Warren River Story:
Past the Pick-up Point
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by Tony Henshaw
The plan was for a trip on a thirteen kilometre section of the Warren River, from Bannister Road Bridge down to River Road Bridge, instigated by what could be described as a seven year itch. Yes, it was seven years since Robyn had negotiated this passage.
A short trip on the Blackwood River below Bridgetown was arranged for the Friday and turned out to be a very pleasant paddle for Pat, Robyn and myself with just enough water over the rapids for plastic boats. We were the advance party; the rest were to join us on Sunday. On Friday night we camped by the Warren River - it rained, but we were equipped and dry.
Saturday was for exploration of the first seven kilometre section of our Sunday plan, that is from Bannister Road Bridge to Moon's Crossing. So the exploration force set forth. We arrived at Moon's Crossing during the car shuffle; it seemed big and not easy to portage back up the steep rocky banks with blackberries so we decided we would probably stop our reconnoitring paddle above the crossing.
We started the paddle at Bannister Road Bridge and carefully checked each rapid by foot. There were some exciting rapids and challenging falls, but we chose the easier routes. One of the best was a very fast run with a river right entry. Then it was across the river above a spectacular fall and down the river on the left. The falls were inviting, but the sentinels stationed at the exit urged caution. We took the fast run and survived.
The 'checking out' routine took time and the seven kilometre trip finished just short of dusk. We made sure we didn't get drawn down into Moon's Crossing rapid.
On our return to Heartbreak Trail, Mick and Steve, our reinforcements, had arrived at the camp site and a note had been left that the remainder would be there in the morning. The fire was roaring, the potatoes just right, so we quickly sorted ourselves out. The meal and wine were excellent, the odd showers no worry.
Sunday morning the early birds had risen and coaxed a hearty breakfast fire into life, despite the pervading drizzle that welcomed the day and, according to the forecast, would stay throughout. As the fire did its duty, the main meal of the day was prepared, consumed and enjoyed. Preparations were well under way when Laurie and Dorothy, the final members of the party, arrived.
With the squad at full strength, success now seemed inevitable. Such illusions, with breakfast warm in our bellies!
The two female members of the scouting patrol, Pat and Robyn, succumbed to a bout of "I think I'd rather go shopping" and there was a mention of tasting the goods first! I suspected this might have something to do with the seven year thing.
Undeterred at the prospect of being totally in my hands, the remaining bravehardy fools opted to press on.
Due to the time it had taken to paddle the seven kilometres from Bannister Road to Moon's Crossing, and that we had to return that day to Perth, we decided to do just the same seven kilometres instead of the original thirteen kilometres which would have finished at River Road Bridge.
The problem was that I had not been counting how many rapids and falls were on the course, but was sure I would recognise Moon's Crossing as it had looked too big to go down and the falls rapid beforehand had looked like Moon's Crossing, anyway, and that would be a warning.
So off we went: Steve, Mick, Laurie and myself. The girls were going to see us off; if we were late finishing, Robyn and Pat were travelling home and Dorothy would wait with all the dry gear.
Steve was very experienced but had not done this section of the Warren. Mick was his new protege and had a fibro. Laurie was in a Finn and I was in my first white water in a Dancer.
Photo taken, guys away, well, it was fun. We didn't have to disembark anywhere, just go, man, go! Steve gave all the obstacles a quick check and I found I could easily eddy out in a Dancer. No wonder these instructors look good! We played around a bit and were going well.
Then we came to the S-bend rapid with a right entry, then the left across river above a big fall with the two black sentinels stationed at the exit. There are, of course, the usual rocks in the rapid, but "stick to the centre of the flow" and it is a fast exciting ride. The Saturday trio had flown through it.
On Sunday I was too much to the top side of the first turn and was sucked up river into some *#@&@# ti-trees. When I had extricated myself out, lo and behold I was directly above the falls! Steve did the same, so it was over the top, bumping the sentinel on the left.
I think it was at this stage that Mick was caught across two rocks at the top of the last bend. Laurie came around the corner and couldn't miss Mick. Steve and I, waiting patiently at the bottom, didn't hear the 'implosion' above the roar of the water. Mick said it was loud and clear, yes, the fibreglass canoe spoke and was broke!
Now, some reorganising. The tape, yes, Steve was prepared. He swapped canoes with Mick and did a strap-up job, but would now have to push on quickly with the leaking craft. After a couple of stops air bags were donated to Steve and then an extra one was inserted along his side to keep the fibro together.
We were now travelling on more or less as before. The question was, "How much further?" I said, "We should be there soon," as we were travelling much quicker than on Saturday. However, the river suddenly seemed to be different, in fact, it definitely was! We had gone past the pick-up.
There were steep sides full of blackberries and lots of logs. One too dangerous to negotiate we managed to portage around in some shallows and were on our way again.
At last a bridge, and a landing and an assessment of our situation: six kilometres down river past our pick-up! Serious stuff. No, we were killing ourselves laughing, but were hoping Dorothy would still be at the pick-up!
Laurie and Steve had suitable footwear - decision made, they would have to walk. This would also keep them warm.
Please note the following: -
Laurie said: "There's some matches and a candle in my canoe."
Steve said: "There's some choc bars in mine" and off they went.
Mick and I lugged the canoes and gear up on to the bridge and to the end ready for pick-up. Please note: always get good quality matches. Cheap ones, just slightly damp, will not do. Three quarters of a box were tried before "Eureka!" we were able to light the candle and then a roaring fire. The idea was to gradually strip off as the gear dried. There were just bathers left and our shins were glowing red when the pick-up arrived (the choc bars all gone). A tree across the track meant portage, then back to the start, headlights on and home. We had completed what we originally planned to do.
However, this is not quite the end of the story. The next day I was quickly round to Robyn's after work to return equipment and to give my side of the story. Just sitting down to a cup of tea and the phone rings. It's Steve.
I say, "Tell him you will ring back, you have to hear my side first!" However, Steve's news was that he and Mick had met a kangaroo on the way home and had $1500 damage!!! The question was, "Did the fibro survive? If not, was it insured?"
I never did find out how many rapids down to Moon's Crossing.
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