Sunday, 9 April 2017

Murray River Paddle 2016 Day 7 Yarrawonga to Langi Oonah Station Oct 22

Yarrawonga to Langi Oonah Station 48km.
The winds were wild today. There were several times that I almost couldn't turn around because the wind caught my bow, but most of the time my boat broke through the waves it whipped up comfortably. I was an hour late on getting off because of issues with the gps, so I pushed hard to make up time. From the foam at the base of Yarrawonga weir every westerly stretch had white capped waves on it, however the river made up for this inconvenience with good current averaging about 5 km an hour.

The high water had left debris into the edge of the caravan park and around some cabins. It scoured the bank in places and left others relatively untouched. There were signs of collapse, but without a lower water level it is not possible to tell how much has crumbled into the river. There are stories of trees falling in, but disappearing below the surface because the river is so deep. I actually saw very few fallen trees, perhaps because of the depth of the river. They may be revealed when the river falls, or some may yet fall. The further down the river I went the lower the banks tended to become. I think that they might be totally be under by Tocumwal: they have had a very big river.

The trees were in great condition, with the exception of some of the older trees, which seemed to be really struggling in some patches, but doing very well in others.
I experienced several squalls and rain showers, the stronger of these made a noise like a jet aircraft approaching. It made the trees bend and shake. There was a high chance that some would fall in, so I kept to the centre of the river. The river is so wide at the moment that no tree would have reached the middle. It made me extra cautious about my camping site. With such strong winds it was not going to be anywhere near trees, that was for sure.

Squall coming through... had lots of wind today... headwind with more predicted for tomorrow

Why aren't my land crew here yet #murraymarathon #oldDay1checkpointA
At about 25km, I paddled past 'checkpoint A' for the Massive Murray Paddle (Murray Marathon), after first stopping at the original alpha. The tree at One Tree Beach, which is usually a refuge from the hot sun, was well out in the channel in over 2 metres of water. I pulled over in front of it take a photo #whereismylandcrew! The new checkpoint is just downstream, at Redbank station, which like all of the stations around here is situated on top of an ancient Sandhills.
Fences help understand how much bank is collapsing.

I pulled into Langi Oonah station, just after Boonamoonana Station and following Cobrawonga Beach (someone had fun with those names). I remember paddling past Langioonah once before, seeing the B&B sign and the homestead set in its attractive gardens and thinking that this would be a nice spot to stop. I did a big sweeping circle to pull into shore and gave the number on the sign a call. I thought that either I would be allowed to stay, or I would be allowed to camp on their land. Turns out both would have been ok, however I decided for the experience of staying on at the old farmhouse.

I'm glad I did. It really is the most exceptional place. John, the owner, a man of exceptional strength helped pull my boat up the bank before banishing the cows from the paddock it was in for its protection. He gave me a lift to the house in his 4 wheeler and, after a cup of coffee in one of the biggest cups I have ever seen, gave me a tour around the property, showing how the water moved through the forest, where the platypus after which the station is named lived and where 4 metres of bank had fallen away in the last 6 years. He told me how the beach on the corner was moving downstream and had formed a new beach opposite the property and how he had discovered that there were layers of different kinds of sand in his sandhill, each from a different period of geological history. Sands of different colours could have come from floods in different tributaries. Coarser sand following wet years and clayier sand following dry years. John asked the question, "Why can't people, or groups adopt a stretch of river, to look after, in the same way that groups adopt a stretch of highway?" Sounds like a good idea to me - putting it out there.

Although strictly a B&B, John fed me a beautiful meal, washed down with a few glasses of red in front of his wood fire. We talked for hours, which is why this post is so late. Definitely a place I would like to return to with Ruth and a friendship I would like to foster.
John, who had been a horticulturist before moving to Langi Oonah, had also noticed what was happening to the trees. Without prompting from me, he also thought that it might be root rot (a soil fungus called Phytophthora, also known as cinnamon fungi), because of the way previously healthy trees suddenly lost condition and died. I have been watching trees like this too, it is different to die back caused by insects, drought, or prolonged flooding. The trees behave differently. Recognising root rot is part of horticultural training. In Germany it was part of my training as a landscape gardener, my former profession. It spreads through soil particles, on shoes, boats, cattle, it can even move in water: virtually unstoppable. If the death of the old trees was caused by cinnamon fungus, it would explain why the older suffering trees were clumped, why the trees next to water did worse than those a little further back on higher ground and why they often had so few roots. You can learn something from every step in life and from all people.
More on dieback caused by cinnamon fungus Phytophthora cinnamomi…/24666…/files/p-root-rot.pdf
When John's wife (who was away at the time) heard that I was doing a study to help look after the river, she said "make sure you look after him". There are nice people in the world. These are two of them.
Tomorrow I make for Tocumwal in search of a dry campsite. I thought I might try Time Out Resort. It seems to be flood protected. Perhaps I can camp on their land.
If anyone reading this post had stories, or pictures of bank collapse, or tree decline (particularly river red gums), I would love to hear/see them.

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