North Pumicestone Passage paddle (Queensland, Australia)

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It’s been ages since Mum and I went paddling together. And I’ve never paddled at the northern end of Bribie Island. A friend of mine recently shared some photos of a paddle in the area and it inspired me so I invite Mum along for a day on the water. We launch at Golden Beach, Caloundra. Fortunately, a local warns us about the need to paddle a hundred meters north into the boating channel rather than having to walk a long way across sand banks on the more direct route to the island.

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Right from the word go I am struck by the clear water. It’s stinking hot (35’C) and humid. The clear water almost feels cool just looking at it.

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After entering the boating channel we turn south and drift / paddle with the tide and wind pushing us along. I am a little surprised at how quickly we are pushed along. It’s like being on a water slide without the crazy bends.

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Black lumps rise form the water. At first I cannot identify what the lumps are. But on closer inspection it turns out to be a huge flock of black swans with bright red beaks. I don’t have a reliable zoom lens on my phone camera so have to make do with a quick shot before the swans fly a short distance away from the boats.

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We drift and paddle for about an hour along the Pumicestone Passage. I had intended to travel towards Bells Creek but it’s so hot and Mum hasn’t paddled in ages. So, instead, I stop when I see a small patch of sand between the mangroves. We have to wade knee-deep through thick mud to get to shore but it’s worth it because it’s dry on the sand on a narrow ledge between two mangrove forests. I hang two hammocks, lay out a picnic blanket and we pull out some books. We chill in the wilderness for almost three hours. It’s a random place to rest so it’s kind of special.

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On setting off we thought the tide should have changed. Certainly the tide chart I used said it should have but it was still dead tide with a head wind. The paddling is still relatively easy though. Particularly because I’m enjoying time with Mum in nature.

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We stop at the Lions Park on Bribie Island to walk to the ocean side. It’s only a few minutes walk across the island here. All the while we can listen to the sound of waves crashing on ocean beach. Over on the beach we lay in shallow water for a swim. It’s great to finally cool off properly from the heat. And the clear water just demands entry.

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Leaving Lions Park we paddle across the Passage back towards Golden Beach. The water is so incredibly clear over the sand banks now that the tide has come in.

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Kite surfers zip across the water. And one of their dogs swims happily in the shallows. This is incredible!

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We beach the kayaks, take a swim, load the kayaks on the car and jump back into the water. It’s been a wonderful day.

Pumicestone Passage Paddle (Queensland, Australia)

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It’s amazing what knowing I am finishing up at my stressful job has done to my head space. Suddenly I am not spending my weekends stressing about family law matters and client needs. I am not feeling pressure to work because I need to make billables and I’m not feeling like there’s a lifetime of the limited four weeks annual leave that would otherwise await me. And this freedom made it easy for me to throw the kayaks on the roof of the car, message a friend and hit the water for a day of paddling.
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The Pumicestone Passage at Bribie Island is an amazing place of clear water, white sandy beaches, mangroves, sea creatures and a backdrop of the Glasshouse Mountains. F and I set off around 8am from a beach just north of the Bribie Island Bridge. The incoming tide created a perfect opportunity to drift and paddle northwards up the passage (you don’t want to paddle here against the tide).
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The water was incredibly clear today. Winter and spring are the best time of year to paddle here in South East Queensland because the summer storms are long gone and blue sky days allow the water to reflect blue. We did a lot of chatting as we drifted and paddled gently up and down the passage. I know I’m feeling content again because I didn’t feel an urge to push myself. I felt content to relax and feel the sun on my body, dip my hands in the cool water, share stories with F and admire the Glasshouse Mountains in the distance.
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We stopped on a beach just north of Gallagher Point. A child from a nearby boat played in the water. A stingray swam along the sandy sea bottom. Water lapped gently against the shore every time a boat or jet ski passed by. Donnybrook perched on the shoreline across the passage; the houses glistening white in the bright sunshine. I must come back and camp up here overnight to have more time to take in the atmosphere.
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On our way back down the passage we passed a dugong eating sea grass close to shore. It was majestic and right next to our boats. Suddenly it was just there and we had to move out of its way. Quite a spectacular moment. We also saw turtles and stingrays.

