Human history has always included journeys:aboriginal song-lines, exploration, emigration, travel.We are all on a journey of one sort or another.
|The Murray meanders through the landscape like an old friend.|
Epic Murray Journeys from others:
Charles Sturt:Sturt had to go 1500km back upstream when the pickup he expected at the Murray Mouth never arrived. Charles Sturt. In 1829 Sturt set off to find the mouth of the Murrumbidgee River which he followed by horse. When the swamps of the Macquarie Marshes made further passage impossible he swapped to a whale boat. On this journey he discovered "a broad and noble river" which he named the Murray (unaware that it had been discovered and named the Hume by that explorer already). 1,500km later they reached the sea. When the expected steamer never arrived, they rowed all the way upstream again - nearly perishing on the homeward journey.
This trip has been re-enacted several times; in 1984 for a Bill Peach Documentary...
The 35-day voyage of the Start re-enactment expedition ended at Goolwa yesterday with a welcome from nearly 9,000 people, many of whom travelled from the city to take part in the pageantry. During the voyage down the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers the whaleboat crew rowed about 1.100 miles, except for small stretches of sailing, and touched three States.
The general manager of the ABC (Mr. C. J. A. Moses) said yesterday that before the re-enactment ceremonies were finished, more than 250,000 people would have seen the whaleboat and its crew. Escorted to the landing reserve at Goolwa by a flotilla of small craft including a 'miniature whaleboat crew' of eight Goolwa boys dressed like their Start counterparts.
The crew was greeted by a group of aborigines in ceremonial paint from Point McLeay Mission Station. The natives performed their corroboree 'Nureeah,' a legend of 'A man who came down the river.' It was explained to the crowd by an 81-year-old aboriginalwoman, Mrs. Pinkie Mack. The native leader later presented his spear to Grant Taylor, the actor portraying Sturt, as a symbol of friendship.
'(his) object was to trace the course of the Murrumbidgee, as, if that stream should join the Darling, the combination of these two "considerable rivers" would form a navigable stream opening a direct and, perhaps, easy communication between Sydney and these distant parts of the colony... the whale boat, 25 feet long, with a beam of 5 feet, was first built, dismantled, and, during the land journey, transported in sections... a small still was carried, for the distillation of water in the event of finding the water of the Darling salt as it was on the previous journey... They first met the Murrumbidgee in Jugiong... "I now looked down upon a stream, whose current it would have been difficult to breast, and whose waters, foaming among rocks, or circling in eddies, gave early promise of a reckless course"... but did not begin to row until near the junction with the Lachlan at the Macquarie Marshes'
|Replica of Sturt's Whaleboat: users.esc.net.au|
Tammy van Wisse and Graham Middleton
Tammy van Wisse swam the whole way in 2000. Tammy swum the river to highlight the plight of a river that had been taken for granted, which had not reached the sea following years of drought and over-exploitation. She was the second person to swim the length of the Murray. It was first swum by Graham Middleton in 138 days 1991. Click to read the Border Mail's report on his swim to raise money for cancer research. Tammy broke his record by 32 days. Tammy says that once you drunken from the Murray, it remains in your veins forever.
"once you drunken from the Murray,
it runs through your veins forever"
ABC Interview with Tammy van Wisse: transcript.
Eric the Red
Though I am yet to find out his real name, 'Eric the Red' rowed the length of the Murray four times, three times downstream and once up. Accounts of his tales can be found at: The Conquerers, The Border Mail Dec 17, 2008 and in an chance meeting in a pub described in an expedition blog by Kevin Moody in Mildura 17th Nov 1988.
Murray MarathonThe St. Jo's Kayaking Team fostered canoeing skills, resilience and social awareness in 4 years of Murray Marathons (2005-2008) in the lead up to this legendary annual 400km race, My experience when I raced it back in 1980 and 1981 and training the St. Joseph's Kayaking team later were great preparations for this paddle.
One of the things I hope to achieve in documenting my preparation and journey is to empower others to begin their own adventures. This is why I also share other people's stories.
This is a shot of the wet dock area of the Echuca wharf, with a few small padllesteamers in it. The post in the corner used to be the edge of the river. It was to show the paddle boat captains where the bank began in high river. The wharf reached almost all the way to the council chambers. Since the 1880's the path of the river has changed. Almost 100m of river bank has built up. It is hard to imagine the old wharf reaching all the way in here - but it did. My father used to collect riverboat photos and wrote several books on this aspect of our history (Riverboat Days & Red gum and Paddlewheels). I will upload a picture from these of the old wharf.
