We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather this weekend when the group of 7 of us tripped down to Kangaroo Valley for a spot of kayaking and camping. The skies were clear, the air crisp and cool, and there was not a hint of breeze. A complete opposite of our January experience really.
As we sluiced our way down the river, we gawked at wombats, eagles, and kangaroos, and reveled in the delightful chirping of birds. The water was a perfect mirror of the stringybarks along the riverbank.
Fall is definitely here though. By 430pm, the sun had already dipped below the line of trees up Yarrunga Creek. But we were already comfortably set up in our sheltered campsite, and the beginnings of a merry campfire going.
In the morning, well, pre-dawn really, we clambered out of our toasty sleeping bags and eased our way into the water. The fog was thick, enveloping, mysterious. The perfect ambience for our quiet sojourn up dead tree gorge. As the sun rose and warmed up the air, the fog slowly dissipated, leaving behind a steamy film on the water surface.
To paddle in Kangaroo Valley has long been on our bucket list. The stars aligned this past weekend. Eight of us trekked down from Sydney, car boots filled with camping gear and food, hearts full of anticipation.
The forecast had been iffy, but Bridget, the consummate outdoors girl, squashed any potential hestitation. It’s just a bit of rain, she insisted, and it’s summer, so it’s not like you’d be cold.
As it was, we lucked out. The clouds flitted in and out all day on the water, and we had to battle strong headwinds at certain stretches of the paddle, but we were all smiling. It felt good to be out on the water, removed from the rest of the world. Just us, some roos, hopefully some sightings of wombats (but not snakes).
We had our pick of campsites, and chose, in our opinion, the best one. It was on the edge of a small peninsula, and afforded us views of the river bend. We set up camp and dispersed, half of us excited to head back out on our now light kayaks to explore, the other half to stretch out their legs on a hike.
Lisa, Pat, Jeff and I were keen to check out Yarrunga Creek, a windy branch off the main river. In a time past, it was dry land, flooded when the government created the Shoalhaven Hydro-Electric Scheme in the 1970s. Now, dead trees dot the creek.
That was our original intention anyway. But we got sidetracked by the rocks and cliffs that lined the water edge, and instead spent a merry couple hours scrambling and then jumping into the water to cool off. Someone had also tied a long rope off one of the trees at the edge of the water, and we couldn’t resist swinging from it.
We did eventually tear ourselves away long enough to go up a short section of the Creek. The golden glow from the evening sun on the naked stringybarks were beautiful to behold. We had to reluctantly wind our way back to camp in the remaining light of day.
Back at camp, the girls were beginning to whip up dinner by the water. We stretched out luxuriously, admiring the fiery orange and pink skies and delighting in the ever dispersing clouds. By the time we pulled out our whiskey to mix with our various concoctions of tea and hot chocolate, the clouds had completely blown away, unveiling the milky way overhead.
Still, we could see flashes of lightning in the far off distance (so far, we did not hear any rumblings of thunder). So before we tucked in for the night, we made sure to turn over the kayaks in one neat row along the water edge.
Good thing we did so. For after midnight, we awoken to loud rain and wind on our tents. The temperatures had cooled significantly too, so that I pulled on my fleece pants and dug out my rain jacket before burrowing into my sleeping liner and falling back alseep.
Magically at 5am, the steady drumbeat of rain drops that had been beating down on our tent through the night abated. In the ensuing silence, the kookaburras took up their mating cry. I popped my head out of the tent for a look. The clouds were thick and low; no chance of a good sunrise, but it had indeed stopped raining. A layer of fog hovered above the water edge.
Time for a morning paddle. Although most of the group had expressed interest the night before in a sunrise paddle, only Jeff, Pat and I got out of our cosy tents. We pushed off in the still water. The air temperature was chilly, the waters almost warm in comparison. We eagerly sought out the steam rising from the water; it was welcome puffs of hot air.
Unemcumbered by heavy loads and refreshed from our sleep, our strokes were swift and sure, and we quickly made our way back to Yarrunga Creek to paddle amongst the dead trees. What a surreal experience.
All too soon though, we had to return to camp, make breakfast, pack up, and continue our way downstream towards Tawolla Dam. But not before stopping by the rope swing again for a few more minutes of fun!
The weekend turned out amazing. We couldn’t stop grinning. Fantastic bunch of friends, and a great group to travel with. I loved that everyone looked out for one another in small ways, whether it was waiting up for the slower members of the group, sharing snacks, boiling water and tea. And especially for crawling out of their warm and dry tent in the middle of the night in a raging storm to take down the tarp we had painstakingly strung above the trees but never used and which was taking a loud beating in the winds – Lisa and Natalie, thank you for your thoughtfulness.
We’d all met through kayaking, so it felt doubly sweet to be out together on a kayaking and camping adventure.
But for now, it’s back to reality. And to dreaming up the next adventure.
As part of our training for our upcoming Overland Trek in Tasmania, Jeff and I have been trying to schedule in hikes on weekends. This past weekend, we headed down to Kangaroo Valley. My first choice would have been to paddle down to the gorge instead, since that’s more relaxing in my opinion haha. But training calls.
I chose as our trail the Old Meryla Road trail, a 16km walk that passes through the creeks and ends up at Lake Yarrunga. Alas, we couldn’t find the locked gate at the crucial fork described on the trail map and ended up on the Griffins Fire Trail instead. It was a workout of a walk though, with a 5km straight descent, 2km of flat respite, followed by 5km straight ascent on the return route. Oh well, all in the name of training.
We also stopped by Fitzroy Falls for the view. The rim walks look promising, even if they were shrouded in a thick layer of mist when we visited late afternoon.
We set up camp overnight at Bendeela Recreational Area. We weren’t quite sure what to expect initially, given it was just a huge expense of grass where everyone could park their trailers / tents, but it turned out beautifully. Given that it was still early in the season, there was ample room on the grass. We spread out a picnic mat, laid back and enjoyed a bottle of beautiful Malbec over dehydrated camp fare – including some really tasty apple crumble! – and watched the wombats lazily waddle amongst the tents.
An awesome way to take in some fresh air and the great Australian outdoors.