Two Men in a Boat?

The Nymboida/Mann River system is truly one of Oz’s finest freshwater wilderness fishing and canoeing destinations. We made an early start on our canoe journey. Lee had put everything ready down by the river – a two man Canadian canoe, two paddles, dry bag, life jackets etc. It’s about a 6 hour journey so you need plenty of stuff with you. Everything looked idyllic. Two kilometres, two rapids, two capsizes, dry bag flooded (we hadn’t done it up properly) and things didn’t look so idyllic. The crew i.e. Lynne jumped ship, not surprisingly, and walked back to camp.

Paddling a 15 foot Canadian canoe on your own isn’t so easy but I (Alan) wanted to have a go. Rapids came and went frequently and I managed to stay upright most of the time. The river and scenery was superb with high granite strewn heavily wooded gorges. There were freshwater turtles, eagles soaring above and cattle drinking at the waters edge and the chicadas in the trees were almost deafening at times. All this and the water was warm too. The first few hours were enjoyable, stopping just occasionally for a rest and to bale my little boat out – it did have a small hole in it. I was really starting to enjoy the runs down the rapids now and after about four hours I reached Mulligans rapid. It’s the biggest of the lot and I stopped short to have a look at it. One of the things we really like about Australia is its remoteness and wilderness areas such as this and the ability to make your own decisions in an unregulated environment. One look at Mulligans and I made my decision! There’s no way on God’s earth that I’m going down that on my own in a canoe. There was no way round it. The canoe was too heavy for one person to carry and there’s no way back so the decision was easy. The canoe was going down Mulligans but not with me in it. I got close to the edge, took out the two paddles, secured everything else and launched the canoe over the edge. It quickly disappeared round a bend in the steep gorge in a mass of foaming white water. I climbed up over the rocks and looked down in the gorge to see the canoe half submerged and wedged between two rocks in the narrow channel. Retrieving it is a long story but in the end the half submerged canoe with me hanging on to it floated out of the other end of the gorge.

Things weren’t the same after Mulligans. It seemed to have drained me and the next two hours were heavy going. The food we’d brought had been swamped in the dry bag and the heat of the day gave way to a huge thunder storm which didn’t help matters. My tiredness meant that the canoe often ended up going down rapids sideways resulting in more spills and then having to drag it to the edge of the river to tip the water out. After six hours I was mighty pleased to see Cangai Bridge – my pick up point and Lynne and Lee waiting for me (and I think Lynne was pretty pleased to see me!).

A hot shower, a rest and a few beers later everything was good again and Lee and his neighbour Chris set up in the camp kitchen and played guitars and sang.

It’s probably not the best idea to go canoeing in these conditions on your own when you’re a novice (and 22kms is a hell of a long way) but for two fit people what a great days adventure. Lee also runs 3 and 5 day canoeing adventures with pick up and drop off facilities and he will do escorted tours as well. There also 3 day wilderness walks with camping spots along the way. So, if you’re looking for adventure in a fabulous wilderness area head for Jackadgery and the Mann River Campsite. And who wouldn’t like to stay in a place with such a lovely name.

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