Day 25: Wednesday 12/12
Overland Corner - Waikerie - Lock 3 - Riversleigh beach.
River markers: 426 to 359 km from the sea.
Distance travelled today: 67 km.
Total distance travelled: 1351 km
With an early start, I managed 20 kilometres before brekky. I was blessed with the most beautifully calm water, tempting me on more than one occasion to reach for my camera. There was more than photographic ambition and a sense of the aesthetic motivating me to get off earlier than ever; 6:11am. The winds are calmer in the morning (particularly the early morning) and the forecast had predicted a change from southerly winds to hot northerlies, bringing the temperatures into the high 30's with potential thunderstorms. I wanted to get as far as I could before that happened and not feel under time stress to get to and set up camp - or for that matter, get to Lock 3, 60 km downstream. The current has fallen away in the last few days as well. Every kilometre it drops means an extra hour on the water. They are the logical reasons; always good for justifying things; wisdom of hindsight / experience. The deciding factor was actually that my campsite was infested with mossies. The tent was covered in them. There was no way I was spending any longer outside than I had to! I was off!
|Day 25: Early morning light: near Overland Corner.|
The morning paddle was a treat however, and it was a good way of breaking up the big distance I always try and get done before lunch. Waikerie was the goal I had set for my big break of the day and I determined to have a stroll there and find a little bit about the place. The 40 kilometres to Waikerie contained many stretches with cliffs. It seems they just keep getting better and better. The morning light highlighted their different layers. Pondering about their patterns was a welcome distraction on the long straights and reaches. There were several 6 kilometre straights, one in the afternoon's headwind and a massive 16 kilometre bend. So, plenty of ponder time. Down the bottom of the cliffs was a thick layer of limestone. In some places this dominated the cliff. It was the same material as the Overland Hotel was made of. Where the rock came in contact with the water it was full of hollows. So full, it would make Swiss cheese look like value for money. These hollows extended to about four to six metres above current level, perhaps caused by a combination of floods, rain, or ground water seepage. When the waves from my wake lapped against these stone hollows they amplified the sound and provided an echoing quality. Swallows loved the hollows. I saw many nests. I even saw cockatoos sitting in one up high. As I drifted past, I saw a small lizard poke its head out, curious as to what might happen next. Stones did not fall off the cliff as I was passing; they obviously had in the past. I was pretty happy about that.
|Day 25: Reflections on the water in the calm air of early morning.|
|Day 25: River landscape between Overland Corner and Waikerie.|
|A goyne marking the river channel.|
Above the limestone layer was one of soft sand. You can tell it was soft because it tended to erode faster than the other layers, leaving hollow layers midway up the cliff, as if it was the cream in a sponge cake and someone had decided to test it with their finger.
As I write this, thunder is rolling through the sky, the occasional crack signals a lightening strike somewhere, but not so close. Most of the lightening seems to be generated between the colliding air masses, rather than by connecting with the ground. As the storm blew in the wind picked up, as if warning of what might come. I was glad that I had camped well away from the old gum trees that lined the beach. Very fine sand managed to get through my fly wire, a bit like a sieve and covered everything. At least I am not being sand blasted. The tent was protecting me. I feel grateful to the designers and manufacturers of my tent. Aldi.
Back to the cliffs. Above the soft sandy layer is a hard dark sandstone, the redness in it indicating iron. Iron often toughens rock. As it rusts it acts like glue. So how did they get there and why is the Murray cutting through them? Limestone is formed by the remains of marine life, so there must have been an inland sea, perhaps a time when sea levels were much higher than today. The sand appeared to be massive deposits, rather than by a current, so could also have happened in the ocean, but close to the shore, perhaps at an estuary, or beach. The red sandstone I am unsure of. The whole thing must have been lifted up as a block as there is no twisting, or bending of the layers. There must have been a massive earthquake, or series if earthquakes to do that. My guess is that the Murray already existed when this happened. It is a very old river. It has worn down our mountains to a fraction if the height they once were and created the vast inland plains in the process. The uplifted land would have blocked the Murray, creating a vast inland lake, which would have stretched at least as far as Renmark and perhaps as far as Wentworth. When the lake reached the top of the range the overflow gradually carved out gorges, the edges of which are the cliffs we see today. Floods through these gorges must be spectacular!
