SA – Murray – Meet Dave Jacka At Moorook

This morning we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise at this corker of a camp spot. It is not difficult to see why so many people love spending times near the Murray. We were sitting outside drinking the morning coffee when a couple of heavily loaded tinnies pulled up at the boat ramp, one was towing another tinnie like a punt. One carried a wheelchair and the other was flying an Australian Flag and had a folding bike on the front.
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Our curiosity got the better of us and we went over to chat to the guys at the boat ramp who told us they were the support crew for David Jacka who was paddling a kayak down the full length of the Murray. We saw the preparation the guys were making for David’s lunch stop while they were devouring the pies they had got from the general store – this was the first junk food they had had for some time. Apparently the Murray is about 2200 km long and the group had about 450 km to go. David broke his neck at the age of 19 and has quadriplegia and only about 6% of normal body function.

​David and his crew had obviously done a lot of planning for the trip to assist him achieve his goal. This involved designing a modified Kayak, a home made trolley to roll the Kayak in and out of the water and a manual lifting apparatus that would make any OHS department cringe but allows the crew to transfer David between his Kayak and wheelchair alongside the river. David later told me that he has a hoist at home but actually prefers to transfer using the manual lift rather than a hoist.

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We decided to defer our departure from Moorok to meet David and he arrived at the boat ramp about an hour later, together with another Kayaker. I was amazed  by his ability to independently paddle the modified Kayak using a blow/suck pipe to control the rudder that would normally be operated by the feet. David has very limited ability to grip with his hands and this was overcome by taping the paddles to his hands. The Kayak was fitted with small outriggers to provide additional stability given his inability to shift his body from side to side.
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We learned a bit more about David as he was modestly telling us about some of his previous achievements.   When I asked him how he got to paddle the Murray he said with his dry wit that he was putting on a bit of weight and was looking for a new challenge having already flown a plane solo around Australia and competed at the paralympic games.

We left the guys to devour the rest of the available hot food the general store had to offer and have a well deserved rest before the afternoon paddle. David is an inspirational man and we wish him the best of luck for the rest of his journey. Here is is giving me the best thumbs up he could manage with his gloved and taped hands and then a photo of him paddling on after lunch.

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 We look forward to following David on the rest of his journey down to the mouth of the Murray. More information on David and his achievements can be found on his website and facebook page

After delaying our departure we decided to stay another night at Moorook. We tried a spot of fishing but with no luck at all and even “Pete the Pelican” gave up guarding the fishing rods. 

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The caravan behind us had left in the morning and Cath and Carl from WA claimed the spot. We spent an interesting night talking around the campfire as Cath works as an integration aide in a school and Carl was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease nine years ago. Alan and Carl spent time comparing notes on their experiences.

This certainly reinforced the approach we are taking to cope with the condition which is to focus on the now rather than the distant future and to enjoy life while we can rather than continue with work commitments and risk not being able to achieve our goals – if a quadriplegic can kayak the length of the Murray there is no reason why we cannot drive around Australia!

 
 
 
This entry was posted in SA Riverland, SA Yorke Peninsula, Tales of a Blonde Nomad.

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