Mother’s Day Paddle

It’s Mother’s Day today in Australia. A day honoring the “Mother of the family” and a day that is celebrated in over 40 countries. Generally it’s flowers and chocolates or maybe a special lunch for Mother but in my case Robyn had requested a quiet paddle somewhere.

We’ve been travelling in places that haven’t seen water for a while, riding Fatbikes in a desert landscape and if you missed the photos they are here. Having headed more towards the coast we saw a small lake on the map and Mr Google told us it was a fresh water lake suitable for swimming and boating.

A perfect place for a quiet if short-ish paddle on Green Lake and with a camp site on the banks it really was perfect. We drove into the heart of the Wimmera District chatting excitedly about the opportunity for a paddle. What about a swim as well I thought. It might be chilly but that would really wash off the desert dust and there’s nothing better than a bracing dip.

We pulled into Green Lake and found a great campsite right on the sandy bank.

Sandy banks and a great view

There were ancient but serviceable picnic tables and facilities so nothing else to want for.

NIce place for lunch

But it seems that one thing was missing on this perfect Mother’s Day. Yep you guessed it: WATER. Green Lake has been dry for the last 18 years.

Dry as a bone

We chatted with a couple of locals and legend has it that there used to be a tree in the middle of the lake which was a bit of a nuisance to the water skiing fraternity so some bright spark decided to pull it out. Sort of like pulling out the bath plug I think as it broke the lakes’ base layer and all the water disappeared down the plug hole.

Maybe this is the remains of the tree

Now we sit here looking at the old water level gauge and wonder what it was like when local families camped here on Mother’s Days past and the place was alive with sounds of play. Now it’s just us and the only sound is that of a Kookaburra laughing in a nearby tree and a crow calling in the distance.

A reminder of what once was

And on a brighter note there is talk that the locals have raised enough money to reseal the lake and it will return to its’ former glory sometime in the future.

Have a great Mother’s Day.

Anzac Day. A day to remember.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping …
Having paddled with a number of veterans and those currently serving in recent years, I  have a great respect for the sacrifices that have been made in the past.
However, as this next piece shows, it was not always a day that I remembered.

“I know that voice”
It was 4 am on a Sunday morning and I could hardly hear the alarm for the beating of the rain on our little cottages’ roof. The wind howled through the trees outside as I clobbered the alarm and fell back into a half sleep.

The last couple of weeks had been poor weather with weak cold fronts constantly passing through South Australia bringing drizzly cool days, and today was no exception with showers expected for most of the day.

I realised that Gavin and Michael would be here soon and contemplated just a few more minutes in bed. I thought they know that I am always late, but then Gavin is always early so I slowly dragged myself from the warm bed.

The mountain of gear stacked neatly in the hallway needed only the last minute additions of fully charged camera batteries and such like, which I dutifully attended to, crossing off each item off my list. All ready to go, just as I heard Gavin’s car pull up out the front. Gavin bowled in, looking just like someone who is always awake before five, which of course he is, followed by Michael who hasn’t seen this time of darkness since our last trip.

The gear was loaded and I found that Michael has claimed the backseat for the trip and I had the duty of riding in the front with Gavin, ensuring that he was awake during the drive. How anyone can stay awake listening to ABC Radio at that time of the morning is beyond me, but duty called.

Sombre music, then marching bands: hell what was this stuff he was listening to? We passed along the foggy highway out of Adelaide to the tunes of the 127 th District marching band or some such mob, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to take eight hours of this.

Passing through Tailem Bend I realised what was happening. It was Anzac Day.

There was a group of 200 or so people gathered at the park, with many spilling onto the roadway, forcing us to crawl past. I remembered back to my only time of being at an Anzac Day dawn service, when I must have been about 10 years old. I vividly remember the service being held in a local park in Parkside where I grew up, but can’t remember who I went with, or what happened afterwards. Just the short service and the music.

Sunday morning on ABC radio is Macca in the morning. I listened to the introductions and then vagued out while staring at the unchanging landscape of the mallee country. Macca had people ringing in to recount their views and memories of Anzac day.

As I rolled along in the front seat, listening to Michael’s snoring in the back I heard a woman’s voice saying that she had just come from a dawn service held with her husband and only one other person. It was a Tasmanian accent, quite distinctive but pleasant to listen to. Sounded in her late 40s or thereabouts, well spoken and confident. I didn’t hear where she was from, assumed Tasmania, but she was talking about their dawn service held on the top of a hill at the site where four RAAF flyers had died in a crash near the end of the war. They had been on a training run or similar and had engine problems resulting in the crash. The bodies had been buried elsewhere but there was still the scattered remains of plane where a small memorial was erected. She spoke of the isolated area that they from, describing the wallabies on the hill and sea views from her kitchen window. Sounded like a great place to me…

Then off we headed. Victoria to Tasmania by sea kayak.

