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Walpole by Water

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February 155 minute read

The bow nudged into the sand as Luke cut the outboard. The soft afternoon sun drenched the landscape and it was a moment that felt like like we were exactly where we should be.

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This trip was Luke’s brainchild. I’ve camped plenty from kayaks and canoes, but never from a dinghy. He was eager to put his new boat to the test – and especially his boat camping setup! 

A space case with our totes held all our dry food, cooking gear and some other bits. Up front one esky was for food and the other was for beer. Under a false floor Luke packed bladders of water, and in the bow two jerry cans of extra fuel. Up on top we each had a duffle with our swags and personal gear – we had stripped out the big mattresses and replaced them with our lightweight ones to save space. Last but not least was our boards, gently strapped up top.

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After our first night, we packed the boat and headed back to the mouth of Nornalup Inlet. This time we headed out into the ocean in search of waves. The coastline was stunning, the wind was perfectly light – but alas there was again no swell. 

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We decided to head across the inlet and see how far up the Frankland River we could travel. The water quickly changed colour from crystal clear to dark tannin as we ventured further from the sea.

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As we navigated our way upstream, the river narrowed. It felt as though we were slowly being swallowed up by the forest. Rocks and logs loomed barely beneath the surface and the glaring afternoon sun reflected off the water making it almost impossible to see them. Sitting at the bow I did my best to scout a clear path for Luke as he manoeuvred his boat skilfully through this slalom course.  

Further upstream the logs got larger and more frequent. With a little use of the hand saw and some ducking and dragging, we slowly travelled further.

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We had no destination in mind, but the harder the going the stronger became our desire to see how far we could go. Eventually we met our match. An enormous tree crossed the entire river – we admit defeat – it was time to return downstream to find our next camp.

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As we returned downstream the towering trees were on display in their magnificence. Exploring this forest by water allows you to see it’s trees unobstructed – the river cuts a cross section and the water acts as the perfect viewing platform.

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With stunning beaches and lushes surrounds, the Nornalup Inlet and Frankland River area is worth exploring – in any way you can.

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Mike Collister has spent his life outdoors. He has represented Australia as a slalom kayaker, guided whitewater expeditions in Nepal, and taught outdoor education and wilderness medicine. He’s paddled the Kimberley’s Fitzroy River in the wet season and across the Bass Strait and is an avid photographer, overlander and camper.