A Paddle in the Whitsundays?
Aint nobody got time for that!
In 2006 I read an article in Wild Magazine about a lady who went to Queensland and hired a kayak from Salty Dog Sea Kayaks and spend an amazing time exploring the islands of the Whitsunday’s. I was hooked, both on the idea of a paddling holiday in the Whitsunday’s and on sea kayaking, something I had never, at that point, done before.
Well the trip to Tasmania came about first, then we got distracted hiking in Tasmania a few years later and then last year snowshoeing in Victoria. So this year the dream became a reality, a 7 day 6 night paddling adventure circumnavigating Whitsunday Island and along the way visiting Hook, Hazelwood, Henning and Hamilton Islands. Lance (Timor Leste), Stuart, Jame and myself (Perth) and Neale (Melbourne) managed to paddle about 120km in near picture perfect weather from July 4 – 11 2014, this is our story…
Friday 4th and Saturday the 5th July – Perth, Melbourne to Dugong Beach Whitsunday Island QLD
I got put on standby! Stuart had his flight on the wrong night and had to pay over $2000 and all his remaining points to get a business class seat and James…well James was relaxed and ready to leave Perth an hour and a half before we even arrived at Perth airport! Neale and Lance were already overnighting in Brisbane. I managed to land a seat at the very last second – we were all on our way to rendezvous in Brisbane before flying to Proserpine and busing to Shute Harbour, to pay for our boats and ferry to Dugong Beach Whitsunday Island.
We were speechless as we rounded the hills toward the Shute Harbour, the turquoise water shimmered in the morning sun, hardly a ripple broke the surface. My memories of working here on Daydream Island 22 years ago flooded back. We were talked into leaving on the 1pm water taxi instead of the 2pm to please the company, it was a mad rush and we really didn’t get the briefing we’d hoped for. We would have asked more questions like “Where are the promised sails?” But all in all the boats were in very good condition…apart from a worn rudder rope, and their was hardly enough wind to fill a sail.
The taxi was filled with gear to the roof, not ours, but a group of young people who were camping at Dugong Beach for the week, more gear than I’ve ever seen for a week of beach camping!
We set up camp but Stuart, James and I had one missing ingredient for a happy week – Food! We had a plan, the 5 of us climbed aboard our kayaks for the first time and paddled a couple of kms south to where Stuarts friends had their boat moored, they had carried our food from Perth. The lovely Catamaran was the home of Mike and Chrissy who played host to us for an hour of great chats, banana cake and tea.
As we returned to camp we encountered our first of many big sea turtles lounging in the bay.
The sun set on our first event-filled day.
Sunday 6th July – Dugong Bay to Curlew Beach, Hook Is.
After a perfect nights sleep (other than the scuffle of the native rats) we awoke around 6.30am, breakfasted and headed off on foot to summit Whitsunday Peak which sat above our campsite. A 3 hour return walk with spectacular 360º views of the Whitsunday group of islands. We were back for an early lunch sitting by our kayaks overlooking what was still a glassy flat ocean…or Coral Sea to be precise.
We finally loaded up our boats and headed off to our campsite some 11km to the North West on Hook Island. The paddle was beautiful, picture perfect, and we arrived to an empty peaceful campsite.
We emptied our heavy loads onto the beach, most of the weight being made up of water, as we had taken on an extra 25L at Dugong in the form of a jerry can which was strapped today to Neale’s deck. Water was a stress at first but needlessly so as it turned out. We thought we may need over 4L per person per day and we only used about 2! This saving was due in part to the fact that we had many pre-hydrated meals that only required boiling in the bag, so the water was then used for tea or rice etc.
After emptying the kayaks we headed out to explore Naro inlet, the site of some aboriginal cave paintings.
The Whitsunday area is the traditional land and sea country of the Ngaro (Naaro) and Gia people. The traditional owners maintain a strong and ongoing connection with the area and have made access points that tourists are welcome to explore at sacred places around the islands. This is what we discovered here at the base of the inlet. A walking trail to this sacred site with audio stories to listen to, reflective areas and a viewing platform to see the cave paintings. This, we all agreed, was ‘a moment’ on our trip. Satisfied and moved, we paddled the 5km back to our camp, passing huge sandstone rocks carved out by weather and with the orange glow of a setting sun. We made sure our food was stored safe in the kayak hatches to avoid the mice getting into it all…well most of us did that 🙂
Monday 7th July Curlew Beach to Crayfish Bay, Hook Is.
