Upper Wingecaribee River- 30 July 2011

By Chantal Bronkhorst

Paddlers: Catherine (Cat) Svec, Chantal Bronkhorst, Chris Berwick, James Bultitude, Jiri Svec and Scott McCoy

Swimmers: Chantal, Chris, James, Scott

Non-swimmers: Cat and Jiri

River level: 1.1m at Greenstead.

Grade: 2/3

It all started on a cold Saturday morning after six boundless kayakers were carefully selected to go on an epic journey.….  On this particular morning, the six fearless paddlers awoke at an hour that normal people would frown upon (the rooster was not even awake yet and still dreaming of unicorns and butterflies).  The paddlers (Cat, Chantal, Chris, James, Jiri, Scott) were however not crazy- they just had an epic quest to complete. They were challenged to paddle the upper Wingecarribee… they accepted. Whilst the paddlers were brushing their teeth and visualising a few paddle strokes, the Wingecarribee was preparing quite an adventure for these paddlers….

The quest started earlier than expected for these paddlers. As they arrived at the supposed location of the container, they were shocked to see the container was in fact not there! A few theories were thought of; an invisibility cloak, time travel or zombies stealing the container. None of these theories really made sense though, so instead the group of paddlers broke up into teams to search for the missing container. Jiri was announced “king of the treasure hunt” after he found the container in a record time of only 10minutes! (Everyone clap hands for king Jiri).

Gear and boats were chosen and they were ready to hit the road. (It should, however, be noted that everyone chose creekers for the day….. All but one person. Damn Americans *cough Scott cough* always trying to be different). They hit the road and shortly after they reached the Wingecarribee. After a quick car shuffle they were in the water and ready to go.

(Okay, time to switch over to first person perspective…. Sort of). We reached the first rapid, and by rapid I mean very slow moving water. I think you can call it a grade 0.1 rapid. WHOOHOOO! Chantal named this as her first challenge of the quest.  She claimed that if she passed this grade 0.1 rapid without swimming she can be promoted to the title “PRO-kayaker”. Needless to say, she passed the rapid with flying colours and is now a self-proclaimed PRO-kayaker. (You are welcome to contact her for lessons…. At a low fee of one packet of jelly-snakes). I do not believe it is necessary to mention her getting stuck in a tree shortly after and … swimming.

Anyway, back to serious business!  The day progressed with Jiri leading us down the rapids. Nothing too interesting happened for quite a while, until Chris capsized and did an award winning roll! You should have seen it! From then things got more interesting ….

We reached a rather tricky rapid, where we had to paddle perpendicular to the rapid to avoid being knocked out by a huge ass rock… Jiri paddles down and shows us how to expertly navigate the rapid. Next up, Scott, the brave, wanted to show off his skills… So he paddles and paddles and paddles…  He successfully avoids the rock. He celebrates…. Then *KABAM! *he does a tail stand. (It’s his own fault for using the Necky instead of a creeker like the rest of us.) Scott gets flipped over, he goes for a tactical exit and somehow ends up in a cave with his much loved Necky. His excuse was that he wanted to do some caving too whilst in Australia. (It should be noted that the cave is now called “Scott’s cave”). Jiri, being the nice person that he is, proceeds to ask Scott, the brave, if he is okay.

Jiri: “Scott, are you okay”
Scott: *Looks up* “Yes, I am fine”
Jiri: *Look of terror*
Scott: “What?”
Jiri: “Your nose is bleeding.”

(Please note I do not actually know how this conversation went. I was around the corner. This is what the conversation looks like in my mind.)

Jiri grabs the throw rope and rescues Scott, the brave.

Meanwhile, around the corner, none of us have any idea what is going on. Jiri comes around and demands the camera from Chris. (Did he want evidence of our deaths?). He then proceeds to tell us that Scott got a hit to the face and has a bleeding nose. *Great confidence boost Jiri, great confidence boost*…. So whilst some of us were casually undergoing a panic attack, Chris, the wise, paddles. See video here:   http://upperwindecarribeejuly11.blogspot.com … Chris was successful! Good stuff Chris.

