The water has risen another inch or more and I am keen to start paddling. The weather looks promising with large patches of blue sky. The air is chilly but feels as though it will warm nicely later in the morning.
I stop in front of a large rock hindering my view of a rapid. The sound of turbulent water tells me there’s something sinister waiting. I climb out and check and my suspicions are correct. This rapid is a bit on the scary side. Large rocks have narrowed the river and created fast moving water which turns sharply to the right and then left. I feel confident, and decide to take it on. And why not do some filming as well?
My video camera is set: ‘action’. Before I am in view of the camera I overturn in my kayak. Just the thought of being filmed has made me clumsy. I climb back in and push off. Nerves are circulating in my stomach, not because of the camera watching but the fear of capsizing. The current is too strong and sends the kayak on a collision course with an awaiting rock. I hit and flip over, letting go of my paddle. There is no time to think and by reflex I climb straight back into the kayak. Off I go down through the rapid passing the camera and down another rapid. Even without a paddle I find it surprisingly easy. I continue down past my paddle, submerged and wedged between some rocks. I first paddle by hand to the opposite side and quickly walk back and collect the video camera still left filming on top of the rock. Being that I’m unable to recharge it while on my trip, I make it a priority to conserve its battery-life wherever I can.
Next I must retrieve the paddle but I cannot see it anywhere. I feel around under the water with my leg just in case it has submerged deeper into the rocks below. It’s not there. I have feelings of despair as I gaze downriver in hope of making a sighting. I look back to the spot where I last saw it. I object to the thought of making a paddle out of a tree branch and opt to go in search downstream. After a hundred metres of doggy-paddling in my kayak I see my bright yellow-ended paddle floating in the water. I am overwhelmed with relief.
Further down river I continue capsizing in the rapids. So far I’ve lost and recovered my tripod twice, chased my bedroll down the river, and for a brief moment was tangled in rope while trapped under the kayak. I can’t help but feel worried about challenging these rapids. They don’t seem terribly big but I’m struggling to maintain confidence. I admit I’m a little afraid. I re-access my options. I feel reluctant to walk the kayak through with the rope, as this is hard work and can be just as dangerous and time consuming. I decide to stay on the river but with a new approach to begin each rapid as slow as possible.
The day comes to a close with no more incidents but memories of a day that has been mentally and physically challenging. I have refined my kayaking skills to a level which sees me through without any further capsizes. My confidence is building. I am exhausted, so I stop and set up camp. I was trying to reach Wollangambe River before the day’s end but physical exhaustion wouldn’t allow me. I find a nice long sandy bank lining an inside bend of the river. I hang my wet belongings over vines where the vegetation borders the sandbank. The late afternoon sun peering through the clouds offers a chance to photograph a stunted eucalypt tree clutching to sandstone cliffs. It’s a nice distraction from the day I’ve had and a welcoming reminder of the beauty on show in the gorge.
Sandbanks are always a good indicator if the water level is rising or receding. When the water is receding, lines are left where the water has been lapping the sand, often leaving several lines along the bank. Even though the day had been relatively sunny the water is still on the rise. After only one hour on the sandbank I watched my patch of sand reduce quite dramatically in size. Storms have been feeding the Colo’s tributaries and I was witnessing the flow-on. I am amused by the thought that in the middle of the night I might find myself paddling around looking for a higher sandbank or have to venture up into the undergrowth where the creepy crawlies lurk. But for now I watch and wait.
It is about 2am and I am more than ready for sleep. The rising river is keeping me awake. Overall it has risen 3 inches but thankfully has slowed up in the last hour. I feel I can sleep now without the worry of being flooded.