What We Like Doing Best - Walking
Shoalhaven Bushwalkers, by their very name are a group of like minded individuals who really enjoy the pleasures of walking in the bush. They have a special love for the beauty and splendour of the Shoalhaven and its surrounds. The exercise of a day's hiking through rugged country, the challenge of exploring the variety of faraway areas or an easy ramble along graded fire trails, all this gives enjoyment and delight to Club members. Added to this is the pleasure of the company of others motivated by the same goals.
Long before the Club was officially formed small groups of friends went off in all directions from Nowra. Now, with up to four walks planned in a week, there is still no pattern in the choice of destinations other than seasonal changes like beach and coast walks in the summer and longer, harder hikes during the cooler months.
The first Walk Report on record is from Rick Kelly and is of a trip on 25th March 1980 to Bundundah Creek with a return via Yalwal Creek. Seven persons were on the walk and the level of difficulty 'medium / exploratory'. Rick wrote a detailed description that contained suggestions for improving the walk and other comments.
A paragraph contributed by Peter Gillam in the February - April 1985 Newsletter was on 'Safety when Walking'. He suggested - "i) Do not become separated from your group. ii) If lost, do not panic. Backtrack, if possible, to where you last saw group, marking route as you go. If this is not possible, make a fire and create smoke. iii) Standard signals for distress come in threes ... three shouts, three whistles, three mirror flashes, etc." All good advice, as is this par from 'The Bushwalker' entitled Walking In The Heat -
"The information given here was directed at walking in the tropics but it is also relevant for other hot weather walking. Exercise produces heat. The body loses heat through sweating. When it is humid, sweat evaporates more slowly so heat tends to accumulate in the body, causing a rise in temperature. Fluid should be replaced as fast as it is lost but your body can absorb only about one litre per hour. It is easy to sweat more than this. If you don't drink until your are thirsty, your fluid debt is unlikely to be paid off until the end of the day (or later).
"The answer is simple: Drink early and often - a big drink before breakfast and another before you start out. Have a drink at every break and plenty at the end of the day. Drink water. Many people think they need more salt because they are sweating more. Drinking anything other than water, or perhaps weak black tea (Earl Grey?) can be worse than nothing in very hot weather. The addition of salts and/or sugars to drink delays the absorption of water from the stomach. Salty or sugary drinks will actually cause water to be absorbed from the blood into the stomach - the last thing you need. If you must have Staminade, saline or something similar, drink plenty of water first, and then only make up a weak solution of your drink.
"The most important thing you can do before going on a walk is to make sure you are reasonably fit. Fit people sweat more and earlier than unfit people. This helps to keep their body temperature down.
"Snacking is an enjoyable part of bushwalking. However, before popping a few lollies into your mouth, think of this. First, they cause a concentrated sugar solution in your stomach. Water is then absorbed from the blood into the stomach. You get a bit dehydrated. Next, a burst of glucose enters the blood stream. This may give you quick energy but your body over-reacts to this excess and twenty minutes later your blood sugar level will be lower than it was before you had the lollies. Better snacks include fresh fruit, sandwiches, rolls, unsweetened muesli slices and dried fruit."
The first walk on the program in 1987 was to Manning Lookout, off the Moss Vale Road near Fitzroy Falls. One of the group wrote this contribution to the News Leader, February 20.
"Walking along the ridge top, on a much overgrown trail, we discovered a pocket of lush rainforest and a water fall which we used to quench our thirst. There were moss covered boulders, and ferns and orchids clinging to the rock-face.
"There were several lookout points along the way, over a wide view of Kangaroo Valley and the mountains behind. A brown snake was nearly trodden on twice - once on the way through and then on the way back. It quickly took refuge in a tuft of grass. Also at eye level we saw a two metre diamond snake entwined in a tree. All parties had an enjoyable time and appreciated the cool southerly winds on the return journey."
A Club member, Brian Kenny, had been instrumental in the construction of a number of walking tracks in the Shoalhaven. In October 1987 some bushwalkers joined him on an inaugural walk on Beecroft Peninsular and enjoyed spectacular views and displays of coastal heath.
Also during 1987, the Club saw a need for a walk mid-week to cater for the many members who could not always join in the walks arranged on weekends. At first the walks were monthly with the first group going to Honeymoon Bay on Beecroft Head in April. May Leatch was the leader, soon joined by Ursula Turner and later by Dawn Evans and Leila Kates.
