Friday, November 26, 2010

HIKE/SWIM: Clarence Rv Gorge

We had been thinking about heading out to the Clarence Rc Gorge for some time now, so having some time off on Thursday, that's exactly what we did.  There are a couple ways to get there, we cam from Copmanhurst, across the Clarence Rv at the Lillydale bridge
Only just low enough to cross !
because of all the rain, the water was just under the crossing, allowing us to get through

and then followed the winding road further up into some beautiful country.  This was to be an exploratory trip, to decide if it was worthwhile coming back and spending some time there, kayaking or rafting.  We approached from the western side oft he river, through the private property called "The Gorge" , rather then on the western side via "Wavehill Station".

The country was incredibly green, the colour almost luridly vibrant
Verdant famland

The drive slowly snakes further and further up the river, with glimpses of the river around nearly every corner, along with some wonderful River Red Gums
Massive river red gums
Old power pole on it's last legs

After speaking to the properties owner, we parked the Ute and started the hike up the river, it's only about 3 - 4 km up .  The "track" follows the river up at the bottom of the high bank, river left and is a partly obscured cow track, a little difficult to follow in places but it get's you there.

You pass numerous massive fig trees,

Fig trees lining the cow track you follow up the Rv
all the while being able to hear the river but not see most of the time, it as it crashes through the baslat rock, having carved it's own path over millions of years.

Eventually you come around the corner, spying Rainbow Falls, the last of the falls (numbered coming down the river)

Rainbow Falls
from there we continued up the river.  Unfortunately, the rest of the falls are near the bank opposite and because of the rain we have been having, the usually low channel on our side was too high, proving impassable, oh well, I guess it means we will have to come back !

We knew we would be doing a few water crossings, so Toni was keen to try her Vibram Fivefingers out on a true hike

Toni stepping out in her" Fivefingers" !
We found a great spot beside the river to stop, swim have lunch and relax before heading back

There was plenty of fauna, the highlight being two wedgetail eagles and a huge goanna, as well as interesting flora
Fungi on a log

After the walk back, we jumped in the river to cool down with another swim, then headed back out home, coming back out onto the Gwydir Hwy, before Jackadgery.

There are plenty of paid camping spots right beside the river, as well as a cottage to hire f you're looking for something a little more salubrious and they will even arrange to take you up the river in a small boat if you're so inclined.

Well worth the trip, next time we need to take the rafts !

Friday, November 5, 2010

RAFT/MTB: Packrafting the Boyd Rv

This was to be a full day adventure, and a full day of adventure it turned out to be.    One of the huge advantages of the Alpaka packrafts is the size they pack down to, that versatility, combined with a great design was one of the main reasons we chose these as the best solution for us.   This versatility was to come into it's own on this trip.  While mountain bike riding was our primary passion, being in the bush was where it was at.  Combining the Mount Bikes with rafting in a single day promised to be everything we were looking for.

We had planned to start at Buccarumbi (the confluence of the Mann and Nymboida Rv's) about 15 minutes from our place, ride our mountain bikes to Dalmorton, (a once thriving gold mining area, long ago abandoned), just to the west of the Chalendui National Park, some 19km's up the river, with the rafts on the bikes !  I had recently acquired a Freeload rack for my bike, from Ground Effect
Freeload Rack for bicycles

the perfect piece of kit to carry something the size of the packraft.  I mounted it on my Specialized Epic 29er and had Toni jump on to grab a pic with it all kitted up.  While I had the raft strapped to the Freeload, Toni had everything in a larger backpack, not quite as nice to ride this way but easily doable.  The breakdown paddles easily fitted in the pack, my lightweight carbon fibre Sawyer paddle is shown in my Camelback  HAWG for comparison.

Kitted up ready to go

Some research had led us to believe the best time to kayak the Boyd Rv was when the flood level gauge was at about 1.5m at Jackadegry (the closest food gauge, further down the system on the Mann Rv) ,  we were just under 1.5m, the sunny weather from the last two days had deserted us but while it was overcast, there were still sunny patches.

We  left the vehicle at Buccarumbi at about 8am, then started riding taking us 90mins to ride to Dalmorton on the old Grafton - Glenn Innes dirt road. 

View Larger Map

While the road is a 4-WD road and not the single track nearly all mount bike riders lust after, it's a superb ride as it follows the river for nearly the entire 19km, there were no difficult climbs but several long gentle ones followed by a few fast descents.  We were continually gawping at the great views as the river broiled along side us, taking note of some of the trickier rapids, a couple of the rapids looked to be approaching Grade 3 with the extra water from the recent rains.

The Freeload performed superbly in it's inaugural outing and didn't miss a beat as we rounded the last corner and spied the Dalmorton sign

Arriving at Dalmorton

We unpacked the gear, I inflated the rafts with the bag inflation device and topped it off with the mouth valve while Toni organised the gear.

Inflating the seat with the mouth valve
Pack secured with the Alpacka pack-latch system

Ready to rock 'n roll !
 After securing the bikes, packing the rafts and doing a final check we headed off

and so it begins
Putting in at Dalmorton is right on a race, so you are into it from the first paddle stroke, before you get a chance to settle down

enjoying a respite between rapids

and make the final small adjustments.  The top half of he river for this trip seemed littered with mostly grade 1 and 2 rapids, the extra water adding a little more challenge making the grade 2 rapids a little harder, this made the  going swift and a lot of fun , with the stability and superb control of the packrafts providing sense of relief

when heading towards boulders in the middle of the rapids.  We paddled for about 2 hours

before stopping for lunch on a some sun warmed boulders and enjoying a swim

not long after lunch the weather turned, and alight shower started, this gave me the perfect opportunity to try our my mew Arctyrex rain jacket, which worked to keep me both warm and dry.  Toni had her jacket and being very fashion conscious, it even matched her raft !

Rafting through a rain squall

After lunch we started won river again, unfortunately in my zeal to start rafting I had forgotten to un-clip my Garmin Edge 305, that I use on my mountain bikes and transfer it to the raft.  I had loaded up several waypoints to give us an indication of our progress, DOH !

The river quietened from here, with several races and smaller rapids but none of the excellent grade  2 rapids we had encountered before lunch.  On the upside this gave us more time to enjoy the prolific wildlife, especially birdlife from the ubiquitous cormorant and blue beaked ducks, to the more exotic eagles and Azure Kingfishers and the occasional tortoise and eastern bearded dragon sunning themselves and the plethora of fish swirling about.

Paddling one of the slower sections

We had planned on getting in somewhere between 3-4pm,

so we were surprised when 5 rolled around and we still and not spotted the Nymboida Rv, after 7 hours paddling the body was starting to get weary and when we finally rounded the bend at 5:30 and spotted the confluence of the Boyd and Nymboidia rivers (Buccaurambi) it had been a full day but still, a part of you never wants these wonderful experiences to end.

We still had to pack up and drive back up the road to retrieve the bikes but that seemed a doddle after the hours we'd spent riding and rafting.

A thoroughly enjoyable day on a beautiful wild river,right at our back door.