Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009 Kayaking Season

Date: 28/12/09
River: Hurunui River, North Canterbury, New Zealand.
River Conditions: 52 cumecs at Mandamus. Water clear, cold and swift. Grade 2 (3).
Weather Conditions: Sunny and warm, with occasional NE winds gusts.
Number on Trip: 7 people (5 doing Maori Gully).
Time on River: 2.5 Hours.
Comment: I’d been looking forward to getting out in my kayak again, especially on some white water, as kayaking in my part of Queensland isn’t exactly thrilling with largely no water. After a bit of confusion at the meeting point over times, boats were loaded on cars and we were soon on our way. Once out of Christchurch, the sky cleared and it was a beautiful day. We put in at Jollie Brook and had a bit of a “refresher” paddle as a number of us hadn’t been doing as much paddling as we’d like. It was nice to see a family group with their collection of old school kayaks and an inflatable, out enjoying the river too.

Off down the river catching eddies and surfing holes, ducked behind one rock and flipped, no swimming this time as my “practice” roll worked perfectly on the second try but this boosted my confidence for the rest of the trip. It was good to be on the river again and the others felt the same way. There were a few nerves as we approached Devil’s Fang Falls (now regard as the hardest rapid on the river), we had looked at it from the road, discussed various lines but it was still a bit daunting once on the river. Graeme decided to walk the rapid, while the rest of us ran it without much drama, just a few rolls at the bottom. Susie was pleased to have run it for the first time despite feeling apprehensive at the top.

Colin and I ducked into the old Eddy of Doom whilst everyone else paddled past on the right hand side, even Chris M (we hassled him about that later). Not much drama getting out again, but at the 50 cumecs it meant coming quite close to the face of the bluff. Hugh and Graeme got out at Seawards and the rest of us continued on through Maori Gully. Had a brief play on the Magic Roundabout, checked in to the Grandstand Eddy and then down the drop, missed the bottom eddy on the last major rapid after taking a line down the left hand side so no surfing (or getting caned) on the hole at the bottom. Down to the Pop Up spot for a little bit of vertical action, then off to the get out and the big climb up the hill.

Stopped off at the Hawarden Tavern for a cider and then back to overcast, grey Christchurch. Another great day out on the Hurunui thanks to Graeme W, who organised the trip, and Colin H, Hugh C, who leaked the details on Facebook.


Date: 3/11/09, 5/11/09, 6/11/09, 7/12/09 & 8/12/09
River:
Grosvenor Creek, Near Moranbah, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water clear & flat.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny & warm.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
Approximately 1 hour each outing.
Comments:
This spot is up stream from where I used to paddle and the water is deeper and clearer than the down stream section. There is about 500m of flat water paddle on the bottom section seems to be a popular swimming hole for the local kids. The first day I went down for a paddle, I noticed a few plastic bottles etc floating in the river and decided I should do a little clean up. So about 3 hours later I was off to the Moranbah landfill with 8 full rubbish bags. Two days later, I was back and had another nice paddle and picked up another load of rubbish, a lot of which was fresh. I also noticed a number of small (probably poisonous) snakes swimming around in the river and so decided to take extra, special care retrieving bottles from the grass at the rivers edge (where the snakes tended to be). The next day I repeated the process though there was only a little rubbish this time. The last couple of times I just paddled and ignored the limited amount of rubbish.

20091227 Grosvenor_Creek

One of the more scenic spots in Moranbah, complete with year round water. Let’s all keep it tidy then!


Date: 25/10/09
River:
Hurunui River, North Canterbury, New Zealand.
River Conditions:
50 cumecs at Mandamus. Water clear, cold and swift. Grade 2 (3).
Weather Conditions:
Sunny but cool, with NE winds gusts.
Number on Trip:
5 people.
Time on River:
4 Hours.
Comments:
This was my first white water trip in New Zealand in a while, I’d been trying to get a trip arranged for a while now but wasn’t having much luck getting one off the ground. The weekend I was home was a long weekend but I wasn’t able to spare a couple of days for an away trip, so I decided to organise my own trip up to the Hurunui. I put a general call out via Bob Spam but with bad weather looming and a lot of people planning to be out of town, the response was less than stellar. Still with a couple of days to go and an improving weather forecast, we had enough for a good day out.

