Friday, 13 January 2012

Kosciuszko to the Coast

It's been a while since I've undertaken a decent trip, so over the Christmas/New Year period I set off on a self-sufficient journey from Australia's highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, to the ocean; a total distance of some 250km. The journey consisted of two distinct stages; the first being a 75km walk from the small ski resort of Charlotte Pass to the Snowy River / Pinch River junction, and the second entailing paddling a packraft some 175km down the Snowy River to where it meets the ocean near the Victorian town of Marlo.

When I say self sufficient, I mean that everything that I needed for the trip, excluding water, was in my pack at the start. This included the usual camping equipment and 15 days food, plus a few unusual items you wouldn't associate with a walk from Mt Kosciuszko; a packraft, PFD, breakdown paddle and whitewater helmet. The total pack weight was around 35kg, so 20kg of equipment and 15kg of food.

The logistics of the trip were to leave my car at Orbost, then catching a bus up to Cooma. From here I had a friend deliver me to Charlotte Pass, some 100km away.

Day 1: Charlotte Pass to Seaman's Hut

We arrived at Charlotte Pass around 7:30pm. The Main Range was as beautiful as ever, with cloud intermingling with sunshine to create a fantastic vista, and the odd snowdrift still clinging to the side of the hills forming the icing on the cake. After a couple of quick photos and a long hug, I bid adieu to my dear travelling companion and started off along the track to Kosciuszko.

When walking along the track one can catch the occasional glimpse of the infant Snowy River, flowing wild and free. Barely a couple of kilometres below here the first of three dams intercept its waters, shoving them through hydroelectric power stations then delivering the majority to the other side of the mountains via long, dark tunnels.

Further along the track I crossed over the infant Snowy, drawing some water nearby, before continuing on to Seaman's Hut for the evening. With only two other people in residence I opted to sleep on the floor.

Day 2: Seaman's Hut to Cascade Hut

Waking early, I packed up my gear as quietly as I could and hit the track again around 6:15am.

Most of the range was under cloud cover, and on the approach to Rawsons Pass it quickly became apparent that there would be no view from the summit. Nevertheless, it needed to be climbed, so I dropped my pack and scrambled up the side with my paddle to take a few photos. As it turned out it was well worth the climb, with the mist adding an interesting atmosphere to the summit cairn.

Returning to Rawsons Pass, I saddled up and started pounding along the steel mesh walkway towards Thredbo. The cloud and mist lifted momentarily to reveal Lake Cootapatamba, one of Australia's highest lakes.

A little further along the walkway crosses the headwaters of the Snowy River; a small stream surrounded by snowgrass. I decided to stop and inflate the packraft, to prove that the one boat can indeed make it from summit to the sea!

Once the top of Thredbo became visible I veered off the walkway, and started off down a walking track towards Dead Horse Gap. The early start had paid dividends, as 5 minutes along the track I turned back and saw the many tourists starting out towards the summit, with each chair on the Kosciuszko Express chairlift bringing yet more people up from the village to experience the roof of Australia. Not my idea of fun.

The track dropped down to the carpark below Dead Horse Gap, crossing over the Alpine Way; the first of just four public roads that lay between here and the coast. This also marked the end of the walking track, with the rest of the walking leg of the journey to be undertaken on management trails.

After a quick lunch beside the Thredbo River I started the 200 vertical metre climb up over Bob's Ridge. Partway up the lack of sleep in the lead up to the trip caught up to me, so I had a nap in the shade of a snowgum before continuing the ascent. At the top the heavy pack was making its presence felt, and I was feeling every gram of weight by the time I reached Cascade Hut, my campsite for the evening. This horizontal slab structure was built by cattlemen in 1935 and was used as a base for summer grazing. Although the cattle are long gone, the hut remains and is a popular destination for walkers and MTB riders.

I shared the campsite with two other people, although must confess I was too tired to be social. It was an early night.

Day 3: Cascade Hut to Ingeegoodbee River

Following the previous days exertions my body was a little weary, so it was not until after 9am that I set out along the trail. The walking was fairly easy, at first through burnt ash forest from the 2003 fires, and then along the gently undulating crest of the Great Dividing Range, where the trail consisted of two grassy wheelruts amongst the snowgum woodland. Large piles of manure at irregular intervals indicated the presence of my companions for the next few days; mobs of brumbies (wild horses).

