Hayley Talbot is only one day from finishing her nearly 400km kayak paddle down the Clarence River, pictured just past Lawrence here.
Hayley Talbot is only one day from finishing her nearly 400km kayak paddle down the Clarence River, pictured just past Lawrence here. Adam Hourigan Photography

Hayley paddles her dream journey back home

TWO years of planning went into her two-week solo kayak down the Clarence River, but it was almost over in two days for Yamba's Hayley Talbot.

Travelling down a rapid, a slight bump on entry forced her kayak sideways - leaving it wedged and submerged.

She emerged from the water, rescued her gear, and was able to fold up her special kayak, made from corflute material, and free it.

"I've been teased about my IKEA flatpack boat, but the great thing is it folds down into a backpack, so I undid all the ratchets, folded it out into a flat piece of plastic, and it slid straight off the rock," she said.

"If I was in a traditional canoe, I would've never been able to move it, but I've been able to do that three times now."

And with the adrenaline pumping from one of the many challenges that she faced along the way, little did she realise the extent of an injury to her arm in the incident, which she now believes may be broken and is heavily strapped.

"I didn't even really know, it wasn't a painful knock at the time, but it's got progressively worse. I thought it was a haematoma and I was massaging it, but I've realised that it's a bone not a bruise."

Ms Talbot said that motivation for her journey started during a trip to South Africa in 2014 where she was away from her husband and two children for 10 days, and took the opportunity to climb mountains, and swim with sharks and on her return searched for an outlet for her energy.

"I was really digging back for my place in the world and what I wanted to do... and you go back a long way, and the metaphor was that I live at the mouth of the river, so I went back up the river," she said.

"I remember being a teenager here feeling bored and uninspired and directionless... and I used to sit at Maclean High and look at the river and hate it and think it was so boring and couldn't wait to leave, and now I've just had the adventure of a lifetime.

"The message really is, if you see things differently, they are different - we just need to leverage perception shifts and it's been life changing, and it's been under my nose the whole time."

Hayley's original plan for the almost 400km journey from the top of the Clarence to the mouth was to take no food or water, and use foraging and survival skills to survive, but she said the people of the Clarence made sure she didn't go without.

"I didn't take any food, but in the end I came out on this solo wild woman nature adventure, and the overarching beauty was the people giving food to me the whole way," she said.

"There were people offering me cups of tea, or bags of nuts, to leftover bacon and eggs. I think if I had've been concerned about preserving that initial natural experience, I would've missed out on the wonderful people experience I got instead."

And with the finish line at Yamba close, Ms Talbot said that she couldn't wait to share her experience with her family and others.

"I feel like this has been a holiday, and when I get back it's time to work," she said.

"I want to share this, I want to leverage this experience to get other people to think about what their thing is... I think everyone can occupy a space of excellence

"When I had this, I couldn't kayak... but I had faith that by the time I left I could be the person that could pull it off.

"And it's been such a gift that my family has given me to allow me to do this, and the trust that my husband has in trusting me with my life, and I want to honour that trust, so I wanted to be really ready."

And as for her first hot shower back? "Oh so good," she said with a laugh



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