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Trip Report

The Luxury of Land Crew!
Lake Mulwala - Bundalong to the Yarrawonga Weir - January 2008

This leg of the trip was somewhat daunting. Lake Mulwala is a beautiful stretch of water, much of which has been cleared for aquatic activities. However other parts are dotted with dead trees, low islands and narrow shallow snaggy waterways. The navigational challenges can be compounded by strong winds, with the potential of being blown onto a line of trees or reeds and not being able to do much about it.

Fortunately Fraser, my son, was keen to assist as the first land crew. This was wonderful as it provided opportunities to alter the plan on the go to fit in with weather conditions. Fraser immediately proved his worth by streamlining the board loading process to save time and effort.

The weather was still and hot when we arrived in Yarrawonga late in the afternoon of Wednesday January 9th. We launched the 'Trepid' and paddled a short distance from the Bank Street boat ramp to the bridge as a "shake down" cruise.

The next day was very hot with a stiff nor-easter. It was too windy to control the board when paddling and too strong for my windsurfing rig. Rather than doing nothing we picked a downwind stretch from the Yacht Club to the Bank Street boat ramp and took off! The wind held its direction and the board followed the path set by the wind. The distance was covered in record time. Later in the day the wind faded away. After a photo-shoot for the local paper a pleasant paddle covered the distance from Woodlands boat ramp to the Yacht Club. (The aim of the trip is to cover the distance from the Hume Weir to the Murray Mouth, but not necessarily in sequence.)

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The following morning we tackled one of the trickier sections of the trip - from the Bailey Street boat ramp in Bundalong, to the Majors Lane boat ramp. The plan was to sneak along the southern edge of the Lake, avoiding the middle of the lake if possible to reduce the risk if the wind should rise above manageable levels. I had met Chris in the Yarrawonga Newsagency over the photocopier - he gave me very useful tips on navigation and the wonderful bird life I could expect to see. He also threw in the possibility of encountering some black snakes. His advice proved to be spot on.

Shortly after launching I found a narrow waterway to the west of the river's course. It was covered in overhanging branches and hard to see. The charts indicated it might provide a shortcut and rejoin the river further downstream. I edged into the opening and followed the water, weaving around fallen trees and other snags. It was difficult to tell if the waterway would continue or be blocked by sandbars and trees. I pushed on until I reached a dead end of sand and reeds. I secured the board and walked, checking for an alternative path to join the main body of water, which I could now see. Before long I found a tiny creek and rode and dragged the board along it, lifting it over logs and lying flat on the board at times to 'limbo' under low branches. After more excitement dragging the board over 30 metres of sandbars I was relieved to re-entered deeper water and eventually paddled to the south side of the lake, with waterside houses and jetties and the Goughs Lane rendezvous point with Fraser.

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There is no lock at Yarrawonga, so to maintain the integrity of the trip I carried the board 500 metres or so from the bank above the weir, along the road, over the railway line, over the Victorian irrigation canal, through the Yarrawonga Holiday Park to the public boat ramp below the weir. This ramp is the starting point for the Red Cross Murray River Marathon and will be the starting point for the next leg of my trip.

We woke up to wonderful weather on Saturday and took advantage of it to almost complete this leg of the trip. After following the river a kilometer or so from the Goughs Lane launch site the unpredictable navigation began. I veered off the river to paddle along spectacular quiet backwaters with unknown connections and endpoints. The scenery was magnificent with majestic dead trees rising out of the water and reeds lining the banks. The water, air and trees were adorned with pelicans, royal spoonbills, murray magpies, Ibis, black swans, moorhens, sulphur crested cockatoos, ducks and several other bird species - all sharing the tranquility with me. With the aid of the charts and a little luck I joined Majors Creek (as planned!) and used the 'Bourke Street Canal' as another shortcut to emerge back into the river proper and reach the Majors Lane boat ramp and Fraser. A short rest then I pushed on to Boomahnoomoonah (pronounced Boomahnoomoonah!) Road boat ramp. The goal for the day was the Woodlands boat ramp which eventually appeared on the horizon after several 'false dawns'. At this point the car also decided it needed a rest and refused to start. Calling the RACV scared it into action. It reluctantly took us back to base, tired but happy.

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Those of you who have been paying attention will realise that by now the entire leg (Bundalong to the Weir) has been covered with the exception of the distance between the bridge and the weir (about 500 metres). This was covered with the minimum of fuss on Sunday morning, before returning to Sydney.

The Yarrawonga Chronicle took an interest in the little venture, and published a piece with a photo. This has been valuable publicity to attract more donations for aboriginal health.

Details: 2018 km mark (Bundalong) to 1988 (Yarrawonga Weir).

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