By Rob Tibbett, rvtrips.com.au
For some, packing your stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and heading away from the white sand, salt water and waves seems counter-intuitive. Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world. Why waste your time taking your SUP away from a known body of water? It sounds ridiculous!
Recently, while on a caravanning trip around Australia, the RvTrips team took a Fanatic inflatable SUP with them to explore northwest Queensland. This turned out to be an great idea.
Fortunately, the Fanatic SUP comes in a handy backpack, which fits a pump and a three-piece paddle, perfect for caravanning and camping when space is limited. One of our team members flew into Mount Isa and checked the SUP backpack through as luggage. The backpack also carried the rest of his belongings, and it all came within the baggage allowance - a win. No more extra baggage charges when you fly with your board!
The RvTrips team are keen SUPers with many boards holding prime positions in our garages. We weren't sure how the inflatable SUP would compare to our other hard-boards, but we were eager to find out.
The starting destination for the field test was Lake Moondarra. This lake is situated 16km from the mining town of Mount Isa and was created as the town's main water supply – also perfect for fishing and water sports.
It was an early morning rise from Mount Isa, we wanted to be at the lake when the gates opened at 6am. And we were! The SUP took under 10 minutes to inflate to the appropriate pressure, moments later we were on the water! We paddled around the central island opposite the kayaking club and picnic area; the inflatable board handled just as well as our hard-boards. Very happy!
The lake itself was peaceful with the only disturbance being the wake from our boards. The surrounding hills were perfectly reflected in the water and the fact that no-one else was in sight at this time of day, reinforced how remote you are on Lake Moondarra. What a great way to start the day. We saw numerous birds including hawks and peacocks as well as the occasional freshwater crocodile. The locals had already said "no worries, these are only freshies, they won’t eat you”. Oh good!
Next on the list was Lawn Hill National Park, located about 4 hours drive north-west of Mount Isa. The park has many walking trails which showcase the spectacular views of Lawn Hill Gorge and Indarri Falls, but that’s another story. Lawn Hill Creek, which runs through the gorge, is fed all year round by underground springs which come to the surface at the top of the gorge.
You can access the above locations by travelling along the waterway which is by far the best way to appreciate this gorge with unpowered craft. Canoes are available for those who haven't come prepared ($50 for two people for two hours).
For us, the inflatable SUP drew a lot of attention from fellow travellers who wanted to have a go - of course, we were happy to oblige! Some were having so much fun, that we didn't think we would get the board back!
Lawn Hill Creek winds through a tall cliff face leading to Indarri Falls, consisting of fast flowing waterfalls that cascade over rocks and around vegetation from the upper gorge. There are freshwater crocodiles in the creek and the gorge. We didn't see any this time!
The falls are located in the middle gorge, and a short track over rocks leads to the upper gorge. You need to carry your canoe or SUP between gorges. This was very easy with the lightweight inflatable SUP. We would highly recommend the upper-gorge to see expanses of lilies covering crystal clear water, schools of fish, turtles and the amazing spring feeding the gorge.
You can see so much more standing on a SUP. Compared with sitting in a canoe or kayak, it allowed a far better view of what’s beneath the surface – a whole new appreciation of life in the water. We all commented that the SUP was a lot easier to use and much more manoeuvrable than padding the canoe.
Packed with kayaks and a SUP, our next destination was Lake Julius – a large body of fresh water 100km northeast of Mount Isa. It can hold as much water as Sydney Harbour when full and is the largest freshwater lake in Queensland. Not bad for the outback!
Lake Julius is fed by the Leichhardt River and Paroo Creek, created for irrigation and water supply. Well known for fishing and boating, but also ideal for SUPing! The trip into Lake Julius is over a mostly unsealed road and the travel time from Mount Isa is between two and three hours – very undulating and quite corrugated. The scenery, however, is beautiful as you pass some of the highest peaks in the district.
Lake Julius is huge, and the view from the lookout reveals the twisting limbs of the water body protruding through the land. For some travellers, this section of the lake, with a multiple arch, buttress style construction of the dam, would be their best view. If you manage to have a SUP with you though, the place only gets better!
We launched off a jetty near a few well-shaded picnic tables and paddled around the corner and out of sight. The wildlife was abundant and was not startled as we moved silently through the water.
We paddled for hours, getting some great exercise, thinking we had covered a large proportion of the lake. After deflating the board and packing up, a map at the picnic area revealed how little of the lake we had actually covered. It's huge! We will be back.
For something that sounded strange in conversation – “let’s take a SUP outback” - it was a great experience and opened up incredible areas which we may not have otherwise explored!
We were very impressed with how easy the inflatable SUP was to use and how compact it was for transporting. We would like to thank Fanatic for the opportunity to test the 12’ 6” Falcon Air SUP. We are excited to see what more Australia has to offer from the deck of a SUP.
Next time you are thinking of planning a holiday, think of outback Australia and remember to pack your inflatable SUP.
Special thanks to BIG4 Holiday Parks, Fanatic Australia and the wonderful inland waterways of Far North Queensland. RvTrips, a strategic partner of Regional Tourism Australia, is helping and encouraging others to explore Australia. See the best Australia has to offer. For more photos and travel tips, you can catch us at www.rvtrips.com.au.