Carrathool – Hay
Carrathool – Hay (25-27 September 2005, 107 km)
David and I paddled this 107 km section over three days camping out of the kayaks. The flow over the three days was reasonable at 2000 Ml/day at Carrathool but this was down considerably from the previous week and month when the water levels were 3 metres higher. This meant that the banks were muddy and slippery. We drove to Carrathool Bridge Reserve on the Saturday afternoon (24 September) arriving just before sunset after a 6 hour drive from Canberra. We camped at the reserve that night.
Sunday 25 September 2005
On Sunday morning I drove the car to Hay, caught the bus back to the Carrathool turnoff, walked the 2.3 km to the reserve, we packed the kayaks and then launched at 9:30 am. The bank was very slippery and it required a controlled slide down the bank whilst holding onto the kayak. The flow was between 1.3-2.2 km/h as measured by GPS with some swifter sections. It is an overcast day with rain forecast to be developing later. We had a break on a sandy beach at 7.3 km and then lunch at noon at 17.5 km on a muddy beach disguised as a sandy beach. After lunch very light rain began to fall. It was not unpleasant because it was relatively warm with no wind. The rain gradually got heavier (although it was still quite light) so at 2:30 pm we decided to set up camp on the north bank at 32 km across from a house called “Mulberrygong” on the map. Again the bank was slippery although at the waters edge there is some firm sand. We pulled the laden kayaks by ropes to the top of the bank and got a bucket of water from the river so that we don’t need to go down the bank again until we launched in the morning. We quickly set up the tents and got a fire going using dry leaves and twigs from a tree hollow that was sheltered from the rain. I had 125 g spaghetti cooked in my cup over the fire together with a concentrated soup pack as sauce. We stood around the fire in the light rain until 7 pm when we decided to go to bed. It continued raining until about 2 am. Later I heard that about 10 mm of rain fell at Hay. I was a bit cold during the night under my summer blanket despite it being about 12 degrees.
Monday 26 September 2005
We had a leisurely breakfast around the fire and packed the kayaks before sliding them down the bank into the water at 9:10 am. It was overcast and cool and looked like it could rain at anytime. The river was narrow, the grass was green and the brown muddy water gave the feeling that it was winter after good rains. However, the water level was about 10 cm lower than yesterday. We paddled onto 38km for a break, then at about 42.5 km there was a shortcut (not marked on the map) and then had lunch at 49.5 km. We continued on to a sandy island at 59km chasing woodducks and their ducklings along the way. A wedge-tailed eagle was also trying to chase them but unsuccessfully. A few kilometers downstream we heard a big crack and roar 100 metres behind us. As we turned around we saw a large tree fall into the water and extending half way across the river. We were lucky not to be under it at the time. Presumably the combination of recent high water causing the soil to be saturated, a moderate breeze, recent spring growth and perhaps one too many galahs in the tree resulted in it toppling over.
At 63.7 km we stopped at a sandy beach to stretch our legs. On closer inspection we found that it is a perfect campsite and too good to pass up so at 2:30 pm we finished paddling for the day about 8 km short of our planned campsite. This campsite had a picnic table, lush green grass, a gentle sloping (although slippery) bank and plenty of flat ground for the tents. By now the sky was clearing to a beautiful afternoon.
While looking around for fire wood I saw what appeared to be an old bed. As I got closer I realized that it was a thick slab of wood that had been cut from a tree truck. It was a single piece as large as a dining table and 40 cm thick. It must have been cut many years ago. I again had spaghetti for dinner but this time with pesto sauce. We sat around the campfire till about 8:30 pm before going to bed.
Tuesday 27 September 2005
It was a cool night of about 7°C but a beautiful morning with mist rising from the river. We got up at 5:40 am, had breakfast around the fire and then launched at 7:45 am. We paddled onto a sandy beach at 70 km which turned out to be quicksand with David sinking to his knee. Our intended possible campsites in this area were no match for last nights campsite. We continued on to 77.6 km where we stopped on a wet pile of clay where someone has created a small harbour for their dinghy. We had another break at 87km and then lunch at 92.6 km at 11:50 am. The current was slower due to the influence of Hay Weir about 50 km downstream. It was a beautiful day of about 23°C with no wind. It was great to lay back on the lush grass after paddling 29 km for the morning. We continued with a stop at 100.4 km and then at 2:45 pm we arrived at our destination at 107.4 km near the Hay Top Tourist Caravan Park (look for the nice house with the blue roof for the landing spot). I retrieved the car from the caravan park, we loaded up and at 3:45 pm we headed for Narrandera where we camped the night before continuing onto Canberra.