"So it says the border of the national park is just up ahead," I said to Jason. He was rifling through his Pelican case for his drone. From satellite images, it looked like an interesting place to get a shot. The satellite image did little to prepare us, though.
The border where the Murray leaves Kosciuszko National Park was the first drastic change to the landscape we had seen. Right where the GPS says the border is, there is a complete vegetation turnover. Native eucalypts and reeds are immediately replaced by cleared farmland and willows lining the river bank, overlapping above the river, creating a leafy-green tunnel in places.
Don't get me wrong, the farmland looked healthy and idyllic, but there was no gradual change. Where protection ended on paper was where it ended in practice too. The landscape looked like English countryside.
Within about twenty meters of the border, there was also the first water pump. And as we continued down river, more popped up every couple of hundred meters or so. On the banks, some willows had been cut down, but they are extremely resilient plants. Already, in what seemed to be recently cut trees, sprouts were already emerging from the stumps.
It took a while to get used to the river. This was not the Murray we had known. But we could see, already, how important the river was for the local farms. And despite the lack of native vegetation, the river looked quite healthy: the riverbanks were stable and the water was still clear.
The Murray is often though of as having a 'typical' character, but over twelve days we had already seen so much change. When we pulled up at Brigenbrong Bridge--where we were finishing that section-- I was disappointed. I wanted to see more of the river.
How long did it look like this for? When was the next big change? I wasn't that worried though. I knew I would have the answers in a couple of months, when Jason and I returned to do the next section: the final section. We were going to spend two and half months paddling on, swimming in and camping next to the mighty Murray River. I couldn't wait. Just hopefully, there wasn't any more damn hiking.