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Paddle, paddle, paddle your kayak, Merrily down the Murray

By Tyla Harrington

There really are different strokes for different folks but when Riverine Herald’s deputy editor TYLA HARRINGTON met a couple kayaking their way the length of the Murray River she discovered any kind of paddle strokes were different for them.

IT ALL started with one question.

What do you want to do before you die?

Well you could try something just a little out of the ordinary — such as trying to cross the Gobi Desert on foot, carrying everything you need for, say, 57 days of superheated purgatory.

Be mistaken for down at heel vagrants you have worn yourself so vague and dirty you are mistaken as a hopeless individual and a few dollars here and there are pressed into your hand because you look as though you’re in need of assistance when all you want to do is sleep and an end to your latest adventure.

Or you could cast around for something a lot simpler, such as taking to Australia’s longest river in a couple of kayaks and plan to head 2218km downstream — never mind that you’ve never done any kayaking.

So when Tasmania’s Luke and Elise Richmond had to ask Luke’s father Clive that open-ended question he was the one who came up with the idea about that river, those kayaks and skipped right by the experience requirement for a trek of this magnitude.

If it doesn’t make hoofing it across the Gobi seem easy it would still probably be a photo finish.

The upside of the 2218km option was for a change they didn’t have to carry everything they needed on their backs – and even in the midst of drought there would be no shortage of water.

Unlike the Gobi, for example.

‘‘So Clive told us he just ‘always wanted to go down the whole length of the Murray in a boat’,” Elise said, talking to the Riverine Herald during a 15-minute break “so our backs don’t go into spasm”.

“We thought that’s awesome and wanted in as well, so decided we would kayak it – and put Clive in a tinnie.

“That was about Christmas time and we thought it would take about a couple of months to put it together.”

A couple of months quickly extended to four, with the trio not able to finally push away from the banks of the Murray until April 16, and the little fleet arriving in Echuca-Moama at Morrisons Riverview Winery on April 27.

For a couple who knew nothing about anything when it came to kayaks they had made an expert assessment of the trip – it would take them “seven weeks, or so”.

“That was a kinda guess,” Elise confessed.

“We’re nearly at the end of our fourth week now (Thursday, May 9) so we still expect to finish in early June — which might prove to be a little behind schedule.”

The Richmonds travel about 40km every day — their 57km record proved too testing to be reprised at any time in the immediate future.”

“We tend to do about three, 90-minute blocks of paddling every day, with about 15 -minute breaks in between,’’ Elise said.

Enough to wipe your average person out entirely, so it pays that Elise and Luke — who met in 2014 on Tinder, the online dating site — both have crossfit backgrounds.

“I am a crossfit athlete and Luke has dabbled as well,” Elise said.

“We’re both very much into our climbing and hiking. We have a little gym set up at the back of our house so fitness is a big part of everyday life for us.’’

Elise is a crossfit coach and her husband is an author who, having already published his first novel One Life One Chance (a story about adrenaline and adventure in the most unforgiving places on Earth), is preparing to publish his second.

‘‘The second (which will also capture his adventures) is nearly done and the Murray River is going to be the last part of it,’’ Elise said.

It’s been an adventure Elise and her husband have adapted to well.

‘‘It always takes about a week or two to get used to what it is you’re doing whether it’s hiking or climbing or paddling for seven hours a day,’’ Elise said.

‘‘The first few weeks our hips were on fire and our backs were so jacked up but now it just feels normal.

‘‘We still need those breaks every now and again, just to stretch out, and we’ve had to be careful about losing too much weight.’’

Elise and Luke also rely on ‘neurophysics’ therapy, a technique to readjust and realign the nervous system, which they do every second day.

‘‘Because we’re both athletes we’re very in tune with our bodies and can feel when they’re not right and this therapy helps to realign them before it becomes a problem,’’ she said.

‘‘We also have a mobility ball and floss tape (for muscles).’’

Strangely enough, though seasoned athletes, Elise and Luke didn’t own a kayak before they decided to tackle the Murray.

‘‘We only bought our kayaks four weeks before we left,’’ Elise said.

‘‘We never really paddled. We did three trips around us, which was ocean paddling, and we lasted for 45 minutes each time.

‘‘We figured if we can’t figure it out in 2000km then there’s something wrong with us.’’

It turned out the pair did figure it out and, fortunately for them, quite easily.

‘‘River paddling is much more relaxing than ocean paddling,’’ Elise said.

‘‘We do a lot of these things — we walked across the Gobi Desert a couple of years ago on foot and that took us 57 days.

‘‘We were shattered by the end of it because we were carrying our own gear so this trip seems a lot more relaxed.

‘‘There’s a lot more opportunity to take it all in — we’re not trying to break any records, we’re just trying to see our country. We’re going to be really sad when it comes to an end because we’re really enjoying it.

‘‘We’ve had so much kindness along the river. We had a woman drive us to get fuel the other day — we obviously look starving — but it’s been so nice to meet all the people along the way.’’

It comes as no surprise this is not the last adventure for the Richmonds.

‘‘When we get back we’ve got between 12-16 weeks before we had to back to Nepal to climb a big mountain,” Elise said.

‘‘That will be our most technical and my first big mountain and hopefully we can tack on two other peaks when we get there as well.

‘‘That’s our main adventure for the year so we will definitely be needing some serious training when we get back.’’

Main being the operative word because there will be plenty of challenges, risks, setbacks and achievements ahead for the Richmonds.

‘‘We just love adventures,’’ Elise confirmed.

And it definitely shows.