The group was known as the Wednesday Walkers and these walks soon became the most successful activity of the Club. So popular that it was soon increased to every fortnight, then, three months later, became a weekly event.
These enthusiasts, carrying daypacks and wearing boots and hats in a variety of shapes and colours, gathered at 'The Aeroplane' on the intersection of Kinghorne and Kalandar Street where the Jet is a landmark memorial to the Navy in Nowra. "Pleasant company, mostly good weather and great walks are what makes Wednesdays enjoyable," wrote Dawn Evans in the 'Bush Telegraph' of November 1990. "Those who come regularly are reaping the benefits of getting fit, acquiring new skills and meeting new challenges. Map reading has had a greater emphasis this year and new leaders are being eased in gently. Recently, we tried a different experience - to divide the group into two, with two navigators using grid references, map reading and compass skills. The Granite Falls - Boyd Lookout area was chosen for this exercise by Ray Mathieson who did the paperwork and had previously done the walk himself. The satisfaction was in successfully meeting up for lunch and in using physical skills the walkers didn't know they had."
Not all bushwalks happen on fine, sunny days. Gail Mizon and Dawn Evans tell of walks when the destination had to be changed due to the weather. (Bushwalkers have to be flexible). A walk to the Mount Jagungal area of the Snowy Mountains over the 1992 New Year period did not turn out as planned. Dawn Evans explains - "Rain and snow heralded in the New Year down in the Snowy Mountains. Just a few days earlier the park rangers had been checking for bushfires. Our planned route in to Jagungal was not feasible owing to the rising Tumut River. That left only one way in and out - the Round Mountain Track. Six to seven hours walking was needed to reach the first available shelter from the cars, with nothing in between.
"We kept checking the weather forecasts - then the latest news - snow at Jagungal and rain at the lower altitudes, so a last minute change of plans to car camping at Bungonia, with cooking shelter if required.
"Three perfect days of mild, sunny weather for three solid days of walking. The Trestle and Bridle Tracks took us down to the Shoalhaven River where we viewed the Tolwong Mine chimneys and walked up to the Blockup Gorge. Small patches of rainforest, fed by crystal-clear creeks running through steep gullies, were encountered along the river.
"The Bungonia Gorge, with its huge boulders, will long be remembered. Many were seemingly floating in water and the progress through was slow and challenging.
"We arrived home to a very hot Nowra evening and were informed of an icy weekend in the Snowies."
Other Snowy Mountains trips had more luck. In January 1992, many club members, mainly Wednesday Walkers, spent five days in the Snowy Mountains. Organised by Dot Gallagher, club members and friends stayed at Jindabyne in the Department of Sport and Recreation complex. There they enjoyed days of good walking and evenings of fun and relaxation. This was to become an annual event and a very popular one with the venue varying over the years from Jindabyne to Blackheath and Katoomba.
During 1992 the ever increasing numbers on mid-week walks necessitated the group divide and two grades, On - track and Off - track, were scheduled. This meant additional leaders had to be found. The Club discussed ways to interest and train perspective leaders. Navigation skills like use of a compass and map reading, basic first aid and what to do in an emergency were included in the program at Club meetings or on walks.
By November 1993 Elizabeth Backer was reporting on 'The Wednesday Scene'. "We had 33 people climb the Pigeon House and all made it to the top. The views were magnificent as ordered and we wished Hampton many happy returns (he first climbed it in the fifties). The joint walk to Mount Bushwalker was a great success. There is something about being in the bush together that makes for a congenial atmosphere. I think it is because we are all together and it is non-competitive. It was with great relief that I welcomed back Leila and Dawn. Just getting a program together for a month was a great responsibility for me and I appreciate all the work they have been and will be doing. Did you know that Noelene and Daphne nearly made it up the Castle in a day walk? Gordon really had them going. Good on you girls. Next time with Leila you will get up for sure."
And Leila writes in July 1994 - "Walks during April and May have been well attended. Numbers have been building up with the cooler weather. On average we had 37 walkers each Wednesday and we gained 3 new members during the period.
"Walks varied from an easy walk/drive day visiting different areas in and around Budderoo NP to fairly strenuous walks involving some climbing and scrambling. Wednesday walkers have explored some new areas. We also rewalked some old favourites. A quick rundown of walks includes Beehive Point, the Hawthorn Road area which turned out to be Diarite Creek, Mount Bushwalker, Foxground, Kangaroo Fire Trail, Stony Creek, the Chasm, Peppers Gap, Budderoo, Belmore Flat, Old Yalwal Road plus Chimney Stack and the Boxvale Track.