An 8am departure into another picture perfect day. We kept looking at each other asking “can you believe this weather???!!!”
We paddle for just one hour to the beach adjacent the rear of the abandoned Hook Island Wilderness Lodge. We spent a fun hour exploring old buildings, finding huge lizards, trying to knock down green coconuts and eventually descending into the derelict depths of a disused underwater observatory, sadly the windows were mostly covered with algal growth. Upon return to our boats we discovered the tide had left us well and truly high and dry. A long drag followed!
Not only had the tide changed, but the weather too, we spent the next two hours paddling with a strong tail wind and following 1.5m swell. Not all of us enjoyed the extra waves and chop but some enjoyed the messy waters by using them to catch some surf. We probably spread out a little too much in uncertain conditions today and agreed to be within a shout of one another in future in case some of the less experienced paddlers got in trouble.
We rounded a large headland and found Crayfish Beach to be sheltered and idyllic under the towering peak at the head of the bay. So beautiful that it had attracted the presence of some (we deemed as) ‘illegal campers’. We made peace, but it was cramped, lucky they were nice 🙂
The 5 of us scrambled up the rocky face of the nearby cliff for some pretty spectacular views of the bay and surrounding headlands. Upon return from our walk we managed an afternoon of snorkeling and seeing some incredible coral. As the sun rested behind the peak, dinner was served, along with some fresh crayfish…it is Crayfish Bay! James was AWOL – there was a recently arrived French ‘beauty’, he headed out to ‘assist’ in securing her kayak!
Tuesday 8th July – Crayfish Beach to Peter Bay, Whitsunday Is.
Last night was a great night chatting with new friends. They took our rubbish, our empty jerry and served us crayfish…they were definitely feeling guilty about being at the wrong campsite! The big 10L bladders Salty Dog gave us did leak a bit but we were doing ok for water. The bigger worry was 2 broken rudder lines. We took an hour fiddling with fishing line, then another hour at lunch but ended up ringing for help to Neil from Salty Dog who replaced the more damaged kayak the next morning.
After fiddling with rudders we headed off across yet another mirror like ocean which didn’t last too long today, we were pushing into a 10-15kn headwind before too long, it was a good fun, challenging paddle but didn’t last too long, we were back at the beach opposite Hook Island Lodge to rest, lunch and summit the Whitsunday Cairn…well not all of us 🙂 We had phone coverage here, so while James ran the peak, we chatted away to friends and family. Upon James’ return he took a dip and was nearly lost to us all in the very fast-moving current rushing between Hook and Whitsunday! 9km in the morning, 9km in the afternoon, still into a light 5-8kn headwind and small swell. According to Stuart …
Scott screamed like a girl…
when a giant manta ray swam under my boat (‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that’ said Lance), this added to a daily dose of large sea turtles and other fish and dolphins it all made for entertaining paddling.
We paddled into the very long and shallow Peter Bay for our fourth night’s campsite. We had to stop paddling 400m from the campsite due to the low tide. The campsite was all our very own! It had a rustic feel to it after being destroyed by a cyclone in the last season, but we liked it a lot. It was here that my bowels finally kicked in and started moving! We could have had our own tropical island this camp felt so remote. The bird calls sang to us us we sat quietly on the beach absorbed by the evening atmosphere.
Wednesday 9th July – Peter Bay to Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Is.
I had an average night’s sleep after waking to a scratching noise that turned out to be a rat sitting in my cup eating the remaining hot chocolate in the bottom!
I had an amazing time of yoga/stretching and meditation on the little island in the middle of our part of the bay. Small 5cm waves rolled in past my feet. I invited James to join me and we experienced this sacred space for a few moments – mesmerizing!
