Trip Reports • Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

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Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby goanywhere » Tue May 28, 2013 11:26 pm

Hi all. This is the first of what I think will be a number of threads I post as I complete my goal of paddling the length of the Murray River.

I guess though that at the outset I need to set some things out regarding my expectations and goals for this adventure.

Firstly, I intend to do this trip over a number of short stints, of about 1-2 weeks mostly, over the next couple to three years. Unfortunately I don't have enough leave up, nor can I afford to take enough leave unpaid, to do the trip in one go. It takes about 10 weeks or so to kayak down the Murray on average, and I am about 7 years away from getting long service leave up to do this taking paid leave.

Secondly, I will not be doing the trip in a sequential series, starting from the source, and ending at the mouth, in rigid order. The first section I did weekend before last (17-20 May) which was from Parnka to Mark Point on the Coorong (details below), and the next section will be from Renmark to about Waikerie (I think, although the planning is in the early stages) in late September this year. I think that then I will do the section from Towong to about Yarrawonga (about the furthest upstream section practical for me) in about April next year.

Thirdly, although this is a kayak fishing forum, my focus on the journey will not be the fishing primarily, although I hope to feature my attempts to hook some along the way. My main focus will be on the journey itself and the scenery, wildlife, places visited, and experiences encountered along the way. It won't be an endurance race, but more a leisurely journey befitting the laziness of the Murray itself as it meanders carelessly along it's 2500 (approx.) length, dropping a mere 160 metres from start to finish (est.) in the process.

I will endeavour to provide an interesting an entertaining log of this trip here for those who are interested. I was going to set up a dedicated blog for the purpose, but I want to allow readers to interact with me as I go, and make comments and suggestions that you think might enhance my trip. I am not an experienced traveller on the Murray, and it's length and range of topography is probably beyond any one person's intimate knowledge. So I invite you all to make my travels more interesting and fulfilling by giving your tips and suggestions on this thread. (I don't know if I should record the whole trip in one long thread or break it up into section-by-section accounts.)

And lastly, I want this trip to be fun and enjoyable. And I'm open to have others from this forum and other friends join me if you can along the way. However I must make the point that I will be doing this journey according to my own schedule (within reason). I've often had to forgo or heavily alter trips in the past to make allowances for others, and that's fine, where it's a joint and negotiated arrangement. But for me this is essentially a personal goal and dream, and other than minor compromises for the sake of others, I have to say at the outset that the agenda must be mine, and if I find myself having to do some or much of this on my own, that's quite ok. I actually like the peace and restfulness of solo trips, and I hope you won't be offended if I decline your offer to join me if it involves unreasonable (from my perspective) adjustments to the itinerary, (do I sound like a selfish bugger? I don't intend to be :?)

So having said that, let me introduce you to the first report in this saga:

The Coorong - 17th to 19th May 2013.

This trip was planned to be a kind of 'shakedown' paddle to get the feel of kayak touring again, to test out some gear and to get an idea of how far I (and my friend Ray) could comfortably paddle in an average day. The idea was to try to get an idea of how far we could expect to travel in an average day so that planning future trips would be a bit easier.

My companion for this trip was Ray, a mate from church, who in past years has done quite a bit of kayaking, camping, hunting, fishing etc. mostly in his homeland of South Africa. I expressed to him a desire to 'do' the Murray in a conversation about things outdoors, and his eyes lit up. After a few emails and phone calls, we agreed to plan this trip, and so it was...

After some discussion, it was agreed that we wanted to err on the side of being too easy rather than too hard. Neither of us are what you might call super-fit, and paddling all day is a different kettle of fish to paddling around a few favourite fishing spots and spending most of your time anchored over one or two of them. So we agreed that we would put in at Parnka Point, roughly 2/3 the way from Meningie to Salt Creek on the Coorong, and paddle about 45 kms to Marks Point. We had effectively 2 full days worth of paddling to do it, spaced over 3 days in total.

