Memorable Walks - by Dawn Evans
April 1987 saw my first walk with the Club, when the Wednesday Walkers walked from Currarong along old roads and tracks over what is now the Wreck and Trig Walks.
This area had been used mainly by fishermen, and their vehicles travelled widely over the reserve and along the various tracks to the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse. The Nowra Lands Board, (and in particular Brian Kenny, a former bushwalker) with the cooperation of the local Aboriginal people, and secondary assistance from Shoalhaven City Council, were in the process of turning this area into walking tracks for the public. The tracks were to be named after the general features of the area, and Marion's Way, was named after Marion James, a bushwalker and former schoolteacher of the local Aboriginal children, who was killed in an air crash in Papua New Guinea.
Wednesday walks were held fortnightly, and to my understanding the first Wednesday walk was at Barren Grounds lead by May Leatch in early 1987. Ursula Turner then took on the job of organizing the program, with help from other walkers. In 1987 I was walking once a month because of other commitments.
The program was decided one week in advance, and usually followed a pattern of, for example,. northern location one week, a different geographical area the next. In other words, spread over the area for variety and to make it easier for all concerned. People would nominate an area they knew of, or would like to know, and off they went, eager to explore new territory.
The Wednesday Walkers ventured into many new areas the Club had never looked at. Many places were relatively unexplored, very few places even saw a car because of rough roads, and walking was a pleasure. Today some of these areas have been turned into good gravel fire trails, or upgraded into reserves or National Parks, and their semi-primitive state has disappeared Wednesday Walkers also worked on the premise, today we will do this end of a particular road, another time the far end, exploring the surroundings as they went. Any new track would be noted down for further exploration. On becoming familiar with most of the tracks, and knowledge of the geography of the areas, off track walking developed on a Wednesday.
Weekend walkers at this time walked mainly in the Budawangs, the Ettrema, the Yalwal area and parts of Jervis Bay. They walked on the major tracks known to bushwalkers, and often had no time, or inclination, or knowledge to venture into areas close to Nowra. The pool of knowledge being accumulated by the Wednesday Walkers was often underestimated, but today, in 1998, the Club owes its leadership skill and knowledge of the variety of walks to those early walkers. Today, the Shoalhaven area and surrounding areas are known intimately to many walkers, and points of interest, history and features are readily recognized.
June 1987 saw Russ and myself with our son Gareth join Alwyn Martin for our first week-end walk with Shoalhaven Bushwalkers The other walkers were new-comers as well - Ray Read and Ross Engels. We were delayed an hour at Sassafras waiting for another walker, and wondering if she had mistaken the meeting time. Unfortunately, she had slept in, and rang Alwyn's home, but he had already left and did not get the message. Such was walking before mobile phones. The weather was fine at Newhaven Gap, but we were soon made aware of the Budawang weather. Sunday was very wet as we made our way to Mount Cole for lunch, with plenty of water to drink. One of the highlights was hearing the dingoes both nights from Mt Haughton, where we were camping. One would howl from one area, and a short time later another would answer, from a different direction. Sadly, the dingoes seem to have left the Budawangs - we do not hear them now-a-days.
Another of our interesting early week-end club walks was led by Wally Eastwood into the Northern Budawangs. We explored Quilty's Pass and Quilty's Clearing, camping at Nomchong Creek in beautiful sunny weather. The campsite had some large trees, and one of the tents had to be 'walked' to a safer position. Another tent under a 'suspect' tree decided to stay put and take a chance. Russ was at the receiving end of a hungry leech, which made a nasty mess, the photo of which made its way onto the Shoalhaven Council staff notice board. Ray Mathieson showed us in no uncertain terms what a light pack meant, having all the essentials plus fresh food. Walkers were Wally and Audrey Eastwood, Ursula Turner, Elizabeth Karas, Barbara Robertson, Gail Mizon, Ray Mathieson, Russ and Dawn Evans, Gareth Evans and friend, Mark Smith.
Now into our thirteenth year of walking with Shoalhaven Bushwalkers, we look back and remember many events, not always happy ones. A number of our walkers have passed away:- Rick Kelly, Don Turner, Wally Eastwood, Coral Lloyd, Lawrie Adams, Ken Walker and Lesley Croft. Two memorial walks were held, one to the Yarramunmun Creek, to remember Rick and his beloved donkeys, and another walk led by Stuart Leslie along to Quilty's Pass and the Endrick River where the beautiful Braidwood Waratah - Telopea Mongaensis - was in full flower. This was Wally Eastwood's favourite walk.
Some walks are unforgettable for other reasons. We were on a trip into Newhaven Gap, and one of our early walkers from Sydney in his new car, with little clearance, could not be persuaded to leave it behind. Lo and behold, guess who got a puncture, but it needed the ladies, Ursula Turner and friend, to find the jack and change the wheel.
The influence of our walkers has spread in many ways. One Easter week-end, camping with our extended family south of Braidwood, near the Big Hole, we met a young woman, with her dog and donkey. She lived in Sydney, had been camping with Rick Kelly on his Donkey Trek, and decided she would experience this by herself She subsequently purchased her own donkey in Buchan, Victoria, and commenced walking back to Sydney, using mainly the stock route. and camping at National Parks and caravan parks. A week after Easter she arrived in Nowra, still enjoying the experience.
1987 was a memorable year for the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers. May 30 saw the first walk to the Wineglass Tor, with a large number in attendance. In the June issue of the New Bush Telegraph (in which the program was printed) was the note - "Following record attendances at all of the walks in the last program, we have boosted the number of activities in this issue. To keep this up we need lots of new leaders and new destinations. If you have an idea, bring it along to the next meeting."
Another first for Shoalhaven Bushwalkers, was a week-day four day full pack walk through the Budawangs, starting at Newhaven Gap on the Sunday and finishing at Yadboro on the following Wednesday. Led by Dawn Evans and joined by Ursula Turner, Elizabeth Karas, Alwyn Martin, Gareth Evans and brother and sister Toni and Mathew from Sussex Inlet, they missed the masses of people who walk at weekends. Trip notes record the spring flowers were a mass of pink, yellow and creams, lyrebirds sang from dawn to dusk, and the cameras were kept busy as delight after delight unfolded before our eyes. Alwyn was thrilled to show us the secret and unspoiled areas during the entire walk, and his prophetic words of wisdom were recorded. "It's like life, full of ups and downs," he said, when asked about a section of the track. The third and last evening a severe thunderstorm descended upon the party camped under small cliff overhangs near the Castle saddle, and the seconds were counted between lightning and thunder. Gareth and Mathew skylarked about the dingoes around their campsite, only to find a dingo's tracks the next morning. The last morning was fine and clear, sitting up in the sleeping bags, views across to the coastline were enjoyed, whilst at our backs were marine fossils embedded into the rocks. Russ Evans and Don Turner were the chauffeurs for the trip.