Puffinpaddle's Blog
One man. One brother. One river.

Dec
28

To all my sponsors, having you on board so to speak, just knowing that there were people behind me during the journey, comforted me greatly. Canoe Warehouse, George Hicks Foundation, Oakley, Aqua tabs, Banana Boat, Kelly Kettle, Progurt, Fitness First, EmbroidMe North Sydney, Signarama Gladesville, Origin Energy, River Murray Charts.

To Diya Bhutani and Elizabeth Shute, the two major administators and publicists for the journey, thankyou for your tireless efforts in attempting to spread the word to as many media outlets as possible. A very successful media campaign one would say. And for your endless work with the Rotary Clubs along the Murray, with whom I did presentations as a guest speaker in four towns: Echuca-Moama, Swan Hill, Robinvale and Renmark.

To the members of the Rotary and Lions clubs whose hospitality exceeded them. Des Jones of Yarrawonga, Jeni and Nick Clift of Moama, Terry Baufiled of Barham Bridge Motel, Gerard Maloney of Swan Hill,  Brian and Rosalie Handreck of Robinvale, Len Arnott of Robinvale,  Jack and Vicki Gibb of Renmark, Jerry and Kerry Wilson of Murray Bridge, Graeme Coventry, also of Murray Bridge and finally, Margaret and Jack of Woods Point.

Richard Parris, thankyou for your assistance along the way. Firstly, for contacting many caravan parks which are situated on the river bank to ask if they would be kind enough to donate a campsite for the night. A warm shower and a pristine square of level freshly cut grass is always more enjoyable than a bumpy bank. Also the opportunity to recharge the video camera an important element of the caravan park stay. Secondly, for up-to-date and on-call weather reports in times of uncertainty.

To the caravan parks who donated a campsite and use of their facilities. Corowa Caravan Park, Kismet Lodge, Time Out Holiday Resort, Berri Riverside Caravan Park and Buronga Caravan Park

To all the people who accompanied me on the water, whether it be for two days or two hours. Terry Renford, Laurence and Carol of Hornsby and Phil Scanlon. Special mention must be made of Brad Butler who helped me cross Lake Alexandrina at the end of the journey. His local knowledge of the lake, knowing exactly which tiny, almost non-existent light on the horizon to paddle towards in complete darkness, is impeccable.

James Ronaldson for the speed of his touch-typing and his willingness to blog on many occaisions. Occaisionally it seemed as though he thought he was being neglected when not called upon to blog. Thank you James.

To those who blogged about me: Sean Smith (www.fatpaddler.com), Lauren Smelcher (www.cosmopolitan.com.au), Marc Hendrik (www.dasmonk.com), Tess (www.funtessa.com)

And last but by no means least, to everyone who donated to The Puffin Paddle and untimately The Puffin Magic Foundation. Your support, no matter how large or how small, is greatly appreciated. The generosity shown by all of you is amazing and my gratitude to you runs deep.

Dec
25

From the mouth of Lake Alexandrina to the mouth of the Muray River. Stomach full, weather erratic, possiblities debated, mission ominous, minds open for anything. Wellington to Point Pomanda: 13 kms. Point Pomanda to Point Sturt: 26 kms. Point Sturt to Clayton: 13 kms Clayton to Mouth: 22 kms. Who knows, it could have been more, we did not b-line it on all occaisions due to lake depth, sharper and steeper waves, and paddling closer to the coast in order to have an ‘out’ if we encountered any serious trouble.

For about an hour and a half, maybe two, every wave was coming over the bow and seeping into each section of my vessel during the most hectic part of the lake crossing. All in all, and not trying to sound arrogant (I would not consider myself an experienced sea kayaker by any means) it was not as bad as I thought it would be, after hearing reports from many people since this journey began. Many said it would be dangerous, and to make sure one had checked the weather before an attempt (which obviously had been done) However, yes, it took its toll and sapped much energy from an elready energy depleted frame. One long slog, but more satisfying than most days since the 1st of November.

Upon reaching the mouth, I attempted to find the words to describe the feelings and emotions going through my mind. This turned out to be a major struggle as elation and jubilation took precedence and feelings of relief and satisfaction brought forth. We do not prepare for such situations. When would one know how to react to this. Either way, to say one was stoked is a massive understatement. Quick apology to the fisherman and other citizens who were enjoying their time on a glorious saturday afternoon at the mouth, who endured endless yelps from yours truly.

Dec
18

I assume that joke has already been declared by someone in the media world but I just came up with it then, and I think it is quite funny, if I do say so myself. Having not seen a newspaper or a TV since the beginning of his downfall, you must have faith in my denial of plagiarism.

Two nights ago in the town of Murray Bridge, I was given my first plug by a politician. As luck would have it, my arrival in town coincided with the annual christmas drinks and “nibblies” put on by the local and federal MPs. Before Adrian Pederick (Member for Hammond) presented his account of the happenings of 2009 I diverted his attention to let him know about my mission and possibility of making a two minute speech promoting my cause. He declined but said he would give me a minor plug, and then I could pass out flyers for sponsorship. I did so very reluctantly, not wanting to rain down on someone else’s gathering.

