Saturday, April 29, 2006

Nymboida River - Easter

I’ve recently been in email contact with another female paddler, Steff, up in Brisbane and so when I couldn’t get a Melbourne crew together for a trip up to the Nymboida River over Easter it was time to meet some new people. Steff paddles with the Uni of Qld crew and so does Paulie, a raft guide I'd met when he was working at Penrith over summer. So the Wednesday night before Easter I was on a plane out of chilly Melbourne to some warmer weather.

Steff and Simon picked me up from the airport and on Easter Friday the crew as headed south to the Nymboida national park in northern NSW. The Nymbo has several sections, we were planning to paddle from Platypus flat down to the Junction starting on the Saturday
but on the Friday a small group of us ran the first part of the section, from Platypus down to Cod Hole where there is car access again.

Paul and Simon had done the stretch before but for Will, Dan, Marj and myself it was all new. The section starts off with a few smaller grade three boulder gardens and warms up with a larger drop or two before the first major rapid Lucifer’s Leap which is affectionately known as Lucy’s. After a quick scout no-one was convinced so we made the call to walk it, the next major rapid was Rock Bar and it was just round the corner. Here we caught up the group in front of us and while they were getting their raft organised we quickly ran the rapid without incident.

Devil’s I appeared soon enough and the whole group walked as the consequence of stuffing up is ending up in Devil’s Cauldron, a rock walled bowl with undercut walls where you could quite conceivably disappear.

Devil’s II proved to be no problem as Marj missed the eddy above it and ran it blind without a problem. We paddled into the takeout through the mist which although beautiful was making it hard to see in the dusk.

The next day was the same stretch again this time with some more inexperienced paddlers and a raft. We also had more time up our sleeves so we got the cameras out. With more time to scout Lucy’s we decided it was good to go and sent Paulie off as probe. Dan ran it next with me close behind and then Will joined us in the eddy to share the elation.

With the video camera on I didn’t paddle Rock Bar quite so well but a quick roll in the bubbles at the bottom and a quick ferry out from the undercut wall ended well. The rest of the run was fun with the beginner-types portaging the harder stuff and we made it to camp just on dusk again. Hours of car shuttling ensured some cars at Monday’s take out and the next morning the raft was packed with overnight gear and we were off into a new section.

An interesting boulder garden left us in a short pool above a nice 2m drop known as waterfall. One of the first to run it, I nailed the boof on the left line and landed nicely in the eddy. I quickly jumped out of my boat and positioned myself on a rock directly down stream of the drop ready with a rope for anyone unfortunate enough to get caned in the hole. I didn’t have to wait long, Steff in her new play boat was about a foot off line and pencilled into the stickiest part of the hole which swallowed her whole so that disappeared out of sight for a few moments before resurfacing in a nice back-loop into a cartwheel which lead into a nice beating for about 10 seconds before she pulled the plug and swam. My rope hit its target and she was soon out of the water.

After a small boulder garden Duncan said he needed to empty his boat as there seemed to be water leaking in, in fact his boat was half full of water and we discovered a large crack below the seat in the old creeker. So it was time for lunch while the boat dried and was patched with sleeping mat foam and gaffer tape.

The rapids eased off somewhat until the S-bend an innocuous looking rapid which curved around true to its name. It was here that perhaps the scariest moment of the trip occurred. Fiona, one of the less experience paddlers, came down and got caught and a swirly whirly eddy line of the eddy I was sitting in. She had trouble rolling and swam only to get sucked down out of sight before I could reach her. For several seconds I sat there scanning the water until she bobbed up and I paddled straight towards only for her to pulled down again straight under my boat. The rope being thrown was useless as she kept getting sucked under before it hit her. Finally she bobbed up in front of me and grabbed my boat, unfortunately the rope caught me at the same time and pulled me in and when I rolled up she was still upstream of me. But at that moment, ignorant to the drama unfolding, the raft came down and Fiona was hauled into safety by the paddlers in the raft.

