MacRod:   Windsurfing on the Murray
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Trip Report

SA Downhill Run
Murray Bridge to Wellington - March 2008

After saying goodbye to the South Australian Land Crew (Bob and Sue Warren) I spent an interesting hour or so in the Swan Reach Museum. Graham Barlow, the Secretary, showed me around and answered my questions. As well as holding many exhibits a variety of local historical books are available for purchase.

I drove on towards Mannum, checking out the river towns and landings. I found Kroehns Landing, Walkers Flat, Bow Hill and the wonderfully named Nildottie. I looked for the Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park cliff walk without being able to find it - next time I'll try again! At Purnong I spoke to a man cleaning up the riverside reserve after the weekend visitors. "Nice place" I commented. "It is when no-one's here" he replied. I wondered how he knew. I resisted the opportunity to ask him if a tree falls in a forrest and no-one sees it how do we know if it makes a sound.

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At Mannum I called in on the Visitor Information Centre. Alison was very interested in the venture and gave me heaps of information and suggestions. Next day I drove to Avoca Dell and chucked the board in aiming to cruise through Murray Bridge to reach Swanport. This plan worked so well I continued onto Bell's Landing - a beautiful little park on the river. By this time, after 11 kms I was ready for a long rest. Unfortunately there was no opportunity to hitch a ride from this park so in the absence of land crew I reluctantly pushed off towards White Sands where I was told there would be plenty of people and cars. I felt very pleased with myself as White Sands came in to view - a decent half day's work and 14 kms covered.

As promised there were plenty of people there. In fact it looked like a huge party. There was a speed boat on the river towing a wakeboarder. I did my best to keep out of the way as I paddled across the river to the White Sands beach. I had almost made it when I heard a siren and someone in a boat behind me yelling at me to pull over. I paddled even faster to the beach to be met by an upset Marine Rescue official. How was I to know that I had just paddled through the South Australian Wakeboard Titles competition? I took on board the advice I received and later revised the knowledge I had studied to obtain my South Australian boat licence, in an effort to avoid causing a problem again.

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I was lucky to get a ride back into Murray Bridge, and after trying unsuccessfully to hitch from there to the car at Avoca Dell I walked lugging my essential gear more than 5 kms in the heat to get back to the car. Oh for a land crew again! I rang Byron Scott, a friend in Adelaide who kindly offered to drive to the river to give me a hand in the coming day or two. I retrieved the board and drove on to the Westbrook Park Resort - one of my favourite spots on the river. It has grassy flat land for tents and caravans right on the edge of the river about 6 kms upstream from Tailem Bend.

Next morning I had a relaxing trip on the river from Westbrook to Tailem Bend, where I met up with the fourth Land Crew Legend, Byron. During lunch at the Riverside Hotel Byron convinced me to spend some more time on the river that day to reach Fred's Landing, which he had checked out earlier. The previous day had drained me somewhat but I succumbed to Byron's encouragement and completed this additional 3 or 4 kms. This turned out to be a good move as it put me within a day's striking distance of Wellington. Wellington is very close to the huge treacherous lakes and as far down the river as it is wise to go without a backup boat.

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Byron had commitments in Adelaide the following day so I struck out for Wellington on my own. I launched at Washpool Estate and paddled down the weeping willow lined river to Wellington. I secured the board to the ferry bell near the Wellington courthouse and went in search of a snack. The local cafe and fuel station met the need well. The ferry queue proved a good place to seek a ride back towards Tailem Bend to get the car. A couple from Nambour with a caravan offered me a ride and dropped me within a couple of kms of the car. A second ride with a lady delivering a window to Placid Estates got me back to the car.

I then drove to Fred's Landing and completed the Tailem Bend to Wellington leg by cruising down river to Washpool Estate. Getting back to the car was not as easy as in the morning. It was a hot walk from the river to the highway, and cars on the highway travelling at speed were naturally reluctant to stop to pick up a hot and sweaty hobo. Six kilometres later I reached the car.

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Byron was available to help with the final and difficult stretch in the Murray Bridge to Wellington leg - from White Sands to Westbrook Park Resort. It was particularly handy to have land crew assistance for this section as the launch site and the destination are on different sides of the river, with no bridge in the 9 kms between! Tail winds helped me complete this section in record time.

I was very pleased to have completed the Blanchetown to Swan Reach and Murray Bridge to Wellington sections in this trial trip to South Australia. The SA trip was both successful and enjoyable. I thrived on the company of the Land Crew Legends and was very grateful for their assistance.

The major finding of this 'wider river' travel was the need for a more satisfactory way to carry the mast and sail on the board when they are not being used.

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