The first decision was regarding the gear. In terms of kayaks, I have a self-built JEM Sabalo SOT tourer-fisher stitch-and-glue kayak that I built for just the kind of trip as this. Most people who have travelled the Murray length have tended to prefer sea kayaks or at least SIK's. They are definitely a bit quicker than SOT's, and in cold weather are usually a bit warmer. So Ray decided not to take his SOT fisher and hired a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165, which I have to say was very well suited for the trip.

Mine was bigger, roomier and has more space for gear, his was lighter, faster, but still adequate for his gear load. I had one distinct advantage. I had a small sprit sail fitted to my kayak, which made a big difference when the wind was from behind. Ray actually cried foul at one point saying it wasn't fair... :( . :lol: . But that made up for the fact that his yak was about 1/2 a km/h faster than mine. That doesn't sound like much, but over 15 kms it certainly adds up.

Next was camping gear. For the occasion Ray shelled out for a brand new Hilleburg 4 season 2 man tent. (He didn't tell me how much it cost but I reckon he would have been lucky to get change out of $500. It's truly a fantastic tent). For my own reasons (that I still wonder about), I decided to go ultra light, and didn't take a tent. I brought my Aussie Army Hootchie tarp and my new SOL Escape bivvy, with a Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner, and a light weight summer polartek sleeping bag for if it got cold. I also took two self-inflating mats and an auto windscreen reflector as an insulating pad and ground sheet (the big truck type you can buy at Super Cheap Auto Parts for $10) I managed to sleep warm ok, but I don't think I'll be going guerilla on the next one, there just wasn't enough room under the tarp for comfort. I'm currently gearing myself up with a hammock/tarp setup that is very promising and will be the duck's nuts for the river proper where there are more trees.

Most of the other gear we brought was normal stuff, but I won big time by taking a little Spinifex folding stool and a little portable GSI aluminium camp table. It made all the difference not having to sit on the damp cold ground, and having a flat surface to prepare food on and cook on was a real bonus.

Oh... one last fantastic gear tip. I did a bit of research on the net about hot water bottles for inside a sleeping bag when it gets cold, and I came across someone who recommended using a stainless steel water flask as a HWB. Not the thermos type, the plain metal drink flask type. So I bought a couple from Anaconda when they were on special for $4 each. What I did was to fill one with boiling water as a HWB and put a thick sock over it. Not only did that insulate enough not to scald myself on the metal but it also almost immediately dried the sock, which was damp from walking in water (fortunately not too smelly ;-). The next night I had 2 pairs of wet socks and dried them in about 1/2 an hour using the same method. Anyway it worked wonders as a HWB, and I was toasty warm until I got to sleep, and was still luke warm in the morning. Try it!

The trip log:

Day 1 - Friday 17th May

We started out from Adelaide at about 7:30am and travelled to Parnka Point, stopping at Meningie for breakfast on the way. They do a half reasonable bacon and egg sandwhich at the Shell servo, which went down well with a not-too-bad coffee. We arrived at Parnka at about 9:30am, unloaded and got the gear into the yaks. As with all long distance yak trips, there was a 'shuttle' arranged. I drove my Pajero to Meningie to meet a friend of Ray's who agreed to ferry me back to Parnka after accompanying me to Marks Point to leave my car for when we finished. So after about an hour and a bit of ferrying to and fro we finally hit the water at about 11:30. It was a bit later than we had planned, but we still had most of the day ahead of us.

The water was very very saline, about 3 times saltier than sea water we estimated, and very shallow. I'm glad we didn't decide to put in at Salt Creek which was our initial idea. We might have been walking our yaks for a few k's if we had. The water was under .5 metres deep except for the middle of the channel which was still only 1.5 metres by my sounder. And when we stopped for lunch, the banks were muddy with a gooey smelly black mud that certainly put me off my lunch. We found that the bottom was very muddy there, but got progressively sandier as we got closer to the mouth.

The amazing Coorong has this surreal atmosphere that draws you into itself like no other place I know. Once we got going, we almost immediately felt like we were all alone and that there was no living person within 1000 miles. The scenery with the dunes and scrub on the Younghusband peninsula on one side, and the sparse, empty flats on the north/east bank gives the place an almost other-world feel. Very peaceful and restful. We both commented that we could feel the 'city-ness' leaving us as we paddled.

