Not many people can say they have experienced the entire Murray River in a kayak, but for Dan Smith from the New South Wales Central Coast, that will soon be a reality.
- A team of kayakers are paddling from Mildura to Lake Alexandrina for charity
- Dan Smith is using the fundraiser to complete his goal of kayaking the entire Murray River
- The group is raising money for Camp Breakaway which organises programs for people with a disability
The disability support volunteer is nearing the end of his journey along the length of the river in a trusty kayak, which he is doing to raise money for disability support charity Camp Breakaway.
Mr Smith, along with friend Bryan Dorfling, hopped in north of Mildura earlier in February and will not stop until they reach Lake Alexandrina in early March.
His wife, Kathy, is also along for the paddle as the pair's support crew for the three-week journey.
It is the third and final leg of the 2,500-kilometre Murray River for Mr Smith, who had previously completed two earlier trips along the eastern parts of the system.
"The thing that hurts the most is the backside from sitting in the kayak," he said.
"You appreciate the issues dealing with the Murray and the water, the extent of agriculture in the district, as well as the beautiful natural areas."
Kayakers paddling for a cause
The three are all volunteers at Camp Breakaway, an activity centre and getaway for people with a disability and their families.
The organisation has been running for more than 40 years and offers a range of different programs aimed at both children and adults.
Mrs Smith said the group wanted to raise money and support an organisation that had changed their lives.
"The camps are run totally [by] volunteers, but even with volunteers, it costs around $3,500 per family to come to a weekend camp," she said.
One stroke at a time
As of Monday morning, the team were stopped in Cadell, near Morgan, ready for what they estimate will be the final seven days of their journey.
Mr Dorfling met the Smiths at Camp Breakaway and not long afterwards agreed to join them to help Mr Smith finish his last leg of the Murray.
He said the natural landscape of the region had him hooked.
"It's my first time travelling down the Murray, so the beautiful red cliffs, wedge-tailed eagles — we've seen carp and kites — and just spending time with beautiful people have all been highlights," he said.
"I have my watch set to beep every 500 metres, and when that beeps, I do a bit of mindfulness practice and try to be as present as I can be and think about each stroke one at a time."
Mr Smith said travelling the river "naturally" gave a new perspective to the region.
"The river really is life in this part of the country, and it's just wonderful to feel that as you head down the river," he said.