Strong Men Falter on the South-east Corner [58]

By Angophora Kangchenjunga

This is a story about a little adventure – of the sea-faring, sea-kayaking kind. I hope it might interest those of you who did not come along on it, and those of you who did. It is about some travels along the Croajingolong/Nadgee wilderness coastline. It is also about some remarkable individuals who like being in the sea.

This stretch of coast still has some reasonably intact wilderness areas – places where humans have allowed nature to do its thing. And nature’s thing is amazing.

Stuart Charles Trueman, Paul Raymond Loker, Lawrence Anthony Geoghegan, Andrew Moonshine McAuley and Angophora Kanchenjunga (for that is how I will have to nominate myself, not being a current member of the royal NSW Sea Kayaking Club at the time of this outing) left across the closed inlet of Bemm River against a 20 knot headwind in October. I will try to convey some of the jewels along the way.

Have you ever been woken by a pair of white buttocks poking through your tent in the middle of the night? Well I was. They were Moonshine’s. And on them hung a little Nadgee tick that required plucking. Andrew, I will savour the sight of your tick-infested cheeks for the rest of my years. What did I do to deserve this blessing?

To me, it was a trip showing the good of wilderness and humans. We watched seals lolloping along behind us for many kilometres; poking their curious heads up to then dive down and swim around our boats. Whales broached. The beaches were empty. The rivers were clean. The bush breathed with life – all sorts of life, not just this monocultural reduction that we strangely seem to prefer in our human habitations. We caught fish, cooked them straight on the fire ‘black-fella style’, and ate them fresh. We lazed in the afternoon sun, warm, tired (well I was!), happy. We talked and ate together. We had long sleeps and woke up feeling rested. At each new campsite (including on the golf course at one town) there were places to explore – a pond of fresh water resounding with frogs and birds, a protected cove that provided shelter from the seas we had come in from, an area where nature was slowly reclaiming previous farmland – bringing diversity back to man’s monoculture, rock outcrops where hosts of seals lived and carried on jumping into the water in hundreds and teeming around us as we sat watching.

There was the paddling – sometimes easy with light winds making each stroke easier, cross winds that pushed you around – fighting to keep your line, headwinds where each stroke was fought through glue. And swells in all directions that acted as the medium over which to move – sometimes silky smooth, sometimes rhythmically undulating, and occasionally wild and full of spray.

And then there were the people – a ragged collective who all took to their confined spaces early each morning for their own different reasons – to be in the sea, its movement and sounds, its expanse and freedom, and the mysteries that lie beneath its surface; the inner adventure of seeing where it is possible for a little human to go – and it is incredible how far that can be; to play in the waves, explore the shores – the kelp and barnacles surging up and down, run the gauntlets between the rocks, to fall over and sometimes come up; to immerse ourselves in a world aside from ourselves; to go alone to places where we have to get it right or it could go very, very wrong.

And then we talked, and bragged and bitched. Oh Club what functions you impeccably perform – a pool for the wandering minstrels, a den of gossip and rivalry, an opportunity for altruism – to help others learn the ways of boats and seas, a chance to get away from the whole bloody mess. It was good to go there together – to laugh and play, over up-dog and down-dog, to give confidence to my quaking little legs. We mused over trivialities. Is there a moral difference between an action and an omission, between killing and letting die?

One day the wind howled, the seas sprayed, the waves rolled around us. We went for it – and had a hoot – chasing down the waves, rocking around to control our little boats, feeling the surge of adrenaline pump through our veins. As Moonshine said, “It’s days like this that you remember”. I’m not sure if he was referring to the ticks that were hanging off his arse.

All was on track, until alack (yippee!) one of the strongmen folded – we had to stop short of our target because his body just couldn’t take it anymore. Next time we’ll go a bit softer of him, the poor blighter.

And thanks to Nadia for lugging us all over the place. For all our female counterparts for womaning the forts while we were away mucking around.

The Skeleton:

  • Bemm River to Sydenham Inlet: 3km 20 knot winds OTN, no swell
  • Bemm River to Wingan Inlet: 49 km 10-15 knot winds UTC, 1m swell OTN
  • Wingan Inlet to Mallacoota: 30 km 30-35 knot winds UTC, 2 m swell UTC
  • Mallacoota to Nadgee River: 35 km 10-20 knot winds UTC, 1/2m swell UTC
  • Nadgee River to Bitangabee Cove: 25 km 10-15 knot winds UTC, 1m swell UTC
  • Bitangabee Cove to Mowarry Point: 10 km 10-20 knot winds OTN, 1m swell OTN
  • Mowarry Point to Merimbula: 35 km 10-20 knot winds AOTP, 1m swell AOTP


Up the cracker
On the nose
All over the place

So what does wilderness mean? To me it means a place where humans are not, or not much. And that is vitally important.