I spent the weekend just gone under the command of Captain Cook. What else would you expect from someone named after an explorer but to be dragged off to some hitherto unvisited far flung corner of the world!
Normally we are preoccupied with getting out back (of the wave zone), this weekend we were more bothered with getting to the Outback, well country NSW at least: destination Narrandera (pronounced, with ‘Strayan nasal twang, Naraaaaaaaandrah, thank you John Cadden for the pommie elocution lesson).
In light of Gill’s current injury and Cookie’s limited time off work, Captain Cook decreed that we would fly rather than drive 6 hours south west from Sydney.
On arrival at the expansive Narrandera – Leeton airport, we were duly collected (ladies are collected we reminded our driver, prostitutes are picked up) from the airport by Craig, owner of the only taxi in Narrandera – Leeton and dropped off at Lake Talbot Caravan Park right next to the site of the 10km swim the next day.
We were expecting big things from our weekend in the country. Notably, a Big Guitar and a Big Tennis Racquet. Yes. Australia has a slightly quirky obsession with Big Things. I’ve seen the Big Pineapple and the Big Merino and a few more but I didn’t realise how many Big Things there actually are (Cookie, check it out, there’s even a Big Captain Cook!).
But the Big Thing we were most interested in was the Murumbidgee (in wiradjuri, ‘Big water’). The Murumbidgee River, a tributary of the Murray, is the second longest river in Australia and feeds Lake Talbot. Back in 1925, the ‘Bidgee was in in flood and breached a levee bank near the base of Bundidgerry Hill. William Talbot, Narrandera’s Shire Clerk, suggested preserving the break to keep a safe swimming hole for the town and Lake Talbot was born.
Cabbie Craig made a slight detour so we could eyeball the Murrumbidgee on arrival and he could scare us with tales of the Murumbidgee Mud Shark until we realised that Murrumbidgee Mud Shark is the vernacular for a Murray river cod.
Likely more accustomed to being told by passengers that they are in a rush, cabbie Craig was intrigued when we said we were in town for the Riverina Rush . The long distance Open Water Swim is a core event of the weekend long Riverina Rush Multisport Festival that includes various other swims, a fun run (oxymoron to me) and Sprint Distance Triathlon.
Craig who’s a blow in from Queensland, said the event had slipped by without him noticing last year.
Odd perhaps in a town of only 3,800 people.
While a big field was one big thing we certainly weren’t expecting, we were surprised to find that there were just 7 entries for the 10km and even more surprised to be told by fabulous awgie, Simon, that this is the most entries they have ever had! In 14 years! Where the bloody ‘ell are you, fellow swimmers!? You are so missing out! This swim is a ripper!
Thanks I assume, to swim sponsor Doug Sutherland Truck Repairs, swim entry is only $25, yes, that’s right – Fairfax, please note.
You get your split second time handed to you on a certificate when you exit – Fairfax, please note.
Water safety is provided so no need to BYO paddler or boat unlike most other marathon swims.
Cookie and I were originally sharing ‘ladies’ man’ Ken but as the distance between us started to stretch, the lovely Graham stepped into the breach so we each had our own personal kayaker. Ken even took photos for me blob.
For the time being, at least until the rest of you wise up, you are pretty much guaranteed some sort of podium finish. There’s even prize money for the top 3, yes – prize money! And a medal for everyone.
After the swim, the amazing awgies brought us fresh water, a platter – yes, a whole platter, of fruit, orange juice and hot chips and giant hash browns!
And in case you are worried that you need time to work all that off, you also receive free entry to the fabulous water park with 5 pools, 2 giant slides and Pharrell William’s ‘Happy’ blaring out on the loud speaker.
You don’t even need to worry about hypothermia.
In fact, quite the opposite, at 26 degrees, you need to worry more about getting yourself in hot water – makes it great training for Lake Argyle, Maev.
All those of you that are concerned about what lurks beneath, don’t be! There isn’t anything – Murrumbidgee mud sharks dealt with, leeches gone apparently and as for the snakes that Simon mentioned, you won’t see them anyway because the water is so brown that you can’t even see your wrist at the end of your arm. In fact, that could be the only downside. The mud-like Taste of the Riverina is still lurking at the top of my nostrils, causing me to adopt a ‘Strayan nasal twang of my own for the weekend.
The following day, Captain Cook and I headed into town, our tourism options being slightly limited by our lack of wheels (but if you have some, there are koala parks, tree stumps shaped like ducks, bike tracks and all manner of attractions to check out – see Tim the Yowie man’s report).
Bearing in mind the preponderance of evangelical literature at the airport, a trip to town on a Sunday seemed somewhat worrisome but in reality, it was a bit of a ghost town in the country heat with the only breeze coming from the occasional triathlete cycling past at top speed.
We decided to go from front crawl to pub crawl. Certainly not a marathon exercise given that 4 of the town’s 6 pubs have ceased trading as the population has declined to almost half its level a few years back. We had a beer at the ‘Bidgee and chatted to the septuagenarian locals who were in awe of our swim, read some of John O Brien’s poems and tried to learn the rules of Keno before heading to the Charles Sturt.
On the way, we peered at the gardens named after one time resident of the town, Marie Bashir and admired the beautiful architecture. At Charlie’s, we raised a glass to Cookie’s erstwhile travelling acquaintance Ken who was born in Narrandera and eyed the dusty (in both senses) youngsters looking for a hair of the dog on their way back from a B&S ball.
At the appointed hour, Rusty, Craig’s relief driver collected us and dropped us back at the tiny airport.
Now we are home, back to our ‘fast’ city lives, we can’t quite fathom why we are in such a Rush – we’d swap the Riverina Rush for the city rush any day. We loved it. Inland open water marathon swimming – the next big thing?
We hope so.