Why does the end have to be so difficult. Two days of 40-plus heat, followed by rain and 30 knots of wind the day after. Not to mention back spasms, kayaking “elbow” (if there is such a thing), buttox pain and a disheveled appearance deterring people as I resemble a cave man.  Then we come to Lake Alexandrina, the body of water which has claimed many of lives through its erratic weather. We sit and we wait for a weather window otherwise the list of its victims will surely grow. Months ago I heard it was 11 hours across in a kayak, however the pro I have been liaising with says its 26 kms from Point Pomanda to Point Sturt, which would take me 4 hours in flat water with no wind. There is a high pressure system moving in and may have to wait until Sunday but hopefully that is not the case.

It surely is sad and depressing, the state of the river past lock one. Many “For Sale” signs and banks falling away signal the state of play as we know it. Worse catastrophes have occurred worldwide in our time, and many of those were unavoidable, but this has happened because of mismanagement and state power. (let alone many other influences which would take hours to list here.) I hope and pray for the water levels to be replenished by better allocation.

76 kms to go, I think. The level of aych two owe (agua) has meant that an extra 20 kms of paddling is in store. No big deal, especially after 2200 kms, or thereabouts. Mundoo Channel as we know it, is no longer a channel hence, around Hindmarsh Island I will paddle.

This is far from being my last blog but would like to take this time to say thank you to all who have read these posts, and hopefully you have not been too confused by my prose. It has been most pleasurable to give everyone a little insight into my life of the last 6 weeks. Thanks again, and keep watching this space to discover what happens next!!

Dec
15

173 kms to go.

The mercury reached 42 degrees today and the constant splashing of water onto my rash vest and board shorts kept me cool. Even still, the heat was next to unbearable. However slight tail winds helped me greatly. It was the best of both worlds weatherwise, crazy heat but breezes in the right direction.

Upon reaching 66 kms on the odometer I heard the voices of an elderly couple calling to me from the bank. I figured they were up on their balcony and scanned the foreshore to see where they were situated. Instead of being out of the water they were frolicking in the liquid during the late afternoon sun. Very kindly, after I had inquired about camping downstream, they invited me to camp on their freshly mowed lawn. While erecting my tent, they exited the water and immediately their naked bodies raised my eyebrows. Definitely a standing sight, seeing a 65 year old couple in their birthday suits!!

Dec
14

South Australia is houseboat heaven. Surely they must be in the Top Five holidays destinations for the people of this state. From the small one room fits all with a tiny balcony, to the modern three-story mansion on floats, there is something to suit everyone.

Today I passed through the final lock, Lock 1. Albeit small, the amount of fish jumping I noticed today was greater than anywhere else along the river. Every couple of minutes, one would break the surface. However, hardly any fishermen hunted these underwater creatures.

Water skiing boats are highly common in these parts which is surprising as the wind is stronger here. I assume this is because the river is wider and straighter, and it is closer to the coast. School holidays began on Friday last so maybe that has something to do with the influx of ski boats.

The last two nights I have set up camp on private property after receiving permission from the owners. Unlike Victoria this state is all private property along the banks and thus, areas to set up my tent are not common.

As I write this, there is a mosquito in my tent and he is harassing my ears.  Hopefully I will have the patience to find him and kill him before I lay my head to rest.

Dec
13

Ladies and gents,

Having been slack on the blog of late, looking for inspiration about something to transcend from my mind into your brains which is going to entertain. Well, I actually do not have much for you today. The days do become a little repetitive after 52 moons.

I have spoken with a fellow in Adelaide who is going to help me paddle across Lake Alexandrina which is the large lake you must pass before you reach the mouth. He sounds like a lovely man and I am looking forward to meeting him face to face. The last lock master had intense intentions to warn me of the dangers of the lake, using many profanities to emphasise his point. “If you cross that lake you better be (insert profanity here) careful, because it is (insert profanity here) dangerous.” He then went on to tell me that many kayakers that have passed through his lock have proclaimed they were paddling to the mouth only to hear later they had passed away through bad weather judgement. Why must this be the most difficult and dangerous part of the journey? After 2000 kms it seems as though the nature gods have said that you may only reach the mouth if you cross me first, and I am going to clench you in my teeth first, shake you around like a rag doll, and spit you the other side.

Thankyou to Mr Richard Parris who travelled from the other side of the country to spend a few days of quality time with an old mate. Great to have a familiar face on the river with me however a bit sad he could not get hold of a kayak to paddle with. Either way, it surely has spurred me on to keep up the momentum and push on through.

Till next time, or next blog one might say.

Dec
10

The end is drawing near. Is this a good or a bad thing?  Most people would think: …… finally, I have nearly finished, I cant wait to return to a normal life.  Me, well yes, it will be nice to have home cooked meals, a warm and soft bed, people to talk to all around, and a solid roof over my head.  But, this lifestyle appeals to me greatly and it will be sad to see it go.  Bonding with and marinating in the flavours of the Murray River and Mother Nature in the last 6 weeks has taught me many things and opened many doors within me.  A deeper appreciation for comforts and learning to take less and less for granted are 2 impacts that spring to mind.