On returning to the cars we loaded the kayaks then F left for home. I hung out in the shade of some trees eating a late lunch then went for a little swim in the passage. I can’t wait for the next adventure …

Paddling the Pine River (Queensland, Australia)

It’s difficult to believe I’ve been home for a month. I’m starting to settle in a bit but know it will take time to become accustomed to living in the one place again. I’m working on finding a way to stay balanced without feeling the pressure to conform to the working life that goes on around me. Having an alternative relationship with work and money is easier when you are on the move. Not feeling guilty for not being busy with work is a challenge once you are still again. That said, I am happy to be home and am slowly finding my feet.

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Today I decided to explore the Pine River. I’ve wanted to do this for a while but never quite catch the helpful tide. A quick check of the tide chart showed that the high tide was at 11am, giving me plenty of time to paddle upstream with the incoming tide and downstream as it flowed back out.

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I started my adventure at Brighton Park on Bramble Bay at the mouth of the Pine River. The water here is shallow and, at low tide the sand flats are exposed for hundreds of meters across the bay. It was only just deep enough for me to paddle when I set off; leaving me with a lovely view of the ripples on the river banks under the water.

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Setting of with the sun behind me is pleasant. It’s warm but not yet to hot. As I cross the river I look back and take in the sight of the fishing boats bobbing away.

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While I’ve paddled short sections of the Pine River in the past, this is my first full exploration of the river’s offerings. I am taken by the prolific bird life that exists here. We’re so close to suburbia yet the birds still come here to fish. And I watch as they catch and eat said fish too.

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It’s not just the birds who are fishing thought. Anglers are making the most of the long weekend by wetting lines all up and down the river. Some use cast nets; an artistic act taking a good flick of the wrist. Many use tinnies; our local word for small tin motor boats that are little more than a shell with some bench seats. But it’s the two men and a toddler who are fishing from a canoe who most capture my eye. It’s like they have come from another place and time altogether.

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The river offers plenty of places to stop for breaks. Sometimes it’s the breaks in a days adventure that make the difference between a good time and a great one. The breaks are when you are most silk in the place you’re exploring. I start with a short stop at Tinchi Tamba Wetland. It’s a huge park with picnic areas and barbecues but also quiet places to chill or fish. Leis Park at Lawnton is my next stop. It’s also the end of the river for now. You can usually paddle further upstream but there’s currently work being done on the railway bridge and a sign prohibits passage (though I did see some paddlers come through the worksite). A shady tree makes a good midpoint stop before I return downstream. My final rest stop is a deserted tidal beach opposite Tinchi Tamba Wetlands. I must come back at a lower tide sometime to explore the tidal beaches.
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And of course I paddled a bit too. The river is so varied here. It starts out wide an sandy bottomed near its mouth. The wind and tide can wrek havoc here, making paddling rough. Or it can be blissfully calm. As I travel upstream the water was narrow. First the river is lined by mangroves and mud flats. Later it becomes more tree lined; though the mangroves do always feature still. It’s a pretty place well worth a paddle.


Noosa River day 3: Camp 3 back to Elanda Point (Queensland, Australia)

There’s always a small sense of sadness when I wake on the final morning of an adventure. I often feel torn between my desire to return home and my contentment at being outdoors. And so it is this morning as I wake and listen to the birds outside my tent.

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It rained overnight and is overcast this morning so the world is a different colour to the same place yesterday. The reflections are slightly subdued but the rain has washed the dusty sand off the plants to leave them looking sparkly and clean. Mushrooms that were grey yesterday are pink today.

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We eat breakfast and pack our gear. Lake Cootharaba is known for afternoon swell and with the wind picking up we don’t want to be caught out. Besides, mornings are a great time to paddle. The boats are lighter this morning compared with our trip out. We’ve eaten most of the food and drank most of the water. This is one of the good things about a human-powered trip home.

