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In the Term three holidays, we took seven Lajamanu and four Kalkaringi students to spend a week exploring the Ord River, Kununurra. We set off on the ambitious mission to canoe along the Ord River from Lake Argyle to Kununurra over five days.

Along the way to Western Australia, we stayed at the Victoria River Roadhouse, a perfect way to practice the set up and pack up process of our tents that we would be doing every day for the next week. We arrived at “Maxwell’s Camp” in the early afternoon to set up just in time for some canoe lessons. For some, this was their first time in a canoe, and we all needed help to paddle in a straight line. Though, we could not spend too long in the water, as the AFL grand final was about to start, so we headed into town for a nice meal while we watched the game.

Early the next morning we packed up our camp and loaded the gear, food and canoes to head to the starting line at Lake Argyle. We had a lesson from the team at Go Wild Adventure Tours on Topographic map reading and then got in the water for some capsizing drills. Everyone was beginning to feel much more comfortable about their paddling once we knew what to do if we were to capsize. We were warned that the first day of the trip would be the trickiest as it had the fastest moving water, so we were lucky that all got through without any major trouble (even if we did spin around in circles and managed to get stuck in the wrong currents at times!). After a quick hike up Horse Shoe Bend Creek, we shouted with excitement as we saw Sandy Beach, our campsite for the first night. Here we sat around the campfire, cooked burgers and caught some delicious fish that was cooked with the help of Liam from Wanta.

In the morning we packed up and set off again through the Carlton Gorge, once again with flowing water. This day, we all found it easier as we, with Simon’s expertise, were beginning to master paddling in a straight line. We were excited to see a lot of wildlife along the way, including fish, lots of birds, though the Fresh Water crocs were the most exciting. We arrived at Cooliman Creek campsite at lunch time, where there were great platforms for our tents, a barbeque, a shower and composting toilet. It did not take long for the kids to find Pelican Rock, a big rock perfect for jumping off!! We cannot deny that the Kalkaringi boys led the way with their bravery! After an afternoon of fun, we headed back to camp to help get our dinner ready. We all contributed to making some great veggie packed nachos as we reflected on our day.

The third day was action packed yet again. We began by heading to Cooliman Creek to hike up to the top of a waterfall for a swim before the real work began. It was then back into the canoes on our way to Herbie’s Hideaway, another hike that led to a big, cool waterhole for a swim, morning tea and a play around. Once we hiked back to the river, we canoed the rest of our way to Stonewall Creek camp to set up for the night. This camp, surrounded by big hills and cliffs was great for exploring, so we hiked up to the Stonewall Lookout that had a magnificent view. From that high, we were even able to see the Fresh Water Crocodiles swimming through the river below. Our night finished with some chicken and vegetable curry, a campfire and a night walk before a well-deserved rest.

The fourth day of paddling was one of the toughest, as we headed back to Maxwell’s Camp, we faced headwinds and high temperatures. To make it through we had a lot of swimming stops and even more muesli bars. Once we arrived, we were tired yet so proud we had made it this far. We were also happy to receive some fresh food, which meant delicious steak and veggies for dinner that everyone helped to cook.

We woke up the next morning excited to complete the journey. After bacon and eggs for brekkie, we got out on the water early to head to the final stop at Kununurra Swim Beach. Our sights were set on the finish line. We still had headwinds, the water movement had stopped being backed up behind the diversion dam at Kununurra and it was only getting hotter. It was hard paddling for the final leg. As we had the day before, we stopped a lot for snacks to fuel up and swimming to cool down. We were able to stop along the way at Elephant Rock to see some fantastic Indigenous rock art before we made it to the swim beach. We were excited to finally make it to the finish line; just like that we had paddled 55 kilometres. To end our time on the Ord River and reward ourselves for our hard work, we spent the next few hours taking turns on the biscuit behind Makka’s (from Go Wild Adventure Tours) speed boat. After some epic rides on the biscuit, a lot of swimming and some lunch we headed to the very comfortable Kimberley Grande hotel. It was finally time for a decent shower!! We headed to the Chinese restaurant for dinner.

For the final day of our Kununurra experience, we travelled to Lake Argyle, where we had the chance to stand up paddle board before we had lunch at the resort. It was then sunset cruise time!! We boarded a Lake Argyle Cruises boat on the lake and were shown a lot of different sights and animals in and around the lake, including Rock Wallabies, Archer Fish and lots of Fresh Water Crocodiles. We explored another “jump rock” for our brave students to conquer and spent the afternoon doing tricks, eating snacks and swimming with our friends. As we watched the sunset over the lake, we all received our certificates for completing the Canoe Expedition. The eleven students from Kalkaringi and Lajamanu had proved their determination and resilience on this trip, as 55kms of canoeing is no easy feat. Though, they had done it all with a smile on their face, most of the time at least! We all left for home feeling proud, of ourselves and each other.

Written by Ashton Landt, Year 5/6 Teacher – Lajamanu School.

Thank you to Simon Blake (Wanta Director Lajamanu Academy), Ellie Simmons (Wanta Director Kalkaringi Academy) and Liam Patrick (Wanta Sports Academy Officer- Lajamanu) for making this EPIC trip possible – in their school holidays, too! As well as and Makka and Carol from Go Wild Adventure Tours – thank you!