We met up at the Belfast Tavern and admired the new fences and asphalt of the car park and hope this didn’t mean that they’d changed they policy on non-patrons leaving their cars there. We decided to run the Hurunui from Jollie Brook down to Seawards and then for anyone keen, a run through Maori Gully. It was a beautiful sunny day but I was feeling pretty nervous on the drive up, worried that I’d forgotten how to paddle. At Seawards we changed in to our paddling gear, stacked all 5 boats on the roof of Colin’s’ car and all squeezed in for the drive up to the put in.

Once on the water the initial worries dissipated as I practiced ferry glides, surfing and breaking in and out of eddies. it seemed like I still remembered how to paddle. After a bit of practice around Jollie Brook, we headed down stream, cutting in behind rocks and surfing waves as we made our way down. At the first rapid I caught the eddy above the big rock and then broke out to have a surf, caught the tail and flipped upside down, botched my roll and washed up against the bluff. Not feeling too happy to be underwater and unable to roll, I pulled my deck and swam. The water was cold but I was soon on the opposite bank emptying the water out of my kayak. I guess that’s what happens when haven’t done even a practice roll in a while (I prefer to keep my head above water in most of the places I paddle in Australia). Once I was back in my boat I felt a lot better, the worst had happened and it wasn’t that bad, I felt my confidence return. However as soon as we reached some flat water, it was time to practice a few rolls before they were needed again. It felt great to be on the river again and I was soon back into swing of things, feeling confidant again. Everything started to feel natural again and I revelled in the freedom of the river, visiting all the old, familiar spots. Devil’s Fang Falls was a bit daunting but I watched the others go down and followed their lead. I ran it just left of centre and almost tipped at the bottom but managed to brace and pulled a move that got me into the eddy below the drop with the others and regained some of my paddling cred and a good helping of self confidence. I had a hard time getting out off the Eddy of Doom but eventually made it out by skirting the bluff.

The run through Maori Gully was great, I was feeling pretty good by then and at 50 cumecs the flow just sweeps through, largely washing out the drops or turning them in to waves or holes and flushing you through any of the holes you may fall in. The gully went by pretty quick, then a brief stop at the Pop Up Spot for a little bit of fun, then down to the get out and the long climb up to the car. It was so nice to be back on the river, thanks guys for a great trip.


Date: 13/5/09
River:
Waimakariri River, Canterbury, New Zealand.
River Conditions:
154 cumecs at SH1 Bridge. Water discoloured, cold and swift. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:
Cold, grey with a bit of wind.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
0.60 Hour.
Comments:
On break and back in New Zealand and on a river for the first time in a while. This was my first and possibly only Brass Monkey training session. I paddled the Invader up from the Highway Bridge while Lauri supervised from the bank to make sure I didn’t pike! Seal launched from the bank and felt pretty wobbly in the round hulled Invader after the super stable, planar hull Dagger GT. A little play on a minor chute and the to the hard grind of trying to paddle up the swiftly flowing river. Said “hi” to a group of race boaters finishing their practice runs and then chatted a little to Colin R. Completed three “circuits” before calling it quits and getting warm and dry again. Nice to be out on a river with actual flowing water and plenty of it, lets keep it that way.


Date: 30/4/09
Location:
Lake Elphinstone, Queensland, Australia.
Conditions:
Water brown, flat and calm.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on Water:
Approximately 1.5 Hours.
Comments:
It was another nice day with not too much to do so I threw the kayak in the back of the ute and head off for a paddle on the Burton Gorge Dam. Unfortunately when I got there, numerous “Keep Out!” signs had sprung up all over the place and there was a chain across the access track. Bugger, someone must have seen me out on the dam before, oh well scratch that plan. The alternatives were either go home or drive further up the road to Lake Elphinstone. Since I was almost there and had my kayak with me, it wasn’t a hard decision. The lake looked much better in reality than it did on Google Earth and I was soon on the water. Quite beautiful, surrounded by low hills and forest, but the only excitement was trying to “play” on the wake of the speed boat that was spoiling the otherwise tranquil setting. This was a pleasant way to spend an otherwise dull afternoon and I watched the sun set behind the hills whilst still on the water. Packed up, coordinated a few drilling related matters from the lake shore then raced back to town to get my time sheet off before 7pm, not a bad days work in the mines.

Burton_Gorge_Dam_from_above

An aerial view from Google Earth of the lake formed by the Burton Gorge Dam. The put in is near the “W” in the middle, that’s where the dam blocks off the Isaac River.