The weather was warm so I opted for a lengthly lunch in the shade of a tree through the hottest part of the day, then continued on to Tin Mine Huts. These huts were constructed around the same time as Cascade Hut, however for a different purpose. My favourite of the two remaining huts is the barn, a sizeable building with many interesting Australian bush architectural features.

When I was inside the barn filling in the logbook I heard some strange noises outside, in the distance. I wandered over to the people from Cascade Hut, who had shifted their campsite to here for the evening. They were kind enough to take a photo of me beneath the bulk of the pack.

Whilst chatting to them the noise came again; the unmistakable howl of wild dogs. We spotted one of the culprits a couple of hundred metres away, across the creek. As I was feeling okay, had plenty of daylight available and didn't fancy the thought of listening to wild dogs howling all night, I pushed on along the Ingeegoodbee Trail for a few more kilometres. The campsite was near the first ford of the Ingeegoodbee River, and I pitched my tarp close to the ground lest the wild dogs pay a visit. As a final safety measure I kept a section of my carbon fibre paddle shaft beside my bed; a decent tap with this rock-solid piece of tubing would send any dog yelping away into the bushes. Fortunately the evening was relatively peaceful, interrupted only by the occasional whine of the brumbies.

Day 4: Ingeegoodbee River to Nine Mile Pinch

My feet had a few tender spots the next morning. They were in an unusual place, around the midpoint of the foot and at the top. I put this down to the unusual flex pattern of the lightweight Dunlop Volleys I was wearing. Why Volleys? I wanted footwear that would grip on wet rocks in the gorges, and the humble Volley is one of the best. Plus the price was right, at a mere $10 per pair. Most of my whitewater paddling is done in Volleys, with the addition of woollen socks, neoprene socks and orthotics if more than a kilometre or two of walking is required. I've never had sore feet in them before, but had not worn them for such a long distance or with a load as heavy as the one I was carrying.

After packing up camp I opted to wear my alternative footwear for the day; foam Teva thongs. Heaven on your feet. The walking today was easy, along the Ingeegoodbee Trail with minimal climbing and pleasant sections along the river flats. The only detraction from the scenery was the damage caused by the brumbies. Every creek crossing has wide and trampled, their hoofs punching the fragile alpine soil into a muddy pulp. As the day was another hot one I had another long lunch, this time over 2 hours sitting cradled in a black sallee overlooking the river. A blissful existence.

Further on the country opens out onto a cleared grassy plain. It is in this area that the Freebody brothers used to graze cattle and grow potatoes in the days before Kosciuszko National Park was created. It's a beautiful location, with campsites in abundance.

The fire trail crosses the Ingeegoodbee River for the final time near the bottom of the flat, and it was here that I filled my water bladder and bottles. My camp for the evening would be a dry one, at the crest of the range that separates the Ingeegoodbee and Snowy Rivers. I continued along the fire trail up towards the top of the range, when around the corner I spotted a large black animal grovelling around. Quickly I realised it was a feral pig, and having come across them on previous occasions at this time of the year I didn't want to hang around in case it had piglets with it. To avoid any chance of an altercation I made a lengthy detour around the area, intercepting the fire trail again a couple of hundred metres further along. The remaining couple of kilometres were incident free, and I continued on past a couple of obvious campsites to stop at the top of the infamous Nine Mile Pinch. The trail was cut into the side of a steep hill here, which limited camping somewhat; I pitched the tarp on the edge, guyed out into the middle of the trail and placed rocks and branches around to provide a warning in the unlikely event that a ranger would drive by.

As I ate dinner I looked out down to the valley some 900 vertical metres below, and saw the glistening of the Snowy River. The end of the walk was in sight. As it turned out, this was the only day on the trip that I didn't see anyone else.

