Who remembers the Solo Man advertisement from 1990 where a muscled hero took his kayak and paddled over a cliff in the name of a lemon soft drink? Not sure? Refresh your memory on You Tube .
It started with a ranger-recommended activity to paddle from Swinging Bridge to our campsite at Billie Grace Reserve. Brian dropped Mum and I at the start and did the bolt, leaving us looking forward to a sedate, scenic paddle, similar to the lazy western rivers I am used to. Mum isn’t used to paddling any rivers.
The first 100m of the 4km journey were exactly as I expected. Then I got an education. The Goodradigbee is not a lazy western river. It is a feisty mountain stream. At 100.2m I was in the first rapid. I bounced through the white water, looked at the gorge before me, looked back at a grim-faced mother negotiating her first rocks, and thought: “oops.”
Solo Nana and I had 50m to review our options. We looked at the white water downstream and made the executive decision to get out. The Solo Women then either dragged their canoes through the flood debri or outdid Solo Man on the water for the next twenty minutes, at which point I asked myself: “Whose dumb-arsed idea was this?” Unfortunately the answer was not comforting. It had been my dumb-arsed idea.
We persevered for about half a kilometre, staying relatively upright, and after about six rapids (that felt like 600) we rounded a corner to find grazing flats, long stretches of quiet water and cows!
We picked wild blackberries where the bushes fanned out over the water. We nattered. We had fun over small rapids between the pools. We paddled and we drifted and enjoyed some mother-daughter bonding. Then came the tree.
We had walked the canoes around one tree that had fallen over the river blocking our path, but the second fallen log had a narrow, just-canoe-wide, passage and this we aimed for. Solo Nana went first but somehow got caught in the current, broadsided the canoe, filled it with water and was tossed into the drink.
But they breed Solo Women tough. Within seconds Mum had surfaced and after a wobbly mid-water re-mount, was back smiling and paddling and soon we glimpsed our camp through the trees and our adventure was over.
Later that afternoon I took the canoe and went in search of flowers and blackberries for the Mob and, as you will see, the moral of this story is: white rapids can be conquered by Solo Women but beware the evil blackberry cane.