Someone who often joins me “on patrol in the Green Hornet” is Mike Bremers, with his stylish red and white 5-metre kayak, Kakadu. At least once a week we enjoy taking to the waters of Lake Burley Griffin to photograph some of the amazing sunrises, striking landmarks and buildings around the shore, the odd rower, the plentiful wildlife or simply get a bit of exercise to keep our aging frames operational.
I only recently discovered that, as well as a keen kayaker with a wealth of experience, Mike is a famous author.
Ever had those days where you want to keep paddling? Had the urge to see what’s around just one more bend in the river, one more photo to take before the day ends, but family or work commitments rudely intruded? Well now, using your imagination and a copy of Murray-Darling Journeys you can. Written by Mike and his daughter, Angela, Murray-Darling Journeys is a fascinating glimpse into the history of significant journeys in human powered craft ( i.e. by rowing or paddling) on the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin over the past 200 years.
Angela loves history and her master’s thesis was the subject of this book. During her research, she discovered many interesting stories about real people traveling the rivers over the years, and thought those stories deserved to be recorded for posterity. With Mike having paddled his kayak along the length of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers and parts of several other rivers mentioned in the book, his experience made for a winning combination and the book soon took shape. Mike’s infectious enthusiasm has encouraged many others to travel the rivers. But of course, not without a copy of Murray-Darling Journeys.
It’s not only an enjoyable read but a comprehensive reference work to boot. There are over 430 accounts of journeys from exploration, surveying, the paddle steamer trade, recreation, the gold rush, the Great Depression to fund raising. Also included are a map, a list of river distances, a bibliography and an extensive list of references.
From the humorous to the hair-raising, these journeys are a testament to the ingenuity and determination of our forebears. Often undertaken with little knowledge of what lay ahead, even fewer resources and no fear. One example is the trip Jack Robson made in 1936 down the Tumut, Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers to Goolwa SA, in a self-made 12 ft galvanized iron canoe. He suffered injury, rapids, attacks by feral pigs, thefts of food by goats, hunger, was shot at, even hospitalized but kept going. And he managed it without a mobile phone or credit card. Jack went on to become one of the famous "Rats of Tobruk" in WW2, and this expedition no doubt helped condition him for his wartime adventures.
The book brings to life long forgotten journeys that reflect the times in which they occurred and make you feel like you are still paddling long after your kayak or canoe is packed away. So, grab a copy and sit under a tree or in a comfortable chair, enjoy it with a meal and glass of wine, or read It in bed and fall asleep to the trickling sound of the Murray-Darling rivers.
Here is a link to the website where the book can be ordered: www.murraydarlingjourneys.id.au/
If you know someone who enjoys the odd paddle or watery adventure, this could be an ideal Christmas gift.
Mike also has a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/murraydarlingjourneys/
Mike was recently part of the Byadbo Wilderness expedition; a 70km trip down the Snowy river. You can read about that adventure here: http://www.johnevans.id.au/wp/18-23-october-2018-snowy-river-paddle-byadbo-wilderness-expedition-paddling-through-the-past/
My interest in kayaking is fairly recent. My initial foray into the pastime was with an inflatable Intex Challenger K1 (the original Green Hornet), which served me well for a couple of years and still gets an occasional outing. When it was time to upgrade to a hard shell kayak I was faced with a daunting choice before finally settling upon a Quest 10 by the Canadian company, Riot Kayaks.
I was after something that was reasonably priced, well made, roomy, stable, comfortable with adequate storage compartments, space for my camera gear, and brightly coloured. The latter feature was mainly for safety, as Lake Burley Griffin is home to all manner of craft such as sailing boats, stand-up-paddle boards, commercial tour operators, rowing sculls and dragon boats to name a few. And of course, kayaks. Thankfully not all at once, but the thought of being cut in half by a rowing eight is not a pleasant one. Anyhow the Riot ticked all the boxes. And at just 15kg it is light enough to get on and off the car's roof racks on my own.
I've used it about 100 times since January (it's my exercise machine) and it has performed admirably. On the water it's quite versatile for a short (3m/10ft) boat. Thanks to is multi-chine hull and Greenland bow it maintains course quite well and turns and leans effortlessly, though if the wind picks up and the waves build it can become a bit of a challenge, but that's part of the fun. Nevertheless, in relatively calm waters it is very enjoyable and I can maintain a relaxing 4-6kmr + with little effort. As I like to take a camera and photograph everything from sunrises to rowers and sailing boats I was surprised at how stable it is. The last thing I want is to capsize and watch my camera and lenses sink out of sight.
The Riot Quest 10 is made from rotomolded polyethylene by Riot's Cross-Max process. It combines by-design reinforcement with the natural mechanical qualities of HDPE to provide the right balance between stiffness, weight, durability, and quality of finish. The Quest 10 has a number of features that make it a worthwhile purchase (or gift, in my case :)). It has a roomy cockpit, molded thigh braces and adjustable foot pegs, a comfortable padded seat with adjustable back rest, and a storage net in the foot-well for personal items. There is a foam buoyancy pad in the bow, and a sealed watertight rear storage compartment so the craft will float if capsized. It's rated at 148kgs. I weigh 80kgs so there is ample reserve for gear and supplies. There are two drain plugs to get rid of any water at the end of a day's paddling. Another nice touch is a flush mounted fishing rod holder. Carry handles and deck rigging finish off the package.
It is quite possible to spend $thousands on kayaks if you have the means and inclination but for a beginner like me, the Riot Quest 10 has been a quality introduction to the sport and I would recommend it to anyone. Mine was $570 from C-Kayak Canberra (in January this year) and it came with a free paddle.
Having lived in Canberra for decades, I've only recently discovered the joys of kayaking. My craft of choice, the trusty Green Hornet (in fact a "Quest 10" manufactured by Canadian company, Riot) provides an ideal platform to photograph lake landscapes, the occasional event on the water and other items of interest.