After many months of planning, anticipation and excitement the day finally arrived. Family & friends had arrived wearing their t-shirts with pride. One group waited at Noreuil Park while another took the boat further up the river with a plan to launch drive down to the park where Mayor of Albury – Cr Henk van de Ven would be waiting to greet us with a mighty farewell from his municipality. Well the river had other plans. 10 mins into our trip towards Albury town we hit a reef. The depth sound alarm went off telling us we had over under 1 meter of water then in an instant 0.4m. Before we knew it we were stuck & the more we tried to get out of it the worse it got. The reef seemed to stretch almost from the centre to each side of the shore. After 20 mins of trying to solve the problem & time slipping away we finally decided to call our team with our satellite tracker. I’m guessing they would have been surprised to think that a drama was unfolding so soon. My brother and Gill’s son Keith spent a long while trying to reach us in a 4WD & then couple of kilometre walk through paddocks with cows to get to us. Even with a tracker and mobile reception on hand an old fashioned system of yelling finally worked in locating us. In the meantime the mayor had arrived; waited patiently, had some laughs and coffee with our guests before having to abandon our farewell. He made a phone call, wishing us all the best as we make our way down the river once off the reef.
Finally off with a new plan to relaunch the boat from another boat ramp. A journalist arrived just in time to get our story for the next day’s Border Mail news. Lots of hugs but no tears as we said our goodbyes to family for the next 6 weeks. Off we went into the sunset at 12.30 p.m.
Three hours of heaven as I took in the amazing landscape, enjoying the serenity and idea of being isolated. All the sounds of the suburbs, town & traffic seemed a million miles behind us as peace filled my spirit. Kiam even saw a platypus beside the boat. As I watched the birds sore overhead I noticed the clouds were building. We continued to dodge many reefs and snags as water levels seemed to fluctuate seemingly as erratic as my MS symptoms. Often reversing and finding new routes as this area is uncharted. Then came flashes of lightning, first fork and then sheet lightning. Thereafter hollowing winds and relentless down pour. We spent the next 3 hours trying to avoid reefs and snags but unfortunately took many hits from deadened logs that lay hidden under the surface of the water, our invisible enemy. Visibly so limited with the downpour as Kiam and I spent the 3 hours trying to look through blurred plastic screens. I began to fatigue and felt scared as at end of the storm and destination of Howlong seemed nowhere in sight. Then we took a massive hit. The bow of the boat dipped as the propeller leg hit a log. I thought we had put a hole through the boat for sure on this knock. We keep checking the hull for leaks and thank god nothing. We had to turn on the bilge pumps to clear the mounting collection of rainwater. At this time I had to draw on all my inner strength not to freak out as I was wet, cold, scared and felt we were without any help as there seemed no way for our support crew to get to us plus zero boat ramps in sight. That’s when it dawned on me that living with MS felt very much the same at times and somehow just when I had days when all seemed insurmountable another day would begin. So I decided to just sit and ride the storm out psychologically and accept wherever the elements threw at us. Often the same strategy I use to cope with the demands of MS.
Finally at 6.30 p.m, I see my father and Gil at the boat ramp and relief just filled me. Day one finished and true to my analogy of riding out the storm, tomorrow will come and it will be a different day.