PADDLE PADDLE PADDLE WITH GECKO CANOEING
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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SUNDAY JULY 25 2010
JOURNEY: Katherine to Gecko shed
WEATHER: 18 degrees at 6am
The alarm was set for 6am and we arrived at the Gecko Shed before 7am, parked the van and proceeded to pack our belongings into dry bags, meet our guide and the other 6 people on our 3 day tour. The staff of the small company are extremely well organized and friendly and we were soon packed into the troupie and heading off with our kayaks on a trailer to our drop off point at the river, south of Katherine.
Jen, our guide gave us some quick training in paddling techniques and Sheila said that Kath looked terrified as she tried to take it in- for those who don't know, Kath is strictly "unco" which was Jen’s description of uncoordinated participants.
We were soon in the delightful, gently flowing Katherine River, practising “paddle, paddle, paddle”, reverse paddle and left and right rudder; of course some of us picked up the techniques immediately, others took a little longer and Kath was horrified when Jen told her some people finish the 3 day trip still unable to paddle and steer. “Oh, dear!!!”
Initially it was just floating along with the flow, becoming comfortable with manoevering the boats and enjoying the river.
And who said anything about rapids? Rapids are in Tassie and north QLD aren't they???Fortunately they were relatively small but we still had to don helmets before entering and they seemed extremely fast flowing as you steered over rocks through the fast moving water under the instructions from Jen and she was fantastic, and of course got us all through. Kath decided that the worst that could happen was to capsize which we both did once, and after that the fear subsided and the enjoyment began. The water was so clean that you could fill your water bottles from it and the temperature so close to body temperature that dropping into it was lovely.
The Katherine River rises around 20 metres in the wet season so it is amazing to see huge tree trunks trapped high up in the trees along with other natural debris that is swept along in the huge rush of water. We saw so many birds, a few wallabies and admired the changing sand banks that looked more like dunes. The blue winged kookaburra competed with the white and black cockatoos to make a cacophony of loud screaching sounds that broke the silence especially at dawn.
Our group was 2 brothers- Joseph, a mining engineer and Eamon, theatre artistic director in their late 20's/early 30’s, a couple Steve and Bernadette, in their 50’s both nurses, Judy, an orthodontist, and Anna a public servant also in her 30's; we made an interesting group and everyone connected well. We loved the two brothers- they were so much fun and really supportive if you got into trouble on the river.
And then there was Jen, Territory guide extraordinaire- her general knowledge of the country, local flora and fauna and history and culture could not be faulted; she was a strong leader, highly organized and skilled with a lethal sense of humour. And boy would you need all that to get 8 non paddlers through 50 kms of river, prepare their 3 meals, set up camp and keep everyone safe. Eamon took a swim in a waterhole when he got ahead of everyone and she calmy told him that this was not a place to swim and he should get into his kayak ASAP because a salt water crocodile had made his home here!!!!! She never flinched in handling every situation encountered.
Her loud commanding "paddle, paddle, paddle" rang out as she directed a lost one back on course.
She managed the whole tour seamlessly and the days flowed as smoothly as the river and when someone capsized or got stuck you knew that she would get you through; she was super!!
Our overnight camp sites were on sandy beaches beside waterholes that were safe to swim in and she prepared a cooked meal on the camp fire each night and we ate at a table set with tablecloth and candles. The full moon lit up the area well enough not to need torches. We all enjoyed sitting around after dinner and chatting until someone would yawn and call bedtime. We slept on swags under the stars in the silence and it was magic.
This part of the Katherine River is so remote we saw only 2 guys fishing on our first morning and after that only birds and animals.
This is a trip to be recommended! We experienced a remote and exhilerating journey and it was fun!
We were collected from the river bank at Manbulloo station on the afternoon of the third day and after a 30 minute drive through this huge cattle station where we saw brolgas and mobs of brahmin cattle, we arrived back at the Gecko shed and it was time to say good-bye, but not before the crew presented a chocolate birthday cake to celebrate Kath's 64th which was today.