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.

Chiang Mai Kayaking

Some days are just perfect. Today we took a tour with Chiang Mai Mountain Bike & Kayaking. As those who follow my blog will know, I rarely recommend any commercial enterprise in my posts. But today is an exception because our kayaking trip was brilliant and made possible by the tour company. While we had first hoped to do the Chiang Dao Jungle kayak adventure, the region is currently quite dry so the only trip the company could run was the Mid Valley Kayak Expedition down the Mae Ping River in the Mae Ngat Valley. It didn’t matter because the trip we took was still amazing and gives us a reason to come back to Chiang Mai to try some of the other tours.

The trip started with a half hour river flow lesson. Don’t worry, this time doesn’t come off your allowance of fun. I have been paddling for years but this was the first time anyone has ever taken the time to explain eddies and flow patterns to me. We learned some basic techniques like eddie-out, pull-out, crossing the river and how to stop from tipping out if we got caught against a rock or log. It showed that the company is serious about safety and paddler enjoyment, rather than just dropping us in the water and hoping we enjoyed it with whatever skills we already had (if any).

Once the instructions were over we loaded into the back of a songtow-style vehicle to drive an hour to the entry point. The bikes on the roof were for two guests who were doing a bike-kayak combination trip. While it looks uncomfortable, the vehicle is not too bad and the seating arrangement allowed us to get to know the other two guests on the kayaking trip a little better before we spent the day on the water together.

The put-in for the kayaking trip was under a bridge in the middle of a tobacco field. We were each allocated a sit-in touring boat. The company has different types of boats that they use depending on conditions. They have sit-on boats, sit-in touring boats and sit-in white-water play boats. We were going to experience a Class 1 river with shallow water and some obstacles like logs. The sit-in boats were perfect being easy to manoeuvre and good for sun protection. The guide gave a briefing …

And then we were off. Before we paddled downstream, the guide had us paddle about 50m upstream, cross the river and eddy-out before pulling-out and making a 360′ turn. I think he just wanted to check how much guidance he would need to give us before getting too far downstream.

And so we spent the day paddling in Thailand.

We passed farms and small Thai row boats tied up on the river’s edge.

Saw fishermen casting nets for small fish.

And generally enjoyed the river’s serenity.

About half way down the river we stopped for a short rest on a rocky bank of the river while we waited for the two cyclists to join our group. The rest was relaxing as we talked and watched the wind blow the grasses on the other side of the river.

Our guide also turned his hand to fishing for these strange shellfish that live in the river bed. They are very small and are eaten whole in omelette. But you’d need a lot of them to get enough protein or flavour to make it worthwhile and he was only catching one or two with every scoop of the net.

Once the two cyclists joined us we left the farmland behind and entered a particularly peaceful part of the river where trees grew on either side and mountains rose ahead of us. I sat on the back of my boat with my feet dragging through the cool water, only pulling them in when we had to navigate obstacles.

The trip was about 20km of downstream paddle. It was not terribly difficult but not so easy as to be dull. The guide was relaxed and knowledgeable, the group social and fun, and the paddling perfect.

Paddling in winter: Central Queensland style

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It’s blowing a gale when we arrive at Flat Rock boat ramp for the Baffle Creek Boat Club day out. It’s cold and the creek is choppy. The forecast 10 knot winds must be blowing gently somewhere else because it’s got to be closer to 20 knots here, which is too strong for us to take the sailing boats out. I follow my friends K, G and M into the boat club shed where there’s coffee, tea and a range of homemade goodies. I meet their neighbours (a relative term here where properties are scattered far and wide) and admire the old Sabots piled up in the back of the shed.
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We pack some kayaks on a ute and head down to nearby Rules Beach, which is protected from the wind. A tarp is erected across some driftwood trees to provide shade and we settle in for a day of fun, sun and sand.
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I’ve brought my packraft up to Baffle with me and take the opportunity to get it out on the water. I’ve got inflating it sorted and it takes less than 5 minutes of relaxed work. I am sure I could get it up in less than 3 minutes if I put some effort in but life’s not about the rush anymore.
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While the waves look small from the beach, they tower over me in my raft and my first few attempts at launching the boat end in the boat being swamped and me swimming. The trick is to have patience and wait for a break in the waves so that I can get my skirt done up. M comes out to help. I do up my skirt on the beach and he pushes me out until I am floating. The boat now floats up over the breaking waves quite well and I find myself paddling and drifting happily out to sea.
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I drift and enjoy the diamonds dazzling off the water. It’s almost impossible to believe that this is the middle of winter. It’s just glorious. I catch a few waves in the packraft. It floats nicely on top of the water. I can see why these boats are good for whitewater. As the waves subside with the changing tide I come into the beach to chill out on the sand. One of the young boys decides to cover my back with sand and then buries my legs. I listen to the locals’ conversations and soak up the sunshine.
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After an hour or two the tide has changed enough for some more little waves to build. Sure, they are only about a foot tall but it’s enough to have fun without feeling threatened when I inevitably get dumped. I take out one of the boat club’s kayaks and catch lots of waves with a couple of the other guys. There’s plenty of laughter as we succeed or fail in our wave riding efforts. It feels great to be lifted by the waves then surge forward as they break. By the time we return home (I must mention that I call anyplace I lay my head home) we’re all pleasantly relaxed and ready for a yarn around the campfire.