Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Inc.
The Years that Followed
In the 1970s and 1980s groups of Club Walkers continued to go on regular trips each week-end around Nowra and beyond. These walks were on known fire trails or exploratory forays into the unknown. The most popular were to the Budawangs, Kangaroo Valley, Shoalhaven River hinterland and coastal tracks north and south of Jervis Bay but an ever increasing number of walks to different locations were being introduced.
It is impossible to name all those who led walks in the early days of the Club but they included Richard Passfield, Ray Madison (who encouraged canoeing outings on local rivers and dams), Terry Barratt, Bob Redenbach, Alan Hocking, May Leatch, Alwyn Martin, Bev and Peter Gillam and Peter Hancock.
One name that was frequently mentioned was Rick Kelly, "The Donkey Man" from Foxground. Ivan Goozeff, another early walker, remembers Rick as follows....
"It was about 1960 at a Federation of Bushwalkers Reunion at Blue Gum Forest that I first saw Rick Kelly. Someone said 'Rick is down there' and I thought 'who the devil is Rick' but I went down to the Grose River to see. I could just feel the respect these bushwalkers who knew Rick had towards him. When they approached him they just said 'G'day' in an unassuming manner so I was still left wondering what the admiration of Rick was about.
"Rick was so unforgettable. Ten years later returning from a skiing week, I was caught in a mile of banked up traffic travelling at only 40mph between Jindabyne and Cooma where we normally cruised along at 60mph. I was not able to overtake until Cooma airport and there holding us all up was a short wheelbase open Landrover with a pair of XC skis sticking up and Rick at the wheel, puffing his pipe, and talking to his skiing mate. His vehicle would only do 40mph and he saw no reason why anyone should go faster or why he should pull over.
"The Shoalhaven Bushwalkers were having a paddle up Tallowa Dam about 1980 and Rick turned up with a trailer load of canoes so anyone who wanted to come would be welcome. At last I was to go on a trip with the unforgettable Rick. He also brought along some camp gadgets like a chicken wire cooking grate, as well as his generous battered billy. It was a nice paddle up the river and a happy camp fire that night with Rick telling us of many of the walks he had been on and his reasons for setting up his donkey safari business which took groups into the Yalwal area. He knew all the tracks and characters, and around the campfire was the best place to hear of them.
"On our last trip together we were to go on to Pebbly Beach. I suggested he leave his Landrover and I drive him down. I guess I was wary of being held up in a long line of traffic again. We walked north from Pebbly in a light drizzle, found a pleasant spot at the back of the beach to camp, fished and swam and enjoyed another camp fire. Next day when we returned to Pebbly, Rick was a lot slower and struggled to get back, which was hard for me to take in, as I had known him as such an energetic character.
"I did not set out to write an obituary, as lung cancer claimed Rick shortly after, but to write of the bonzer times we had, the campfires and stories we had shared, and the memories of the ridges, creeks and valleys we walked, and the stars above a clear sky."
The range of walks was widening as the following destinations on the programs for 1988 show. To the North were trips to the Royal National Park, Mt Keira and Bass Point near Wollongong; South to the Budawangs, Murramarang National Park, Lake Meroo, and the Snowy Mountains; Southern Highlands at Fitzroy Falls, Kangaroo Valley and Bundanoon, caving in Bungonia Gorge and West to Blue Gum Forest in the Blue Mountains. These walks were in addition to the many around Nowra. This very varied program of walks has been the pattern since long before the start of the club and we are following in the footsteps of many who have enjoyed the beauty of such a wonderful and diversified part of Australia.
In 1989 Shirley Geverding, a regular Wednesday walker wrote - "One of the few free pleasures left in today's 'material' society has to be Bushwalking. You leave all your worries behind in amongst beautiful scenery and wildlife. Birds from Siberia and creeks shining like mirages in the desert, crawling through caves so dark you wonder if there is an ending, through thick and lush rainforests that are fast disappearing make all our walks breathtaking.
"Of course, one of the best things is the company - fresh, smiling, friendly faces never short of an encouraging word as you push yourself to climb that last hill, crawl through the cave or swim in some icy retreat. Come lunchtime, we unpack our bags and have a well-earned meal, with nature's magnificent beauty all around us.
"Even the mud and slush of recent times does not dampen our spirits, even with the feel of mud between the toes and shoes wet through. And as for leeches, well, they're not exactly friends, but we don't 'freak out' any more.
"Every one of our walks is special and guaranteed good fun."
With the loss of some of the original walks' leaders it was encouraging to see a new group of able and enthusiastic members offering to lead walks. These included Ray Mathieson, (another keen canoeist), Russ and Dawn Evans, Ursula Turner, Gail Mizon, Ray Reid, Norm Smith, Gerry Mutch, Stuart and Sally Leslie, and Wally Eastwood.
Russ tells the following story of his early days of bushwalking. "Two days before the war broke out in 1939 I joined the Scouts as a very young Cub and learned some of the rudiments of camping and hiking but there was little scope for bushwalking in South Wales. This had to wait until I arrived in Australia as an eighteen year old in 1950 and within a year I had my first overnight walk in the Royal National Park between Bundeena and Otford - and have been hooked ever since.
"Most of my early walks were with the Scouts as a Leader in the golden days before we had to worry about regulations and being sued if something went wrong. We covered the area from the Alps to the Blue Mountains and fitted in a wide range of activities as well as bushwalking. In retrospect, we were probably a bit foolhardy as we would abseil with any old rope we could find, use canvas canoes on white water rivers and a whole lot of other things which would make today's authorities horrified. Bushwalking equipment was primitive and a lot was home made. My first pack was an army haversack with narrow straps and my sleeping bag an old blanket stitched up the sides. Wet weather gear was a rubberized canvas cape which doubled up as a ground sheet at night. No other insulation between you and the ground unless there was some vegetation to put beneath the groundsheet. I can still feel the cold rising from the ground on one bitter June night camped at the end of Narrow Neck in the Blue Mountains! A decent topographic map was considered to be a luxury. My first walk to the Ettrema from Yalwal in 1960 was guided by a rather poor sketch map with no contours and a rough mud map given to me by the redoubtable Paddy Pallin who had pioneered the walk about five years before.
"In 1960 I came to Nowra as a surveyor and the good bushwalking was one reason I took the job. By the late sixties, work and other pressures made bushwalking a low priority but Dawn and I would take the kids out in the bush when we could. Dawn's first overnight walk was with our youngest sons to Broken Dam Hut in the Snowy Mountains. She took up the activity with great enthusiasm and we joined the Club in 1987 when it was quite small. Regular Wednesday walks lifted her fitness level whilst mine went into steady decline with job priorities. It came to a head when the two of us climbed onto Mount Carrialoo and I had to ask her to slow down as she was going too fast. That was when I decided to get more serious about bushwalking again!
"What are the best walks I have been on? Hard to say because nearly all of them have been enjoyable. One of the most enduring memories is the impact of Monolith Valley on my first visit in 1961 when it had few visitors and was virtually pristine. Another from the same era is the beautiful open forest north of Styles Creek when a friend and I walked from Newhaven Gap to Bibbenluke in the Budawangs - no worries about minimum size parties then. High on the list are the walks I did with Jack Cole who was one of the true pioneers of bushwalking in this area. He introduced me to the Ettrema, the Budawangs and other wonderful places and I will always be grateful to him."