Day 02: rain, hail and shine

31 08 2008
setting off day 2

setting off day 2

On the water by 7.30, we (paddlers Chris, Sacha and joining us for his first leg, Jono) dispatched some mean rapids three strokes after launch. Ten strokes after and a few more rapids  despatched the three of us. It was shaping up as that kind of day. Early on, the riverbank impressed with large original growth eucalypts towering above, with an understory of equally impressive treeferns. With a spot of rain overnight and snow on the hills (Mt Donna Buang had a good covering by all reports), the river was flowing slightly higher than the previous day, giving us good clearance over most rock and shale. Not long after Warburton we came across our first signs of landcare work, riverbank regeneration most possibly the work of the Millgrove Residents Action Group and the Millgrove Environment Restoration Group.

It wasn’t long, however, before we hit the beginning of agricultural land and the story on the riverbank changed dramatically. Goodbye thick native growth, hello erosion, blackberry infestation (some being treated, other patches not), water pumps, rubbish dumps, and agricultural fields (cows) dropping right into the river. The change to the native state of affairs further emphasised a little further downstream with an infestation of willow trees so bad that in sections their matted branches spanned the entire breadth of the river. As if this wasn’t bad enough in terms of their detrimental effect on the environment, they also caused a casualty to our team. Jono got caught by a branch, went sideways, tipped and dislocated his shoulder. Ever the Landcare Hero, he soldiered on after popping it back in.

There were obviously some farmers en route with a strong landcare ethic, with several farms leaving wide strips of native vegetation and keeping cattle from the banks. The benefit was obvious in the integrity of the bank, the windbreak it provided and the presence of wildlife, particularly the birds heard singsonging above. Where landowners had stripped their paddocks to the water’s edge, the silence spoke volumes for the effect on biodiversity.

Next: Sacha saved my life. Moving on…

Welcomed to Healesville by local landcarers

Welcomed to Healesville by local landcarers

We paddled out the day in sunshine, hail then rain, our hypothermia abated by the warm coffee and cake welcome put on by Karyn from the Mount Toolebewong and Don Valley Landcare Group and Maureen from Healesville Environment Watch Inc, along with Kath from the Mail Newspaper Group (who wins the award for most considerate journalist ever for also bringing along chocolate cake). Both Karyn and Maureen explained the work their groups have undertaken in the local area to help improve the health of the Yarra. One such project resulted in the planting of an 800m band of trees along a headwater riverbank. Others have involved revegetation, landcare farming, and recycling programmes involving the local schools and community.

Tomorrow we’re assured no snags on the river (some snags today including trees as thick as four telephone poles blocking our way), and a flatter, smoother run as we head through Yering Gorge toward Wonga Park.

Fresh back from Beijing where he finished fifth in the Kayak Slalom, Warwick Draper is set to join the Landcare S2S team for the last 2hr stretch of Day03. It will be a day of elite athletes as also getting on board for the next four days is top Australian adventure racer Jarad Kohler, fresh back from a race in Foster. Both Jarad and Warwick will be there for the final day on Thursday 04th when we’re hoping the lure of a 14km stretch from Herring island to Williamstown will lure many away from their desks and onto the water in celebration of Landcare Week. If the celebrity paddlers and final day vibe are not enough, at least get down for the free barby. 2pm, Williamstown foreshore. Look for the exhausted paddlers.