As we were about to head off when Neil from Salty Dog arrived with a new kayak for James. Neil and Hayley are such great people running a great business, he even brought out heaps more water for us. The water here today was like glass, so transparent, you could see 20 feet to the bottom! The coral was a blaze of colour and fish swam everywhere, again, turtles frequented our path every few hours. A large Mackerel put on a show right in front of our boats jumping many feet out of the water chasing flying fish. A pod of dolphins crossed nearby. At one point I entered a huge cavernous crack in the cliff face in my boat and sat in there listening to the swell rise and fall through the cracks in the rock, it sounded like the cliff was breathing! It would have been a blow-hole in bigger swell. Another turtle swam beneath us and bays filled with sleepy yachts appeared as we moved along the balmy coast of Whitsunday Island, east side.
We stopped at the popular tourist spot in Tongue Bay, creatively named Lookout Beach. We waited until the throngs of people thinned and climbed the lookout for some memorable views down onto Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet. Sadly the promised Geocache hidden here never showed itself and my Travel Bug tag remained in my pocket for another search on another day and another island. We returned to our kayaks and ate our now regular ‘second lunch’.
“Second lunch?” yelled Lance, “Aint nobody got time for that!” (with only Scott laughing hysterically)
The 9km paddle to our Whitehaven Beach campsite at the far south end of the beach was nothing but surreal. We felt like we were floating on air the water was so crystal clear on pure white sand.
That afternoon we spent walking beaches or paddling to nearby Hazelwood Island and snorkeling amongst huge coral bombies and not so huge ref white tip sharks!
Dinner was eaten down on the squeaky white sand of Whitehaven Beach until the whole beach went pinky orange in the dusk glow, not a breath of wind was felt.
It was decided upon sunset that…
‘there has NEVER been a better day…EVER’
Thursday 10th July – Whitehaven Beach to Henning Is.
My day began at around 4am (that’s what happens when you go to sleep at 7.30pm!) I slipped down to the beach with my sleeping bag and watched the morning star rise and an elderly couple pack their double kayak and get ready to head off for a weeks paddle. At around 6am the others arrived, it turn out Stuart had been awake much of that time too, just watching the beach from his hammock. We helped the couple with some photography and waved them off laughing to ourselves about Lances ‘photo bomb’…him not realising it was their camera! The sunrise was second to none, in fact it was heard said that it…
‘was the best sunrise – EVER!‘
Again the morning paddle was like something from a text-book on kayaking – absolute perfection, a sea of light blue glass, towering cliffs, palm and coconut trees to the water and coral under our boats. We met some headwinds and power paddled a good strong paddle into a small beach on Whitsunday Island in the channel between Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands. We ate our ‘first lunch’ here and headed straight on to Henning Island against a strong tide, some of us were ready to put down paddles and eat second lunch but some still had the paddle bug running through their veins.
So a challenge was laid down, ‘can you (Scott) and Neale paddle the double to Hamilton, find a Geocache on top of One Tree Hill, buy us beers and ice and return in two hours?’ The challenge was on, James followed in the single. Well we did amazing time over and back but Neale and I were distracted by a) a massive hill climb and 2) a lost Geocache and James was distracted by…well lets just say, it was coffee…or the one who served it! So we added an hour to the challenge, but timed our return perfectly to see a Humpback Whale playing in the passage off our campsite. So as the sun turned yet another afternoon to evening gold we drank our Coronas and watched the whale do his (or her) thing!
We had hit the 100km mark on our journey, a good hard 30km achieved today, so as the full moon rose over the islands we all crawled into our warm (except for Lances) sleeping bags and slept well despite the cool crisp air.
Friday 11th July – Henning Island to Nari’s Beach Whitsunday Is.
A great finish to a great trip! We awoke to a firm breeze blowing in our favour towards Whitsunday Island. A 7am start across the turbulent waters proved a fun and somewhat challenging start to the day. It was our roughest time on the water, but great to have paddled in such challenging conditions. Water was rushing through the channel creating standing waves and whirlpools and the like. We all agreed that
‘this day was the most challenging paddling – EVER!‘
Shouts could be heard as some chose to ride the sloppy swell, and as we pulled around the headland on Whitsunday Island it all disappeared back to its former glassy conditions, we headed straight for the shelter of Joe’s Beach then around one more tidal rush into Nari’s Beach, our taxi pick up point. We explored a mangrove covered bay along the way and also added one last little ‘extra’ paddle around to the next bay where we had collected our food from Mike and Chrissy a week ago to make it a full circumnavigation of Whitsunday Island. There we were back in Dugong Bay where our adventure had begun just 7 days ago.
