25 February, 2013

Over it, under it, round it, through it!

Phew! Rocks, fallen trees, ants, spiders, nettles, birds of prey, a fox, blue green algae and a snake...today, was one of those days.
I knew early on that sacrifices would have to be made: there were about four things I wanted to do and they just weren't all going to fit!
In the end, I decided to forgo the opportunity to stroll across the final section of the Geelong Ring Road (and, as it turned out, possibly get my mug on TV with the Prime Minister) and regretfully turned down the offer of an afternoon of champagne and foot massage. What was I thinking?!
Well, what I was thinking was that it was great weather for a paddle, there were still bits of the Barwon I hadn't seen and that it was reasonably early which should allow me to sneak in the fourth option once I'd satisfied my curiosity about the stretch of river between the Pollocksford and Merrawarp Road Bridges.

Mid-stream above the Pollocksford Bridge
Well, that was the plan...
The reality as it turned out, was somewhat different. That stretch of the river is about 10.5km long (approximately 6.5km if you take the direct route) - a distance I have covered comfortably before. I had considered that the river was narrower and that there might be rocks this far upstream from the weirs. I had thought that there might be some fallen trees obstructing the river and that our recent lack of rain and lower water levels might not help. I had considered that there may be some portage required to overcome these obstacles and that it may take longer than anticipated to reach our destination as a result.
Rocks, trees, reeds...
As it happens, I was correct on all counts and within a few minutes of hitting the water we got our first taste of what the next six hours would hold. Around the first bend we hit a patch of shallow (pointy) rocks. Out we got, dragged them through and on we went.
Then there were trees. Not just branches, but whole trees which had to be either circumnavigated, climbed over, floated across or limboed under - all of which we did at various times.
Well we certainly weren't going over that!
At one point, we even came across a little weir which meant yet another exit from the "yaks".
A small weir across the Barwon
And so it continued. We would pass one obstruction, paddle a few metres downstream and then decide how to deal with the next obstacle. Despite growing frustration from some quarters, I wasn't too fazed and had time to take my shots as I waited for the straggler. The river valley along this length is deeper than in the lower reaches and reminded me in places more of the Leigh and Moorabool Rivers where the banks are cut away and the channel is narrow.
Sandy soil and steep banks
As we progressed further downstream the basalt gave way to sand which was considerably easier on the feet and ankles as we hauled the kayaks over whatever obstacle presented itself.

Negotiating the ghosts of trees past

...and more rocks...and more branches...
Aside from the landscape, the bird life was generally similar to other parts of the river with the exception of quite a number of raptors circling overhead. I'm not an expert so identification was difficult as they were rather shy, mostly being very quick to take to the air the moment they saw us coming. One Whistling Kite however, was not so concerned and was as keen to examine us as I was to watch him.

A rather warm Whistling Kite
 I have seen Whistling Kites over Lake Connewarre before, but not this far upstream. I also spotted a Brown Goshawk and whilst I couldn't identify various others, they may have been Brown Falcons or perhaps more kites.
At one point as we paused mid-stream - fortunately - to negotiate yet more branches, I spotted another denizen of river environment - a thirsty tiger snake.
I didn't realise until I looked at the photos that we were being
rather closely observed too...
 This particular specimen was quite sizable. I couldn't see either end to judge its length, however based on circumference it was big. It was also quite pale in comparison to other specimens I've seen closer to Geelong. I took my shots and we carefully paddled past. As we did so, I could see it watching me. At this point it decided perhaps that a drink - or even a swim - could wait until later, turned around and disappeared back up the bank into the tangled lignum.
By comparison, the rest of the trip was pleasantly uneventful. A few kilometres upstream from Merrawarp Road, the river deepened and widened out, the fallen trees became more navigable and we made easier progress towards our destination. Eventually, some six and a quarter hours later, we made it to the bridge where the support crew were waiting (some more patiently than others) to take us home.
By this time, it was nearing 5pm and that other activity I had hoped to get to was long finished. Unfortunately a blog post on the Shelford Duck Race will just have to wait until next year.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like quite a pioneering adventure - you were navigating through seemingly untraversable territory, it seems. Great pics.