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We are in high spirits as we paddle back downstream. The water is particularly glassy because it has not yet been disturbed for the day. We glide like ice skaters moving across black coloured ice. We have about 17km (11 miles) to paddle back to Elanda Point. The wind and tide will be against us the entire journey. But that’s not a problem because we have plenty of time.

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Besides we have no other place to be other than the river. We take plenty of rest stops along the way. First is Harry’s Hut where we stretch our legs and on the jetty. Then the Kinaba Visitor Centre where a motorboat stops alongside us; the driver saying ‘hello’ while his passengers stretch their legs.

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The river ends at Kinaba. From here we begin the crossing of Lake Cootharaba. It’s almost midday and the winds have picked up. It’s blowing about 20 knots and the shallow waters have turned into a sea of swell. With grey skies above us we do what has to be done: set off across the lake. We know our boats can handle the conditions and are here for an adventure after-all.

To be honest, I love the sensation of paddling through waves. It feels powerful and kayaks look amazing in this type of water. Mum powers away li a pro. You’d think she paddles regularly.

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An hour later we are pulling into Elanda Point. Our adventure is complete. All that’s left to do is unpack the boats, load them onto the car and drive home.

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But not without a selfie to mark the occasion. I’m so lucky to have a mum who enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. We had a great time together on the river. I can’t wait for our next adventure.

Noosa River day 1: Elanda Point to Camp 3 (Queensland, Australia)

Mum and I have a plan: to load up the kayaks and paddle the Noosa River. We did this a few years ago with rented canoes and Mum mentioned then that she’d love to have been up here for three days instead of two. So that’s what we’re doing.

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The drive up to Elanda Point is uneventful but for the fact that we left late. It’s already 1pm when we finally drift out into Lake Cootharaba. Camp 3 is about four hours away so we will have just enough time to make it before dark.

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Lake Cootharaba always feels so vast and exposed. There’s not much to protect the lake’s shallow waters from the winds, no matter the direction. And it can get quite choppy here.

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Fortunately, it is relatively calm today. My boat cuts through the small waves with ease. Mum’s boat sits lower so she has two small waves wet her but otherwise it handles well too. Slowly we make our way across the lake. There’s two people in a canoe pottering away to our left and two people in a rented three person kayak come towards us from the river. But mostly we are alone on the vast expanse of gently chopping water.

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Us and the commerants.

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We enter the Noosa River. Instantly the world is calmer. There’s no choppy water to contend with now; just smooth black water along which we glide. It’s like sliding on the smoothest black stone you can imagine.

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We paddle through a field of water lilies. Their purple flowers turn their faces to the sun. Some reflect prettily on the mirror-like surface of the water.

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We stop briefly at Fig Tree Point. There’s a camp site and jetty here. It’s still accessible by 4WD but still feels peaceful and wild.

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Back on the river we continue our paddle. The waterways are well signed and there’s no risk of us getting lost in the channels that meander between the islands and lakes leading to our destination. We stop briefly at Harry’s Hut to fill up the drink bottles we’ve emptied. The water is untreated so we’ll use it at camp tonight. We have plenty of water but I always like to top up when I have the chance.

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For the next hour or so we drift and paddle ever upstream. The water is so still and the reflections magical. We finally pull into the little jetty at campsite 3 just as the clock ticks over 5:30pm. We unload, share a peanut butter sandwich (mum was tired because she bonked from lack of calories not for want of fitness) and set up camp. It’s so good to be out camping again for the first time in months; I have missed this simple pleasure.

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Soon we are watching the sun setting over the river, cooking up a feed and relaxing while the nocturnal animals scurry around the bush around us.

My new toy

I bought a new toy: a red Barracuda Beachcomber sea kayak. I have been looking for about half a year and then, while I was in Indonesia, I noticed my friend’s kayak on the site. A quick check of his Facebook page confirmed the exciting news. It’s a known boat. The price was right. And I just know this is the right boat for me.

