The valley is charged with heat. Only cicadas persist. There is no bird sound. Even the march flies disappear by noon. It feels as if the very air around us is ready to explode into flames.
The sun seems to have stalled at its zenith, forcing us to retreat into tiny scraps of shade beneath boulders laying jumbled in the riverbed. I feel cool enough, my hair and shirt are wet. A brown and black frog with a pointy nose and shiny eyes sits wedged up high in a crack above me as the river flows over the pebbles at my feet. We share our dark, small den of coolness with a large water spider and tiny grey moths that match the rock.
This adventure is a packrafting jaunt down the beautiful Nymboida River in Nymboi-Binderay National Park. It is a 45-minute bush bash off Moses Rock Road to our special starting point on the river. The water level is low. There are bands of colour along the gorge wall, illustrating how much the river level has dropped - and dropped.
We are not planning on covering big distances - just a few kilometres each day, over two days and two nights. The trip is about satisfying a need to see our favourite river again.
By lunch time each day we find a campsite and go swimming to stay cool. If this is human induced climate change and all the future days will be like this - count me out. It is stultifying. A wood dove lands in the brushbox tree we are using for shade. Its beak is open, panting in the heat. I have swum so much my flesh feels sodden and spongy.
The second day of our trip is the hottest. We later learn it reaches a maximum of 38 degrees celsius. It feels like dangerous weather.
5.30pm and finally the sun has dropped and the campsite we have chosen is completely shaded. We will not see the sun for twelve blessed hours. At 6pm it is still over 30 degrees. Thunder clouds are rolling in from the west but only five raindrops make it to earth. The rest evaporate before they reach the ground.
The atmosphere is a chimney from a furnace.
On the last day, to beat the heat, we are packed up and walking out by 5:30am. The first pull up off the river is steep. Despite our early start, it is hot again. It feels as if two days of river in our waterlogged flesh is now pouring out of us as we climb. Sweat is dripping from my chin. The cicadas have been pulsing all through the night and now they are getting deafeningly loud.
It is a couple of hours walking to get back to Moses Rock Road and then we follow it back to our car. The heat is building again and I feel for the river. It must yearn for the days of flood and the rush of a big fresh instead of this stagnant waiting game, bearing out the sun, hoping for the rain shadow to pass.
All rights reserved. Craig Fardell and Christina Armstrong