Thursday, 17 January 2013

Day 28: 274 to 198 km to the sea: Blanchetown - Bolts Landing.

Day 28 - Saturday 15/12 

Blanchetown - Bolts Landing
River markers: 274 to 198 km from the sea.
Distance travelled today: 76 km. 
Total distance travelled: 1514 km


Day 28: Goodbye Blanchetown and the last of the Locks (lock 1). The difference in height between the downstream side of lock 1 and Goolwa is only 75 cm. so there will not be much current for the next 300km.

Day 28: Interesting weather ahead.

The forecast for today was ominous, South Westerly winds 15 to 20 km/hr gusting to 40. I am on the section of the Murray which heads South. It has seen the promised land and wants to go to the sea. It does that by heading South - right into the wind. The first straight was 16 kilometres long, longer even than the one leading into Moorook. I decided to get up and leave early, since the winds are usually calmer in the mornings. Not so this morning. I woke at 5 am, tried to get a bit more sleep, but to no avail. A gale was blowing outside. I waited 30 minutes and then began to pack. Luckily, in this time the wind calmed and I was able to begin my day's journey in calm conditions. As heavy clouds were building and the forest predicted rain, I put on my heavy spray deck. As well as keeping out water much better than my summer spray deck (which only covers half the cockpit) it keeps me much warmer. Anything that keeps you warm when wet is welcome. 
Day 28: Aussie pride.

Day 28: Windmill against a dark sky. Leaving Blanchetown.

Day 28: River landscape: between Blanchetown and Big Bend.

I passed the point where Eyre made his camp 6 kilometres South of Blanchetown. It looked a nice spot, but a bit of a let down after the adventures of his great exploration. The South Australian government valued his ability to make peace with the aboriginal people, but it must have been lonely there. Perhaps Eyre did not want the city life, but he must have longer for educated conversation and recognition from his peers. Despite investing heavily in an irrigation scheme for the area, Eyre left for England only two years after taking his position at Blanchetown. What happened to him in England I do not know, but geographical societies were all the rage for gentlemen in those days and a man of his experience and good character would have been a sort after discussion partner for those wanting to learn about the colonies.

Day 28: Old irrigation pumps, downstream from Blanchetown.

Day 28: What shacks used to be like. Now they are more like condominiums.

Day 28: What shacks used to be like. Now they are more like condominiums.

Day 28: Big Bend. Between Blanchetown and Walkers Flat.

Day 28: 220km later, the cliffs are still spectacular.

Day 28: Headwinds, my constant companion since the river turned South.

In Swan Reach the river has a bend. Gasp! Finally! The cliffs on either side force it to. Rivers erode the banks on the outside of their bends, because there the force of the current is greater. They deposit sediment on the inside of their bends because the slower water there and edges cause it to drop sand and mud. Over time, the river moves through the space available to it, much like a hundred snake tracks. In the wide sections of the Murray, billabongs can be quite far from the river, as when the river takes a new track it has a lot of choices. Between these cliffs there is not so much room. If we were to watch its action sped up it would look like a writhing snake, trying to get out of its confines, but unable to, hitting one wall and then the next and repeating this over and over again. In Swan Reach, the cliffs are clearly visible on either side of the river, one forming one of its banks and the other a bit further away and every space in between is filled with billabongs. It is a paradise for wildlife to rival Kakadu.

Day 28: General store in Walker's Flat. Community hub, information and great chips! 

Old fishing signs: public and commercial.

Day 28: Afternoon light, Murray Cliffs, Walkers Flat.

The villages here have interesting names. Travelling along this section of river I passed through Moorunde, Portee, Kooloola, Punyelroo, Nildottie, Wongulla and Walker's Flat. In Walker's Flat I stopped, tempted by the nice green lawns next to the ferry and the possibility of a treat at the shop. In the shop was a sticker, "Where the bloody hell is Walker's Flat - down the road from Wongulla you idiot".  The Walker's Flat shop is a real community hub, where the owner, not only makes it his business to get people to talk together and share their stories, but also has local history on the walls of his shop. He was helpful in pointing out good camping sites and a few to avoid. He also makes very good hot chips :) . A fishermen burst in all excited whilst I was there, "My son just caught a catfish! You want to see a picture? It's a real beauty". The owner said he would like to put a copy of the photo up on the shop wall for all to see and would contact the local newspaper. The fishermen said that he had not caught a catfish in 20 years, when the river was a lot cleaner. He thought this was a sign of improving health in the river. Soon I was talking to the people at the table next to me and the young mum who came in, "Do you realise it is less than 6 weeks till the kids go back to school", he said teasingly. Some people are just what a small community needs. The owner told me that more and more people are travelling the river by kayak or canoe. Recently a man did the length of the Murray on a stand up paddle board. A young bloke with a bad back. He could not sit down. He completed the journey in 3 months. Hats off.

Day 28: Campsite at Bolts Landing.

Day 28: Campsite at Bolts Landing.

Day 28: Campsite at Bolts Landing.

Day 28: Campsite at Bolts Landing.

Day 28: Campsite at Bolts Landing.

Big Bend is as its name suggests, big. It took 16 kilometres to get around it. Camped somewhere on this bend was a friend I had made on Facebook and a member of the South Australian Marathon Canoe Club and I was looking for him. After 8 kilometres I found Darren and his 3 sons fishing. I pulled in and had lunch with them. These people are expert wind paddlers. Us 'upper Murray' paddlers have no idea how often and how strong the headwinds are here. If you have paddled the Murray 200, then you have had a taste of it. Darren accompanied me for 5 km before returning to his family. It was a nice gesture and actually the first time someone has paddled with me since I left Echuca 1500 km ago. The are a lot of quiet stretches of river out there. 

Following the Walker's Flat shop keeper's tip I found an excellent campsite at a place where a creek found its way between the cliffs called Bolts Landing. I don't know who Bolt is, but the present owner keeps sheep. Three herds have passed through my peaceful campsite already tonight! Apart from that small inconvenience, the view is spectacular. On the other side of the river farmland is bathed in gentle evening light, the ripples on the river catch the sunlight as sparkles, in the foreground are tall luxuriant growths of trees and the whole view is framed by old river red gums. Behind me limestone studded hills rise to join the cliffs that were before this place and continue on afterwards. Evening falls.

Day 28: Evening light at my Bolts Landing Campsite.

Google+ Entire Photo Album

  1. Walkers Flat 
  2. MDBC Native Fish Strategy 
  3. A guide to fish in the Murray Darling Basin

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