Day 5: Nine Mile Pinch to Willis

It looked like being a hot day, so I was on the trail by 8am; an earlier start would have been even better. The trail began plummeting down the Nine Mile Pinch, a rocky spur that descends steeply from the range to the Pinch River below, and then on to the Snowy. Originally this track was used by cattleman as a means of droving their cattle up to the fertile higher ground; these days it is mostly used for management vehicles and the occasional MTB. Indeed, there were some relatively fresh MTB tracks in the dirt as I started walking, and on close examination it appeared that someone had actually ridden up this hellishly steep slope before enjoying the descent. I must confess to having pushed my bike to the top a couple of years ago, and still remember having to edge my shoes in a similar manner to sidestepping on XC skies in order to get up the steeper sections. Anyone who is fit enough to ride up a slope like that has my utmost respect. No photo can truly convey the steepness of the slope; kilometre after kilometre of anti-erosion humps, providing many opportunities to get airborne!

Not long after starting the descent I came across a mob of brumbies, who I came across on multiple occasions as I made my way down the spur. The heat was intense, with the rocky soils absorbing the suns rays and the scragly trees providing little in the way of shade. I was very glad to finally reach the Pinch River around 10:30am. From here I continued along the vehicle track beside the river, seeing people on horseback and a number of campers. The track emerged onto the second road of the trip, the Barry Way, which I quickly crossed and started bashing my way through weeds and flood debris towards the banks of the Snowy River.

Eager to get on the water and start making some milage, I started converting everything over to 'river mode'. The packraft was inflated, paddle assembled and I slipped into my PFD. With the pack securely lashed to the bow I set off at around 1pm. The river was calm, warm and shallow.

Barely a kilometre downstream the river entered a shallow rocky gorge, near the start of which is a fairly technical rapid As I came in to the bank to scout the rapid I spotted a purebred dingo on the bank; the first I've seen, and not something I expected this far south-east. Fortunately it quickly disappeared, enabling me to scout the rapid in peace.

The rapid, sometimes referred to as Pinch Falls, loses around 1.5m in height. There is a choice of two narrow drops on river right, or a sneak chute on river left; at the low water level the entry to the two drops was too narrow for a packraft, and the chute looked bony but doable, apart from the wooden fingers of death protruding out of it partway down. I opted to portage, putting back in a little further into the gorge.

The remaining rapids in the gorge were Grade 2, after which the river flattened out again with minor rapids and pebble races to keep one interested. The river was beautiful in its own way, and in places it didn't feel like Australia at all, with such a substantial riverbed and steep slopes either side lined with pine trees.

I continued downstream to the Victoria / New South Wales border; a straight line joining Cape Howe on the coast with the start of the Murray River. The border was first surveyed by Black & Allan in the early 1870s. They cleared the border of vegetation and marked each of the high points with large stone cairns. Somewhere in the past I read that they had constructed cairns either side of the Snowy River. The cairn on the western bank was destroyed and rebuilt, and is located beside the Barry Way. I decided to find the elusive eastern cairn, so dragged the packraft up onto the bank and started looking around. Sure enough, just a couple of hundred metres away was the cairn. It is in magnificent condition, with the original 140 year old cypress pine timbers still intact, complete with handmade nails near the crown. I decided that this was the place to spend the night, so returned for my raft and set up camp nearby.

When setting up camp I discovered a blaze on a nearby dead tree. The blaze had nearly been grown over, but a tantalising glimpse still remained.

Day 6: Willis to McKillops Bridge

Ate breakfast, packed up and was on the water by 8am under a beautiful blue sky. My original itinerary allowed for two days to McKillops Bridge, as the guidebooks said that it was a long day in normal watercraft. Given the reasonable starting time and great weather conditions I decided to have a go and see how many kilometres I could clock up.

The Snowy continued generally southwards, with people camping at every available location. At times the river passed through granite boulders, other times past sandy beaches. Eventually the Barry Way turns away from the river, leaving it isolated and remote. For a couple of hours I paddled along, the only reminder of humans being a lone light aircraft flying down the valley.

Occasionally there were minor rapids across the river. Usually they were fine, yet one little rapid caused me a bit of grief. It was a simple band of rocks across the river, and I pointed the bow through the first available gap. Unfortunately there was another rock waiting at the bottom, which the raft hit, span and rode up on, momentarily pinning itself to the rock. I decided this wasn't a great place to be and bailed; my only 'swim' of the trip, as it happened. I soon retrieved the raft and continued on my way, but it reminded me that it doesn't take very much to end up in strife on a river. In the photo below you can see the rapid; I paddled down river right, when with hindsight I should have gone down river left, closer to the blackberries.

