Sunday, 6 January 2013

Day 5: 1489 to1435 km to the sea: Murrabit, Mud Campsite - towards Swan Hill - Pental Island.

Thursday 22/11

Murrabit, Mud Campsite - towards Swan Hill - Pental Island
River markers: 1489 to1435 km to the sea
Distance travelled today:  55 km
Total distance travelled: 277 km.

It is beautiful to awaken to the sound of bird call. Now in my fifth day, I find that I am relying less and less on clocks. The morning chorus alerts me of the coming dawn. It is quite just before the sun comes up. Before that it seems that everyone is trying to have a go at once. 
Aargh... Cannot believe it, this is the second beautiful beach within 2 km of my mud wrestling camp site of last night! :)

Murrabit Bridge. The start of the final day of the Murray Marathon.

My back is not as stiff in the morning as in previous days. That must be a good sign, but a couple of blisters on my hands are giving me trouble. You have to look after your body very carefully on a trip like this. It is your insurance policy. My hands have to carry me another 60 kilometres today. They are the place where all of the force driving the boat forwards from my body transfers to the paddle. If a blister pops, the skin eventually comes off, exposing the soft pink layer underneath. This is thin and sensitive and blisters faster than the first. So a cycle begins. It is best to try and keep the blistered skin as long as possible. The more days the skin underneath has to mature, the better. The one on my right hand, my strongest side, is in the middle of a finger. I can cover that with electrical tape (old Murray Marathon trick), the one on the left hand is at the base of a finger and is harder to handle. At Swan hill I will have a day’s R&R. That will give them a break and time to toughen up before the 500 km to Mildura.

Old hut.

Tarzan swings are on every second bend round here.

Well my hands held up to the task. I managed 55km today which puts me around 20km out of Swan Hill. Ruth has booked a cabin at the caravan park. Two nights in a comfy bed. Can't say no to that! Access to power will allow me recharge my devices. It is a real struggle to keep them all powered. One which I am not winning at the moment. There is a lot of buzz about the GoPro, which is why I bought it, but it is  hungry beast, as is the little Olympus Tough. It is difficult enough keeping the phone charged and functional.

Old bridge over the Little Murray River.

Bush art. River Run Station.

Highlights of today would have included paddling past an old shearing shed and hearing music, the hum of machinery and bleating sheep. Click go the shears boys, click, click, click... Reminiscing about the Murray Marathon on this stretch. At St. Joseph's College in Echuca we used to have a kayaking team, which I built up and coached. For four consecutive years we gave the Melbourne schools a hard time, or strove to. In the final year I paddled with the kids, my mate Sharky, my daughter Anna and my brother Laurie. We did some great times. Paddling this section I had to remember the stretch with Francis White. It was Alpha to Bravo and we gunned it. Today I gave it all I had for that section in memory of that last kayaking team marathon. Sharky and Luke Joppich did the last section , so when I come into Swan Hill tomorrow I do so in memory of them. I don't think we won anything but we raced hard and have strong memories to savor.

Getting ready for Swan Hill #2: doing the washing, Checkpoint Bravo.

Taking a break. These are long days on the water. Dividing them into three gives something to look forward to. Like on any long journey it is good to stretch the legs :)

I didn't get into my camping spot till 6 pm. These are long days on the river.  You also never know what you are going get and in the end you take a chance and make a call. Yesterday I ended up in mud city... It looked ok, but turned out to be like quicksand. Today I got lucky. The perfect beach for paddlers. I have been trying to load a photo, but the reception is tricky and my phone has to work hard to do it. It is down to 15% now and I watch each tick away. I will try again though, it is such a beautiful beach.

Day 5 campsite.

Red gum forest in the early morning light. Pental Island 1433 km from the mouth of the Murray.

Levee banks, old and new on Pental Island. Formed by an anabranch of the Murray called the little Murray, or Marraboor. It was once hotly disputed territory between NSW and Vic. The Loddon river enters the Murray through this anabranch.

Tonight is my son Tim's VCE graduation mass. I felt like pulling my boat out of the river and hitch-hiking back to Echuca to be there (kayaking clothes and all) to tell him how proud I am of him.

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