Campfire tales – Gundagai

WORDS: Scott Rawstorne from Global Paddler.

There is nothing like a crackling campfire at the end of a big day on the water to bring out ripping yarns from past adventures. Most of those stories have never made into Global Paddler guides so they have only been heard by a select few. Until now…

A day of biblical proportions

My paddling companion and I had gone to bed the night before our Gundagai paddle feeling sure that it would be bigger than Ben Hur and that it would sort the men out from the boys. We just weren’t sure which category we would fall into.

Campfire Gundagai Photo 1

A quick check of the map over breakfast in Gundagai’s famous Niagara Café resulted in 15 kilometres being sliced off what was previously going to be a 50 kilometre journey. I then placed a call to our local contact Ron Moses to let him know our plans. Despite never having met us before, he had kindly agreed to give us a lift back to our car at the end of the day.

The first third of our journey was to be on the Tumut River with the remainder on the Murrumbidgee River. We launched into fast-moving waters and spent the rest of the day enjoying the challenge of manoeuvring our less than purpose-built 5.4 metre sea kayaks through grade 1 and grade 2 rapids while eluding the grasp of the rampant willow trees that reached out from either bank.

As our adventure neared its end, black clouds started amassing above the horizon. Before long, there was lightning all around and we were scampering for the comparative safety of the shore. The temperature dropped very quickly. When we realised that to stay warm we would either have to share body warmth or start running on the spot, no discussion was required. We promptly set a pace that would have made Usain Bolt proud.

Campfire Gundagai Photo 2

Thankfully the storm passed quickly. The electricity in the air raised one or two whiskers on our faces but luckily the lightning struck elsewhere.

Ron Moses arrived with his mate Drew to take me back to the car while my companion stayed on the beach to look after the kayaks. Along the way, Ron told me that they had been driving up and down the river looking for us because golf ball sized hail had been falling in town and they thought we might have copped it. They were extremely relieved when we finally floated up to the finish line.

It was only after I had waved goodbye to Ron and Drew that I realised the worst. The car had TWO flat tyres! Not only that, I was a long way out of town with no phone reception. There was nothing for it except to start walking, look for the nearest farm, and hope for some mobile coverage. Things were looking bleak, especially since my companion was stuck on the beach, and the mercury was plummeting towards zero.

Campfire Gundagai Photo 3

Then the Moses mobile came over the crest in front of me. I swear that I heard the Hallelujah Chorus and his car had a halo-like glow.

Ron’s actions increasingly reminded us of his biblical namesake as he led us out of trouble. He and Drew took me and our clothes back to town; picked up the kayaks, gave us a place to stay, and contacted the local NRMA guy to organise a rescue mission for the next morning. I cannot praise them highly enough for what they did for us.

The next morning I awoke with the knowledge that the car still had two flat tyres and it was on a dirt road about 20km out of town. I braced myself and dived out the door for an early morning rendezvous with Don from the NRMA. He turned out to be a man of few words, but that was fine with me as his actions did plenty of talking. Not only did he get our car back to Beaurepaires, he overcame the seemingly disastrous bogging of his rescue vehicle without so much as a murmur.

Campfire Gundagai Photo 4

The Paddler’s Guide to Gundagai is available for members to download for free from the Global Paddler website and it is also contained in The Paddler’s Guide to New South Wales 2nd Edition.

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