Thursday 16 July 2015

Hinchinbrook 2015!

I had been tossing around ideas for a North Queensland paddling trip for the past few years, googling the various islands that dotted the coast from Townsville to Cairns dreaming of a trip that might be worth the long hike to North Queensland. Whilst facing crocs in their home environment didn't hold much attraction, paddling the islands dotting this coastline was certainly on the bucket list.

Visiting Hinchinbrook Island was certainly central to this trip but this island in itself wasn't a big enough draw card to travel a few thousand kilometers by car to paddle from Lucinda to Cardwell, a comfortable two day paddle if you were going point to point. In balancing conflicting priorities, a plan was hatched to have 19 days on the water paddling around 250 kms from Townsville through to Mission Beach via a number of islands that dot this section of coast line.

It was important to determine the mix of on water, in water and off water activities and schedule the trip accordingly so it wasn't simply a point-to-point kayaking trip to tick the box.  We were all keen to explore these islands properly so we incorporated time to do a lot of snorkeling, hiking and rock hopping once we were off the water. Getting the right mix of people with the same objectives was key to the success of this trip.

This could trip could of easily been titled "Down wind paddling in North Queensland" as the trade winds provided us with 15-25 knots of southerly push for the entire trip apart from one day where the wind dropped under 10 knots and we actually had to slog out the paddle without much wind assistance.

We had a couple of 40 kms days, but for the most part we were on the water around 9:00 am and off the water by 1:00 pm.  The SE trade winds had generated 2+ meters of easterly swell which made for some great down wind paddling in our fully laden expedition kayaks.

After leaving Magnetic Island, we rarely saw another boat on the water or people (apart from the hikers on Hinchinbrook) until we rejoined civilization with a hot shower at Dunk Island.

The trade winds had been blowing consistently leading up to, and for the duration of the trip which was great for downwind paddling, but not so great for water visibility which meant we didn't see a lot of sea-life on or in the water, not to mention making us work hard to get a feed where the zoning would allow spearing.  We wouldn't of known if we were being visited by sharks with visibility down to less than 5 meters.

This area is still feeling the effects of cyclone Yazi, both environmentally and economically.  The reef platforms are relatively dead and haven't returned to pre-Yazi health.  The bird life in the thick rain forests is relatively non-existent.  The silence in the forests is deafening and the upper-canopy has still not recovered so under-story species are changing the ecological makeup of the forests.

Out of 19 days, we had a day and a bit of rain at Zoe Bay whilst we were hiking around the island but the rest of the trip was fine with the occasional passing shower.  We escaped the need for a wet pack up so given we were in the tropical north we should be thankful we passed the highest rainfall region of Australia with the little rain we did get!

When putting together a team of people to spend 19 days together in close proximity it is imperative that everybody is on the same page as to what the expectations for the trip were and that we had done multi-day trips together previously so knew what to expect in terms of paddling speed, on water group dynamics, etc.

We were all paddling fast touring sea kayaks, with three of us paddling Pace 17s and one in a Taran 16.  The boats performed up to expectation with 19 days of kit and food for remote camping.  We had planned around not carrying more than 22 litres of water at any point in the trip, and most times we were only carrying around 12-13 litres given the availability to resupply at various islands along the way.

We had a trouble free trip thanks to Jonathan, Gary and April who joined me on our North Queensland adventure!

The following links will take you through some images and stories from the islands we visited on our way from Townsville to Mission Beach:
  1. Logistics
  2. Magnetic Island
  3. Archeron Island
  4. Havannah Island
  5. Orpheus Island
  6. Hinchinbrook Island - Zoe Bay
  7. Hinchinbrook Island - Nina Bay
  8. Hinchinbrook Island - Sunset Beach
  9. Brook Islands
  10. Coombe Island
  11. Dunk Island

The wrap up

We should of kept paddling to Cairns!  We certainly had the wind for it but three weeks away from the family and eating dehy is enough.  I have completed two trips of nineteen days duration and I maxed out the boats carrying capacity both times so longer than 19 days unsupported would require a resupply.

The only thing I took that I didn't need was my tent.  I slept in my hammock for 19 days finding trees at every campsite.  I only used my sleeping bag as a sleeping bag twice on the trip, but that was pre the Antarctic Vortex which still has me shivering as I sit here editing my photos!  I used my sleeping mat as insulation in my 'Ticket to the Moon' hammock, noting that I was using my sleeping bag for insulation as well if I was exposed to the wind.  I used the 'Ticket to the Moon' fly-screen as well which kept all bugs at bay so I could sleep comfortably and found that having the end of the hammock you have your head on a bit higher than your feet is the way to go.

The poncho tarp worked well, but in heavy rain you needed a bit more covering you to stop the wind blowing the rain in at the ends. I was also using a bit of bungee on the head part of the poncho to stop it pooling water and dripping through.

For the first part of the trip I made a fresh tub of yogurt each night which worked really well with cereal.  My space blanket delaminated towards the end of the trip and wasn't holding in the heat as well so I will need to sort that for the next trip to get a better result.

After three weeks on dehdrated food, some fresh food becomes a more of a need than a want.  Gary and April always bring a few less meals than nights to ensure the right motivation for getting a feed of fish.  This time the fishing wasn't that easy and we had to work hard for a feed.  We had a lure off and I think the result could be called a tie.  Gary caught 2 with his XXXX Gold lure, but I caught three with my plastic, 2 of which I returned due to size and unknown fish type (1 small ambitious rock cod and 1 pike I think - long and not easy to fillet!) and 1 stripy which pipped the other 2 on the scales :-)

Gary and I had been trying to catch a crayfish unsuccessfully on previous trips.  This time we decided to bring a small spear gun to assist with the retrieval.

A new favourite food was discovered on this trip.  Try mixing your fresh coconut with nutella!

Apart from my tent, I think that everything we took on the trip was used and there wasn't anything we wouldn't take again.  My personal thanks to the Jono, Gary and April for help making the trip so enjoyable - look forward to the next adventure!

A cassowary bidding us farewell from Mission Beach!

No comments:

Post a Comment