Thursday, December 29, 2011
WELCOME REEF TO SEWELLS POINT
This years annual "Pain Campaign" was set to be a feast of adventure, which involved almost 300k's of packrafting, hiking and mountain biking, linking three distinctly different rivers. The plan was to start at Oallen on the Shoalhaven river, paddling down to Lake Yarrunga and on up the lower section of the Kangaroo river. From here it was a hike up through the Kangaroo valley to the head waters where I had left my bike in the bush for a ride to the beginning of the Nepean river, then on to the finish line at Bents Basin.
The campaign ended abruptly early on the second morning after missing an eddy and running what I now like to call the grade 4 accidental rapid, which resulted in a fractured and posterior angulation of the coccyx. Or in other terms, a busted arse....but more on that later.
After a late start around 10.00am, I began paddling with a dose of nervous excitement. The plan was to get through as much of the serious section as possible that day as the forecast was for 20-40mm of rain. The gauge was already above the minimum and it wouldn't need much to send it high. Down to Sewells Point is a fairly committing section of river compared to everything else I've paddle so far. With rain falling and the dark metamorphic rock sucking the light out of an already deep and foreboding gorge, I made quick time downstream until the heavens opened just before nightfall.
As the day wore on, the weather deteriorated so I headed for higher ground near some large, thundering drops and made camp in miserable conditions. After replacing as many calories as I could stomach, it was off to sleep with thoughts of a flooding gorge to keep me slightly restless during the night.
I missed the eddy...
The second drop flipped the raft and I remember thinking, don't let go of the paddle but get to the f#$@^!* raft before the next drop. The large volume of water was moving fairly quickly and I hit numerous rocks before reaching the raft which had flipped again and in seconds I was in and paddling like crazy to straighten up before the 2 meter chute at the bottom. I lined it up just as the bow dipped and as I drew breath it became dark and I felt the power of the water drive the raft deeper than expected. It sandwiched, and I felt the full force of the pack against my chest before surfacing perfectly!!!
The adrenaline had completely masked the bashing along the way and the stoke had me laying back in the raft soaking up the view of what I'd just descended. I pulled up on a rock to empty the water out and as I sat up, something didn't feel right. As I stood, pain shot through my tailbone. Just another bruise...I had plenty already along with grazes and a few cuts.
Not so....after the next couple of rapids it became apparent I may have actually broken it. Portages became just as painful as trying to simply sit in the raft let alone paddle rapids.
Within an hour I could no longer paddle any rapids without lifting my backside off the seat which left me only one hand to paddle....I was within a kilometer of the only pullout point I knew of but tried to convince myself it was not that bad. The river settled to grade 2-3 from Sewells down to the dam (2 days paddle with good levels going hard) but in this state it could take 4 days and I couldn't paddle anything.
I had lunch at Sewells at 2.30pm and discovered I could no longer even sit on a rock. Disappointment and anger set in as I checked the maps. My map only showed 2 K's from the river and had a myriad of firetrails to choose from in the hope of hiking out to Windellama, the only town I could think of that had any chance of getting a call out. The climb out of the gorge with a big load and broken tailbone was testing but I tried to find the positives and stay focused.
There were no positives but managed to stay marginally focused until playing roulette with the firetrails, choosing one of four that headed off the edge of the map. 5 kilometres on and darkness setting in I realised this one may not be the correct one so I hobbled back a kilometer or so and set up camp in the hope of picking the correct one in the morning.
Merry Christmas...... :-)