Bushwalking on Water
Kayaking the mighty Murray River
The following is an account of a kayaking trip done by my hiking friend, kayaker and intrepid traveller, Bernhard Weitkuhn…. a 49 day expedition down Australia’s Murray River from the Snowy Mountains to the Southern Ocean. This was an impressive feat of endurance…. solo and unsupported.
Maroochy River Estuary Trip
Once a week I head out in my sea kayak for a paddle with two mates, those crusty old sea dogs Paul and Don. One of our favourite haunts is the Maroochy River Estuary, where the placid waters of the Maroochy meet the rollers from the Pacific Ocean. I never tire of paddling this estuary, with its clean blue waters, sandy beaches, rolling breakers sweeping up the estuary, sightings of sea birds like pied oyster catchers and flocks of little black cormorants fishing in concert. Near the river mouth is an uninhabited sand island covered with mangroves. Originally there were two islands, Goat and Channel but now there is only one large island, a conservation reserve. Goat Island got its name, unsurprisingly, from the goats that grazed on it, but floods in 1916 put an end to the goats. Right in the river mouth is Pinchusion Island, currently connected to the north shore.
The first European to cross the bar was Tom Petrie in 1862, in a longboat crewed by aborigines. Crossing the bar has always been a dodgy operation as many sea kayakers and recreational boaters have found to their dismay. Tom Petrie and his crew managed to cross the bar coming in, shipping only a little water. But on another occasion when he tried to leave the river, the ocean was too rough and the breakers on the bar too dangerous. He waited a week and then attempted the bar crossing. The first breaker caught the long boat broadside on and broke the rudder. Petrie rigged up a steering oar and finally rowed out into the Pacific Ocean. A good account of Petrie’s travels in the Maroochy can be found in Constance Campbell Petrie’s: Tom Petrie’s Reminiscences of Early Queensland.
The name Maroochy or Marutji derives from the aboriginal name for the red beak on black swans. Below is a map of our oft taken course and a gallery of photos taken on a typical summer’s day.
The Upper Noosa River Trip
In early May five Sunshine Coast bushwalkers took to the water; swapping packs for paddles, Leki poles for lifejackets and snakes for sharks. We set out on a four day kayaking trip in the upper Noosa River. My kayaking guidebook, Andrew Gregory’s “Kayaking around Australia” describes the Noosa River as a “paddler’s paradise…black water under a canopy of paperbarks”.