MENTAL HEALTH MONTH
Brewarrina was the break we needed . Speaking with locals and taking in the sights was high on our agenda . We felt new , revitalised , very different and ready to take on the next step which was 205km from Brewarrina to Bourke and paddling on the Darling River . Geoff and I decided to cut short our break in Bre by a day
to get back in the water to finish the job . We advised our Support Crew that we would be going over the weir near midday the following day .
The following day our gear was packed and we loaded up and headed off to our cast off point . Brewarrina Newspaper Editor , Lara Taylor asked us a number of questions about our journey and our careers and what it all meant to us . I do recall being asked by her , “ What does the River mean to you ?” I replied … Hope ! Hope and life ! We gave our views and feelings and it was great to see our Support Crew being quizzed as well . We loaded into our kayaks and began the next stage to Bourke . As we paddled passed the “ Boomerang ” a group of locals called out . Where are you off to ? We replied , Bourke ! Are you the boys who came from Walgett ? They asked . We replied Yes , we are . We heard you were coming , they said and they wished us good luck ! It was a great start to what would be a great section of the journey .
The river outside of Brewarrina started to open up . Very high banks lined with massive gum trees watching over us like guardians of our journey . Black Cockatoos followed us daily and the river was less twisted . Large straights started to overtake our river journey and we landed on some of the most beautiful white sand beaches to camp overnight and have lunch . At times we paddled through narrow section shaded by yet , more river gums and we passed some stunning grassy banks and thousands of wild goats . We paddled a steady 8 to 9 minute km and enjoyed the open space . Rocky sections appeared on the banks which shadowed us the entire way to Bourke . Crossing the Bogan River Junction was bliss and it was good to see a large volume of water entering the Barwon / Darling system at that point . We were now averaging 7 min kilometres , and were feeling the true power of
Paddling from the Darkness
the river . By now Geoff and I were joking about our “ Special Needs ” Support Crew who were sending us photos of roaring fires , camp oven dinners and adult beverages , whilst we enjoyed our 2 minute noodles and tuna , electrolyte water and protein meals . Day 3 came and our Support Crew showed up , once again , with sandwiches , coke and a full water resupply , then a few hours later sent us pictures of themselves at the Brewarrina RSL as we crawled into our tents for another night on the river bank .
Around the middle of the following day we paddled past the Culgoa Junction and were officially on the Darling River . For me it was a bucket list moment — an extraordinary feeling . Geoff and I were focused now on getting the job done . We had put the hard days behind us and we could see the finish line ! At the end of that day our Special Needs Support Crew radioed us to say they had a spot on the river and were cooking us a BBQ dinner . No sweeter words had been spoken for 2 weeks … A BBQ !! We saw Steve on the river bank and he helped us beach our kayak and unload our gear for the night . Greg informed us we were 16km from Bourke . I nearly cried . The emotion of the whole journey was starting to hit . We had done it ! That night we couldn ’ t sleep as the excitement of the journey and being so close to the finish actually hit home .
On the final morning we broke camp and loaded up . We took a break at the 8km mark , since we only had 16kms to go . I contacted Ian Cole and looked at our location on the sat map and thought we are closer than we think . We set off after our break and rounded a number of sweeping bends . Suddenly , up ahead , we saw the paddle vessel the “ Jandra ”. We were nearly there . I caught a glimpse of the top of the bridge at North Bourke and Geoff saw Ian Cole taking photographs as we approached the last bend on the Darling . Excitement was only part of the feeling . I paddled a little further down to take a picture of the bridge . Tears began to fall as I thought of the effort that had been put in and I hoped that our message about mental health was getting out there . Our Support Crew arrived with Bacon and Egg Rolls and cans of coke . These guys were like Angels , appearing when we needed support the most !
This trip has changed my life . It has showed me that you can do anything if you set your mind and body to the task . It has cleared the haze that was blocking me . The river did give me the hope that I needed and now I feel it has given me a second chance at a positive life .
- Wayne Cole
PAGE 13 BREWARRINA NEWS