Packraft on the Torrens River (Adelaide)

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The sun is shining and it’s a warm day. Well, the maximum temperature is meant to reach 14’C (57’F) and I have become so aclimated that I find this warm. I decide to cycle along the Linear Path to the Adelaide Hills but as soon as I reach the river I change my mind and return to the hostel to grab my packraft. I shove the raft, paddles, water and a softshell jacket all into my 30L pack with my PDF strapped to the outside and walk the 1.5km (1 mile) back to the river.
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The rowing clubs have a boat deck that is low enough to allow me to drop the boat into the water and get in without getting wet. I’ve seen a water rat swimming past me and there’s a lot of debris floating downstream from the recent heavy rains so I am not keen to have too much contact with the murky muddy water. But it’s not going to stop me getting out on it; arter-all, this is why I have carted the 5kg (11lbs) of paddling gear with me on my bike.
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The Adelaide Crows are playing an AFL match this afternoon so there are crowds of supporters descending on the Adelaide Oval to support their team. The Adelaide Oval is next to the Torrens in the city and I could hear the music, commentary and cheering from the water. It made for quite a carnival atmosphere. I do love the Southern States’ obsession with AFL, even though I personally am more a League kind of guy.
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The riverbanks are beautifully manicured and I keep expecting to coxed rowing eights to come past. There are rowing clubs here on the banks of the river but no rowers materialise. That sense off being in a foreign land returns with a rush as I paddle upstream. It’s so beautiful but the stark naked trees, green grass and people wearing scarfs makes me feel like I’m in the middle of a North American movie set.
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I watch the people using the Linear Path along the river’s edge. Cyclists pedal. Some race by in full team lycra and I realise just how silly I used to look when I was one of them. No offense to my lycra-clad friends but it actually looks very funny when there are other people riding on the same trails who look comfortable in their trousers and scarfs. I know that lycra serves a purpose but it still looks funny from the outside. Joggers move purposively while groups of pedestrians meander along holding deep conversations. The day has also brought the lovers out of the woodwork with their romantic picnics and sweet nothings on blankets in quiet corners of the park. The romantic in me is a touch jealous.
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I pass under one last bridge and the manicured lawns end and I am in a narrower channel surrounded by long grasses and gum trees. The river here flows more quickly and there are a few strainers along the banks. I make a mental note of them so that I don’t allow myself get pushed in to them on the way back.
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The current here is strong and I have to work hard to make forward progress. I struggle on for about ten minutes before I decide the effort is greater than the reward and turn the raft around. The current takes me downstream effortlessly. For the next twenty minutes the only time I need the paddle is to keep the boat facing forwards (my packraft always wants to travel downstream side-on or backwards). I unzip the spray deck and hang my legs out on the boat’s edges where they catch some sun. I love this part … drifting along lazing back watching the world from the water.
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Back in the city reach of the River Torrens I drift slowly listening to the crowd cheering as the Crows score goals in the footy match. There’s a massive television screen on the outside of the stadium and I can see it from my raft so I watch a couple of goals as I listen to the crowd’s voices rise and fall like a wave. It’s a glorious experience for my senses. Around me families, friends and couples play on the paddle boats that are available to hire as water from the fountain sprays me. I’ve only been out here for a couple of hours but it feels like much longer.
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I put out near a pretty gazebo and naked tree that must look amazing in spring. I slowly deflate the boat, pack everything back in my bag and walk into the city to buy a few groceries and listen to some buskers.


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