As for wildlife, we didn't see so much down that end, but as we went the numbers of birds was amazing. There were flocks of black swans, water fowl, pelicans and egrets all over the place, and in the dead-still water the flapping of the swan's wings as they took off in huge numbers before us made an amazing noise.

The weather report was for 'a chance of a shower or two'. Well we must have been just lucky I guess, because our 'chance' came up. We watched as one squall after another skirted past us, but at about 2:00pm we came into the path of a particularly nasty looking greyness that just swallowed up everything as it approached us. I didn't have time to change into my waterproofs before the rain and wind hit, and when the 'shower' finished with us I was soaked through. Not cold, because I had thermals on as my base layer, but wet. So when we stopped for camp (which took us awhile to find by the way), the first order was to set up camp and get into some dry clothes. Unfortunately I was not quite into my dry stuff when down came a second deluge and got most of my change of clothes wet too. So I wasn't too happy with facing the prospect of the rest of the weekend living in damp clothes. (Actually I did manage to dry out most of my stuff the next day, which was sunny and warm all day).

After setting up camp and demonstrating to Ray how to light a good fire with only soaking wet wood ( ;-) ), we got our dinner into us and hit the hay early. We were both pretty stuffed considering we had only paddled for about 4 hours, but wind and rain makes it feel like it's twice as hard, even with the wind behind or to the side of you. We both had a reasonable night's sleep. Ray was bragging about how warm his 2 man palace was, and I stoically replied that I slept warm too. (Warm, not well. Gee the ground is getting harder these days!).

(It's getting late. I'll post some pics tomorrow night.)
Water lapping against the hull, warm gentle breeze, fish straining on the line... how much sick leave do I have?
______________________________________________________________________________
PB's:
Mulloway 1.2m (x2)
Flathead 63cm
KG Whiting 50cm
Snook 74cm
Salmon 44cm
Dorado 54cm
Skipjack tuna 58cm
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby BigPete68 » Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:26 pm

Mate sounds like a great trip. Envious.
I am Albury based so if you want support etc or some company on the upper Murray sections then just yell. As for April on the upper Murray, should be about the end of the irrigation season so the river below Lake Hume can be at full flow or more subdued depending on irrigation requirements. From Towong to Lake Hume is typical fast runs and deeper pools. lake Hume is its usual boring expanse of water.
Sounds like fun 8) .
Cheers,

Peter

Calling fishing a hobby is like calling brain surgery a job.
YAK PBs - Brown Trout 37cm. Yellowbelly 42cm. Redfin 38cm. Cod 62cm. 2 x 10cm Redfin on a 15cm Stumpjumper, a proud moment.
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby snowymacco » Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:33 pm

Good luck with the trip Steve, hope it all goes well. Should be an amazing life experience. Look forward to the reports and photos.
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby BaysideKayakAngler » Mon Jun 03, 2013 7:27 pm

Looking forward to reading about your trips along the Murray.
Sounds like being a great series of adventures :)
Good luck with it all.
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby goanywhere » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:55 pm

Finally some pics....

We arrive at Parnka Point
Image

My mate Ray
Image

Ready to launch
Image

Our first stop for lunch
Image

A bit muddy!! (Shows the small sail on my yak. Came in handy to make light work of the k's.)
Image

The rain squall recedes...
Image

Sunset day 1.
Image

Our first camsite
Image

Sunrise day 2
Image

The finish
Image

What we didn't take a picture of is us trying to push-start the Pajero after discovering I had left the parker lights on for 3 days and the battery was flat as a tack. We finally struck some luck when a tourist happened by and we flagged him down. Fortunately he had some jumper leads and we got going fairly quickly after that, but when you're tired and hungry you don't need that!

Anyway, all in all we had a great trip. A good practice run for the next leg on the Murray proper.

