Sunday, September 10, 2006

Marble Hill Road to Bundaleer Reservoir

The channel was interesting, an engineering marvel. We looked at it's various features as we walked. It was impressive, imagining all the hard work that must have gone into building it a hundred years previously. The trail followed the channel, the channel falling at just 1 metre every mile. It followed the channel for some 20kms, and as we walked on our interest waned, we became keen to walk anywhere away from this damn channel! Today was in such contrast to yesterday, today it was breezey, not windy, and consistently warm and sunny. It was the hottest walking day I recall.

The network of channels was built between 1898 and 1902 to feed into the Bundaleer Reservoir, constructed to catch water to serve local towns. The channels harnessed the local rain run-off, directing it in huge concrete gutters. The earthworks and concrete work was amazing, little of it had cracked or been damaged. There were many smaller earth channels and concrete walls that fed into the larger channels, and there were several large overflow areas, a steel bridge that carried the channel over a river, a series of tunnels and even some creeks were directed not into, but underneath the channel. There were timber access bridges that crossed the channel at regular, and seemingly too often intervals, although many had been replaced by concrete bridges, the old timber sometimes piled up and rotting nearby. The gates associated with these bridges featured amazing detail, with large cast iron gate posts. The channels have been abandoned, not sure when, perhaps after the pipeline from Morgan was built in 1944, thanks to Google, but that's all I could really find out about the channels, except they were controversial when built. I wonder how effective they proved to be?

At the start of the day, before reaching the channels, I walked for 300 metres or so along the top of one of the water pipes from the Murray. I felt like a child balancing along it! Later, I wanted to walk along part of the channel floor, and perhaps also through one of the tunnels, but I was wary of my knees to I didn't undertake any such adventures down the sides of the steep channel! At Freshwater Creek weir, we had to walk around a flowing outflow, as the trail bridge had been washed away in the January floods. I wanted to climb over the sluice mechanism as there was a ladder on my side, so I shouted out to Raelene on the other side if there was a similar ladder on her side. Nope. I really wanted a ladder to be there, so I kept asking others, upsetting Raelene by not taking her at her word!

I had my photo taken at Freshwater Creek Weir, the point on the map that changed from the first map book to the second map book. This was the half way point of the trail. The weir, in which the channels and creek flowed into, was controlled by a sluice gate that led into another channel that followed parallel to the creek.

We found refuge from the sun in a shady spot further down the channel, and a couple of cyclists came our way along the shared Mawson Trail, having ridden from Bundaleer Forest that morning. They would continue riding until sunset before camping. They had ridden from Laura a few days previously, and planned to ride as far as they could until Wednesday. They were an inspiration, I want to ride the trail in blocks now and just camp at the end of each day, having ridden as far as I could that day. We shared some of our chocolate from our silver tray with them, I think they appreciated that. This was some of the last shade we saw. I drank my full two litres of water, the day before I had drank only one of my three litres, and had been too lazy to refill it the night before. I have learnt this lesson before - always take the full three litres of water each day! In the hot sun and unrelenting flatness of the walk we became weary of the channel. We enjoyed the spectacle of seeing the whole group holding up their trekking poles to ward off a swooping magpie.

Earlier in the day we had the funny event of Julie becoming stuck on a barb wire fence. The stiles here were modest, usually of only one tall step, and no poles to steady yourself with. Stepping over the fence seemed easier, but poor Julie got stuck!

We stopped at The Citadel in Clare for coffee and cake on the way home. It was my last End to End 2 walk for the season, I would be in Thailand for the last walk. It was a little sad to finish, I particularly enjoyed these weekends away.

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