Broke Inlet Trip – January 2024

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This year an ‘Octette of Swannies’ descended on Broke Inlet for our annual dose of kayak camping in the sublime wilderness of D’Entrecasteau National Park, approx 25 km west of Walpole.

Having been advised by DBCA of a large fire (contained but not controlled) burning on the western side of the channel to the ocean sandbar, we revised our usual plan to camp at ‘Windy Point’ in favour  of ‘Birthday Beach’ near Bald Island and well away from the fire zone.

On Wednesday 24th Geoff Emery and Marty Wells met at Camfield to undertake a reconnaissance paddle to check water levels, and scare away any potential competitors from our camping site.

With a towering inferno of smoke on the horizon, we paddled across in a stiff breeze with Geoff on a northerly dog-leg route and Marty on a southerly one. Needless to say the ‘old dog’ chose the better route, with his ‘offsider’ having to drag the fully laden kayak through about a km of very shallow water before reaching Birthday Beach.

We set up our tents and the communal tarp shelter on the beach between the clusters of beautiful rounded granite boulders that characterise this part of the Nat Park. A single 4wd visitor (a gap toothed old codger even older than us!) then arrived but was thankfully deterred from setting up his camp on ‘our beach’ and continued driving on to the sandbar.

On Thursday morning we paddled back to Camfield to greet the other six intrepid swannies (Colin Scully and Elena Lennox, Andrew Griffiths and Christine Futno, Steve David, and Peter Ormond).

Paddling across to camp via the ‘Geoff route’ we again encountered strong winds and waves but only a minor area of shallow water. Everyone opted for the beach camping experience rather than within the adjacent woodland, as it provided the appropriate ambience! Some of us secured man caves amonst the boulders, while others braved the more exposed positions with only a few scraggly trees for shade (and Pete’s hammock). After camp setup and exploration of our surrounds, the evening provided a glowing display of the fire on the horizon burning towards our usual camp site at Windy Point.

On Friday, Australia Day was briefly acknowledged, with Christine being very disappointed with our lack of enthusiasm for singing our national anthem. Colin and Elena then paid our respects to Robbie Burns via a Scotland tea towel display and Pete reciting some ancient words of poetic wisdom.

We then paddled up to the inlet channel and sandbar with Andrew and Christine, Steve, and Geoff under modest sail power. We had a closer view of the fire, still burning in places on the steep western slopes adjacent to the channel, and just missing the two huts near the water’s edge.

Lunch break on the beach facing the ocean provided specky views of the erupting columns of smoke deeper within the Nat Park up towards Windy Harbour. The paddle back was another challenging one into a strong south easterly and we notched up around 21 km before retiring at our camp.

The evening meals, on this and other nights, under our communal tarp provided the usual variety of culinary experiences.  Andrew’s gourmet meal made a bid for freedom at one stage resulting in a gas burner ring landing on, and becoming embedded, in a portable table. Pete’s home-made Limoncello, and Marty’s Glayva (whisky liquor with tangerines, honey and spices) provided a pleasant supplement to the usual mix of red wine and warm beer.

Saturday was a warm one, and after a strenuous paddle the day before we took the wimps option of just paddling across to Bald Island for a climb and photo opportunity of the magic of the Broke Inlet landscape on a clear, almost wind-less, sunny day.

With the water level this year it was not possible to paddle over to Inlet River (too shallow) or up to Shannon River (too far, and smoky) so we did some beach walks instead. Retreating into the shade under the trees behind our camp for a snooze or a read, was another popular activity!

Geoff resisted the temptation of laziness and paddled up to our old camp site at Windy Point to observe the extent of fire damage and see if there were any campers. Fringes of the camp, including ‘Urea heights’ were burnt out but will no doubt regenerate in time. For campers, just a single guy in a jock strap apparently – but none of the Sea Kayak club we had been expecting.

On our last night, Elena insisted we move out from underneath the EFFING TARP to participate in star gazing. For some of us this was aided by phone apps providing ‘definitive’ names for stars and constellations, even if our reliance on the small screen meant missing various satellites.

On Sunday morning the weather changed, so we packed up early to avoid getting our tents and gear wet. The paddle back across to Camfield was again quite challenging with scattered showers and strong wind providing a contrast to the beautifully calm sunny day previously.

Departing from Broke we mused on the absence of other campers, including 4 wheel drivers, and just how magical and quiet it made our annual trip this year.

Thank you all for your company, and in 2025 we may entice some more Swannies to enjoy this wonderful remote paddling / camping experience.

Marty

 

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