This Duck Needs a Quack
Blair quacks down the mighty Duck River
By Blair Paterson
My expedition would take me northwards from Duck River’s headwaters at Sefton, through Regents Park, along the border between Auburn and Granville, and then onto where the river empties in confluence with the Parramatta River at Silverwater. Many of the risks involved in an adventure like this in an intensely urban and industrialised setting are obviously different to those on an unmodified river flowing through natural surrounds. And I was prepared for an absence of the romance one might acquire from ‘nature’ experiences. So why then would I, of my own free will and sane state of mind, choose to undertake such a ridiculous activity in a dirty, disgusting, weeded, polluted backwater like Duck River? I might sustain a nasty cut from broken glass or jagged metal sure as death and taxes of becoming infected. I might get mugged or bitten by a rat. I might wash-up to who-knows-where and did I notify anyone should a search party need to retrieve my bloated remains from a sewer-drain or mangrove-bog or the like? Why? This is a concerned mother talking, yes, and I did find myself tentative at the outset I admit, maybe even a little loony for considering such an expedition. But I had asked myself these questions and there was a point. I wanted to investigate Duck River from as sensory and challenging a viewpoint as I could possibly conceive by traversing its length under my own steam by foot and paddle. I wanted to expand on my first acquaintance with the river from some environmental work I’d done in the area as a council employee a few years back. Obviously without endangering my own safety, I wanted to have a firsthand look at certain stretches of the river which are only accessible by boat and hopefully happen upon some features and landforms I’d only heard about. And I wanted to piece together more parts of the jigsaw of the environment around me and what the hell’s going on with it.
And so without further ado…
The train trip at early morning peak hour from my place in Ashfield is a generally non-eventful experience. My appearance with a cumbersome bright-red bundle rolled up on my back and dressed in my daggiest clothes evokes no more than passing glances from commuters on the whole. I have found this to be the case from past urban adventures too, though I’m not sure why. Usually I find elderly people, drunks or druggies, or those who may be deemed ‘eccentric’ by societal norms are those who are forthright enough to ask me what on earth I might be doing. I don’t bite, I promise.
After changing trains at Strathfield and disembarking at Sefton Station I am happy to begin my adventure afoot. I walk out onto the platform and into the warm September air which greets me with the smell of burning rubber and asphalt; a light breeze carries the clatter of grinders and air compressors as I cross the station bridge. Down on the street a trolley is hoicked into the flat-bed of a nearby truck making such a crack, with my already jittery nerves I literally jump on the spot. Welcome to the work-a-day bustle of industrial Sefton! I walk west down Carlingford Road past a plethora of factories including smash repairers, tile distributors and scrap-metal yards. I am lost already, disorientated in a grid of industry and dust, and must stop to consult my map: page 293; I have still yet to find the river. I get back on track along Chisholm Road and within a short while I catch my first glimpse of flowing water in a channel alongside the road. Here, the canal walls of graffiti and tags give way to some sort of discernable river bank and I