Leigh and I first crossed paths in the environmental activist sphere. After spending some time in the ethereal Toolangi forests with him and learning about his epic journey, I was almost instantly inspired to join for part of the trip.
I arrived in Seymour on Monday the 23rd, a grin plastered to my face as I felt bubbles of excitement and anticipation rise. I love escaping to nature whenever I can, and this river paradise seemed like the perfect place to spend my days in these unsettling times.
8 days breezed past like the ever changing winds over the water. Long days floating were filled with intriguing conversation, peaceful silence, and the constant observation of the natural wonder around us.
The ever-rattling news and ever-present anxiety about the state of the world faded away, my new reality revealed a landscape exploding with birdlife, gnarled river gums and startling reflections off the river, and from within.
The encounters with our unique native animals are too numerous to list, however a few are now deeply embedded in my memory and will stay with me for the longest time.
A Sacred Kingfisher darts under a small silver wattle, crouching over the bank in the golden light of early evening. He joins a friend, together they sing and sway on a branch overhanging the water, as we slowly pass by in silent reverie. A flash of electric blue wings and a burnt amber chest whiz by as they move on, the moment fleeting and therefore all the more enrapturing. At midday, Whistling kites circle overhead, leaving dark profiles in the cloudless sky, fanned tails and glimpses of golden feathers captured in the bright sunlight. A giant wedgetail eagle swoops into an old twisted river red gum ahead of us, the branch shudders and bends under the sheer size and immense power of the creature. As we approach, it launches to soar once more, leaving us breathless and in total awe. Ripples appear suddenly near a reed devoured stag, was it a cormorant? Where will it re-emerge? Our eyes scan the water frantically until a snatch of brown glossy fur and an adorable face flicker above the surface once more. The elusive rakali is here with us, enjoying the complex underwater realm of the river we are now part of.
Countless moments go unsaid, countless animals unmentioned, and countless moments of inner bliss go unforgotten in this reflection. Language is limited and all those who have wondered at the beauty of a dew filled spider web at dawn know how my words must fail despite my efforts.
Our evenings become a relaxed routine. Honest conversations over camp fire cooked curries and hot teas range from the values of our natural world, the yearning for connection, and for a sense of place, of belonging.
The river was timeless, its transient and diverse state occupying the mind, above all the usual clutter. Sunsets and sunrises painted the skies and the bush in life landscape reds, yellows, greens and blues. Stars beaming diamond light in the brilliant dance of nightfall and a cacophony of sulfur crested cockatoos singing us to sweet slumber. Reminding me of the great infinity of nature, of the unfathomable interconnectedness around us.
Although the world now faces a global health crisis, we must remember to continue our fight for nature, the life that supports us. We are just a tiny puzzle piece in an intricate and expansive ecosystem that encompasses all existence. Time on the river refreshed my gratitude and passion for wild spaces. We must all do what we can to ensure the continuance of the abundance we are blessed with in Australia.
Thank you to Leigh for being a compassionate and knowledgeable paddling companion. I wish you the best of luck with the rest of your journey and look forward to the many yarns to come.
– Alice Hardinge