A Night to Remember - by Barbara Robertson
As a very new member of the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers I agreed (rather hesitantly) to join a group of enthusiastic walkers on a weekend trip to the Budawangs in 1986. The New Bush Telegraph said - "Every bushwalker must climb The Castle at least once. Overnight walk of moderate(?) difficulty, camping in the vicinity of Monolith Valley." My interest was aroused by this description and also by the names and landmarks we would see. Mountains called after Seigfried and the Nibelungs, the 'Children of the Mist' from German myths. Shrouded Gods Mountain, Donjon Mountain, Seven Gods Pinnacles and The Castle.
I borrowed a large backpack, sleeping bag, cooking equipment and wet weather gear from my daughter, and a family sized tent (more of this later) from a work mate. With mixed feelings I set off early Saturday morning to meet The Leader. Alwyn's reputation as one of the Club's most experienced, indefatigable and hardy leaders seemed a mixed blessing to such a new chum as me. He had a lean, wiry appearance and his compact, well-used rucksack made me very anxious about the size and shape of mine (more of this later).
The drive to Milton and beyond was uneventful. After we parked the cars by the Yadboro River we followed the track through the river and on to Kalianna Ridge. This steep, eroded climb was quite daunting and my heavy pack was getting heavier. We were glad there were partly fixed ropes to help get ourselves up. Another first for me. But the wonderful views of Bibbenluke, Cole and Owen Mountains to the south and west made it worth the effort. Eventually we reached Monolith Valley, downed packs and went exploring around the rocky outcrops, hidden valleys and moss edged creeks, really beautiful!
Back to make camp. We had difficulty finding enough space for the tents on the only flat area around, so a narrow ledge had to do. Then a very strong wind started to blow. Gail and Norm roped their small tent to a tree while I started to battle with mine. Remember the family sized tent? Well it turned out to be of the old canvas variety with wooden poles and pegs! No wonder it was heavy.
Alwyn and Barry to the rescue. With much heaving and pulling they soon had it up and weighted down with rocks, but for how long? I had left them at it and had started dinner preparations. Some time later I went to unpack and settle in for the night. Imagine my surprise on entering the tent to see, not only my sleeping bag rolled out but two others, with everything else needed for a night's sleep. And this without a 'by your leave'. Barry and Alwyn had really made themselves 'at home'.
I tried to hide my surprise by not making any comment, not even a raised eyebrow. But I am a very respectable older 'lady' and this was my first camp-out with a mixed group. I did consult Gail though, and she reassured me that such cohabiting is quite usual and no-one thinks anything of it. We all had a restless night, probably due to howling winds. Still, nothing blew away, probably because of the extra weight inside the tent. The next day we all climbed The Castle, but that adventure will have to be told another time. Enough to say in conclusion, at my suggestion Alwyn and Barry shared the carrying of the tent all the way back to the car.