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My friends came all the way from Toowoomba to Redcliffe to drop the boat off because I don’t yet have a car. It was late in the afternoon so I couldn’t go for a test paddle but first thing in the morning I was bouncing out of bed and ready to go. First step: hoist the boat onto my shoulder and walk down my driveway.

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Step 2: Cross the road, walk down the grassy hill and step onto the cool soft sandy beach with my new paddle craft on my shoulder ready to go.

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The sun was rising steadily over Moreton Island in the distance. It is my goal for when I am fitter and more experienced. How magnificent to see such a tempting goal from my home. It will certainly keep me motivated to train, practice and gain skills.

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The boat is much more tippy than anything I’ve paddled before. From 2006 – 2009 I owned a bombproof river boat that was red, short, wide, slow and stable. Compared to that the Barracuda is sleek, fast and sexy. Not to mention practical, long and fitted with plenty of luggage space. I am so excited about the adventures I will be able to take it on.

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I enjoyed paddling for an hour out on Moreton Bay just near home. I paddled from Scarborough Beach to the far end of Queens Beach and back again. Not terribly far but it allowed me to get a feel for the boat. I also went out further from shore than I’ve paddled before. That is something I will need to get used to: not hugging the shore line but actually trusting myself and the boat out on the open water. That will come with time and practice. And open up a whole wide world of exploration for me.

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I head back to shore, avoiding the jagged rocks at the northern and southern end of the beach. I have a bit of a surf on the small waves; something that feels so much more fun in a sea kayak than it did in my uncontrollable packraft.

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I get out, shoulder the kayak (17kg / 37.5lbs) and walk back across the road to my home. I will paddle at least one morning a week before work once I am back from Turkey and also hopefully one longer paddle each week on my days off. I’ll also be buying a car with roof racks so that I can get the kayak to other interesting places to explore. A whole new world awaits …

Paddling the mouth of the Pine River (Brisbane, Australia)

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It’s late afternoon and the tide has almost run out. The mouth of the Pine River always looks fantastic at low tide in the golden colours of the late afternoon sun. People stand on the long sandbars to fish while their dogs play in the water. On the days when I ride home from work across the Ted Smout Bridge and look west to this view I feel happy. Today I have a chance to join them. But not to fish; I am going to packraft up the river in search of a geocache.
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It’s been too long since I used my packraft. I seem to have been caught up in the hum drum of day-to-day life. You know that stuff: work, university study, laziness. The former is probably the least of my excuses and the latter the most relevant. As soon as I sit in the boat I feel at ease. I paddle up the river against the last of the outgoing tide with the wind at my back. I have just under three hours until dark but already the sun is sitting low on the horizon, creating beautiful light reflections off the water and wet sand.
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I’m in no hurry so I take the time to pull up on the river’s banks. When the tide is high the water covers this entire area and creates a swampy mangrove habitat. But at low tide the sand is hard enough to walk on and there are even a few patches of soft beach sand a little higher up the banks. Those small patches quickly give way to mangrove swamp behind them but they do look pretty all the same.
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It’s easy to dismiss Brisbane’s mangrove-lined waterways as ugly, smelly and muddy. But I have come to appreciate them as a symbol of home. I grew up having running races through thigh-deep mangrove mud with my sisters and learning how to walk between the trees’ breathing tubes without them stabbing my foot (they don’t cut but they still hurt when you stand on them). I recently read that mangrove-lined waterways are the breeding ground for over 70% of the fish we eat here in Australia so they are very important despite their bad wrap. That aside, I like the versatility of the mangrove trees and the way they look, both when standing dry at low tide and when submerged with only their leaves showing through the water.
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I paddle for an hour until I reach the geocache location. It’s cleverly hidden. I sign the log, replace the cache and log the find online. Then I head back towards my start point. The tide is just about to turn and the wind has picked up, creating small waves to paddle into. I bounce over them as I make my way down the river towards the sandbanks where I started. My shadow starts to grow longer in the water ahead of me and the roar of the commuter traffic on the Ted Smout Bridge starts to fill my ears over the blowing of the wind. By the time I get back the sun has sunk low enough for a sunset photo before I head home.