Catch you next episode....
Water lapping against the hull, warm gentle breeze, fish straining on the line... how much sick leave do I have?
______________________________________________________________________________
PB's:
Mulloway 1.2m (x2)
Flathead 63cm
KG Whiting 50cm
Snook 74cm
Salmon 44cm
Dorado 54cm
Skipjack tuna 58cm
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby BaysideKayakAngler » Thu Jun 06, 2013 10:57 pm

Great photos.
Look forward to your next episode.
Good luck.
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby dru » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:46 pm

Awesome trip, really look forward to sharing!

BTW PM ROSe, she is half way through the same thing.
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby gibsoni » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:42 pm

An iconic trip. Indeed, looking forward to see your reports as you complete the legs of the journey.

What is the clothing worn in the celebratory shot at the end of the trip?
B-Line Toucan sik
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby goanywhere » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:39 am

gibsoni wrote:An iconic trip. Indeed, looking forward to see your reports as you complete the legs of the journey.

What is the clothing worn in the celebratory shot at the end of the trip?


I (the short bloke) am wearing Redington Crosswater soft-foot waders. http://www.redington.com/fly-fishing-waders/waders/mens/crosswater/. They are nice and warm, breathable yet totally waterproof. They have a good draw-string tightener at the top under the armpits (in the pic I've got them undone and they're loose), and a belt goes around the chest. They are virtually impenetrable to water even in a bail-out (yes, I've heard the old-wives tale about waders on a boat etc.) Over the soft boots are normal sailing shoes. Under those I have thermal long johns on and on top a light weight poly polo shirt. If it's really cold I wear a Didrickson storm jacket, very lightweight and compact but breathable and very warm.

Ray has a pair of kayaking pants and top he got from Adelaide Canoe Works. I like them, they are like a mix between thermal long underwear and compression base layer. They aren't as thick as a wetsuit but thicker than thermals. They are very warm and keep you dry but also breathe. I'm going to get some of those. He wears a North Face spray jacket over those. In the launch pic you see Ray holding his ultralight carbon fibre racing paddle. That thing's worth over $500! I borrowed it for a few minutes and it's great, but I don't see myself shelling out for anything that hi-tech (I'm the povvo half of the two of us :?)
Water lapping against the hull, warm gentle breeze, fish straining on the line... how much sick leave do I have?
______________________________________________________________________________
PB's:
Mulloway 1.2m (x2)
Flathead 63cm
KG Whiting 50cm
Snook 74cm
Salmon 44cm
Dorado 54cm
Skipjack tuna 58cm
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goanywhere
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby goanywhere » Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:39 am

Hi all again. Just an update on my prep for the next leg of the Big Trip.

I mentioned that I was researching a hammock setup for camping instead of a tent. Well I can tell you that I'm totally sold on hanging rather than ground dwelling after now having set up my kit. For those of you who are interested, here's some vital info and pics:

* The hammock itself is a self-made version of a 'gathered end' hammock. I made it from 3 metres of ripstop nylon I bought from Spotlight. I just ran a hem around it and sewed a folded channel on both ends so that I could run a cord through it for suspension purposes. It weighs all up about 500g including the steel rings for suspension (see pics).

* As a tarp I am using Aussie Army Hootchie tarps. These things are a bit heavier than the ultralight ones that some go for (mainly backpackers), but they are super strong, absolutely waterproof and have lots of eyelets and loops for easy stringing up over the hammock. I have 2 that can clip together with the press-studs already fitted, so I can have a decent shelter and room for the hammock all in one.

* One drawback for hammocks is that because you are suspended mid-air, you have to insulate yourself all-round against the cold. Actually the worst of this is from underneath, where the cold just sucks the heat out of you. So you need some sort of insulation under you. Some people use a sleeping pad (of various kinds) under them inside the hammock, which can work very well, but most opt for an under-quilt of some sort. I bought a USMC poncho liner which I rigged up as an under quilt with a truck-sized windshield reflector in between the folded layers, the kind you can buy from Supercheap for around $10. That worked down to about 10 degrees, but to go lower I added a second one, which on a recent test camp got me down to 3 deg. At that temp I was only just starting to feel the cold under me, but not enough to get me out and putting more stuff under me.

