The morning air is so clear and clean it is all space and blue is a distant, untouchable colour. A strong breeze strips the land back to silver sharp tones. We are on the Nymboida River, out past Ramornie National Park at the Nymboida Campground preparing for an overnight rafting trip downriver to Jackadgery.
|Dawn mist - Bridal Veil Falls|
The river level is good, 1.4 metres at the Jackadgery gauge on departure, so there is no other choice for the weekend adventure. The water looks cold: tinged brown and opaque from leftover flooding, rippled by the secret movement of cod in the deep pool where we launch. We R2 the boat, Caz sits on the left and me on the right. It takes a few strokes to find our rhythm.
We wave goodbye to Lee Scarlett. Lee is the new owner of the Mann River Caravan Park at Jackadgery and we are paying him to drive our car back there and park it up, for us to collect the next day. It's a bargain ($50) and a time saver. He's been an entertaining passenger on the drive out; telling us tales of other paddlers he has shuttled around and then his own epic canoe trip down the Mann River many years before.
River travel is a wistful pace, until the roar of the first rapid and then the pulse quickens a little. We weave our way through a series of small protruding rocks then reach our main challenge for the day, which is Cunglebung Falls, a two-stage, grade 4 rapid that kicks and turns its way down the right hand bank. We park our raft in a back channel and clamber over rocks and through the flood-bent callistemons to get a better look. Back at the boat, we go over the plan again, then head down. It's a fun ride and we get the line just right.
Tonight we are camping on the eastern side of the huge pool at the junction of the Mann and Nymboida Rivers. It is a ridiculously warm afternoon. The main camp area here is on the north-western corner of the pool but I'm chasing afternoon sun so we opt for the east bank. Caz builds a tarp palace and I lie back with full views of the impressive rocky peak, Devil's Tombstone, which towers over the two rivers. We have walked to the top of the tombstone on a previous trip and it is a great trek if you have time.
In the morning, just a few strokes from camp and we are at the top of Bridal Veil Falls, a long grade 4 rapid for us given the current water level. It is split into two channels, both are littered with boulders and the way through is like a maze. Caz zig-zags us down the right hand channel and we drop off the bottom with a big yahoo.
|Bridal Veil Falls|
Then the long paddle begins - ahead is a good kilometre and a half of flat water. The raft is not so streamlined but we get there in the end. A further four kilometres or so is New Zealand Fall, the last major rapid, and we sneak down a tricky spot near the left hand bank. It's our least perfect run of the trip but with a bit of an 'over' from me and some bouncing around in the raft we slide her over.
The river glides along, we drift with it; we paddle for long sections and ride the flow on others. There are platypus in the dark pools. We see a black swan then a turtle basking on a rock. Both wedgetail and sea eagles cruise above us at different points. Cormorants struggle away in fright and the rocks they use stink of guano. The river takes us inexorably towards the towering Mann River bridge where the caravan park sits high up on the left hand bank. All in all the distance covered on this trip is about 20km or more. The pace you travel it is up to you, and the river.
For more detailed paddling info on this route see the old book Canoeing: Guide to New South Wales, p.144, published by the NSW Canoe Association in 1990. For online info visit Paddle NSW Inc.