Monday, 24 April 2017

Murray River Paddle 2016 Day 10 The Gulf to Morning Glory

The Gulf - Morning Glory 71km

At Picnic Point and have 3 bars of reception (sometimes). A good to chance to post some photos of my camp at The Gulf and a few of the sights this morning. Get out into the forest if you can, but keep the waves down. There's not much bank there..).








What an eventful day. First waking up with the kangaroos - literally. A beautiful sunny day, after so many wet and windy ones. Then a magic cruise into Picnic Point, with the bush flowering on either side.
Never underestimate a river, or reckon you know it. First of all, the current stopped. It was slowing down in Picnic Point, down to say one km an hour, but later it just stopped. I thought that the bush after Picnic Point would be drier than upstream. I was so wrong. Most of the bush was under and on top of that, trees had fallen down everywhere, sometimes blocking of all but 8 metres of river. Whilst this is no barrier to a paddler, it must have an effect on river flow.









The further I travelled down the deeper the banks went under. With no dry natural levee animals were stranded and many died. I came across two brumbies who looked like they had already been standing in water for a week or so, totally lost, just waiting for the water to recede. It will, but will it be fast enough for them.
My recommendation to get out in the forest does not apply to the first 15km downstream from Picnic Point. This is best avoided. It is a sad place. As a biologist, it is important to see these things. It is part of the cycle. Nature can be cruel.
There were creatures that revelled in the watery mass. i saw a family of sea eagles, huge birds, silently winging their way through the trees. Herons seemed in their element, many with nesting material in their beaks. Restless fly catchers happily scooped up mozzies from the water's surface, or wherever. There are enough of them. Sacred kingfishers gave the impression that this was a good year. And ducks, nirvana.
The still and high water lasted all the way to Barmah. In the end i paddled through about 30km of dead still water. A short section where swifts creek entered the Murray was black, giving lovely reflections to the photos and important organic matter to the river ecosystem - so long as there is not too much of it. The still water was covered in streams of duckweed, a bright green fern, which slipped silently around my boat.




In this watery expanse, at the top of circular bend I saw the guardian of the forest. Never before had I seen it in so much water. This tree is acknowledged to be at least 800 years old. The oldest tree in the forest. it even has its own Koori name - though I have forgotten it (can anyone help me on that). How many floods and droughts has this tree seen? How insignificant by comparison are our short lifespans? I stopped to honour the tree as is appropriate. Happily it seems to be recovering. When I last saw it a few years ago, it had lost most of its branches. As a kid I had stood under this tree. We visited it even then. Its branches were so wide and so thick, that each could have been its own massive tree. At the end of the millennium drought and an extended period where the forest it stood in had not been flooded it had lost most of these. Now they seem to be growing back. What a survivor. It left me happy.












After Barmah, the river changes, the current comes back (what a relief) and it gradually becomes contained within its banks again. Black Box alternates with Red Gum on the undulating river's edge and along remnant sand dunes. The evening light made being on the river and photography a pleasure again. I continued on, enjoying every minute, until paddling up to a cabin I had booked at Morning Glory. After 70km, I needed a shower.
Echuca tomorrow and a few days with family, before continuing.