Well, the spring safari is done for another year.
Unlike the last few dry years, this one saw more rain than we knew what to do with.
Most of the Victoria was in flood including several towns on evacuation alert. This was not what we had planned for and made for an exciting and very wet trip. Instead of the normal, no water, ‘what’s left to paddle’ conversations, we were faced with far too much water and as it turns out, the very same “Well, what’s left to paddle?” conversations.
This year saw an action packed schedule that had 12 intrepid RCC members on the move from the get go. 1650kms, 9 days, 2 states, 5 rivers, 9 different sections and over 100 new friends.
We started the safari with the Snowy Extreme race up in the Kosciuszko NP. This was a 2 day event in which 82 competitors raced in 2 different events. Paddlers came from from as far as Armidale in the north and Tasmania in the south. This was the first time in 20 years something like this had been held so it was great to have Rivers Canoe Club well represented with a number of us competing.
From there we moved south into a stormy, saturated Victoria. Every river and lake was bursting its banks and our destination, the Mitta Mitta river was showing a massive 2.4 mrs (we normally run it at 1.1 to 1.3 mtrs) we set up at Jokers flat and waited out the rain. Over the next few days the weather steadily improved and the normal grade 1-2 section were pushing into fast, high volume grade 3’s.
Needless to say there were many big volume runs from Big river camp to Bundara which normally takes three or more hours to complete, we were running them in an hour forty!
Its a very amusing sight to see grown men and women wooping and hollering like little kids as they bounce down a river. Spirits were at an all time high and we were having a ball!
We also ran Middle creek on consecutive days, a rare gem that needs good water. I can not recommend this run enough. Starting in a beautiful hidden valley, the river soon disappears into the forest and builds momentum ending in a series of fantastic, steep grade 3 rapids.
The group also had an epic run of the gorge section of the Mitta at about 1.9 mtrs. Massive wave trains, bus size holes and race car speeds were apparently enjoyed and survived, the description of ‘joy’ compared to ‘survived’ differed, depending on who was telling the story that night.
We then met up at Oxley for the third instalment of our adventure. The North Eastern Canoe club was hosting a film night and had invited us down for the last two days of our adventure. We camped at the show grounds a few kms from Oxley township and asides from it being a functioning stock paddock filled with cattle and their associated mess and smell (something that was omitted in the brochure), we set up camp for the third time and settled in
On the Saturday we split into 2 groups, some of us running the King river below Lake William Hovell and a few of us running the Sevens river.
The King is a beautiful grade 3 run of 6.5 kms in length that runs from Lake William Hovell to Cheshunt South. There are fantastic rapids that are separated by large pools which make it an ideal run for intermediates taking the next step in whitewater.
The Sevens creek starts benign enough at Poly McQuinns and quickly turns into a steep, long granite gorge run of grade 3 to 4+. This river takes a good amount of water to run and we were lucky enough to paddle it as the water was at minimum recommended level and was too low the next day. Many waterfalls, rock slides and smiles later we were pulling out below Goorum falls and heading to the festival.
The NE canoe club put on a fantastic night with great food, games, raffle prizes and a wide variety of films. The prize for oldest paddler was taken out by our very own basil Slaughter with a few more prises going our way as well. We met some fantastic crew and new connections were made for paddling in the future.
The next day we paddled the King river again, building friendships and enjoying the last day of a great trip.
Driving back into Sydney late Sunday afternoon, I had time to reflect on the last 9 days. We had paddled, with over 100 fellow paddlers, most of which we had never met before. What stood out the most was the sense of camaraderie and community, everyone had looked out for each other every step of the way both on and off the river. The cheers and encouragement from strangers as we paddled down the Snowy during the race, the nods and waves as we past each other on the back country road and the support on new rivers by the ones who knew the lines.
I felt privileged and humbled to be a part of something so embraced by all and accepted by a family much larger than I had ever conceived.
With only 10 months until the next Safari I highly recommend everyone get their leave in early, practice their rolls and start planning for next years adventure, I certainly am!