by Andy Singh
The 2019 Murray Descent was the first stage of a NSW River Canoe Club led, decade long project to paddle the length of the Murray River. In early November 2019, seventeen paddlers set aside their work, retirement and parole conditions to complete the first 192 kms.
From Bringenbrong Bridge, the river passes by the towns of Towong, Tintaldra, Walwa and Jingellic, cradled through the mountain ranges,
before winding through the back waters of the Hume Dam.
Each soft line of river bend,
drawn by a steady hand with cold fast pen,
hides shadows of subtle hazards,
Sub-surface predators of log, stump and rock.
Our paddlers follow the fastest flow,
shaving closely past each wet foe.
Every so often the tables turn,
and bruised egos follow another roll.
Above the water, the willows are the worst,
Succubi of speed and excitement,
They dote on the purposeful with pace and precision,
And lash careless whispers at lazy lovers, guilty of no line or brace.
Heavily laden kayaks lumber downstream,
Seats break, rudders break, wrong directions, paddlers cling to trees, currents draw under – ropes thrown, live bait recovery.
Safety is with our leaders – Kevin Songberg, Roddy Kerr, Deb Cunneen and Bron Powell, all lend a hand.
Boats are battered, bodies bruised, and it is only the end of day 2.
Day 3 now and re-supplied boats leave Jingellic,
The river is a little straighter, offering fewer surprises.
Its time for good chatter,
and talk about things which matter.
For the persistent paddler, the river offers hour upon hour of glorious grind.
For the inquisitive ecologist, the river unveils wildlife – echidna, fish, fox, sea eagle, wallaby – and the shy platypus with a quick slither of its tail.
For the Australiana aficionado, the Jingellic pub parades next years’ range of flannel shirts.
For the hard core camper, night is a toy shop rampage of fancy equipment, bagged meals, tall stories of Aldi purchases, irresponsible fires, and dubious dancing.
I have paddled many rivers, but what made this trip special?
Maybe it was the backdrop of the snow covered mountains.
Maybe it was the fog bound morning of the first day.
Maybe it was the silent trees on the lake.
Maybe it was the personalized ducks on the front of each of our kayaks.
Or maybe it was the sense of commencement,
the start of something bigger than just this one week.
Again and again the conversation came around to what we would be doing next year, and the year after.
Like binge watching Game of Thrones on a wet weekend,
the allure of forever, of holding onto the feeling of commitment, camaraderie and challenge
tightened the addictive grip to this trip.
Plans are already well underway for next year.
From the bottom of the Hume Dam wall,
Old plastic boats will be set aside for newer, faster hulls.
Post mortems on failed equipment and menus will yield new online purchases.
Commitments to being fitter and faster will question tonight’s dinner.
Liz pulling in for lunch. Photo by Wolfgang Renner
Departing camp on Day 4. Photo by Bron Powell
Paddlers interested in joining this journey in 2020 can contact Andy Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise the Murrumbidgee 100 on Australia Day Weekend 2020 offers another opportunity for expeditionary river kayaking.