The next drama unfolded at a small rapid where the river was forced into a narrow channel by high rock walls. The rapid itself posed to problem, I ran it first and positioned myself in a little rock cave in the eddy below. Simon convinced Will that a seal launch entry off the 3m high rock wall directly opposite me was a good idea. As Simon pushed Will off, Dan and I had a great view, once Will had landed Dan started yelling "your boat, there's a hole in your boat". I though he was joking until I saw the nose of Will's kayak gaping open like a shark's jaw with splintered plastic around the hole. Luckily Will was already wanting to get a new boat before the trip and gaffer tape and sleeping mat foam (Simon's sleeping mat was rapidly shrinking) kept the boat afloat for the rest of the trip.

With the beginners moving slowly and people watching and taking photos at every rapid, not to mention the raft getting stuck on rocks I realised we were pushing for time. We tried to get the group moving fast but near the end of the day we came to a rapid with huge boulders and no clear path through. We all had to portage as the water in the river was weaving under and round the boulders creating sieves, with no path wide enough or safe enough for kayaks.

By the top of the next rapid it was getting hard to see other paddlers, we were very close to the campsite but we realised that we were never going make it down this last rapid before dark. A flat spot of rocks provided an emergency campsite, by the time we all got off the water it was totally dark. No one slept particularly well on our rocky campsite next to the river and I woke everyone up at 6am the next morning to ensure we got off the river in good time.

The last day on the river the rapids flattened out a bit. One large one was a Chute, a long rockslide with not much to it except to try and stay upright at the end which most of us failed to do. Unfortunately Simon hit his head on a rock and bled a fair bit but he was ok to continue.
The river continued to flatten out and the rapids became wider and easier until we finally reached out take out in the early afternoon.

Friday, April 28, 2006


I love the surf, especially when it’s big. In fact, I’m a bit of a mess & grumpy bum if I haven’t had at least a fortnightly dose of the surf. There’s nothing like a huge ride on a big clean reef break. You can’t help but be in awe of the immense power of the ocean. You feel a wave crashing on your back and hold on as it accelerates you forward like a bullet, out of the whitewash leaving your boat skipping down the face, spinning and spinning along the green, .meters in front of the crashing white wall of water. The wave quickly catches up engulfing you once more in the crashing whitewater, when once again you feel the thump on your back as you’re launched forward. This time the speed is not so great and you’re able to muster an essence of control. It’s time to try for a big aerial move, the boys have been pulling them off so it can’t be that hard, you just need a bit of commitment to the move. As you fly forward, you’re ready for the for the bounce, it’s all about timing and you manage to thrust your boat forward, pushing the boat down hard, with a slight angle towards your front left hand edge at the right moment.. You feel the boat rising up, becoming airborne as the water releases you. It’s now all up to being committed to the move now, as you fly upwards you need to separate the upper and lower halves of your body. Using your legs, hips, knees, thighs, you push your nose down a bit (still airborne) and using body rotation and a big airborne hip flick your boat seems to effortlessly rotate, and you come back to the water, now facing backwards with a satisfying ‘boof’’, heard as your boat’s hull slaps the water.

This is an artists representation of my first aerial blunt, it wasn’t exactly quite like that, I think it was more like, oh I’m airborne, what if I stick my paddle in and spin on it whilst airborne, sheesh, that felt really cool. I might do that again. Then being told it wasn’t vertical enough, and after trying over and over again, it finally clicked, becoming more like an airborne cartwheel rather than an airborne flat spin......

For many people, the surf is a place to take your kayaks when no rivers are running, but for me there’s nothing like catching a big wave and bouncing into some clean air. Plus it’s so much closer to home. Especially being in the later stages of a PhD, I can’t afford to take that many full weekends off anymore. Flinders is only an hour away and has a fantastic reef brake often coming up with big, gentle, bouncy waves. I don’t have to get up too early, have a great 2-3 hr surf, emerge exhausted with a radient glow (preferably not from sunburn) and still be home by four in the afternoon, ready for a well earned nap before dinner.

Loki Chicks on the web

So I decided it's time the girls have somewhere to share our paddling adventures and photos. Not quite sure how it happened, but these days there always seems to be one of us off on overseas paddling missions or multiday wilderness trips here in oz. At the moment Kat's boofing off waterfalls in Canada, Kyles' has just been to the travel doc to get jabs for places like PNG and Sth America, Smel's off to places like Japan and some big wave in France and oh yeah... did I mention we're going to Uganda for some huge warm water boating. So here goes - let's try and make this the place for Loki Chicks to update on their latest epics.