Date: 25/3/09
Location:
Burton Gorge Dam, Isaac River, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown, flat with minor waves due to strong wind.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm, strong wind.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on Water:
1 Hour.
Comments:
The drillers were casing our current hole so the geologist got to go exploring. I’d been up to the Burton Gorge Dam before but the lack of access and the odd, scary “Keep Out” signs, the warnings about blue-green algae plus the lack of access to the water scared me off. But this time I didn’t see any signs and managed to find the access track to the dam. There was no one about and after taking a few photos of the lake and the dam I got changed and wandered down to the lake shore with my kayak. The Burton Gorge Dam was built above the Burton Gorge, where the Isaac River has cut through a set of low hills, and stores the water what would otherwise flow down past Moranbah. The lake was the colour of milky coffee, due to all the suspended fine sediments and looked kind of funny. There was a strong wind blowing across the lake, forming smallish waves and pushing water over the top of the dam, I decided to keep well away from that as I didn’t fancy getting pushed over the dam. It was fun to be out and the wind blown waves added an extra dynamic to the experience. No one told me off for being there so it must have been ok.

20090615 Burton_Gorge_dam

The Burton Gorge Dam stores all the water that would otherwise flow down the Isaac River and get lost in the sea.

20090615 The_Burton_Gorge_dam_lake

The Burton Gorge Dam. Note the little island and the lovely brown water. Only 60km from Moranbah and a nice spot for a paddle but now difficult to access (thanks guys).


Date: 28/2/09
River:
Isaac River, from railway bridge above Moranbah to Peak Downs Highway Bridge, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown, sluggish and warm. Grade 1+.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip:
2 people.
Time on River:
Approximately 1 Hour.
Comments:
The Isaac River was still flowing so James and I headed up to the local “play hole” for some fun. The flow was lower than a couple of days before so paddling upstream was not an option, so we towed the boat up the bank to one of the few rapids on the local stretch of the river. The rapid is pretty shallow and tame but beggars can’t be choosers and it was on the best rapids that I knew of within 100km (actually there is very little flowing water at all within 100km). We had a pretty good time surfing back and forth and taking turns with the boat, James did well and had fun, he would have been keen to get a kayak if there was more water about. Once we were finished, I floated the boat back down to the bridge, floating through the deeper sections and wading through the parts to shallow to paddle.

20090615 Isaac_River_play_spot

The local “play spot” on the Isaac River, best rapid I know of within 100km of Moranbah. Photo by James.


Date: 26/2/09
River:
Isaac River, from railway bridge above Moranbah to Peak Downs Highway Bridge, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown, sluggish and warm. Flow at Goonyella 0.17m. Grade 1+.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
2.75 Hours.
Comments:
Rain had made many of the tracks around Eagle Downs too muddy for the drill crew to get out to the rig so I headed back to town. Mick offered to drop me and my kayak off at the railway bridge above town and James offered to pick me up at the highway bridge at the other end. We turned off the main road on to the muddy railway track, ignoring the “No Trespassing” signs threaten fines of up to $2000 and headed down to the river. There was a little, rocky rapid under the railway bridge, where the road forded the river but with a possible spectator in a mine truck on the bank, I didn’t have much of a play just in case I did something stupid. The river was pretty flat and sluggish but it was nice to just drift along, not having to paddle too hard, very relaxing, just being able to watch the banks slide by and too enjoy the peace and solitude of the location. That was until the driller phoned up to say they were on site and were planned to start drilling once they ran their rods in. This changed the pace of the trip to a hard out grunt of Brass Monkey like proportions (only a lot warmer and the river slower). It was pretty gruelling but there wasn’t much in the way of rapids to distract me from my task but I was glad to see the rapid 500m above the highway bridge that indicated the trip was coming to an end. I had a quick play there and headed for home. James was waiting at the bridge, which was a welcome sight. I got the gear packed away and then it was back to town for a quick change then out to site only to find that they hadn’t started drilling after all, thanks guys! An exhausting day out but nice to have got to paddle this section of the river.


Date: 15/2/09
River:
Cattle Creek, Senninis Road section, Near Finch Hatton, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water clear and swift. Grade 2+.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
Approximately 1.5 Hours.
Comments:
I was unable to sort out a trip for the Sunday before I flew home so I spent the morning at this lovely spot. This was where Mick was going to take us before he decide to do the O’Connell River, I wouldn’t have known the spot actually existed, let alone managed to stumble upon it, if it wasn’t for his information, a little bit of local knowledge goes a long way. So with nothing else to do before flying back to New Zealand, I headed out to the small township of Finch Hatton. A little way past the township is a sweeping left hand bend and this is where Senninis Road branches off the main road to Eungella. I followed the gravel track up to a place with a clear view of a rather nice rapid and a good place to park the 4×4. The rapid consisted of crystal clear water flowing over smooth granite bedrock.

