Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kayaking on Kangaroo River

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to join my friends Kim and Peter on a kayaking trip on the Kangaroo River.

We hired the Kayaks from the Camping Ground in the centre of the village. Mike fitted us with life jackets, and then put the Kayaks on the trailer to take us down to the river, just above the historic Hampden Bridge at the Kangaroo River crossing.

This Google Earth image shows the Moss Vale Road crossing the Kangaroo River at the top right corner of the image. That is where the Hampden Bridge is. At the left, where the Bendeela Road meets the River, that's where our rendezvous point was.
We were told to go down the river until we came to the Bendeela Camping Ground, go to the second beach past the main Camping Ground (but not to go as far as the Bendeela Pumping Station). I made a joke about not trusting myself to go there, because I would want to spray paint it with graffiti, like "Don't pump the water to Sydney - leave it in the Shoalhaven River". My comment drew an appreciative nod, which is hardly surprising, in Kangaroo Valley where the locals are very politicised about Sydney and Shoalhaven water issues. Of course, I am not a graffitist. I do my campaigning on a more direct basis.

Back to the kayaking ... Mike made allowances for us to take two and a half hours, on the river, but in fact we did not need as long as that.

The Kangaroo River was quite low- about 9 inches (approx 240mm) below the normal level, judging by the normal "high water " marks on the rocks. This soon became an issue for us, especially me, as I was grounding on the rocky base of the river very soon after we started off.

Once we passed under the old bridge, we moved out into clear, deep water, and started to drift along, enjoying hearing many birds, and seeing lots of Water Dragons on the rocks and logs in the river. One even swam straight past all of us, so close we could have touched it.

Brush Cuckoos, Fantailed Cuckoos and Black-faced Monarchs (a.k.a. "B-f Flycatchers") were common.

Then we came to more shallows and even a few "rapids". Bearing in mind that our group (especially me) were relatively inexperienced Kayakers (as were the German tourist also on the water with us), any kind of rocky obstructions in the river bed will be classed as "rapids". Sure enough, after negotiating the hardest part of this particular "rapids", I missed avoiding the last two rocks, and got my Kayak caught sideways against these two rocks, and the inevitable happened - I tipped in sideways. Fortunately the water was not deep, and not too fast, so I could stand up safely, and while I hung on to my Kayak, I lost the paddle. Other members of the group retrieved it for me.

Oh, well I figured I had fulfilled my social function on the trip - of being the "Bunny".

Peter noted what I had managed to keep my trademark blue terry-towelling hat dry! I was glad I had not brought my camera with me - or I would not be laughing.

Further down the river, it broadened out, and we saw more birds - White-faced Herons, Black Ducks, Wood Ducks (Maned Ducks a.k.a. Maned Geese.) We also heard many Koels, a few Kookaburras and saw many Dollar Birds, perching right at the tops of River Sheoaks. One (only) Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo flew straight along the river above us, squealing all the way.

Finally, just before we left the Kangaroo River, I saw the one bird I really wanted to see - an Azure Kingfisher. To top off my viewing experience, the bird flew to a low branch, then dived into the water, caught a small fish, and flew back up again. This is the classic Azure Kingfisher experience. Unfortunately Kim missed out on seeing it, even though we doubled back to try to spot the bird again.

For everybody's benefit I will post a link to of Tyto Tony's blog image of exactly such a sighting.

After seeing my iconic bird, I was happy to drift down to our rendezvous point, and wait for Mike to take us back home. A perfect way to spend a holiday morning.

Of course, being in Kangaroo Valley, we finished off with lunch at one of the many cafes there.

A thunderhead was building, and it drifted up the Upper Kangaroo River Valley, and dumped heavy rain on Robertson in the afternoon, for about 30 minutes. Officially we only got 9mm, but I think it might have been more than that, at my place.

Post Script:
I would never wish to camp at the Bendeela Camping Ground, if the patrons who were there yesterday were typical of the clientele. The rest of the trip was wonderful, but I could do without Bendeela Camping Ground.



mick said...

That sounds like a perfect morning! Lots of birds and a peaceful river to travel on - or relatively peaceful except for the mishap with the kayak! Next time you need either a waterproof camera or a good waterproof bag for yours.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick

My need for a waterproof camera is rather slight. A "good water proof bag" sounds like an option, though. But I would need to know that it really was waterproof before I risked the Nikon.

These were "general purpose" Kayaks - flat bottomed, and wide at the top. Fine for mugs like me, but I am sure your Kayak would put these to shame.


mick said...

Hi again, Denis, I just have to answer a misconception - my kayak is certainly not a racing or touring type. It is a 'sit-on-top, type with a nice length and shape so it goes at reasonable speed. I wanted one that I could easily step on and off - and also one I could not easily tip over! But all this is far from the really pro types!
I use a "Pelican" case for my camera. It is sealed with an "o" ring and definitely waterproof. Some folks also use these for just carrying their gear around since they are also dust-proof. The camera comes out WHEN I am stable!

Denis Wilson said...

Wow. I didn't know they made "sit on" kayaks.
Thanks for the description of the "pelican" bag. Sounds like a suitable After-Christmas pressie for myself.
Thanks very much.

Jarrett said...

Your hair-raising adventure in the famously treacherous rapids of the Kangaroo should earn you all honours in the pantheon of courageous blokes. To help feed global beliefs about how fearless Aussie men are, I will be sure direct international readers to this post.


Cheers, Jarrett

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Jarrett.
I did refer to "rapids", complete with quote marks.
I am sure no serious white water specialists would be impressed with my adventures. But then again, it shows my versatility, being able to tip the kayak in relatively quiet water.