A Desert paddle

It was a cold night; a freezing cold night. I peered out but it was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The clouds cleared and the Milky Way made an appearance in the night sky. With no lights and the moon not rising until 2am it was a stunning display in the desert night sky. I thought of getting up and trying a night sky photo but quickly dismissed that idea.

The morning light woke us and illuminated the houses of Beltana, a small town in northern South Australia. The town is Heritage listed and the buildings have been restored by the residents and we had been camping near the Community Hall.

Another beautiful morning in Beltana. There are many houses now restored and occupied.

This is a land of contrasts with red earth plains and rugged ranges. When it does rain here it has a huge impact not only greening the landscape but also scouring the water courses with flash floods. Old railway bridges still survive as they were built high above the river bed.

Red dirt roads leading to the Ranges
Disused railway bridges high above the creek

We had come to paddle the Aroona Dam, a body of water that was originally built to supply the mining town of Leigh Creek. A rocky vehicle track leads to the dam wall and spillway which has seen overflows in recent weeks.

You need to portage to get to the launch spot down an interesting track, rocky, narrow and washed away in parts from recent flood inflows but we managed, picking our way down to the water.

Once on the water we enjoyed the company of various water birds including a variety of ducks and a lone pelican.

This one was far from home. Probably following the creeks towards Lake Eyre which is also filling with water.

We had been trying to photograph the native Tortoises that are abundant in the dam. They would pop up their head next to us then disappear at lightning speed. These slippery little suckers were going to be a challenge to add to our photographic collection. (Later we walked along a nearby ridge and saw tortoises sunning on the surface but the camera was in the car)

A number of Wallabies watched us from vantage points along the shoreline seemingly unperturbed by the kayak and camera. This is an area inhabited by Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies and we saw some on our drive in, but none around the dam.

The rock formations are stunning, even more so at water level. Here’s a few photos that hopefully give you an idea of the rugged beauty of this desert waterway.

Robyn always manages to get in the photo
Looking towards the dam wall
Steep rock faces are a feature of the area

We spent a morning paddling, drifting, watching the wildlife and enjoying the sun. We hope you get out and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and maybe the freezing desert nights.

Ian and Robyn

Michael versus the Mighty Murray River

Michael Steele, one of our long time paddling partners has always talked about paddling the Murray River. At 2508km it’s Australia’s longest river and flows through 3 Australian states.

It’s been done hundreds, if not thousands of times, in all sorts of craft, from paddle steamers and row boats to canoes and kayaks. Some people have even swum the distance, but Michael is looking for a record performance.

He’s not worried about the fastest time, oldest paddler or any such nonsense. He’s trying to set a meaningful record for someone his age, by recording the most number of Lawn Bowls games played, whilst paddling the River Murray in a kayak. Michael is an avid lawn bowler and intends to “have a roll” on every bowling green he sees.

I have seen photos of Michael climbing a glacier, paddling oceans, walking the Kokoda Track and climbing mountains so Lawn Bowls shouldn’t be a problem.

A kayak, a Lawn Bowler, the mighty Murray River; what could possibly go wrong ?

Lattitude Meridian kayak

I had the loan of the Meridian 15 and 16 thermoformed kayaks from Lattitude Kayaks for the last month or so. These are a recreational range of touring kayaks designed for rivers, lakes and calm coastal waters. A number of paddlers in our group have tried them in a range of conditions and had a great time.

Luckily they did’nt get scratched, even going down the Penrith White Water course !!!

A well made thermoformed plastic kayak that fits nicely into the recreational area. I have been paddling the 15 model a number of times on coastal paddles, and would be happy to take on any river or lake expedition. Seem very good value for money as they are similarly price to the heavier plastic rotomoulded models.

Might have to think about one of these for a 2 week paddling trip I’m planning on the River Murray. Not sure if he will lend me a kayak again after they see the video.

Check out our video to see what we got up to.