20090215_Cattle_Creek_rapid_02

The put in for the Cattle Creek run up along Senninis Road near Finch Hatton, Queensland.

20090215_Cattle_Creek_rapid_01

The first rapid for the Cattle Creek run.

I had the river all to myself and ran the rapid multiple times and then spent some time surfing some of the holes. It was a beautiful warm day and it was great to be paddling in just a short sleeved paddle jacket. I still got hot and spent some time swimming around one of the lower eddies and just floating with my buoyancy aid. There was quite a bit of litter around and so I cleaned it up, as my way of saying thank you. Chatted with a few locals who arrived for a swim and a picnic before heading back to Mackay to catch my flight to Brisbane.


Date: 14/2/09
River:
O’Connell River, Near Mackay, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water clear and swift. Grade 2+.
Weather Conditions:
Sunny and warm. Overcast and light rain later in day.
Number on Trip: 3 people.
Time on River: 3 Hours.
Comments: I’d booked flights home and was all set to head home on Monday with a brief stop over visit with an old school friend in Brisbane. However we had heavy rain and the hitch ended abruptly a couple of days early. Flights over the weekend were full so there was no way I could make it home to spend Valentines Day with Lauri. Still every cloud has a silver lining and I was now trapped in Moranbah, with a kayak on a weekend and it had just rained heavily so the rivers were up. Talk about a lucky coincidence, this was too good to pass up. Mick had been keen to take me paddling but I was generally stuck at work when the opportunities arouse. Arrangements were made, bags packed and kayaking gear was loaded into the truck and I left Moranbah early on Saturday morning to rendezvous with Caleb in Mackay.

I picked Caleb up from Mitre 10 in Mackay and we debated if we needed to get his mountain bike for the shuttle run. We decided we didn’t need it as we had two cars so we should be ok. We then headed out of town to meet Mick at the take out for the O’Connell River. We had original planned to do a run on Cattle Creek but Mick was keen to try the O’Connell River as he didn’t think it had been kayaked before and he had been wanting to run it for a while. No one knew exactly what to expect and I was a little bit nervous as I hadn’t paddled the Dagger GT on any real white water and I was feeling a bit rusty as well.

We met Mick at the flood-way (translation: a low concrete bridge/ford) and drove through the shallow, clear water that covered the road. This was not what I expected, I thought Australian white water would have a browner hue. We put the kayaks on my 4×4, changed into our paddling gear, as Mick finished strapping on his special kayaking armour (this was a slightly worrying sign). Then we all squeezed into the single cab of the Hilux and headed up the track. Halfway through a particularly boggy part I realised I should have changed down a gear and had it in low ratio 4 wheel drive. We didn’t get stuck, by the skin of our teeth, but it did mean we wouldn’t be using Mick’s car to run the shuttle, still that was a problem for later, now was the time to go paddling!

The first drop was probably the most daunting and I was hoping I still remember how to paddle. Mick paddled it first and provided safety at the bottom while I paddle it. No drama, just dropped over the edge, disappear for a short while and then me and the Dagger GT with all its extra volume, popped to the surface, sweet! I then waited with a throw rope for Caleb, 3 for 3, all down and no rolls. The river was beautiful, clear water flowing over large granite boulders as it rolled through a mixture of farm land and forest with no crocodiles. Just like some of the rivers back home, a sentiment I expressed a number of times, earning the nick name Christchurch.

20090214_Dropping_into_Fly-swatters_Rapid_same_rock_causing_the_same_trouble_Matt

Mick runs the first drop without any drama. Photos thanks to Mick B.

20090214_K-bags_picks_a_good_line

Caleb lines up on the drop. Photo thanks to Mick B.

20090214_01_Fresh_out_of_Christchurch

My turn, line up & off the drop…

20090214_02_Spot_the_Kiwi

…into the hole…

20090214_03_All_good_at_Fly-swatters_Rapid

…and paddle out. All good.