My tent is moving like the skirts of a Spanish dancer in the whirling winds if this thunderstorm. I hope I put those pegs in well. :)
Waikerie was a really pleasant stop. After waiting for the car ferry to cross and the cables it travels along to sink enough for safe passage, I headed for a lovely grassy area, full of BBQ's, sun shades and a combination of school kids happy not to have to spend one of their last days at school in the classroom and international backpackers. At first a confusing mix. A few people approached me and asked about what I was doing, before, in reply to my questions, directing me to the centre of town. Conscious that I looked and probably smelled grotty, with my three day old paddling thermal top and matching beard growth I changed my shirt and hat, had a quick wash using the basin in the public toilets and gave my hair a finger comb. One helpful local asked if I wanted a shower. Great - that bad! He also said not to worry :), we are not too fussy in Waikerie, though I am not sure that this helped. I wasn't going to have a shower. I went to town.
|Yarn bombing on a tree next to the art gallery.|
|Day 25: Waikeri Art Gallery: mural by local kids. |
On the front it says 'set yourself free and your mind will soar'.
|Murray River Queen, once the most luxurious boat on the river - now a backpackers hostel.|
|Oranges are big in Waikerie.|
Two close lightening strikes. I reckon that they hit the tops if the cliffs on the opposite side of the river. I was hoping they might protect me.
Waikerie is a modest town, but it has got style. Both in the main street and tucked away are houses from the late 1800's and early 1900's, almost as they were then. They would be worth a mint in any major city. There is something else that is special about the main street, it is full of oversized oranges. In closer inspection these prove to be rubbish bins.
Ok that lightening strike made me jump. I wonder what it hit. It spooked a cockatoo, it won't stop screeching as it flies away. At least it is flying. That is a good sign. It means that it still has all of it's feathers. Not a cooked cocky (yet).
Oranges are also the explanation for the backpackers. I met a Scottish carpenter who was living in the Murray Queen, once the pride if the new Murray cruise ships, now purchased by the caravan park and a very popular hostel - mind you, it is not luxury he said. No backpacker hostel ever is. He explained that everyone on the boat was here to satisfy the condition of working three months in rural Australia in order to get a year's extension in their tourist visas. Orchards need labourers, and for the wages they pay and the hard nature of the work, it is hard to get Aussies who are keen to move with the seasons. So it helps both camps. Everyone seems happy with the system. I met one Aussie bloke who was travelling Australia following the fruit harvest, Raymond. He had converted an old Toyota Coaster bus, to include a queen size bed, a stove, fridge and a lot of other stuff. He had some seats free and was taking fellow puckers shopping when I noticed him earlier, but they had to climb over everything first to get to their seats. On the roof were two kayaks. It looked pretty cool. Without having to pay rent, or power bills, Raymond said he could live very cheaply and enjoyed meeting backpackers as they moved through. He was loving it.
|Day 25: Flow metre showing recorded floods and current amount if water travelling down the Murray.|
|Day 25: Cooling off in the heat. The first dip in the water sent shivers down my spine... And then ahh, so refreshing :)|
|Remains of a midden.|
|Day 25: Praying Mantis on my hat. His colours camouflaged him when hunting on soil.|
|The lightning struck for about 30 minutes. |
Thunder pealed and echoed from the cliffs... and then came the calm.
I learnt that Waikerie means rain moths in the local aboriginal language. Apparently after the rain thousands of these little, fast flying moths would emerge. It must have been as special to them as the Bogong moths were to the people of the high plains. The local gallery is named after them and is well worth a visit.
Safe in my tent, the thunderstorm seems to have passed. All have come through well, except for a now neurotic cockatoo. I can live with that.
More from this expedition:
More information about topics from this page:
- Discover the Murray: Overland Corner Hotel, Waikerie, River Murray Locks, Weirs, Dams and Barrages.
- Wakerie Tourism: Info
- Sydney Morning Herald: reflection
- National Trust:
- Rilli Island Conservation Park Management Plan
- Barry and Maureen Wright's River Murray Charts
- Environment Victoria: The Living Murray
- Ecology of Floodplain Lakes and Billabongs
- Geology: Murray Valley Geography (A geological timeline of the development of the Murray).
- Victorian Geology: Tectonic Framework of the Lower Murray. (from Red Cliffs).
- ABC Riverland SA: News and Community Events