Over the last couple of days I've been experimenting with using my 'Escape Outdoors' self-inflating mat inside the hammock with a reflector under that. I like the flatter lay with the pad inside, and I think it will insulate even better than the underquilt. I am going to try it one night when we get our first frost to see if It will work at those temps. I will keep the poncho liner for a back-up extra blanket if it gets really cold, or just suspend it under me without the reflector in it if it gets super cold. (Why I need to test all this out is because it is not unheard of for temps to go down to -5 during a frosty night on the Riverland, so I need to be prepared!)

* I have just bought a new sleeping bag for the hammock. I already had a Coleman Arctic -5 rated bag, which is great, but it's a square-end bag which doesn't fit snugly in the hammock, it often sags out of the foot end, which can mean cold feet. So I took a gamble and bought one of those cheap 'Arctic Cattle' mummy style sleeping bags on ebay. They're supposed to be rated at -10 C, but I thought that even if it's not that good, It is worth giving a try, considering I got it for $45 delivered. I tested it out on my last sleep-out with a sleeping bag liner, and at 3 degrees it was fine. I wasn't cold at all from the top, the only coolness I felt was from the bottom when the mercury headed south. So I think that the rating isn't all that far off, considering that -10 is the extreme survival limit only (I think the comfort rating is supposed to be 0 deg.). With my new Sea to Summit Reactor Extreme bag liner and additional layers of clothing I think I will be able to cope with anything I am likely to encounter.

* I don't expect mozzies and bugs to be a big problem in September on the Murray, but if the temps get mild they can venture out in swarms, so I've made a mozzie net which fits snugly over the hammock, suspended from the ridgeline. It's easy to set up, and is extremely fine 'no-see-um' mesh which even provides a bit of sun and wind protection.

So all-in-all I think I'm just about set for hanging rather than tenting for the next trip.

By the way, if I encounter a must-stop location without trees, I have worked out a treeless rig with a pair of old folding tent poles on one end, and my paddle at the other. I'll try to get a pic for you of everything just described in detail, but for effect here's a pic of my last camp-out setup at Minlaton SA this week.

My set-up at Minlaton Caravan Park. This was a work trip. My boss couldn't believe that I only spent $10 on accommodation. I just wanted an excuse to test my new hammock setup. Makes perfect sense! :?
Image

Image
Water lapping against the hull, warm gentle breeze, fish straining on the line... how much sick leave do I have?
______________________________________________________________________________
PB's:
Mulloway 1.2m (x2)
Flathead 63cm
KG Whiting 50cm
Snook 74cm
Salmon 44cm
Dorado 54cm
Skipjack tuna 58cm
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goanywhere
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby suehobieadventure » Sun Jun 23, 2013 7:53 am

Sounds great, I will follow your trip. I would PM Rose at Goolwa as she did 99% of the Murray last year alone. I also have a Wilderness Systems SIK and I love it, thinking about putting a small sail on that. Remember I am in Waikerie and have plenty of empty beds (kids left home) you know how it goes. I will be away September 12 = 25th though.
Regards Sue
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby Geoffw » Sun Jun 23, 2013 10:43 pm

Quite a trip you are embarking on. Good luck and i look forward to the next installment. P. S. Like the set up.
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Re: Big Trip - The Murray - Part 1 - The Coorong.

Postby goanywhere » Tue Jun 25, 2013 8:35 pm

suehobieadventure wrote:Sounds great, I will follow your trip. I would PM Rose at Goolwa as she did 99% of the Murray last year alone. I also have a Wilderness Systems SIK and I love it, thinking about putting a small sail on that. Remember I am in Waikerie and have plenty of empty beds (kids left home) you know how it goes. I will be away September 12 = 25th though.


I've PM'd you Sue.
Water lapping against the hull, warm gentle breeze, fish straining on the line... how much sick leave do I have?
______________________________________________________________________________
PB's:
Mulloway 1.2m (x2)
Flathead 63cm
KG Whiting 50cm
Snook 74cm
Salmon 44cm
Dorado 54cm
Skipjack tuna 58cm
User avatar
goanywhere
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Location: Adelaide, SA.
Kayak: JEM Sabalo SOT


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