Massive Murray Paddle

Trip Report - Team East Coast Kayaking at the Massive Murray Paddle

24-28 November 2014

The team in Tocumwal, getting ready

The team in Tocumwal, getting ready

It started with a phone call “Hey would you do the Murray Marathon?” I said “Yes, sure, …what the whole thing?” The promo posters arrived and an email – the Murray Marathon had been rebadged as Massive Murray Paddle and moved to the end of November. A quick “Who wants to join us?” post on Facebook and a couple of chats and the team was born.

After a few weeks and not much training, we had a relay team of four booked in with various stages of preparedness. Peter was the only one to have done this before and we suddenly found another side of Pete we hadn’t suspected – Competitive Pete was going to crack the whip and exhort us to paddle faster.

This was a little bit scary as the rest of us thought we were going for a nice recreational paddle down the river! Pete got hold of the Mirage 730 and spent the week prior to the event polishing and lightening it.

The logistics proved fairly simple: camping accommodation was plentiful at this time of year, we had group gear and food organised. The team set off – Neil & Peter left early to get set up and secure our race number; Rohan and I after work, arriving at 10pm. The Yarrawonga Holiday Park was still active with paddlers still arriving and getting organised for the morning.

Day 1 – Yarrawonga to Tocumwal

We started in the third group – OPEN RKL2 (as we were a motley bunch of genders and age groups). Most of the other Mirage 730’s started in the earlier groups – did they know something we didn’t as to how long this would take.

Pete and Rohan arrived at the first checkpoint. At an average speed of nearly 12km/h possibly the fastest 25km of Rohan’s life! Neil and I can’t quite match those speeds but coming into the last stage the average speed was over 11km/h.

The headwinds were picking up and a big ominous, dark cloud loomed behind the trees and we approached the last few kilometres – never mind our race times, I wanted to be on land before that hit us. Just on 4pm the storm arrived as we were about 200m from the finish, with a huge gust of wind. Neil’s hat was gone and we just had to put our heads down and grunt through the gusts. A big branch crashed down in the car park. Lightning crackled and the gusts of wind and spray were blowing down the down the river bend. The K4 in front of us was being spun around just short of the boat ramp. We picked a gap and went for it. Where was the team? Another kind paddler helped us out of our kayak and we staggered up the ramp in the pouring rain.

We found them huddling in Pete’s car – then they locked the doors! We made them come out so they could reluctantly share in the exhilaration of the elements!

The power shortly went off in the town – fortunately we already bought beer (priorities!), so we drank beer and roasted lamb and potatoes on the caravan park’s backup gas BBQ!

Paddling in the Storm

Paddling in the Storm

Wind gusts!

Wind gusts!

Storm front on the radar

Storm front on the radar

Tocumwal deluge

Tocumwal deluge

Day 2 - Yarrawonga to Tocumwal again!

The storm dropped over 25mm of rain so the tracks downstream of Tocumwal were closed – we would repeat the previous day’s course. The pairs were reshuffled and I took the first leg with Pete. Another steady day of paddling with almost the same times as the previous day. We were perfecting the art of tailing the stern of faster boats to ease our passage.

We drove on to Picnic Point to camp in a peaceful bush camping ground. Peter rescued a tortoise as it tried to cross the road – it was very smelly! Glad I’m not sharing his car!

Sunny arrival in Tocumwal

Sunny arrival in Tocumwal

Why did the tortoise cross the road?

Why did the tortoise cross the road?

Day 3 – Picnic Point to Echuca

The day started well with bacon, egg and baked bean wraps.

We swapped the pairs again. The first leg was the scenic one through the Narrows and past the Moira Lakes – the biggest stage of the MMP at 28km. I could provide a bit of commentary but basically that was the fastest 28km I’ve ever paddled – under 2.5 hours. We hit maximum speeds of over 15km/h (briefly).

Breakfast at Picnic Point

Breakfast at Picnic Point

Peter and Neil were next – this was a sprint leg of 12km. We allowed an hour and only just got to the next checkpoint with the cars before they came in. Peter had worked Neil hard and they had had some good interactions with their fellow paddlers inspiring them to go faster.

The next leg of 18km was where I hit the wall – with only an hour’s break I probably hadn’t eaten or drank enough… With 5km to go my muscles were starting to cramp and we couldn’t keep up with the kayaks in our group. Neil didn’t look any better at the end of the last stage as they had run down numerous fast boats and everyone was feeling pretty tired (even Pete was hurting) when we arrived at our campsite in Moama.

We had worked hard though – we were 4th fastest boat on the water for the day and 10th overall.

We passed the Moama RSL on the way there – that looked pretty easy for dinner – even better when we found there was a free courtesy bus pickup and 10% of main meals with our camping ground key – bargain (true kayaker style)! After cooling down, rehydrating and relaxing for a while we were collected by the bus and hoovered down bread rolls, garlic bread, calamari and some rather good 300g steaks (the body craves protein!), before taking an early night.

Day 4 – Echuca to Torrumbarry

This was a day of shorter stages – 15km for both pairs, then two 16km stages. We kept the same pairs and everyone felt refreshed after a good night sleep. With estimated travel times of just over an hour the car shuffles would need to be efficient – don’t get lost! Rohan and I decided to forgo second breakfast at the bakery – a big sacrifice.

Relaxing at the finish, Torrumberry

Relaxing at the finish, Torrumberry

We all paddled strongly and were 7th fastest boat today, in 8th place overall. We tried to run down the Tathra Surf Boat but they came through with a big surge a few kilometres from the finish. We relaxed at the finish while they loaded the surf boat onto their trailer, with our feet up on the deck, listening to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. A great day’s paddling!

After sampling the Gunbower Lion’s Club steak sandwiches (more protein!) we drove up to Murrabit where the next stage is to start. The local footy club has hosted the Murray Marathon for many years and they opened their club for drinks and catered dinner.

Day 5 – Murrabit to Swan Hill

Packing up quickly, we headed down to the river to watch the earlier starts and were rewarded by a view of the tranquil river with mist drifting over the surface.

The day’s paddling was fast, with an unexpectedly strong current and also the competitive spirit kicking in. Everyone was feeling energetic and paddled strongly. Approaching the finish we were one of the earlier boats to come in and we benefited from Mad Mick’s (Team DILLIGAF) advice as the river narrowed and the currents swirled coming into Swan Hill. We finished 4th fastest boat overall, over the full distance for the day and 8th fastest for the 5 days – total time 34 hours (34:00:50) including the changeovers.

Sadly our commitments precluded us staying in Swan Hill for the celebrations and presentations – we soon headed back to Melbourne – a thoroughly enjoyable experience – we are already making plans for next year!

Who is interested in joining Team East Coast Kayaking for next year’s Massive Murray Paddle?

Lone paddler at Murrabit start

Lone paddler at Murrabit start

Team ECK at Swan Hill

Team ECK at Swan Hill