After a couple of day walks in Grampians National Park our Canadian friends seemed anxious to be off on their bicycles again. Doug and I, who have never understood the appeal of cycle touring, were perplexed, but prepared to be supportive, although we had been looking forward to spending more than two days with them. Sitting around casually at dinner on what was supposed to be our last night together (coincidentally Doug's 51st birthday), we began discussing their cycle plans - which, at least to non-bicycle tourers, looked remarkably uninteresting (cycling through farmland to Wangaratta). One thing led to another, and, as we had been extolling the marvels of Australian sea kayaking for the last two days, plans suddenly changed rapidly and a potential sea kayak trip was on the agenda if it was possible to rent a double sea kayak in Victoria for R and M to paddle.
Now, of course, the best course of action would have been to take a day to sort out such details as where and when a kayak could rented, how we would transport it, where we would paddle, and so forth. But, R is not the sort of person who likes "sitting about", while I am the type of person who is too much influenced by other people's emotions. Put these two together and who have a somewhat impetuous plan quickly conceived and just as quickly enacted.
Next morning, R and M were up early and packed up ready to either begin cycling towards Wangaratta or begin driving towards a sea kayak rental destination. Feeling somewhat propelled along, Doug and I also packed up the caravan and we all drove into Halls Gap where we could get mobile reception. Sea kayaking is not a popular sport in Australia (despite the amazing coastline that is conducive to self-propelled sea adventures) so renting a double kayak in Victoria came down to one of two companies. The first was in Melbourne and, of course, offered many challenges, such as transporting three kayaks (our two singles and the rental double) through heavy traffic. The second was in Bairnsdale near Gippsland Lakes, and would prove logistically more simple, although the actual kayaking would be less interesting. Later, we would also discover that renting from Bairnsdale meant we got a much worse kayak for a much higher price.
Paddling in Corner Inlet
Neither company answered the telephone when we rang so we were forced to leave messages enquiring about kayak rentals. In hindsight, this is completely expected as both companies are relatively small and the owners could (were, in fact) be out guiding kayak tours (usually school groups) not sitting around the shop waiting for those telephone calls that never come. Again, I should reiterate that the smart thing to do would have been to spend the day planning a trip and awaiting a call back from both rental companies. This would have allowed much more rational decision making. Instead, however, we all somehow decided that we would go to Wilsons Promontory for a couple of days hiking and work out the kayak trip from there. Exactly how this was supposed to work, as I doubt we would have mobile reception at Wilsons Promontory, is not exactly clear to me in hindsight, but, at the time (and in haste) it seemed like a good idea.
Doug and I had previously done sea kayak trips around both Gippsland Lakes and Corner Inlet and either of these seemed like a good destination for a sea kayak trip in Victoria. Corner Inlet, of course, offers more interesting paddling, but requires more careful planning as, despite all the islands available for overnight camp sites, the large tidal range combined with shallow water depths means that only some islands provide suitable landing sites. A kayak trip to Corner Inlet would involve renting not only a kayak but a trailer, and at least three trips into the heart of Melbourne to pick up the kayak at the beginning of the trip and drop it off at the end. Our caravan would need to be stored somewhere and, if we had windy conditions, the paddling would be more difficult for R and M. Gippsland Lakes, with smaller tides, and many well appointed campsites is a much easier trip to manage (particularly on short notice) but is much more developed and offers somewhat less exciting paddling.
Black Swans Corner Inlet
It was nearly noon by the time we got away on the (what turned out to be) long and somewhat harrowing drive towards Wilsons Promontory. R and M's bicycles and gear was stuffed into our caravan so that we could not access any food or drinks, so we were forced to visit a grocery store in some small town along the way to buy supplies for lunch which we barbequed at a nearby park. Driving through Melbourne was stressful, tedious and slow as we missed getting a toll-road (too much haste again) and had to sit through heavy afternoon traffic in the suburbs. We eventually, after getting lost a couple of times and having to visit yet another grocery store (we had rushed off so precipitously that we did not have much in the way of food), arrived at Lang Lang and a small, quiet campground where we had stayed two summers ago. It was late, we were all tired, and, as we barbequed a late dinner, another storm blew in and it began to rain. Hardly an auspicious start.
The following morning, I cooked another breakfast for four people in our small caravan and called the Gippsland area kayak company getting hold of the owner, Brett, who told me I could rent a double kayak if I were to pick it up the next day between 10 am and noon. I had a poor mobile connection and feeling pressed, agreed to these conditions. We could have got a better kayak at a cheaper price from the Melbourne company, but, the thought of driving back into Melbourne, renting a trailer, and driving off towards Corner Inlet was all too much and the Gippsland kayak rental seemed the best option. Suddenly, Wilsons Promontory was off the agenda, and kayaking was on, in a hurry.
Soldier Crabs on the beach at Corner Inlet
We had another long drive from Lang Lang (which was out of our way now that we were not going to Wilsons Promontory) to Eagle Point (near Paynesville). Along the way we had to stop at Sale to buy seven days of groceries for the trip, which was relatively quick for Doug and I (who have done this many times before) but much slower for R and M who had not (at least for many years) and were unfamiliar with the lay-out of Australian grocery stores. Doug was kept busy trying to find a caravan park where we could camp for the night and launch from the next day as we could not transport three boats at one time.
Wearily, we arrived at King Lake Caravan Park (a rather strange establishment with mostly permanent holiday caravans but clean amenities, cheap prices and easy water access) at 3.30 pm for a late lunch. The afternoon was spent in a flurry of activity packing up all the gear one needs for a week of kayaking. It was another somewhat exhausting and somehow unsatisfying day.
On Friday, Doug, R and M went into Bairnsdale to pick up the kayak (and buy some more items R and M thought they needed) while I shuttled loads down to the small beach and packed up our single kayaks. At around 11.30 am, I was happy to see our car returning with a large, heavy, beaten up, but at least functional double kayak on top. Packing an unfamiliar kayak, particularly when you are carrying seven days of food and water, takes some time, and the first pack of the double kayak was not all that efficient, but, by the next day, R had worked out an efficient method for storing all their gear and things thereafter went much faster and more smoothly. At 12. 45 pm, we launched the kayaks and began paddling. That, however, is the subject of another blog post.