Another hour or so down the river I saw a strange object lying on a sandy beach, partway out of the water. I paddled over to see a relic of the deep, no doubt flushed from its resting spot by the recent environmental flows.

My first thoughts were to deflate the packraft, strap my pack to the boat and start cranking out some serious speed on the flatter sections! I dragged it up onto the beach and rolled the shell over, and it soon become evident that this kayak had been paddled its last mile.

After eating lunch in the sun on the beach it was time to return to the river. As I launched I saw some telltale grooves in the sand, indicating that others had come this way before me. Further along the river tuned to the west, passing through a gorge. Just upstream of the Suggan Buggan River confluence there were a couple reasonable grade 2 rapids to play in. One of them claimed my GPS that was clipped to my pack; a watery farewell to the device that has been on many trips with me over the last 5 years.

Soon the mass of a large mountain appeared downstream, and a quick check of the map revealed that it was Turnback Peak, and McKillops Bridge was on the other side. The sun was starting to get lower on the horizon, and I was eager to finish the paddle before the river fell beneath the shadows of the surrounding mountains. I kept paddling, and after another hour and a half there was the unmistakable sight of the bridge trusses perched high above the river. I pulled in to an island to take a photo or two and celebrate the end of ~35km of paddling for the day.

The gauge beneath the bridge read 0.8m, which was low but still paddleable. A little further downstream I went to the bank and walked up to the camping area, with the first group of campers quite surprised by my mode of transport and manner of portaging.

It was 7pm as I started to set up the tarp for the evening, when one of the campers came over and offered me a meal. I could hardly refuse, and spent the rest of the evening chatting with Jenny, Joe & Patty who were on holidays from Western Australia. It was a lovely way to end 2011.

Day 7: McKillops Bridge to Log Jam Rapid

In the morning I spoke with the friendly campers again, before getting on the river at a leisurely 10am. The next stretch of river, from McKillops Bridge to the Buchan River confluence is the most paddled section of the Snowy; it passes through four separate gorges and is usually paddled as a 3 to 4 day trip. Most of the river is quite isolated, with only a handful of 4WD tracks providing access. The first gorge was a couple of hours downstream of McKillops Bridge and is extremely pretty, with beautiful rock faces and a couple of good little grade 2 rapids. Even upstream of the gorge there was interesting paddling, with the river weaving between rocks in places.

Many of the rocks were occupied by water dragons, who scurried around in a rather humorous manner with their tail high in the air. I was still seeing them well south of Orbost, so their range is quite large and they often amused me. Downstream of the gorge the river flattened out, and in the last cliff face there was a small cave at water level. I paddled the packraft into its shady depths, feeling like a pirate in his lair.

Just a couple of kilometres downstream I came around the bend and saw something you don't expect to see on a remote stretch of shallow river; a tinny! I caught up with the occupants, who were about to load it onto a ute and head back up the Campbells Knob track. It turned out that two of the three were locals, and one of the blokes had been down the river on conventional rafts twice already that year. One of the trips was on the tail end of the environmental release, and they paddled the 60km from there to Buchan in a single day!

After leaving the tinny people behind the river became quite broad and very shallow, splitting into a series of channels. Fortunately the shallow draft of the packraft meant I could get through without having to get out and drag, but only just.

Soon the river began to deepen once again and the valley walls started to close in. After a couple of good grade 2 rapids I saw a sandy beach with signs of recent occupation, so pulled in to investigate and found a great little campsite. Although it was still fairly early I thought it best to stop before the campsites disappeared altogether, so I started a fire and got the tarp set up ready for another night.

Day 8: Log Jam Rapid to Jackson's Crossing

Another leisurely start today, as it was not until 8am that I emerged from the sleeping bag. One of the perils of using your packraft as a bed is that they are so comfortable that it is hard to prise yourself out from between the tubes and start the day! As today would entail paddling the largest rapids of the trip I decided to try fixing my spray deck, which had burst along one of the seams the previous day.

I attacked it with some gaffer tape which seemed to do the job, but separated at the Log Jam rapid not far downstream. This rapid wasn't anything too significant, though I decided to scout it anyway to be safe.

