Jugiong to Gundagai
By ANDY SINGH
Coffee and eggs with friends in a country cafe is a great way to start a Saturday morning (The Long Track Pantry). Afterwards we slip into our three plastic sea kayaks (Q-Kayak Shearwater and 2 x Tuis) and launch onto the Murrumbidgee at Jugiong. The previous night was a hellish drive out of Sydney on a stormy Friday—rain, traffic, frustration—now nothing but the calmness of the river to take us forward.
Our plan was for an overnight trip down the 72 kilometres to Gundagai, camping at Sandy Falls Reserve 42 kilometres out of Jugiong. By way of guidance there was the NSW Waterways Guide, a trip report from the Hunter Paddlers and the NSW Kayak Trail Guide.
The river meanders through the rolling hills of the south-west slopes with plenty to see—the occasional splash of the platypus, the patrolling of the eagles, the hurried take-offs by the ducks, the constant squawking by the cockatoos, deer hide along the river banks, sheep sleep in the shadows of the willows and the cattle stare at us with a blank expression.
The river is cold and fast, with water surging and boiling around the bends. There are a number of Grade One races and obstructions, and a submerged log tries to create a Grade Two wave, but we skirt around.
Plastic sea kayaks are not built for speed, but we are maintaining a respectable 8.5km/h average speed. It is soon apparent we could probably make Gundagai in a day—but what would we do with our camping gear? We make camp at Sandy Falls Reserve and let the heat of the day dissipate with a spectacular sunset.
We are on the water at 7am on Sunday morning, after failing to find all five planets (damn you trees). After five kilometres we meet the junction of the Tumut and Murrumbidgee Rivers—and the flow increases in speed. We are now reaching speeds of above 15km/h along some of the bends. In no time we reach Gundagai.
The photograph of Andy, Hillary and Ralph outside Gundagai’s Niagara cafe (no website, no eftpos, no Sydney rush) was taken by a local at 10.30am. By this time, we had landed, loaded the car and changed. Soon we were having coffee and breakfast. It seemed only the day before we were doing the same at Jugiong.
The kayaking statistics included an actual distance was 65 kilometres, paddled over seven hours at a moving average speed of 9.4km/h—not bad for a plastic. The river levels were Jugiong 0.64m and Gundagai 2.46m. The cafe-ing statistics were lots of black coffee, eggs and bacon and heaps of country hospitality.