We breathed a sigh of relief when we hit the open sea in the water taxi, this 2.5m swell and wild wind could have eaten us for breakfast had we not decided to use the taxi!
After unpacking the boats and repacking our bags, we thanked Neil and Hayley from Salty Dog very much for making our dream a reality. We caught the local bus into town and checked into the Beaches backpackers, had a few beers, a cheep meal with Mike and Chrissy and a good sleep.
The next morning saw us jet setting off to our respective next destinations – Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Gold Coast and ultimately East Timor.
We were deeply satisfied with what we all agreed was…
“THE BEST TRIP – EVER!”
A great weekend at Moore River with the whole family.
The Top Ten Ways The Sport Would Be Different If Microsoft Built Kayaks:
10. A particular model year of kayak wouldn’t be available until AFTER that year, instead of before.
9. Every time you wanted to try a new paddle, you would have to buy a new kayak.
8. Occasionally your kayak would stop dead in the water for no apparent cause. No amount of paddling
would budge it. You would have to tow it back to the launch site and restart your kayak. For some
strange reason, you would simply just accept this.
7. Two people could not both paddle your kayak unless you paid extra for a ’95 kayak or NT kayak in
which case you would also have to buy an extra seat and expensive new charts.
6. A sophisticated marketing blitz would make you feel like a second-rate tasteless slacker for failing to
upgrade your kayak. OOPS — wait a minute — that’s ALREADY happening.
5. Sun Microsystem would make a kayak with 70% less hull drag, half the weight, watertight in all
conditions and twice as stable. Unfortunately, it could be used on only 5% of the existing rivers.
4. Your Microsoft kayak’s compass, weather radio, and sump pump would be replaced with a single
“General Kayak Fault” warning light.
3. The enthusiast press would get people excited about the “new” features of Microsoft kayaks, forgetting
completely that they had been available in other brands for years.
2. Microsoft’s inconsiderable owners manual would spawn a whole cottage industry of outsiders who
would write hundreds of books explaining how to paddle your Microsoft kayak. Amazingly, we would
buy all they printed.
1. If you wanted to go kayaking in a group with your club members or friends (known as Network
Kayaking). EVERYONE in the group will have BUY special group kayaking accessories however, only one
member of the group (known as the kaysysop) would have the foggiest notion of exactly what they did
and no one else would be permitted operate them.
Last week I had the opportunity to exchange my usual 3 days Youth Vision coaching Youth Pastors for 3 days in actual youth ministry. I occasionally take off with Scripture Union (Warriuka Adventure Camping) to lift some of my credibility whilst working with youth pastors. Nothing worse than having no idea what they are talking about when I am coaching!
So off I went with 12 kids from Rosmoyne SHS, 2 staff Paul and Joel (an old Youth Vision Youth Pastor) and Mikey, the other SU worker. We built rafts and paddled for 3 days down the Murray from Pinjarrah. I was in a kayak (still popping anti-inflammatory for my shoulder)! It was idyllic, the kids were on the whole pretty good kids. The weather was incredible, the campsites chosen were straight out of some camping magazine – picture perfect.
On the last night we ran into a couple of guys around a fire on the side of the river, conversations followed, we got on to the subject of marrage and home ownership/joint ownership etc. These guys suggested that I was mad not having finances in my own name and a house of my own. They suggested that this is what Donnald Trump suggests after having 5 fail marriages or the like. Now I don’t know about you, but taking advice from Donald Trump on marriage…hmmm The comment was made by one of the guys, “You just have to put yourself first, you think about number one and then worry about marriage, Donnald Trump says it’s business first then relationship”. Hmmm – I was a bit stunned and reflected back to them that I had been with my girl for 20 years and we were extreemly happy, even more so now than ever, we have joint ownership of everything and I don’t intend to change it, and we are trying something a littole crazy and that is that we put one another’s needs before our own and that we actually deny ourself in many ways so as to serve the other and I that this has worked most of the time and seems to build up a strong marriage…I added that it can actually work outside of marriage in other relationships too.
