Whitewater kayak trip with a Victorian club – Wayne & Libby’s Report

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Snowy River Report

Because of the dearth of white water in South Australia and the quality of the Whitehorse Canoe Club website, including river graphs, Adelaide Canoe Club members have been tempted to tap into the obvious wealth of experience of its Victorian counterparts. Our secretary Lee Bruland was able to organise Paul Sorrentino to guide her on the Yarra in late December 2006 which initiated further discussion among Adelaide Canoe Club members of a possible liaison with Whitehorse Club. Responding to enquiries, Paul indicated that an appropriate trip would be the Melbourne Cup long weekend trip down the Snowy which we were able to attend. The logistical organisation over the next few months, resulting in numerous emails from Paul, who at no stage before, during or after the trip showed any frustration in catering for these unknown people from across the border, was extremely thorough.

The organisation of the Buchan Lodge (a great choice!) for Friday night, a bus to take us to the start the long way round, because the direct road to McKillops Bridge had collapsed, car shuttles and the kayak trailer set the trip up beautifully.

After leaving Adelaide we had checked out the Canoe Guide and map and we discovered the trip included grade 3/4 rapids with names like the Compressor, GeorgeÕs Mistake and Washing Machine. Thus we were both excited and nervous while waiting for the Melbourne contingent to arrive at the Lodge The confidence and friendliness of the leaders and participants prior to and during the bus trip was the factor that inspired us not to return to Buchan by bus rather than river! Despite the weather forecast for a very rainy weekend the mood was upbeat.

After a scenic trip we arrived at McKillops Bridge in the early afternoon and after a quick lunch, packing of boats and a briefing, set off in intermittent showers. The group was surprised to note that the water was quite murky, a far cry from the crystal clear water we had experienced in the past when paddling the Snowy in NSW. It became very obvious that we were in very safe hands and that the experience of leaders Paul Sorrentino, Alison Boyes, Walter Muller and Miriam Bell would facilitate a safe and enjoyable trip. Anthony Cheffings, David Robinson, Grant Della, all very experienced paddlers, provided great support to the less experienced Stephen Della, Brett Ross, Matt Watson and us.

The first day proved to be a good warm up with numerous grade 2 rapids, wonderful Snowy River scenery and a few showers. We camped the night on a typical Snowy sandbar, waking in the morning to a spectacular thunderstorm which eased in time to have breakfast and pack our kayaks. This was followed by brilliant sunshine which lasted till after lunch. By mid morning, after a few more grade 2 rapids, we were confronted by the famous A frame rapid at which, much to our surprise, Paul said nonchalantly to the excited newcomers ÒYou can paddle thisÓ This came as a surprise to those of us who were resigned to a day of portaging in the gorge. After successfully completing the chute to the left of the unfriendly A frame chute, followed by a sharp right hand turn, our confidence was high. The rest of the day was spent navigating GeorgeÕs Mistake with the experienced paddlers taking the opportunity of a second go in kayaks released by those of us who were not confident of surviving in one piece. There were a few swims on this day but all were rescued without mishap. The night proved to be particularly wet and the river, we later found out, rose from 0.63 to 1.00 metre. A nearby river, the Thompson flooded, and we saw much evidence of this when driving back to Melbourne after the trip. The paddocks around Sale were underwater and cattle were stranded on small islands. Apparently 2 kayakers had to abandon a trip on the Thompson and were walking out. Unfortunately a contact person had been over zealous and a helicopter had been sent to ÒrescueÓ them. This incident appeared on the TV news which raised concern within families back home.

The third day was cold and wet and involved two significant rapids, Washing Machine and Gentle Annie, the latter portaged by four including us. We want to meet this Annie because if she thinks its gentle she must be some woman! The remainder of the day was punctuated with numerous grade 2 rapids and some fun waves before reaching camp. There were several rolls and swims this day. Some people were so pleased to complete a rapid that they found unfriendly rocks to broach on in the last few metres resulting in a swim. The adrenaline rush of the last few days combined with being cold, might have been a contributor. Everyone was in high spirits when the rain eased during the evening meal and there were many stories shared around the camp fire that night.

The last morning was a fairly straight forward paddle with some grade 2 rapids, sweeping bends with willows, which needed to be avoided, and gravel races which were paddleable at the higher level. We arrived at the reserve at the junction of the Buchan and Snowy River in time for lunch.

 The trip was capped off with a convivial dinner at a restaurant in Traralgon.

We are grateful for the skill of the leaders and the friendliness of all participants who made this a most memorable and enjoyable experience.

Wayne Hooper and Libby Robertson (ring in members of Adelaide Canoe Club)