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Picture from the last charity paddle in 2013. Images: Contributed.

Clarence River Odyssey #2

Geoff Helisma |

In 2013, Richard Bennett, Bob Wonders, Steve Abrahams and Alex Abrahams paddled from the Dorrigo plateau to the Yamba Surf Lifesaving Club (SLSC) and raised $23,000, which they donated to the surf club and the Maitland Hospital Foundation.

Stephen Abrahams, who has regularly visited the river with friends, family and former student colleagues since 1974, says “we aim to highlight the magnificence and importance of the Clarence, from its source in the New England ranges to its mouth at the picturesque coastal town of Yamba”.

This trip, titled Clarence River Odyssey 2017, was postponed from last year due to unforeseen circumstances; it now gets underway on Saturday May 5 and is due to be completed at the Yamba SLSC at lunchtime on Sunday May 20.

“Last time we did the length of the Nymboida [and Clarence rivers], from Dorrigo to Yamba,” says Stephen. “This time we are doing the Clarence River.
“We’ve chosen [to start with] the Boonoo Boonoo River, which starts near Tenterfield.
“The first four days is walking down that river because it is very steep; it starts at about 1,100 metres above sea level.
“Then it joins two other rivers, the Maryland River and Koorelah Creek at Rivertree (and that’s the Clarence River) and we canoe from there to Yamba.”
Stephen says that he and his friends have raised $15,000, most of which has already been shared with the chosen charities: “Yamba SLSC and a charity I’m involved with, a small West Papuan company that builds freshwater wells for villages.
“Most [of the donations] are sourced from family and friends; we haven’t gone too far outside of that.
“But yes, people can donate on the website – press the button and pay by Paypal or credit card.”
Stephen says (when he’s not doing charity paddles) that he, his friends and family visit “mostly the Nymboida River and down into the upper reaches of the Clarence” two or three times a year.
“In March last year, 12 of us went down the river, including the original six who went down in 1974.”
“Canoeing the Clarence River, we will encounter a variety of conditions, from serene river flows to the turbulent and unique Clarence River Gorge,” the Clarence Odyssey 2017 website states.
“Odyssey 2017 will meet and acknowledge the people of the river, including from the townships of Tabulam and Copmanhurst, as well as the city of Grafton and the historic towns of Ulmarra, Maclean and Yamba.”

Once underway, he says people will be able to follow the journey on the Clarence River Odyssey 2017 Facebook site.

More information is available at the website:
To find out more about the company in West Papua, go to:

A rough map of the Clarence River Odyssey 2017. Images: Contributed.