Brewarrina News November 2020 | Page 17

days . I completed the 170 km Louth and Tilpa section in 7 days and it included another two weirs that required portaging . When I arrived at Tilpa it just happened to be lunchtime so I ordered lunch at the Hotel . After three weeks of muesli bars and dehydrated food the burger did not last long on the plate ! Upon leaving the village of Tilpa , where I had picked up a 10 day food parcel for the 272 km paddle to Wilcannia , I was feeling a bit apprehensive . I did not expect to see another human for most of those 10 days and it would be the longest stretch of paddling that I had ever done before . Long distance paddling journeys are as much a psychological challenge as a physical challenge . The enormity of the journey can get to you . The day after leaving Tilpa , Wilcannia seemed a long way away . What made it worse was the thought that Wilcannia is then only halfway down the Darling . Would I be sick of paddling the Darling by then ? However , these thoughts did not last very long . Over the course of the next day or two there was a brilliant sunrise , I camped near a magnificent canoe tree and I saw a good variety of birdlife from sea eagles to the ever present black-fronted dotterel . I was especially excited to see flocks of budgies . They were difficult to see but their chatter brightened the day . On the fifth day I reached the Coach and Horses Campground in the Paroo-Darling National Park there where other campers and good mobile phone reception gave me a connection to the outside world just in time for Fathers Day . Ever since Brewarrina feral goats were very common apart from the notable exception of the Paroo-Darling National Park . Some
feral pigs were observed over the first four weeks but not in great numbers . The weather started to warm up with several days in the low thirties . My usual routine was to start paddling by 8 am and keep going more or less continuously until I found a campsite between 1-2 pm . On warm days it was most desirable to find a beach that faced east so that the trees on the bank behind me would cast shade onto my tent during the afternoon . I would then have a relaxing afternoon - sometimes even having an afternoon nap . Two days before arriving at Wilcannia I passed the Paroo River junction . The Paroo looks like a dry creek bed but it must be a very old river considering the depth of the channel . It ’ s another hot day when I arrive at Warrawong just upstream of Wilcannia . I had to carry my gear a few hundred metres to the room I ’ m staying in . It takes me several trips in the hottest part of the day - a process that leaves me dehydrated . I completed the section from Tilpa in eight days instead of nine so I elected to have an extra rest day at Warrawong . Wilcannia , 850 km downstream of Brewarrina , marks the halfway point of my journey down the Darling . It once was the third busiest port in NSW but now is a town that struggles to survive . There are many historic buildings in town , a cultural centre is due to be built and with it ' s indigenous culture I can see a bright future in tourism . The mobile coffee trailer was certainly doing good business and the wildflowers around town were beautiful . The six days that it took me to travel the 198 km from Wilcannia to Nelia Gaari Station could be broken down into two halves . This first was characterised by great sandy beaches for camping and the second was that water was backed for 200 km up by Lake Wetherell near Menindee making for a deeper , wider river with no sandy beaches . I still was able to find some great campsites although on one occasion I had to settle for a site with too much slope for a good night ' s sleep and there was a dead goat in the water just metres away . Fortunately it did not smell . Another highlight of the whole trip is the reflections that I usually saw in the first hour of paddling . Arthur Upfield , who had travelled down the Darling in a row boat and went on to write the Bony series of novels , captures it perfectly with his description of the Darling as “ marked by the avenue of stately and ancient regums nearly two thousand miles in length ” 1 .
I had another rest day at Nelia Gaari enjoying the wonderful hospitality by Greg and Lily , especially welcome after not having seen anyone for five days . Greg and Lily supplement their income by operating a farm-stay where campers can come and camp along the river with facilities such as toilets and showers