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Albury to Howlong - January 2007
A day before the Albury to Howlong leg I went to a 50th birthday party. It was a great party and useful because I met a colleague who offered to look after my car in Albury while I was on the river. This was a good start but on the morning of the launch I ricked my back. Logic suggested I should abort the trip as recently my back had locked up with painful spasms. To have this happen at some remote spot on the river was a concern. However I had told so many people about the trip it was difficult to return to Sydney with nothing to report! I decided to press on.
I loaded the gear onto the board on the banks of the river at Noreuil Park, not far from the Hovell tree. The big launch at 1 pm on January 8th 2007 was a leap of faith - once I'd pushed off there was no way I could paddle against the current to return. This launching site, like all others, was a point of no return!
All went well - I had a wonderful ride down the river with the aid of a strong current of about 4 kms/hour. 5 kms west of Albury I passed the Wonga Wetlands which includes a model of a traditional Wiradjuri Aboriginal campsite. This provides opportunities to learn about the cultural heritage of the traditional owners.
As the sun was setting I started looking for a suitable campsite on the banks of the river. I wanted to camp near other people - if my back seized up overnight it would be handy to be able to call for help. I came across an evening picnic- it looked very posh with lots of people and tables with tablecloths overlooking the river. I paddled up and asked if I could camp nearby. The answer was "I know the owner and he would say no. Would you like a sandwich?" I paddled a little further down the river and rolled out my swag. A man and 2 boys stopped in their boat to talk to me. They had a little hut and a car within sight of my campsite. They were friendly and I felt sure that if I needed help in the morning they would provide it. I snuggled into my sleeping bag under the stars with a sense of security. This evaporated at about 11 pm as I heard the man and boys drive off, just as the picnic noises in the distance changed into the sound of cars driving away! I was left on my own.
In the morning I opened my eyes gingerly to see many pairs of eyes staring back at me - I was surrounded by a mob of curious cattle. The cattle couldn't work out if they should be scared of me or if I should be scared of them. My sleeping bag felt like a straight jacket. It was a stand off. Eventually they got bored and wandered off. My back was fine.
It turned into a very hot day. The coolest place was on or in the river, so I kept paddling and covered a record 33 Kms. Navigation was easy - there were a few decisions to be made when the river split but when in doubt I let the current take me. I camped at a very pleasant spot - a Forests Commission reserve which had rough hewn wooden tables and bench seats. This was a luxury compared to eating and map reading on the ground. There was another man camping there - Gavin. He took me to see the nest of an azure kingfisher in the bank of a nearby creek. He also pointed at some other birds and told me they were white chuffs. I was not convinced - they looked a dark shade of black to me. I've since looked them up. He was right - they are called white winged choughs - the white shows in their wings when they fly.
The next day was an easy and enjoyable 12 Km trip to Howlong. As usual my floating circus attracted attention and I had several interesting conversations with fishermen on the way to the Memorial Park picnic grounds and boat ramp. I caught a bus back to Albury to retrieve my car. The bus driver provided great service and interesting information about the local river and the upper reaches near the Snowy Mountains.
Details: 2196 Kms to the Murray Mouth (Albury) to 2128 Kms (Howlong)