A couple of kilometres further down the valley walls closed right in, and I entered the Tulloch Ard Gorge. This is the most famous of the gorges on the Snowy, and is quite deep. Around a left hand bend the river appears the be completely blocked, with a jumble of large boulders across the river.

This signifies the 'A Frame', the first major rapid of the gorge. The majority of the river passes beneath two boulders propped against each other, forming an 'A' shaped hole. Despite the low river level it wasn't possible to paddle through the 'A', which would be an extremely nasty place to get stuck. Undercut rocks and a very constrained exit combine to form a potential death trap.

Fortunately there is a chute on river left that you can paddle through, which can be clearly seen in the photo below looking upstream. The chute is quite narrow, just wide enough to take a packraft, but I negotiated it with no real issues.

Downstream of the 'A Frame' the river was suprisingly calm, despite being in the depths of a gorge. It dodged between boulders before evolving into large, deep pools

Whilst paddling through the gorge past a rockface I heard a splash behind me, and turned around to see a  snake swimming across the river! On a happier note, most of the reptiles in the gorge were water dragons, basking in the sunlight.

The next rapid is a double staged drop known as George's Mistake. The water between the drops is moving and in high water it may be difficult to recover between the drops if necessary. As the water wasn't flowing too quickly I scouted, then paddled, each drop once at a time. The fully laden packraft handled both the drops with ease.

Downstream of the drop there was a long pool with a fantastic, albeit sandy, campsite with more fresh signs of occupation. I had lunch here in the baking sun, then had a swim before returning to the packraft for the final stretch of the gorge.

The next rapid, Washing Machine, was scoutable by boat and was fairly straightforward, and soon after was the final rapid, Gentle Annie. This is a mass of boulders and at the current water level the obvious entry point didn't coincide very well with the exit - scouting essential.

I picked out a line through the rapid but wasn't 100% happy with the way the final section was flushing, so in the absence of someone with a throwbag I opted to portage.

Another hour and a half downstream was the third gorge, which although short had some good rapids in it and was probably the most scenic gorge. The rapids were in quick succession so it wasn't until the end that I had a chance to get a photo.

The river flattened out once again, and at a sweeping left hand bend a magnificent cliff face loomed up above the river.

This locality is known as New Guinea, and there looked to be some great camping available in the area. However as it was only 5pm I opted to push on to Jackson's Crossing, meaning I would be another day ahead of schedule.

Long, slow pools formed the majority of the remaining paddling for the day, with the occasional scenic rock face to add a point of visual interest.

At the apex of a sweeping left hand band I spotted the grassy paddocks of Jacksons Crossing; the first cleared land since departing Charlotte Pass. Soon I could hear voices, then after paddling around a small bend there was what seemed like a tent city occupied with hordes of people. I paddled over and had a chat with them.

The campers were well set up, with inflatable pool toys everywhere, a couple of dogs, and even a mini bar! They also had news about other people on the river, saying that a party of 11 had paddled through that morning and a father and two sons had passed that afternoon. Now I had a firm goal in mind; catch the people before they finished in Buchan! I thanked the campers for their information and hospitality before heading downstream for another kilometre, arriving at a lovely grassy campsite at around 8pm.

Day 9: Jackson's Crossing to Bolong Creek

Hit the water before 8am today, as it looked like being another hot one. Not far below my campsite was the Rodger River confluence, and I paddled up the river to the first rapid, before retracing the route back to the Snowy.

Below Jackson's Crossing the river becomes fairly flat, and not as scenic as the upper sections. There is one final gorge to go through with high cliffs on either side, though I didn't think it was as spectacular as the earlier gorges. One interesting sight whilst paddling through the gorge was a small gauging station shed clinging to the cliff face.

Although I felt it wasn't up to the standard as the previous three gorges, there were still some scenic sections.

The gorge ends with a small waterfall on one side, then opens out again. In the distance I spotted a couple of kayaks so set off in hot pursuit. It was half an hour later that I finally caught them, just upstream of the Buchan River confluence. The father and two sons had got on the river at Jacobs River, another half a day above where I put in at the Pinch River, and had paddled down at a leisurely pace. The father was in a double kayak and the sons were paddling sit-on-tops. Though they had portaged most of the rapids in Tulloch Ard Gorge, they were quite happy with the way their boats had performed.