As of 4 o’clock this afternoon, there were exactly 500km to go.  Initial elation upon realisation but then it hit home that this beautiful journey, this pilgrimage is almost over.  I hope and pray that my offspring and their offspring will be able to enjoy the fruits on offer along this mighty river.  It is the lifeblood of so many, the home of recreation for others, and a place of tranquility for all.

Swimming.  Water-skiing.  Fishing.  Revealing.  Yabbying.  Wakeboarding. Houseboat Cruising.  Kayaking.  Bathing.  Chilling.  Fresh-water crayfishing.  Rowing.  Paddle Steaming.  Eco-touring.  Camping.

Whatever your past time, the key is to leave the river as you found it,E so others enjoy may enjoy its splendour in the future.

Dec
09

The sightings of animals not yet visualised so far has been a massive boost. Baby swans (swanlings you might say, can anybody help me here?) divert their course and paddle their little lungs out when they see a five metre, bright yellow kayak steaming directly towards them. Two days ago i captured some amazing footage of two yellow-beaked spoonbills which were using their aptly named bills to forage for what I thought were yabbies or shrimp.

Emus buffed up the intensity of bank searching, they paraded well in their large coats (of arms…get it?). Rapidly, the canon digital made its way from the waterproof case into my hands, ready for footage. Immediately these two beasts decided that I the puffin paddle dvd was not worthy of their recording and shifted off and out of sight.

An intimate experience with a 5 foot monitor lizard used up all my free time for lunch. When I say used, I do not mean it in a bad way. Quite the opposite, and I am of a more accute nature since the event. I exited the kayak on the bank, went to start thinking about food, heard it and looked round to see it clawing its way up the nearest red gum. A few happy snaps, and then eating was on the agenda. As I chilled to digest with a book in tow, it came down and licked my bowl and foraged in amongst my belongings for food. It would have become my dinner if it had stolen any of my sweets, its skin would make a lovely new belt for my shrinking frame. Sorry, no, just joshing with you folks. I have never thought to end the life of one of these somewhat pre-historic looking lizards. Soon enough, with the cunning abilities of a shark, it circled me three times before scampering off into the bushes.

There are rats living in the Murray. They make me feel squirmy and please do not ask why. The answer eludes me. Any species from the rodent family has always made my stomach turn.

Dec
08

Paddling along all day by yourself, with no-one to talk to, the sounds and lyrics of Curtis Mayfield filling the void, one has much to think about. The patterns and designs of thoughts, images and anecdotes going through ones mind is wide and varied. Lately, further adventure tours have flooded the cranium, and I must say, there is so many possibilities, yet so little time.

Currently there is a German lady called Freya Hoffmeister who is kayaking around Australia. Previously, she has paddled around Iceland and New Zealand’s south island. As I write, two old school friends are coming to the end of a massive journey, cycling from Alaska to Chile. Just a few weeks ago I met a fellow who was cycling around Australia. Who could forget Karl Bushby, who is walking from the southern tip of South America to England. 36000 miles in 14 years, unassisted by any means of transport. What about Shaq and Al, who are running hundreds of miles across Moroccan desert. There are so many more and hugely different odysseys completed over the years and they would take too long to mention.

So, the mind wanders and to cycle around South America is taking precedence over other possible feats at the moment. The spanish lingo skills would obviously be at their best after such a trip. Let alone the ability to succeed in tough situations, to avoid coming out second best when faced with a sticky situation.

The Amazon, The Nile, The Atlantic, The Antarctic, Siberia, The Andes, The Pacific, The Rockies, The Sahara. The Murray seems like small fry does it not? I have never been one to take away from personal achievements, let alone my own and, yes,  it has been hard going at times. Yet, I believe this could be the first of many more adventures in a lifetime of essence.

The nature gods have struck their curse upon me. The leader of leisure looks down and declares that I must attempt more and subsequently gain more. We never know what is in store around the bend,  (bends in the Murray are very numerous and I cannot wait to reach Morgan whereby it heads mostly south) excuse the pun.

Dec
08

Eat you heart out Mr Bowie.

The locks at the back of my neck have turned blonde, unlike the rest of my head of hair which is covered all day by a wide-brimmed hat. The fingers have become short and stumpy. The legs resembling those of a chicken these days, although they are used when paddling, yet still loosing bulk. 5 kilos down since departure, i think. That measurement was taken about 10 days ago so not sure on the current weight. The beard is the big one, coming along nicely, detracting insects and sun but ensuring the face is hotter. And sweatier. Forearms and biceps bigger than ever before. Shoulders and buttox bonier than ever imagined. Finger tan line from gloves that reach only to the first knuckle. How good. Pterygiums on inside of eyes flaring up, moving in, but not a problem due in large part to the sunglasses donated by Oakley. Bottoms of heels red raw even though booties have been a saving grace. Skin on palms of hands slowly being removed, turning red also. The fingerprints are almost smoothed out, would be a good time to get arrested as they would not be able to identify you. Cuticles growing, moons disappearing. The inside of my thighs copping lots of sun too, therefore they are the most tanned area of my body. Small beer belly close to removed, six pack non existent yet. And, i think that is about it.