Upon reaching Shepparton, things began to change, from the depth of the deep river, winding from Murchison we slowly emerged back into civilisation. Pirate rafts, fridges and cars in the river and trees indicated this. As we neared the township, we set up camp amongst trees of Shepparton Regional Park. Alice and I then wandered through a patch of river red gum forest, home to billabongs and beer cans on our way to Mooroopna train station. Alice then boarded the next train on her way back towards her car and life as she knew it, well maybe slightly altered by social isolation.
Alone once more and continuing my social isolation, I was feeling just as connected to the river as ever. I reflect upon the journey thus far and prepare myself for a day venturing deep into the city of Shepparton. As prepared as I could be, with a clean t-shirt and shoes on my feet, I headed into town to re-supply and have a wisdom tooth extraction. With my intrusive tooth removed and my tucker bag filled once more, I returned to the canoes. And now having my childhood friend, Fin joining me that afternoon I was ready for another couple of weeks floating down the wild river realm of the lower Goulburn, losing myself among the reeds, snags and tree roots, while finding clarity of thoughts and intriguing conversation in the isolated company of a good friend and rivers bends. However we soon discovered a different reality than expected.
With Fin now by my side, my journey towards the ocean continued. As we paddled, conversation drifted across the water, and we admired the bird life on this beautiful sunny day. We also observed the effect the town had upon the river; rubbish scattered through the forest and storm water drains flowing into the river and the bridges. I like bridges. A small weir soon obstructed our path, which involved a minor portage before continuing, followed by a larger weir with a series of rocky ledges. To carry our boats around would be a major undertaking and paddling down would likely damage both our fiberglass canoes. As a compromise I made the decision to line the boats through, a straightforward operation that I had completed numerous times with rafts on much more serious rapids.
The first boat floated through only lightly bumping a couple of rocks and all my gear stayed dry, this provided us with confidence and we hastily continued with the second boat. Dinner was begging to call. Having removed my guitar and Fin’s camera gear we roped up the second canoe and pushed it far out into the current, endeavoring to dodge the rocks we fit with the first canoe. The boat began to pick up speed as the water constricted and flowed into the rapid, we scrambled along the rocky shore, pulling our ropes from either end of the canoe to influence its direction as it built up momentum. Missing all the rocks that scraped the first boat. Momentarily excitement filled my body and the rush from dropping into this unexpected yet familiar white water arena made me happy.
The boat bumped a rock that was hidden below the surging water, turning it sideways and in an instance water flooded in, flipping the craft and as the mass of water flowing down the river filled the canoe, it wrapped around the rock. The ridged, yellow fiberglass canoe, the Wanderer, that had lived at my parents house for the last 20 years and to which I believe belongs to my godparents (sorry), was slowly bending more and more, completely wrapping around this rock, meanwhile our gear and food floated downstream. It is fair to say that we were both a little shocked as we stood there looking at the twisted remains of the canoe that only moments ago was our home, our transport and our companion down the lower Goulburn and into the Murray.
After collecting all our gear and some of our food from the river, and dragging the now two piece canoe from the rapid, we set up camp once more in the forested Shepparton Region Park and it is here we camped out for a few days. Relaxing, reflecting, contemplating and enjoying just being by the river.
Unsure if we could get another boat or if I should continue at all with stage three restrictions coming in. I used the next three days contemplating this difficult decision…