Thursday, 17 January 2013

Day 29: 198 to 133 km to the sea: Bolts Landing - Mannum - WoodlandReserve.

Day 29: Sunday 16/12

Bolts Landing - Mannum - Woodland Reserve
River markers: 198 to 133 km from the sea.
Distance travelled today: 65 km. 
Total distance travelled: 1579 km


Day 29: Morning light. Leaving Bolts Landing. 

Last night I did not eat well, I made the mistake of having a rest before cooking and then was too tired to do anything but nibble. I woke up well enough, but found that despite a good brekkie had no strength. Not good on a day where headwind turned out to be a feature. Headwind around here means waves - usually big enough to sink a TK2, but sometimes as big as a paddle steamers wash. I experimented with style, rests, etc, but nothing seemed to work, so it was grin and bare it. Even a slow pace will get you where you want to be in the long run.

Day 29: A rare patch of sunshine.

Day 29: Today was a day of headwinds from start to finish. The long straights funnel the wind and I just happened to be unlucky in their direction.

My first break was at Younghusband, an odd name, but also the name of a successful land agency all around Australia. Did the founder come from here? I wonder. At Younghusband there is a small caravan park, which has a small shop, which is where everyone meets, that and the truck load of dirt they have tipped near the river, sandbagged it so that it won't flow away and call it a beach. Even at this place of dubious quality, where the toilets are large concrete pipes with doors in them and you find yourself turning around looking for the thing you came in for. Even in this place, you don't walk into the store dripping wet and wearing a gorges lacked thermal and shorts in summer. Fashion crime! The owner looked me over twice, her eyes traceable as she went from top to bottom, and not believing it, did it again. I walked into her shop so she followed me. No she did not have fresh vegetables, only cans and frozen. I considered for a moment, but decided my ageing veggies were better than anything she had in the shop, but bought a pie, as if to show I was normal under all this garb. I don't know why I bothered, it didn't work, this caravan park diva was queen of all she surveyed - even if it was not much - it was hers and everyone came to her.

Younghusband was not a total loss. I met up with two young blokes who had raced past me in a small tinny earlier in the day and with whom I had stopped to chat, when I caught up with them again. This time they had two friends with them. Despite 4 in the small boat it still managed to plane at considerable speed. The boys had picked up hot chips and were about to head back to their shack, but stopped to chat. They were from Adelaide and just up for the weekend. When I mentioned that I was impressed with the speed of their boat, the owner informed me it was a 12 ft pelican, fibreglass and with a 25 HP motor (twice what it should have) and that it could do 50km/hr. on the back it had two huge beach fishing poles, each adorned with a Murray River flag. To make the boat look bigger and faster, I enquired? A smile came in return - of course. I liked these guys, they epitomise the good fun the river can be. As they left one of them asked, "is this as fast as you're going to go?" The driver cranked it up and they were off.

I cooked up some chicken noodle soup for energy and to get warm. The salts from the soup are good for electrolytes, the noodles are easy to digest and deliver slow release energy and the oils longer term energy. The warmth was good to, as I was soaked through and after a while, even with all the gear on, that cools you down. 30 kilometres done, another 20 to Mannum. Refreshed the headwinds seemed a lot more manageable.

Day 29: Finally a good shot of one of the many ferries that cross the river in SA. It's free, so you can go back and forth as many times as you want!

Day 29: The business end of the Marion.

In Mannum, just after the ferry and the magnificently restored paddle steamer, Marion is a huge park. The park stretched almost from one end of the town to the other, it had zones for paddle steamers, visiting houseboats, swimmers, speed boats and jet skis. It was full of people, locals and visitors alike. As I drifted in looking for a place to stop, a fella, Jeff, offered to give me a hand and suggested I pull in where he was, "there aren't any better places". I hauled me boat up the 1 metre high bank and then began to chat with him. He was reading car magazines and was supervising his grandson. He could keep an eye on the boat. I should visit the pub, the supermarket (we have a supermarket!) and the bakery in his opinion. I showed him my map and asked his opinion on my choice of campsite. Yep, that should be good - though he did keep forgetting what we had just talked about, so that was a mild concern. I took up his offer and strolled first through the park and then through town.

Randall's square boiler. On his first voyage it began to bulge. Randall wrapped bullock chains around the boiler and used wooden wedges to tighten them.
Stuff for sale: Mannum blacksmiths.

There are plenty of original buildings in Mannum. This town has character and charm.

I was so impressed with the park. Amazing what a small town of 3 - 5,000 people can do. It included historical monuments, band stands, room for everyone, and, in the middle of everything, a rowing club. Murray Bridge's rowing team, 'The Cods' represented Australia in the 1924 Olympics in Paris and being a neighbouring town, their would have been local rivalry. Directly behind the park is a row of old houses; all people's homes. Mannum seems to live its history. Walking up the hill to the main street, there are more old homes. Christmas carols are playing from speakers in the streets. The lamp posts are decorated with over sized tinsel and bells. My eye falls on the bakery and I walk in, order a coffee and a 'London Bun' as the girl behind the counter doesn't know what a coffee scroll is, and take in the scene. A couple of motor bike riders, in full leathers, two elderly couples who have just stepped out of a vintage car and a young family. Time is getting on, but I continue along the main street. One of the bikie guys is there. He introduces himself as Don. He used to come here as a kid,  as his parents had a shack up the river, and now had just come up from Adelaide for lunch. He said he often comes here to gaze at the river  and enjoy the atmosphere in town. Everyone is friendly and it relaxes him. Time to go. It turns out that Jeff is still watching my boat. Almost everyone else has gone from the park. 

Jeff used to be a dairy farmer, but all the local dairy farmers got out of the game. Falling milk prices and rising costs made government offers of water buy-backs hard to resist. He lived in Adelaide for a while, to be close to the kids, but came back because he likes the quiet here. Jeff told me to keep my eye out for a new marina development downstream from town. That used to be dairy farms, he said. You've still got a long way to go to the sea you know. I skied it once. Bloody near killed me.

Off again. 2 hours till camp at Woodside Reserve. The winds have dropped and only occasionally cause a bit of trouble. I arrive at camp about 6pm, change into dry clothes and begin to cook up something warm. The reserve seems to be set out for specific groups, but I can't seem to find the sign for canoeists paddling towards the sea, so I camped just the other side of a hedge. It doesn't seem like anyone lives in this town anyway. Perhaps it is all holiday homes, I thought. With this in mind, I cooked and ate under the members only sign on a cry nicely placed table and bench. 

Day 29: Campsite at Woodland reserve, downstream from Mannum.

Serenity... Except for that rumble. Out of the dark came the MV Proud Mary. It's spot lights scanning the bank. It pulled up 100m further down. It seems that Woodland Reserve is its home port. I had considered camping just next to their sign too. Glad I didn't. Those spot lights were strong!

Last day of the river tomorrow. Just under 60 kilometres to Wellington... And then we shall look at the lake.

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