmah for an early 7:30 am start. The weather was fine and the current assistance was about 2-3 km/h. Most of the riverside in this section was forested and it was only in the 10-15 km before Echuca that it became common to see houses and farms. Whilst paddling I averaged about 9.5 km/hr except for the last 10 km where I averaged about 11 km/hr as I kept pace with the paddle steamer “Emmy Lou”. I had a rest break about every 1 ¼ hrs. Near the Goulburn River junction I came across about 6 houseboats slowly making their way upstream. They we going so slowly that I thought I could paddle faster than them upstream. I had expected the Goulburn River to add somewhat to the water flow in the Murray but as I drifted around the bend there seemed to be some flow from the Murray into the Goulburn! I had lunch just downstream from the junction at about the 1729 km mark. That made 34 km in just over 4 hours since launching. After lunch I noticed that I was becoming tired. I had another rest at about the 1721 km mark. About four kilometres later I came upon the paddle steamer turning around in the river. The rest of the way I kept pace with the paddle steamer arriving at the boat ramp near the Caravan Park at 2:20 pm.