Next up was James, the confident. James paddles and successfully avoid the rock. However, as he gets to the bottom of the rapid he gets flipped. This, however, does not get James down. James sets up to roll back up, but… wait for it…. In the process, his paddle snaps in half. :/!! EEEeeek! Never fear though, we had a spare paddle. So all was good.

Next up Chantal, (the awesome? The weird?)… Avoids rock and then swims at the bottom of the rapid. Great stuff!

Finally, Cat, the calm, shows us how things are done and, like a pro, masters the rapid.

The day progressed with us paddling through canyons and greeting fellow paddlers…  It was round about 14:00 that our stomachs decided it was time for some food. We *disembarked?* and ate lunch on a giant rock in the middle of the river. Good times.

Now for the most eventful part of the day…. I would like to call this: “the non-deadly rapid of death.” This particular rapid woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and as a result was in a very bad mood. Who better to take your frustration out on than a few fearless kayaker? So let the story of “the non-deadly rapid of death begin…”

King Jiri paddles down the rapid and stops in the eddy to scope out any dangers. He spots a deadly hole to the right, but….. no biggy, since it is easily avoidable if everyone just goes for the eddy and changes direction to avoid the hole. A nice little grade two rapids… (Or so it seemed.) Cat joins Jiri in the eddy, no problem. Jiri uses is larger-than-life (I used a thesaurus to find another word for epic) signaling skills to tell us to paddle towards him, and eddy out. Everyone thinks the signal is rather clear… But never assume! James, the confident, paddles towards the rapid, but without warning *KAMAB* takes a detour!? With utter confusion Chantal, Chris and Scott watch James paddle behind some trees and eventually capsize…

A number of things happened simultaneously at that stage… Here is a snippet of what everyone was thinking:

James: “I gotta get out of this boat. There is a hole ahead, I’m too awesome and too young to die.”
Chantal: “Oh look a bird in the tree.” (Not really)
Chris: “What was he thinking?”
Scott: *Insert American accent* “Maybe I should tie the two ends of the rescue rope together and throw it to James and rescue him?” (Remind you of a recent abseiling trip Scott?)
Jiri: “F***”
Cat: “Not the club boat!”

James was forced to perform a tactical exit, thankfully he grabbed onto a tree and managed to live by avoiding the hole…. The same however cannot be said for his boat and paddle. James broke his second paddle for the day! (This has got to be a record! Two paddles in one day.) His kayak reached the hole and went under. OH NOZZ! …

Meanwhile, whilst James was hanging onto the tree for dear life, Chris paddles to the side (I think he wanted to get out and help rescue) and holds onto the cliff base. Somehow, Chris managed to push himself off balance, capsized and was forced to perform a tactical exit. Chris, his boat, and paddle went down stream… Chris and his boat were lucky enough to avoid the hole, the paddle, however, was not…. The paddle was never seen again.

5mins and 37 seconds later James’ boat resurfaced. What a relief.

So where were we standing at this point? Well, we started with

–          6 kayakers,

–           6 boats and

–          7 paddles.

What were we left with now?

–          6 kayakers

–          6 boats

–          4 paddles

–          2 broken paddles…

Do the maths. Chris and James had to paddle with half a paddle each the rest of the way. Jiri and Cat took one look at their expensive paddle and expressed little interest in sharing it. Good times.

In other news:

  • awards for the day goes to

–          Chantal for staying in her boat the longest whilst being capsized in hope that someone would rescue her… It paid off.

–          Cat for being bad-ass and paddling with her recently operated knee.

  • Black berries were attacking everyone throughout the trip

The end of the upper section of the Wingecarribee was finally reached. We put on our warm clothes, loaded the boats on the car and we were on the road again, back to Sydney. It should be noted that “car amazing” (with Jiri, Cat, and Chantal) reached Sydney first.  The win was due to Cats exceptional short cut navigational skills, Jiri’s need for speed, and Chantal mind power in the back seat. Not to worry Chris, James, and Scott, there is always the next time.

The trip was nicely rounded off with dinner and a few jugs at the Royal hotel. Don’t miss out on the next trip!

Photos and videos can be seen here:  http://upperwindecarribeejuly11.blogspot.com