There was a stunned silence, the 2 Christian guys knew where I was coming from and sat waiting to hear the response…nothing for a long few seconds, then…
“naaaa, too risky, that wouldn’t work, you have just got lucky”
So – maybe I have, Christine is amazing, but still…imagine if everyone actually lived like I have suggested I try to (but fail so often) – putting one another’s needs before our own and actually denying our self in many ways so as to serve the other.
These guys were great fellas and they got in there boat and went off collecting firewood for us (looking for nothing in return – how unselfish of them!)
It was a great few days.
Been Slack on the Old Blog stuff, here is a quick update;
I have spent the last 2 weeks with Scripture Union. Camp one was with Mirrabooka High Yr 8 boys doing a selective boys to men type camp. 17 kids, lots of attitude and not all good. The last night we had to sleep out by ourselves in the bush under our own hoothchies, I was wet, very wet! The talks I did on Men as Lover, King, Monk and Warrior went well (Thanks to Mike’s suggestions on this site!)
Last week’s camp was a bit less intense, Winthrop Baptist yr 11’s Kayaking on the Murray.
Last night watched Kung Fu Panda – Great Laugh, even some Python style humour!
Watched a 1999 flick called Pitch Black which was the first in the Chronicles of Riddick series, Vin Diesel – Good watch!
Playing With What?
My bio diesel processor…we made a batch of 50L, then 80L went great, then a batch of 150L, not so great but managed a rescue and it looks great now. Then a couple of weeks ago did a 100L batch and managed soap. Yes soap is an unfortunate bi-product of stuffing up with this process. Glycerol is one of the waste products, it is also the base product for soap manufacturing, stuff up some small element in the bio process and wham – you have litres of liquid sticky glue which is actually heavy grade soap. My mate Lance has done most of the rescuing as I have been away. It looks like we may have saved a good deal of the oil!
Loved a walk to the library and then take-a-way and movies with my family yesterday arvo.
I am also enjoying the thought of 2 weeks leave over the July school hols. 3 days at Contos camp group near Prevally/Yallingup. 2 days up at the farm, lots of days just pottering at home.
Working For Whom?
I am still full time with Churches of Christ (3 days Youth Vision Ministry Coach and 2 Days OnEARTH/GMP). The SU (Scripture Union) stuff is really to keep a hand in with youth ministry experience as well as looking at options for next year.
I will be working for SU 2 days a week next year in their Neighbourhood Outreach/Forge area as well as doing a camp a term for them in Warriuka. Hopefully I can continue doing the OnEARTH stuff as it is hotting up a little.
Looking Forward to What?
Well 2 weeks leave, then 3 days in Sydney with Youth Vision, then starting up a 14 week study (OnEARTH/Ignition) which includes 2 weeks in Halls Creek with a crew from our Church as well as some others, I am also running a weekend leaders retreat in August which looks like fun.
Finishing off our new raised garden beds out the back, fixing my dead roller door, tidying up my yard a bit and generally slowing down and reading some more.
So that is it. Been way too busy, but feel ok. Not pumped. Always dreaming too much of a quiet life in the country, working less not more. But I need to learn to be in the moment more, “be where you are”.
I have this … like, amazing carbon fibre kayak paddle, it’s worth about $4-$500 and I found it! Yep I found it on the bulk rubbish, you know bulk rubbish where people leave all their unwanted stuff in their carport and out on the back patio!
Seriously, I found it on the side of the road.
Anyway I am taking with me tomorrow to Tasmania, I have an issue with the small plane we are flying on from Melbourne to Devonport, they wont let me take more than 1 bit of luggage.
They quoted me $490 to fly it over there ONE WAY, we are talking 2, 1kg paddles folks, now come on!
So I am just going to turn up at the check in desk and see what they do!!
I could be using my hands to get up the Gordon River.
2 more sleeps until
Jeff, Me, Matt, Stu, Clint, Casey, and Craig left Leighton beach at 6.45am then paddled to McDonalds on Freo Harbour (masive chop across the heads!) then up the big creek (Swan River) to the Raffles Hotel. About 5 hours all up. Not as far as I thought we might have paddled today but a good wander up the river at a nice slow pace, it was a good relaxing way to spend the morning, bit sore in the shoulders! Click on snaps to see full pic.