Maude-Redbank Weir (1-3 April 2008, 91km)
I paddled this 91 km section solo, as part of a Maude-Murray River trip, with low flows of 150 Ml/day at Maude Weir. I drove to Hay on the previous afternoon and stayed the night at Hay Caravan Park. The proprietor, Ron, had offered to drop me off at Maude the next day and then to pick me up from Boundary Bend on the Murray River once I arrived there. I had hoped that with reasonable water levels I would reach the Murray River (about 270 km) in 9 days at 30 km/day. However, since the levels were at their lowest (environmental flow only) and expecting that there might be some significant portages, I packed food for 12 days with the option of buying more in Balranald along the way. I also carried a bush saw in the kayak cockpit in case I needed to cut through branches to get through a log jam. It helped avoid a portage once so it was worth carrying.
Tuesday 1 April 2008
I launched from Maude, just upstream of the bridge on the north bank, at 10 am in what appears to be adequate flow. My kayak was laden with 12 days worth of food, a trolley, a backpack and too many bags. This wasbecause I was unsure as to how many portages would be necessary and consequently how slow the trip to Balranald would be. I had originally hoped to make the 180 km trip to Balranald in 6 days. I started off paddling at about 5 kph which was not as bad as I expected. The river was mainly deep pools separated by shallow clay bars which had stones embedded in them. The banks were firm, dry mud due to the water having been at this low level for some time. I saw some feral pigs along the way. After 13 km (12:40pm) I stopped for lunch and then continued, stopping twice along the way and dropping the radio in the water (it worked OK once it dried out), till 4 pm when I made camp on a shelf at the 29 km mark just before a pump. The winds were freshening from the NW and a windy day with a total fire ban was forecast for the next day. Next G phone reception was reasonable. I had rehydrated spaghetti bolognaise with 2 Minute Noodles followed by dumplings for desert. This was to be my standard dinner for most of the next 9 days. I went to bed just after sunset at 7:30 pm.
Wednesday 2 April 2008
During the night the wind increased and I heard a pig grunting near the tent. I started packing soon after 6 am and launched at 7:30 am. My aim was to get as far as possible before the wind got too strong and to find a campsite in an open area away from large trees. I soon found myself following a swan and decided that this is a good guide as to where the deep water is. On a couple of occasions I saw that the swan hitting a snag with its foot so I avoided that part of the river. I stopped at 38 km (9 am) and realised that I have not seen anyone since Maude. I passed some ruins at “Toopuntal” (39 km) and then numerous cabins about 1 km downstream. At 10 am I arrived at Sturt’s launching place (43.5 km) (Raven Hart's picture here) as described in “Canoe in Australia” by R. Raven-Hart at page 75. This was the spot where in 1829 Sturt launched his whaleboat into the Murrumbidgee and followed the river into the Murray, to its mouth and return – almost starving in the process. I took a photo from about the same spot as the one in the book opposite page 100. The tree overhanging the canoe 60 years ago is still there although it appears to have lost its branch. I was quite excited to be at this spot. Even if this was not the exact spot that Sturt launched (the exact launching place is not known for sure - see Cumpston's book at pages 36-38), I was sure that this was where Raven-Hart stood 60 years ago. I took some photos and sent one to Christine by phone. The Toopuntal ruins are also mentioned by Raven-Hart and I wassurprised that the ruins of 60 years ago are still standing – perhaps they were more recent ruins on the same spot. I continued on and had lunch at 49.8 km (11:30 am). From here on I entered the Redbank Weir pool which is a metre or two below full level. There were a few brief showers and the wind was a bit stronger although not too bad. I saw some emus along the way. At 1:40 pm I noticed an open area at the top of the bank so I decidedto make camp there. This was about the 59 km mark so I had managed to paddle the desired distance of 30km for the day. There was about half a metre of slippery mud at the waters edge due to the weir pool being lowered at about 5 cm per day. I pulled the kayak up to the top of the bank and set up camp away from the large trees. The wind was strong and I retreated to my tent and listened to ABC Victoria where they were describing the damage and road closures in Melbourne and other parts of Victoria due to the gale force winds. I eventually got an SMS message out to Christine and I boiled some water in the shelter of the kayak cockpit to make dinner. Late in the afternoon the dust arrived for about an hour and then the wind changed to a westerly and was somewhat cooler. At 5:30 pm I went to bed and read and listened to the radio till about 9 pm.
Thursday 3 April 2008
I started packing at 6:15 am and launched at 7:50 am. It was a cool, calm morning of 7 degrees. I passed the Lachlan River junction which is very insignificant for a river that is hundreds of kilometers long. It is choked with snags. Perhaps one would be able to paddle somewhat further when the Redbank weir pool is at full level. Soon I pass four blokes with shotguns getting into a boat. As I pass by, in order to start a conversation, I asked whether they were going duck shooting. One of them says they were just going for a walk "on the other side" and they didn’t seem interested in talking so I say goodbye and paddle on. As I paddle away I realised that duck shooting may be illegal so it may not have been the appropriate thing to say to start up a conversation. They were the first people I have first since launching at Maude about 46 hours earlier. I stopped at 65 km where there was a large woodpile in a large open area and made a phone call to Christine. As I got back into the kayak I discovered that I had lost my old nappy that I used to wipe up mud and water from inside the kayak. This nappy has been on many trips with me and it is a shame its did not make it through this final trip. I had a similar experience in 2006 on the Murray River near Morgan when I temporarily lost a tent peg. Perhaps being sentimental about an old nappy and a tent peg is a sign that I have been paddling by myself for too long. I stopped again at 72 km, 79 km at 11:20 am and I stopped for lunch at 12:30 pm at 84.5 km. I paddled the final 6 km to Redbank Weir and arrived there at 1:50 pm. I pulled the kayak up through reeds on the north bank and scout around for a campsite. There was nice grass at a picnic area across the road from a couple of houses but there was a “No Camping” sign so I found a good place a couple of hundred metres downstream of the weir and camp by the water amongst some old wooden pylons which perhaps were from a bridge used during construction of the weir about seventy years ago. The portage took 40-50 minutes with the trolley (The Humble Kayak Trolley - apparently not available anymore but similar to the Kayak Buddy) which was easy to pull along over a good flat surface. My camp was all set up by 3 pm. There was reasonable phone reception with the aerial. The river was quite narrow with a clay shelf on one side. I spend the afternoon boiling water and making dinner and go to bed at 7:15 pm. I had paddled 31 km for the day.