Distance: 30km return
Time: 2 days
Bring: Camping gear, food, water, swimmers (if you don't want to get nude)
It’s almost impossible to write this because the muscles in my arms are dead. Why’s that you ask? Well, this past weekend, my man and I packed a bunch of camping gear into a canoe and paddled 12km up the Shoalhaven Gorge in Kangaroo Valley. It was probably more like 15 km because we couldn’t keep it in a straight line haha.
We started early on Saturday morning, hiring our canoe from Kangaroo Valley Safaris. These guys rent out canoes for single or multi-day trips and they will even drive you to the gorge. We stuffed our gear into the waterproof barrels provided and got dropped at Tallowa Dam.
We were free to explore as far as we wanted as long as we were back at the dam by 3 pm the following day for pick up.
As we entered the gorge it wasn’t hard to see why this paddle was voted one of the best flat water paddles in NSW. The gorge was stunning, with large cliffs on either side and deep clear water below. In sections, we were zig-zagging through dead forests of gumtrees rising from the depths.
We decided to stop for a rest in what looked like a small sandy cove… how wrong we were. Turned out to be knee deep mud. We scrambled ashore and relaxed in the shade before going for a skinny dip to cool and wash off. Getting back into the canoe was a little tricky and required a bit of a balancing act on a nearby log.
We continued to paddle upstream weaving along the path carved out millions of years before us. After a few hours paddling, we decided that we should start looking for a good camp spot. We came across a slight bend in the river with a beach of rounded river rocks and dragged our canoe up out of the water. The trees on the river bank provided much-needed shade and the lush green grass was perfect to pitch our tent on.
Whoever camped here before us definitely lived by the golden rule of camping “leave it better than you found it”. They had built a fire for us and even collected a pile of firewood, all we needed to do was light it.
After cooking up a feed and having a nap we spent the rest of the day paddling around the area, swimming and just genuinely enjoying the outdoors. We headed a little further upstream to have some fun on the rapids. After almost capsizing it was time to relax and watch the sunset over the cliffs from the comfort of our canoe.
As the stars began to twinkle above us we noticed something twinkling in the bush behind us. We were in a sense of wonder as more than 20 fireflies danced around our campsite. After unsuccessfully capturing a photo of them I turned to the stars to try my luck there. The moon was shining bright allowing me to capture some night shots of the Shoalhaven Gorge that I was pretty pleased with.
After some morning swims and packing up camp we jumped back in our canoe and began paddling back to the meeting point. My arms were tired from the previous full day and to make matters worse there was a headwind. At points, I didn’t think I could make it back (I guess that’s a sign I should probably hit the gym haha). But we eventually got back to Tallowa Dam with 5 mins to spare!
I would definitely recommend hiring a canoe and paddling up the Shoalhaven Gorge, it’s the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. And we barely saw another soul the entire weekend.
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