Gavin, Michael and I stood at the base of the cliff, on the tiny windswept beach, looking up at the zig zag track that leads to the lighthouse keeper’s cottage. We had had a long hard day, crossing from Hogan Island to Deal Island, with lightning greeting us just before our dawn departure. The wind was OK before dawn but talking by phone to the duty forecaster in Tasmania I knew that we had only a few hours to get off the island or be there for some time.

The winds had risen later in the morning as we sailed and paddled our way to Deal Island in the Kent Group. Rising wind and rising seas had made for a rough ride, with worse on the way. We paddled strongly knowing that the sanctuary was only a couple of hours away, however the front grew closer with steadily increasing force. Rising seas and wind from the rear quarter made for interesting times. We eventually made shelter in the lee of Erith Island with a 40kn headwind screaming towards us as the main front hit.
The paddle along the Murray Passage was demanding with the wind coming head on between the Islands, as Michael powered past us determined to land first. Maybe he was just glad to be near a safe haven after having suffered two capsizes whilst sailing that morning, or maybe the lure of a cup of tea and Mars bars had scrambled his brain. He is a legend in the world of chocolate bars, carrying large packets of Mars Bars and the like when we go paddling. Still, you can’t complain when he insists on sharing them out after paddling, but I still think that anyone who calls them carrots is still a little unusual.

We set off fully equipped for the climb up the Deal Island path with extra supplies of Mars Bars and Snickers stuffed in our pockets. Half way up the path we paused briefly to admire the view and call in to our families. The surprise of the caretaker was evident when we strolled up to the cottage, certainly not expecting paddlers in this weather, but as always we were invited in for tea and scones.

It was unsafe to proceed to the campsite and hut on Erith Island so we were able to bed down in the spare cottage on Deal. We had the opportunity of a hot shower and a real bed and that was not to be knocked back. A quick shower and change of clothes and up to the caretaker’s for high tea.

We entered the cosy warm cottage and met our hosts Dallas and Shirley. They are caretakers on the island for three months at a time, with this being their second time here.

Bloody hell, I know that voice!, the soft but distinct  accent coming from the kitchen sounded familiar, but I didn’t recognise the face. Shirley plied us with scones with jam and cream and tea, while I thought about where I knew her from.

When talking to Dallas about the awful weather heading our way it came to me. Have you been on the radio lately? “Yes, twice on the ABC talking about Deal Island”. Did you have an Anzac dawn service here? “Yes just three of us, up near where the plane crash site”. It was her, the voice on the radio that cold rainy Anzac morning. Strange things seem to happen when you go paddling.

We were marooned on Deal Island for eight days waiting for the weather to moderate. The winds stayed at around 60 kn for most of that time with huge seas battering the island group. We did wallaby musters, helped other blow-ins and had many other adventures in those eight days and many more on that 19 day crossing of Bass Strait.

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Now every Anzac Day not only do I remember those who fought in our wars but I think of that lonely crash site on that lonely little island.
Ian Pope

Another Desperate Friday

The Autumn weather has arrived and we had expectations of a nice swell rolling up the coast with light winds giving almost glassy conditions for our Friday Surf Kayak paddle. Before dawn the wind was perfect with just a puff from the north, but as the first rays crept over the hills we knew Surf Kayaking wasn’t to be. The swell from the last couple of days had dropped; in fact it had disappeared almost completely.

NO waves this morning…..photo by SurfsouthOz surf report

It was some consolation that we enjoyed a great surf session on Wednesday, and that we could paddle our Sea Kayaks out to our local bommie for a bit of fun today.

Standing on the cliff we were greeted by a gently lapping sea but further out the tide was right for a few waves exploding over the bommie. Yep; it has some quite shallow spots were the reef is only 20cm or so below the surface and the trick is to avoid finding those rocks, especially with the sea kayak bow or your head.

The edge of the bommie was quite sedate while we waited for a larger set of waves.

Scouting around the edge of the bommie. It looks pretty sedate here.

We made a number of runs through to the outside of the bommie and managed to grab a few good rides as the waves pitched up over the shallows. A couple of rather desperate support strokes saved the day as the kayaks ploughed under on the steep waves and then bobbed up again only to be buried again by the white water.

As the tide flooded over the bommie we played in a place where 2 waves meet causing an explosion of water and some seriously powerful turbulence.

