Brett, Stu and I meet up with our families at Cairns airport for a week’s holiday before we paddle the Barron River Race the following week. After a week of relaxing and swimming in the hotel pool at Palm Cove we head to Mareeba for the start of the Barron River Race, which is 50km and runs from Mareeba to Kuranda. This is a definite step up from the Gregory River with several major rapids to negotiate. The river is running at 1.73 which is up from the last few days as they were able to get a water release from the dam at the last minute but is still well down on last year’s level of 1.92m.
The river is quite narrow at the start so a staggered start is necessary. Faster craft are last to start so we have to wait for the slower plastic craft to leave before we are able to hit the water. We have no idea what the river holds in store for us as we did not get the opportunity to do a practice run like we did with the Gregory Race. We have to rely on local’s advice about the river and everyone had a different story to tell! After seeing the trophy at registration we were sure there were plenty of rocks, rapids, crocodiles, snakes, turtles, platypus and logs to contend during the race! Swimming was not an option here!The first 12 km of the Barron is narrow winding river with a few small rapids. Nice moving water, very similar to the Gloucester Mountain Man paddle section for those who know it, only following faster. In this section I am able to stay in front of the K2 as all the turns make the K1 a big advantage. The river widens for the next 15km with intermittent rapids. These rapids are grade 1-2 but fairly challenging with the low water level. They take a toll on the kayaks, especially the K2, which takes a hammering. Having put some distance between the K2, I portage my first rapid, the biggie of the day, 200m long with a grade 3 drop at the bottom. I arrive at the 31km check point and have only another 19km to go. Still feeling good and with no sign of the K2 I push on. I come to a small rapid with a metre drop at the bottom…. all goes well until a branch pushes me in….. my 1st and only swim of the day. It only takes about 30seconds and I’m up and going again with 15km remaining to the finish.
This section involves a series of small boney rapids with flat stretches in between. I portage a couple of these as I took the wrong side of the river and ran out of water. I finish in 3hr 57min for a new race record. Brett and Stu came in 15min later in second place with a very beat up kayak. I would strongly recommend both these races and combining the two makes for a great holiday. We found the organiser’s to be very helpful and accommodating. Anyone who is interested just let me know and I can help with any queries or questions.
All going well I will be back for both next year