At the Buchan confluence I gave the kayakers a hand to carry their boats and gear up to the car park. Waiting for us up there were the remainder of the 11 kayakers, who had finished earlier that morning. As the heat was intense and there was good shade near the car park, I returned to the river and carried packraft up there to eat lunch under a tree and chat with my fellow river travellers. After a couple of hours their respective means of transport arrived and they departed, leaving me alone to build up enough energy to drag the packraft down to the river again. According to my original itinerary I was supposed to camp here for the evening, however as I set off again at 4pm I knew I could clock up an extra couple of kilometres.

Downstream of the Buchan River the rapids become more interesting, and for the majority of the time you are paddling in between two rocky walls, similar to a gorge albeit with walls only one or two metres high. I was particularly envious of a couple of the small farms that I passed; some of the houses looked out over their very own rapids! They were good grade 2s, and on occasions found time to have a play in them.

At 7pm I decided it was time to pull up for the evening, so found a great grassy spot in the State Forest, overlooking the farmland and Bolong Creek opposite.

Day 10: Bolong Creek to Orbost

A light sprinkling of rain overnight had taken the heat out of the air, although the river was still very warm. Got on the water around 9am and continued downstream, through the remainder of the shallow gorge.

The rapids disappeared, then the gorge, and the river entered sand & point country. There are four points to paddle around, with the river doubling back on itself around each. Initially I thought this would be a terrible part of the trip, but the scenery was absolutely spectacular, with beautiful sand meeting the lush green forest. It was hard to capture on camera though, as there was a bit of rain around.

I spotted some canoeists downstream of Sandy Point and briefly chatted with them, and also some day trippers at the Wood Point Camping Area. The river throughout this section was very sandy and shallow, making navigation difficult. Even with the shallow draft of the packraft I had to get out on a couple of occasions and drag it to deeper channels. This location was where man's impact on the Snowy was most evident; here it had not shrunk to a natural channel, but spread out across its old river bed, often no more than ankle deep.

All too soon the river emerged from the forest for the final time, and suddenly I was in irrigation country.   The rain-bearing cold front disappeared eastwards, leaving blue skies behind.

I stopped drinking from the river at this point, as the presence of cows and chemicals would no doubt be affecting the water. The current was minimal, so many paddle stokes were put in until the roofs of Orbost appeared above the river bank.

The presence of a town meant potable water, so I tethered the packraft to the steep bank and scrambled up to a public park, filling all available containers with fresh water before returning to the river. As I had no desire to pay for an unpowered site in the local caravan park, I paddled upstream a short distance to a sandy bend and pitched the tarp there for the night. I nodded off to the sounds of forklifts and trucks working in the factory on the opposite side of the river; a reminder that this journey was coming to an end.

Day 11: Orbost to Marlo

The river downstream of Orbost is affected by the tides, so in the morning I reached into the bowels of my pack and extracted the tide table I had printed out before heading away. However, as I was making better progress than expected the tide times I had printed out were not relevant for a couple of days. In the absence of better information I decided to have a go anyway; after all, surely a packraft is no match for the tide!

I got on the water a bit before 9am, and soon the concrete structure that is the Princes Highway appeared in front of me. It was the second bridge for the trip, and the last before the ocean.

Downstream the river nature changed; it was broad, deep and, with sealed roads running either side, a lot more populated. There were people fishing from the banks and tinnies on the water. Around a bend I came across what looked like a shed sitting in the river, only to find it was a houseboat! There were quite a few along the river, all tethered to their moorings.

Further on the vegetation disappeared from the banks and grazing paddocks stretched right up to the waters edge. As I approached the confluence with the Brodribb River a strange tooting noise filled the air, and around the corner came an unusual sight; a paddle steamer.

As it turns out, the current PS Curlip is a replica of the original boat, which worked up and down the Snowy River back in the day. It's not something you come across too often on a packrafting trip!

Just a few short kilometres separated me from the rivers mouth, so I chased after the paddle steamer, pausing only to grab a photo from a nearby bollard.