As we got further down the river, my confidence in myself and my kayak increased and I got to do a bit more playing. The Dagger GT, with its 257L volume, was no where near as playful as my Blitz (with a volume of 185L) but it surf reasonably well, resurfaced quickly and was a good stable platform (no rolls for me). Caleb commented on the fact that my kayak “seemed more stable than his”, round bottomed RPM, because I didn’t tip over at all. Whilst technically true but Mick thought it was quite funny considering that I’ve been paddling a lot longer than Caleb and have a little bit more experience at the not tipping over side of things.

We were cruising along, not worrying too much about what was up ahead, Mick leading the way while I pottered along at the rear, catching eddies and surfing holes, just revelling in being out on such fine white water after such a long paddling drought. About halfway down the route got confused with the river flowing through a number of trees growing out of the usually dry river bed. We took the left “channel”, which seemed clearer, but suddenly Mick was shouting “STOP”, worried about what was ahead, we slammed on our brakes and then things got a bit messy and Caleb ended up upside-down. The roll didn’t work, with the trees and tight confines and he was soon swimming. Without much drama we had him back in his kayak, we vowed to be less blasé about paddling an unknown river.

20090214_The_quickest_bit_Bags_belting_through

Caleb runs one of the later rapids taking care to avoid the trees. Great rapids and scenery, very like the West Coast at home. Photo thanks to Mick B.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful but definitely memorable, the scenery was great (just like being home), plenty more nice rapids and the company was great too. It was really nice to be so warmly welcomed by the local paddlers, hopefully we extend a suitably warm welcome to Mick when he’s over here (NZ) paddling.

Eventually we were back down at the flood-way where we had left Mick’s car. We got into our dry clothes and then attended to the shuttle. Since we couldn’t take Mick’s car up the 4×4 track and we didn’t bring the mountain bike, there was only one thing to do. So Caleb and I walked the approximately 9km back to where I’d left the vehicle. Since the track was under water in places, I wore my paddle shoes and my feet were pretty tired after we made it to the car. Then it was just a matter of driving back to Mick, picking up our boats and gear and heading back to Mackay. I was pretty exhausted by the time I checked into a motel but I had a really great day, paddled some very nice water and got to meet some good people. Thanks to Mick and Caleb for showing me some Mackay/Airly Beach hospitality.


Date: 11/2/09, 13/2/09
River:
Grosvenor Creek, Near Moranbah, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown and swift. Grade 2.
Weather Conditions:
Raining/overcast.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
Approximately 1 hour each outing.
Comments:
Heavy rain had brought the creek up and a little rapid had formed below the running track.

20090828 Kayaking_Grosvenor_Creek_Low_Res

Not the best photo but it is one of the few of me (behind the tree) kayaking the mighty Grosvenor Creek “Rapid”. The walkway marker post in the fore ground was washed over a couple of days later when the river got even higher.

20090213_Grosvenor_Creek_in_flood_02

Grosvenor Creek “Rapid”, a “park & play” spot near the Red Bucket, Moranbah.

20090213_Grosvenor_Creek_in_flood_01

Looking along the popular running track that crosses the river.


Date: 10/2/09
River:
Grosvenor Creek, Isaac River confluence, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown, warm and flowing very slowly. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:
Hot, generally overcast.
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
Approximately 1 hour.
Comments:
This was an attempt to see how far up Grosvenor Creek I could paddle, probably only about 500m before it became too shallow. There is a lot of wood in the creek and I spent some time jumping a log that sat just below the surface of the water.

20090214_Issac_River_confluence

Grosvenor Creek (left) joins the Isaac River near the Peak Downs Highway Bridge. The photo was taken a couple of days later when the river level had risen to conceal the barbed wire fence in the fore ground (when I was there I was able to paddle under it as almost no water was flowing down either river).


Date: 5/1/09, 8/1/09, 17/1/09, 4/2/09
River:
Grosvenor Creek, Near Moranbah, Queensland, Australia.
River Conditions:
Water brown, warm and not flowing at all. Grade 1.
Weather Conditions:
Hot!
Number on Trip:
1 person.
Time on River:
Approximately 1 hour each outing.
Comments:
This is the closest water to town and offers about 500m of flat water paddling. There is water in the creek all year round however by Christmas it had got quite stagnant and I was keen to paddle in it. However just before the start of my January hitch, heavy rain topped up the creek and flushed it out so that it started flowing again. It was nice to be out on a river and to be able to practice with the new boat. On my first outing I let a couple of local kids, who were swimming in the creek (yuck!), try out the GT and they seemed to enjoy themselves.