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North East River Trip 2004

The North East River Trip for 2004 was billed as the best of Victoria's rivers and it turned out to be a veritable paddling odyssey. In nine days we paddled eight river sections and you can't do much better than that. Even more important was the opportunity to avoid the last week of the Federal election campaign!

Day one and we rendezvoused in the car park above the King River. I have never seen the river as low but the sun was shining and we had a week off work. Val and Anthony with children, Simone and Claire and new tent had come for a week's paddling. Geoff had driven down from Newcastle and Paul, Rod and I made up the crew. Anthony looked after the girls as the rest of us took to our boats. Although the river was low there were waves to surf that I'd never seen before. The sunshine also makes it pleasant for the 'lunchtime spectators' at Cappuccino rapid. After the King we drove on to Bright and watched Anthony demonstrate how to set up a new tent. After the entertainment we headed off to the Cosy Kangaroo for tea and particularly their famous sticky toffee pudding.

Day two and up and down to the Buckland River for the morning's paddle. Val was once again the chosen paddler while Anthony with Claire and Simone under control took up position at the first and main rapid. This rapid is always a bit of a messy drop and this time had a very large log across a large part of the bottom drop. Paul went down first and we could see his paddle flying as the support strokes and rolls were performed. He finally ended up upright. Geoff headed off to show how it was done but was upside down before he went over the main drop. He washed under the log and back out before the roll finally succeeded. I managed to miss the log but needed a very big support to successfully negotiate the rapid. Val and Rod decided that portage was the sensible course. After the fun of the Buckland it was back to Bright for lunch at the bakery and then the Ovens River for the afternoon. Anthony made the paddling team and we enjoyed some good surfing waves and some fun, particularly in the second gorge. Then it was up and away again and off to Mitta Mitta for the night.

Day three and Snowy Creek beckoned. Rod dropped Paul, Geoff, Anthony and me at the Walnuts camping ground and we had a very pleasant time paddling down to the caravan park at Mitta Mitta. The weir behind the pub was our only hold up. A couple of years previously I'd had a nasty swim in the weir so there was no way I was going to paddle it. This was pointed out to Paul but being the sort of person who has to touch the fire before accepting that it is hot, he paddled off towards the far shute. The rest of us were out of our boats so weren't in a position to mount a rescue as we saw his boat being trashed in the weir. Finally he was spat out and we watched his boat floating off down the Snowy with Paul using his paddle in a desperate attempt to catch it before it reached the swift waters of the Mitta Mitta River. Fortunately for Paul the boat ended up in an eddy just before the confluence with the Mitta Mitta. It was then off to the Eskdale Pub to try the range of pub food in the area. Looks like we'll need further research before we find a really good pub in the area.

Day four and technically a bit of a lay day/driving day to Corryong. But water was being released down the Mitta Mitta at a reasonable rate so we couldn't pass up the opportunity of surfing the 'wave' and paddling Sharks Tooth rapid. Val & Anthony decided to make a slow trip to Corryong with the girls while Rod, Geoff, Paul and I headed up to the regulating dam at Dartmouth. Imagine our surprise when a power plant construction site barred our way to the put in spot. Geoff, with construction site experience and the right shirt managed to talk the foreman into letting us get in a bit down the river. Rod elected to take the photos from the vantage point above the wave. The wave was steeper and a bit harder to surf so after Paul went for a swim we decided to head down to Sharks Tooth. Shark's Tooth was a great ride as always and worth the paddle. Finally it was back in the car and off to Corryong for baby rabbit viewing and a petanque competition.

Day five and Swampy Plain River and yet another sunny day. The view of the snow-capped mountains from the get in point was just fantastic. We'd convinced Rod that he should enjoy the pleasures of the Swampy Plain at least once and even after a few 'experiences' I think he still enjoyed it. The Swampy is such a beautiful river with large boulders and crystal clear water. Driving back from the Swampy we set up the car shuffle for the Indi River the next day. A long day but better than doing the shuffle the next day.

Day six and the highlight of the trip, the famous Indi River. Rod dropped Paul, Geoff, Anthony and I off and the start. After a short chat with the rafting guides we set off. The river was on the low side but still paddleable. We warmed up on the early rapids and then set up for some good photos at the first main rapid, South African Swim. Paul and I enjoyed the ride down. Anthony obviously thought we had gone down the boring way because he promptly capsized above the main drop, rolled back up but ended up too far left and managed to weave his way through some narrow shutes to paddle again. Geoff captured the action on his camera and then showed Anthony how it should be done. The Indi is such a great trip. Lots of maneuvering down rapids and then a final big drop. Paul got trashed in one drop (bottom of the Hole in the Head rapid) and swam. The rest of us went a different way. What else is a crash test dummy for? This was the only day that was a bit cold and drizzly and it was nice to reach the car and dry clothes. The boys also warmed up by changing a tyre on Geoff's car (left at the end). Back to camp for pizza and alcohol. It doesn't get much better than this!

Day seven and a non-paddling day. A lazy morning was spent visiting the grave of the Man from Snowy River and tested the famous bee stings at the Corryong bakery. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Geoff as driving back from Omeo was just going to be too far. We then headed over to Omeo. We stayed with a friend of Val & Anthony's at Cassillis and enjoyed his hospitality and a barbeque. Ben Jessen was so keen to paddle he drove all the way up from Melbourne to join us for the Mitta Mitta.

Day eight, the Federal election and fortunately a better activity than voting, paddling the Mitta Mitta gorge in the sunshine. I haven't paddled the gorge section since the fires and the difference was dramatic. There was little vegetation along the river and it is amazing how rocky the slopes are and how visible the rivers are from the road. It was a bit like paddling through a desert. We met up with some rafters along the way but generally had the river to ourselves. Ben excelled and really enjoyed the paddling. Finally Hinnomunjie Bridge came into sight and it was back to the Omeo pub for tea and election news.

Day nine and our last paddle section. We had Val back in the crew and with Ben, Paul and I, we paddled the upper Mitta Mitta (Big River) river section. Finally we pulled into the get out spot and ate the rest of our food. During the trip Paul had been trying out his new paddling outfit. He had a fancy GORE-TEX dry top, a pair of waterproof pants with ankle seals and a blue undersuit that looked like kid's bunny suit. After every paddle we had to gauge his wetness level and after every paddle he was still damp. There were theories about which layer should go where but nothing seemed to work. Finally for this paddle Paul lent me his waterproof pants to try. It was the first time in my whole paddling career that I have been completely 100% dry at the end of a paddle!

All in all it was a great trip, great company, beautiful weather and some fun paddling. Certainly a paddling odyssey of Victorian rivers. Who knows where we will be paddling next year?

Alison Boyes