A sample from the upcoming SUP4DCA book recounting Tom's 1113day, 3,750km SUP journey down the Murray-Darling Basin.
Pain shot through my right shoulder as the weight of the board became too much. My right arm had been holding my 14ft stand up paddle board above my head for what seemed like an eternity. My left arm clung to the tuft of reeds on the river bank that were the only thing stopping me from sliding back down into the river bed. It was ironic that I was stuck here where the water was the deepest it had been all day, maybe a few feet. I grimaced again as another wave of pain ran through my arm. I really needed to put the board down but I was sure that any movement would send me sliding back down the muddy bank to where I began. I was halfway up a steep and muddy river bank on the Condamine river. Forced out of the river bed by a huge log jam that had blocked the entire river I had attempted to go around the jam by climbing up the bank. It had been a mistake to try and leave the river bed here, but I was already so far behind my schedule I couldn’t bear the thought of going backwards up the river to find a good exit point. As my entire body started to shudder from the effort of balancing completely still and the pain in my shoulder intensified, I wondered if this entire trip was a big mistake.
As yet another surge of pain hit my shoulder I couldn’t take it anymore. I let the board lower so that it was now resting on my head and right shoulder. As the board lowered, my body shifted the tiniest bit to counterbalance and I felt my foot slide underneath me. It shifted just the tiniest bit in the soft mud that lined the bank, but it was enough, and I could feel that I was going to slide all the way back down.
Desperately I tried a few quick steps as I pulled hard on the reeds, and it worked. I managed to get another couple feet further up the bank, until I felt the reeds in my left hand go slack. I looked up and saw I had pulled the reeds out of the bank. I grabbed the next clump of reeds but they too came free as soon as I pulled on them. Without a third point to help me climb, both my feet now began to slide, I searched for more reeds but they were now out of reach. For all the pain and pressure I was under it was an extreme anti climax as I slid slowly back down to the river bed where I came to rest in knee deep water, looking back up at my foot marks in the mud. I dropped the board in the water next to me and scoffed as the fin hit a log underneath the water.
My shoulder was numb and my right arm tingling, my legs were fatigued from trying to climb the bank, and my head was pounding as I realised that it was not possible to paddle this river system.
This trip was going to be the thing I told my grandkids about.. This trip was going to help the lives of others.. This trip was not possible…
I sat in the mud of the condamine river as I struggled with that realisation. Part of me wanted to cry, part of me wanted to rage and parted of me wanted to sleep, but none of me wanted to give up, especially not on Day 3.But what else could I do?
This trip was impossible.....