About a fortnight out from
Easter, 15 people had said they wanted to come on the Barrington
canoe trip. . They gradually dropped out, with a injuries, sickness,
and in one case "we can't get it all together". The last to withdraw
had a car breakdown on the Thursday night, and so we 5 loaded our
gear and headed off at 8 on Good Friday- with the wistful ghosts of
the no-shows hovering about us.
We had been checking the river on the excellent NSW Water
Information page (http://waterinfo.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/sites_riis.epl),
and had been a bit concerned, as the height at Forbesdale on the
Barrington had been about 40 cm- a bit low for canoeing. We had the
wit to ring the Barrington Canoe Centre, and
found there had been a storm on Wednesday night.
BCC: It's a bit high-unless you are pretty
good. What are you paddling?David: We're not very good. Canadians.
BCC: You'll be swamped in the first 200 metres.
After this not very encouraging chat, we drove down on Friday, in
the hope that "quick Rise' would mean "Quick Fall. Still too high on
the Friday at about 80 cm, so we had a chicken try-out on the
nearby, very flat, Barnard River. We finished this 2-hour trip
feeling pretty cocky, having easily negotiated its (very small)
Previously, we had decided to camp at the end point- the free
campsite at Bretti. Well, so had everybody else, it seemed. That is,
everybody with a boom-box, or a large dog, or a chainsaw, or a
generator, or a trailbike- or all five. We came to a quick,
unanimous and almost unspoken decision, and headed back to watch the
river gauge at Forbesdale, hoping it had sunk below the 80 cm "limit
of paddling" height.
Good news. It had sunk to 77 cm. So we set up camp, drank a
little red wine, checked the gauge again, had dinner, drank a little
more red, checked the gauge- nearly fell in the river, and went to
bed quite happy and hopeful..
Better news in the morning. It was down to 70 cm. Still roaring
over the crossing, so we launched cautiously below the foam, and
swung into the rapidly moving current. Amazingly, we all stayed in
our boats, and very quickly ran a succession of grade 1 and easy 2
rapids to the bridge at Barrington. Highly chuffed, we pulled out,
and decided to brave the higher river sections.
Cheered by a last gauge reading of 67cm, we quickly set up the
car shuttle. Leaving Jim's car, we crammed drums, canoes, paddles
and 5 people into Joc's dual cab and drove over the Copeland Tops to
the concrete bridge near Rawdon Vale. The sight of the first 200
metres gave us pause- solid white water, grade 2s and 3s. We decided
that if we launched from the bridge we'd " be swamped in the first
200 metres" , so we faint-heartedly put in below the first run, and
down the still rapidly moving water.
Kath and I had a involuntary swim quite quickly- I still have a
faint yellow and purple bruise about 20 X 20 cm as a souvenir of
that first dip. Soon Jim, bravely leading the way in a wide-bodied
kayak, also had a refreshing dip. By the end of the afternoon, just
Joc and Kirra were dry and -not smug, just quietly confident.
We camped at the heaven that you find on good rivers- wide bank,
firewood, sheltered, beautiful. We chatted, ate dinner, tried a
little port, and turned in early.
Sunday gave us more swims, and more beautiful water. A few rapids
well run, and your confidence went up. Falling out meant try to
avoid bashing into rocks, hold onto your paddle, and somehow
manoeuvre a boat full of water into the shallows to drain it and try
again. Your confidence went down. However, once again the river
compensated for our bruises by giving us a heavenly campsite, and a
great night around the fire.
Monday, our last day, and to our well-concealed but very definite
glee, Kirra, then Joc and Kirra, also had little mid-rapid swims. We
nicely judged our last rapid, all paddling a beautiful line and
finishing in the boats, not the water. Pulling out at "The Steps" ,
we flagged down a lift . Jim and Joc did the car shuttle while
Kirra, Kathy and I dried out gear, and watched with great envy as
people ran the rapids here in very modern inflatable kayaks- very
forgiving, just right for our low paddling standard.
Soon Jim and Joc were back, and we regretfully loaded gear, shook
hands, and headed away from the world of whitewater and sudden
swims, back to the workaday, predictable, safe world of home.
But- if you ever fancy a trip to cleanse your soul, try logging
on to http://www.thesteps.com.au/ . Cheap accommodation , beautiful
setting, good instruction, and wonderful white water. And if you
want to buy Kathy, David, Kirra, Jock and Jim great Christmas
presents, we'll all have one of the inflatable kayaks advertised on
that page.............. David Lawrence