I pulled in briefly at the Marlo pier to find out if the river mouth was open. It was, so I got back onto the water and paddled across the estuary. There were boats everywhere, including ski boats, whose wake made the flatwater paddle a little more interesting. Soon enough the I came across the channel through the sandbar separating the estuary from the ocean, and I pointed the bow in for the final few metres of the descent of the Snowy River.

The last section of the channel was narrow and fast, and suddenly I shot out into the surf. I didn't want the salt water to get into all my gear, so pulled up on the beach to celebrate the completion of the paddle to the ocean.

This completed the Snowy River leg of the packrafting trip; all I had to do now was paddle a kilometre back to Marlo, get to the pub and scrounge a lift back to my car in Orbost! I tried paddling back through the channel, but the flow coming out of the estuary was too strong, so I portaged over the sand bar instead and put in again on the calm waters of the estuary itself. The remaining paddle didn't take long, and I pulled up on the boat ramp to deflate the packraft for the final time, then marched up the hill to the pub. I had been dreaming about a decent meal for the last few days, so ordered some flathead tails, chips and salad. As it turned out, it wasn't as good as I had imagined, but that's okay. A quick chat to the bar staff and $10 to the waitress and my lift was organised, and a mere half hour later I was back at the car and ready for the long drive home.


Looking back on the trip now, I'm glad I did it, although the end was a bit anticlimatic because of all the people. I'd love to follow a river to the ocean again, ideally finishing somewhere on a wilderness coast. For anyone else looking to do this trip I recommend pulling out at Wood Point Camping Area, just a couple of kilometres upstream from where the river emerges from the forest.

I'm rapt with how the packraft went, it was amazing how many kilometres you could clock up in a day. The only residual pain from this trip was in my knuckles, from being clamped around a paddle for hours on end.

And the river itself? It's definitely worth doing, and isn't too difficult. The ideal trip to introduce beginners to the sport. Give it a go, you won't regret it!


  1. Craig, a delightful account of a fantastic trip, I am very envious of such an adventure. Thanks for sharing. A great start for your blog :-)


  2. Great story Craig & terrific trip. 35Kg!! - I don't know whether you're super fit or just crazy (maybe a bit of both). You're good on the tooth - I'm twice your size & could have gone with half that food, but then again I've plenty of reserves to work off.
    Sounds like a busy part of the world at this time of year - would you have preferred to feel a bit more isolated or did you enjoy meeting people on the track?

  3. Thanks Steve & Peter. I'm not super fit, but am stubborn enough to keep plugging away hour after hour to get to where I want to go. 1kg of food per day is probably a bit on the high side, I could get away with around 900g per day if required on an extended trip; probably less on a shorter trip. In the past when doing extended trips I have found that if my food consumption isn't high enough then eventually I hit a wall and feel eternally hungry, probably due to burning through the reserves. As this trip could have potentially been 15 days long I decided to err on the side of caution and take full rations.

    It sure was busy along the river, but that didn't worry me too much whilst I was in the bush. As you'd know, most people you meet away from civilisation are friendly and welcoming. On a couple of occasions I deliberately structured the day so that I would finish at a known campsite and have some people to talk to.

    The river downstream of Orbost and around to Marlo was more crowded than I'd prefer, but that's to be expected given the easy access, townships and me paddling through in peak holiday season.



  4. Stumbled across this post... what a dream trip! Well done and thanks for the detailed report. Now to scour your blog for more inspriation.

  5. Thanks for a fantastic post, especially for the wonderful photos. I'm planning a walk down the Snowy River next year, which will no doubt be a scramble in some places. I've heard that there are sections between McKillops bridge and the Buchan River (e.g. Tulloch Ard Gorge) which are categorically not walkable - you have to pass through on the water. From what you've seen, do you think that's true? And if you can remember, were there any other points that might prove problematic? Thanks again!

  6. Hello!
    Look at this website I came across. You can find it here:
    Interesting Facts About Mount Kosciuszko
    I invite you also to the English version of this website. There related messages are a lot of information about the conquest of Mt Kosciuszko the highest peak of Australia, and about Paul Edmund Strzelecki the explorer who gave the mountain its name.
    Check the text sitemap page to see all the titles