Ian decided to punch into the spot where the two waves meet and was greeted with some success although he did end up flying backwards and was buried by the foaming wave. (He said he was in control all the time but the expression on his face said otherwise….Steve)

Flying backwards as the strength of this old guy just wasn’t enough to get him through…photo Steve King

Then he was buried by the foam pile. Can you spot the hat and the piece of red kayak ?

Can you spot the grey hat in the middle of the photo ?. Yep that’s Ian. The rear of the kayak is on the far left….photo Steve King

It certainly wasn’t a wasted 2 hours on the water. Lots of support strokes, frantic back surfs, buried bows and two wet but happy paddlers. Steve not only managed to get some great photos whilst staying upright but was the only one to “kiss the reef” with his kayak.

Like to join us ? You’re welcome to come along as we always need more ‘crash test paddlers”.

Cheers Ian and Steve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desperate Friday

It’s Good Friday, first day of the Easter holidays. I wake with the dawn and peer outside to be greeted by a slight drizzle and heavy overcast skies. The forecast is for clearing weather after the last couple of days of SW winds. I’m hoping there will be a better surf today as I’m really getting DESPERATE to get wet.

I check the surf forecast which is not great, but it’s not bad either; sort of 1- 2 foot and lumpy, and being an optimist I believe it will get better. A quick text to paddler “Shorebreak Steve”, another optimist and we set up a surf paddle on the local coast.

Standing on the cliffs, the light rain has now stopped but the overcast skies remain. There is indeed a swell pushing in but the winds have left it lumpy and confused. How desperate are we ?…VERY DESPERATE. So playboats off the car, on with gear and down the track to the beach.

We had been hoping for some good waves so practice a few “Ocean Playboating” moves but more likely today will be a bit of fitness training.
We do manage to catch a few small waves in the lumpy conditions

Ian gets on a smallish wave

At least it’s good practice

Steve manages a few good rides for the morning.

It’s a little crowded at times with both of trying to make the most of each wave

Steve decides to “get out the way”

Small but sort of clean waves as the wind and tide drop

Of course you have to keep your eye on the sloppy waves otherwise you might just get a little wetter than expected

Steve is capsized by a small wave he didn’t see coming

Yep. That was refreshing !!

Yes. We are DESPERATE for a good clean surf but it seems it will have to wait until another day.

HAVE A GREAT EASTER HOLIDAY

Some Days are Diamonds

Some Days are Diamonds ! The night was hot with the north winds of Summer blowing from the inland deserts of Southern Australia but they had abated when the alarm clock kicked me out of bed an hour ago. There is a stillness to the morning with no movement to disturb the left over heat from yesterday. The moon has long gone and it’s dark as I plod down the beach ramp pulling my “My Sun” sea kayak on it trolley.  I can see a ribbon of white at the waters edge and know that the shorebreak will be manageable this morning, at least until the tide starts it’s race inwards.

Out of the darkness appears Steve who already has his kayak on the beach and is geared up and ready to go. I swear this guy doesn’t sleep. We quickly gear up and launch as the sky brightens with the first rays of sun still over the horizon. We are on our way on another “Diamond Day” and will see the sunrise from the water.

The sun peeks over the hills and burns away the wispy clouds of night and brings with it a light breeze that is just enough to ripple the clear water.

The “Diamond Moment” of Sunrise…photo Steve King

We wander our way along the coast, first visiting our favourite reef areas and then heading further along the coast, enjoying the views towards the southern cliff lines.

Changing colours in the cliffs as the sun rises

As predicted the wind has increased a little in the last hour and there is now a definite chop on the water as we head back home catching a few runners on the way. We easily negotiate our way through the dumping shorebreak and slide up on the beach, all smiles.

Another “Diamond Day” has begun and we have enjoyed it from a magnificent vantage point.

But sometimes that “Diamond Day” can lose it’s sparkle, leaving you with severe case of sandy bum.  The shorebreak can be savage at times and the sea kayak sometimes has a mind of it’s own.

You pick up a wave out the back which immediately doubles in size and peaks menacingly over your head. You throw yourself into a brace as it slams down with a deafening boom. Then it all goes all watery as you are spat out, rolled and rocketed towards the shore in knee deep sand filled water. Well at least you’re back on shore; upside down in a few inches of water maybe, but still you made it.

Hold your breath and brace…..photo Robyn Pope

The Shorebreak …photo Gavin Lodge

Autumn is here and that’s the perfect time for early morning paddles with a friend. March has calmer winds and you just add another layer of clothing before heading out and of course there’s never a shorebreak in Autumn. If you’re looking for an early morning paddle then Steve’s the man in Adelaide.

Hope to see you on the water.
Ian Pope (with thanks to Steve King for dragging me out of bed)