Adventures on the Glenelg River Canoe/Kayak Trail

Author: Liam – Photographer: Em

If you are keen to have your own kayaking/canoeing adventure without the poor decision making. Jump on a WMSS trip. We have a trip to Glenelg River planned for 14-15 March which is perfectly suited for novice and seasoned paddlers alike. We can’t promise you won’t be tired, but we can promise you will have a fantastic weekend with a bunch of fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
See all the info and book your tickets here.

One early March morning Em and I decided to make the trek down the highway… all the way down the highway… to Glenelg River National Park, near the border of South Australia and Victoria. We had recently bought ourselves some fresh kayaks. So fresh in fact that we had picked them up from the postage warehouse in the western suburbs earlier that morning (a piece of advice, don’t order a new kayak to arrive on a Friday afternoon if you need to use it on Saturday, postage companies are not that reliable), cut all the packaging of them in the adjacent service station and loaded them onto the roof.

After a 5.5 hour drive from Torquay to Pritchard’s landing (the detour via Melbourne and the stop to grab the dinner we forgot really blew out our drive time) we loaded up our dry bags, jammed everything into the kayak hatches and we were ready to go.

Being novice paddlers we of course planned a very “mild” trip:

  • Day 1 – Pritchard’s to Patterson’s Canoe Camp – 20.7km
  • Day 2 – Patterson’s Canoe Camp to Moleside Landing – 30.7km
  • Day 3 – Moleside Landing to Pritchard’s – 10km

Floating along the Glenelg river you could be in the middle of nowhere, no noise from roads, no sign of civilisation except the occasional paddler you pass by, nothing to cause you an ounce of stress. Just cloudless blue skies, glorious Australian sun and more shades of green than you could imagine. Our first day of the river was fabulous. We were in no rush so leisurely paddled along the river and enjoyed soaking up the sun. The river meanders its way southwest past luscious greenery, riverside cliffs and tall grass. You can occasional spot a hiker on the trail that runs along beside the river or some campers at one of the numerous camp sites along the rivers length.

Reaching our camp at the end of our first day, the 21km paddle had done a pretty good number on our arms and that “glorious Australian sun” had done a number on our faces. Turns out the cooling effect of being on the water hides the fact you are getting roasted. Nonetheless we had a fantastic day and enjoyed the company of our fellow campers.

The evening was spent making our usual dinner (pasta, a jar of pasta sauce, cut up salami and olives – the perfect “shit we forgot dinner” dinner) and finding a place to set up our hammock for the night. Yes, that was hammock, singular. Em had bought me a camping hammock for Christmas and I was very keen to test it out. Surely it would be big enough for the two of us! We found ourselves two sturdy trees, fought off the very friendly possums and settled in for the night. Cosy would be an understatement. The night was spent waking to remove elbows from ribs, fighting over the blanket and almost flipping out of the hammock when the possum in the tree we were tied to came way too close to joining us! All in all, the perfect night’s sleep before another big day of kayaking.

By the time we woke on day two those sore arms had turned into aching bodies and Em was trying to convince me that the rope she was hiding in her back was in fact just a tight muscle. Turns out sleeping like contortionists in a shared hammock all night probably doesn’t do much for sore muscles. But with rain clouds gathering we quickly packed up the gear, loaded up our kayaks and got back on the water… just in time for the rain to start. It started out drizzling and turned into a pretty steady stream of rain. We of course didn’t have kayaking skirts because that would be sensible. Me, being the optimist, (read idiot) that I am decided not to put on my waterproof jacket at the first sign of rain and about 5kms into our 30km day I was pretty soaked. The paddling was still amazing, darting in and out of reeds along the edge of the river, gliding under giant gums as the leant out over the water. It really is a spectacular river.

By about the 15km mark my teeth were chattering and Ems back was giving her a bit of grief, so we decided to stop and warm up. We jumped out of the boats and ran up to the nearest shelter, the drop toilet. Standing under the little veranda on the toilet, soaking wet, shivering and stuffing our face full of starburst jelly babies, who said the outdoors isn’t glamorous! It was at this point that we decided maybe, just maybe we wouldn’t make it all the way to Moleside. We got the blood flowing back to our fingers, jumped back in our kayaks and continued on. Decisions about whether to continue could be made later.

As we paddled back past Pritchard’s the allure of the car, warm dry clothes and the fireplace we knew would be going at home, were too much. We pulled into the dock, hauled all our stuff up to the car and packed up for the trip home.

Our first attempt at multiday kayaking was a resounding success. Did we do what we set out to do? Nope. Did we have an amazing time exploring one of Victoria’s best paddling destinations? Yep. Would we go back? Absolutely!

What we learnt:

  • Don’t plan a 60km, 3-day trip for your first kayaking adventure.
  • Don’t try and sleep with two people in a camping hammock.
  • Put your waterproof jacket on before you get soaked through.
  • Just because you feel cool on a river doesn’t mean you won’t be a slave to the aloe vera gel for the next week.

What we took:

Gear:

  • 2x 3.3m sit in kayaks with front and back cargo hatches
  • 2x collapsible kayak paddles
  • 2 x Yak High Back 60N PFDs
  • 3x 35L dry bags
  • Hammock for sleeping in (would 100% leave behind next time, until we buy a second one!)
  • Emergency tent (in case of rain)
  • 2 x Sleeping bags
  • 2 x WMSS water bottles (to keep you hydrated through all that sunburn)
  • Camping stove
  • 2 x bowls
  • 2 x knife/fork/spoon sets
  • 2 x WMSS mugs (perfect for a post-paddle cuppa)
  • 2 x headlamps (remember the spare batteries)
  • Matches/flint
  • Map of the Glenelg river (or at least a screenshot of a map on our phones)
  • Sunscreen (definitely had it, just didn’t use it)

Clothing:

  • Waterproof jackets
  • WMSS long sleeve top (limited the horrific sunburn to 13% of our bodies)
  • Shorts (preferably quick dry material)
  • Thongs (Em, having not long returned from QLD ensured me this would be the only footwear we would need!)
  • 1x hat (Em is yet to find one she can pull off)
  • Sunglasses
  • Camp jumpers
  • Long pants
  • Bed socks (a hassle to put on in the hammock but wouldn’t have gone without them)
  • Garmin/Suunto watches (because if it’s not on Strava, did it even happen?)

Food and drink:

  • 10 litre container of water
  • Porridge and milk powder (just add water)
  • Bananas
  • 4 x cliff bars
  • 2 x “shit we forgot dinner” dinners
  • T2 Melbourne breakfast tea (not sponsored – but would save us a lot of money)
  • Starburst jelly babies
WMSS

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