These majestic old river gums are forever dropping their branches, but in doing so they provide nests for all types of birds.
Preparation and planningIf you are considering a trip like this, preparation is key. Find people who have done the trip before, read reports from others on the internet and get hold of a good map book. From Yarrawonga to Renmark you can't go past Murray River Charts by Barry and Maureen Wright. The newest version of the charts has a DVD version which includes the bay of islands charts.
For the upper Murray get there is a very good river guide called 'River of Islands: Charts of the River Murray - Yarrawonga Weir to Hume Dam' by Kath and Leon Bentley (1985) which is worth acquiring. It is mentioned in Barry and Maureen Wright's 'Murray River Charts' and available on the CD version of their charts by agreement with the authors.
Murray River Access Maps provide an alternative to the above publications and at around $8 a booklet in 2014, they are a good deal. They include roads and river kilometres, but do not show snags, or include insights and history about stretches of the river as the other publications do. Whilst it is possible to see where you are using google maps, for the convenience and safety of knowing where you are at all times, it is worth having one of these maps. Phone reception is poor along many stretches and technology requires batteries and charging strategies which can fail. It is better to have a hard copy.
For the river below Renmark, get hold of Murray River Pilot by Ronald and Margaret Baker and Bill Reschke.
TrainingJust as important as fitness and good health is being happy with your gear, in your boat and developing skills, such as how to paddle in strong currents, how to avoid snags when in your boat, or if floating following a capsize. The best way to do this is to find a canoe club and get as much time on the water as possible in the boat you will do the trip in. Do not wait until you are drifting sideways into a snag, overhanging willows, or a whirl pool. Know how to get out of trouble. Skill yourself up.
Canoe Associations in every state run coaching sessions which build these skills. There are also private coaches. David Cornthwaite swears by this book. If you are new to paddling, or the Murray, or would like to get an experienced paddlers perspective you can't go past "The Guide - How to Paddle The Whole Murray - Source - To Sea' by Ro Privett. Ideas, thoughts and experiences which can help get your Murray trip afloat.
Paddling near Echuca - practising what I preachMost importantly, enjoy this time. Begin as early as you can and try everything out. Practise taking photos, making films, cooking on your camp stove, charging your phone from the sun and writing blogs. Set up a Facebook page about your trip. Learn about the river, the birds and the people. Try your hand at fishing. Learn to let go. You will have to on the trip.
Paddlesteamer Adelaide Relaunch
It never ceases to amaze me. I have been on this river in all manner of boats for 48 years and I keep seeing new things, stuff that lifts my spirit on every journey. The low flying wedge-tailed eagle chased by 3 crows, struggling to build speed as it crossed the river and then flying straight through the dense undergrowth of the shoreline forest (just yesterday) for example. The photo is generic - couldn't get the camera out quick enough. It was much closer than this. I could see the colour of every feather, every joint in the wing as it struggled to get away and to be able to tell that each wing was at least a good meter in size.
Preparation paddle: Echuca - Torrumbarry: 80km
Lunch on the most magnificent Sandhills 50km out of Echuca.
On warmer days it seems there is nothing but sky. Training: 4 weeks to go.
OC6 rescue service. If you want a friendly place to learn to paddle, try Echuca.
One of the pleasures of moving along a river slowly and quietly is witnessing the birdlife. I have been canoeing for over 30 years, but still get a thrill every time I see the flash of blue, or little bobbing head of an Azure Kingfisher.
Yesterday, I saw 2 wedge-tailed eagles circling and flocks of cockatoos and galahs screeching in alarm as they flew away. Memories of flocks of cockatoos flying along the river go back to my childhood. I hope they are around for many generations to come.
|Photo: Birdlife Australia|
Gear: pulling it all togetherTrial pack - everything ready except for a bit of fresh fruit and veg.
Gearing up for the trip: seems like more and more electronics. Picked up a GoPro Hero 2 Camera today.
The Prijon Kodiak Kayak on our Toyota Echo. Many people have a bit of a chuckle when they see the big boat on our small car, but with the custom made racks it sits well and the overhang (less than 1m front and back) is less than on much bigger cars with standard racks.
- Port of Echuca: Visitor Information
- Echuca-Moama: Visitor Information
- Wikipedia: Echuca,
- Barry and Maureen Wright's River Murray Charts
- Environment Victoria: The Living Murray
- ABC Central Victoria: News and Community Events
- Charles Sturt: Charles Sturt Museum, Two expeditions into the interior of southern Australia