"Many thanks once again to our leaders who have helped make our walks program possible."
Another regular Wednesday walker, Nick Lloyd, tells of "a great day out" in March 1996 - "A force of 23 off-track walkers led by Leila Kates made a successful assault on the 'Wedding Cake', despite fierce resistance from thick scrub and the need for a hands and knees approach to parts of the 200 metre ascent. The Cake, otherwise known as Broughton Head, stands 574 metres high behind Berry and has long been an unfulfilled challenge for the Club. Though marked on the Forestry map as Rodway Reserve, it is surrounded by private property with no apparent public access. This first-time visit by the Club was made possible by local resident Betty Burke, to whom we express our thanks. Broughton Head is about 1500m long and 250m wide and runs east-west. It only looks like a cake from certain directions, particularly from Gerringong. It offers spectacular views up and down the coast and, from the top of a 75m cliff on the other side, presents a bird's eye view of Brogers Creek in Kangaroo Valley. To the east and south the top is heavily wooded with very large trees, many of them fallen, making hard going (no logging up there). The vegetation is much less luxuriant to the north and west, but even thicker. Despite this, the plastic bag (temporarily) hung on a tree to indicate the way back down was easily found when it was time to go home."
In an anonymous letter to 'The Ettremist', March, 2000 a member writes...
"I started walking with the Club two years ago. The first walk I did was with the 'On Track' group and I soon found out how fit they are. We were walking up to 14kms and through this group I learnt a lot about bushwalking. With a little reluctance, as I wasn't sure that I could handle the 'Off Track' part, I decided to give the 'Intermediate' group a go. Much to my surprise they too covered a fair distance (up to 12kms) and the 'Off Track' sections were not too rough. We went into areas I hadn't seen before and through this I gained some navigational skills. Then with some gentle persuasion, I checked out the 'Off Trackers'. While we didn't walk great distances (up to 8kms), I had plenty of stories to tell my friends of the remote and beautiful areas we went to. I also got to use some muscles I hadn't used for a while and learnt a lot about navigation and bush skills. Through these experiences I learnt two things: Firstly - It's good to try something different (you don't have to stay in one group all the time). Secondly - No matter which group you go with, bushwalkers are a great bunch of people."
Many leaders have a favourite destination - Alwyn Martin continues to be challenged by the Ettrema Gorge, Fred and Elizabeth Backer enjoyed the Snowy Mountains - winter and summer, Leila and Ray Kates and Dawn and Russ Evans share their love of the Budawangs in Morton National Park, Chris Cuthbert takes groups to Little Forest Plateau, Lillian Koglin thinks Sassafras a great area, and Sue Josephsen keeps finding Peaks out from Grassy Gully. (Are there three or four or five, Sue?). Gordon Grenenger heads off to Yalwal, Margaret Brown often goes to the rims around Tianjara Falls. Others stay close to home with Lauri Ball choosing Currarong, the Priors explore around the Illawarra and Barry Virtue knows well the walks around Berry, Denise Davies frequently takes groups to the Southern Highlands, Sandra Kelley leads walks 'along creeks', Daphne McCann's preference is the Yalwal/Grassy Gully area, and Ray Dalleywater keeps returning to the many fire trails through the Bay and Basin area.
Barbara Robertson loves the walks around Jervis Bay and wrote about 'Bushwalking on Bherwerre' in January 1988. "Miles of the whitest beaches in the world, high cliffs, an endless variety of flowers, trees and birds - such are the pleasures of the walks around beautiful Jervis Bay. Add to this the opportunity to pause in your walk to swim, snorkel or fish in the clear blue/green waters, picnic at well-kept barbecue areas, and occasionally marvel at a pod of dolphins cruising by. What more could a bushwalker want?
"The variety of plants include large areas of flowering coastal teatree (spectacular in the spring), lambertia, flannel flowers, christmas bells and waratah. There are forest of eucalypts - blackbutt, scribbly gum, turpentine, lillipilly, grass trees and banksia.
"For the birdwatchers - look for honeyeaters, gang-gang and black cockatoos, crimson rosellas and satin bowerbirds in the forests. A variety of wading birds frequent rock platforms and beaches, and of special delight are the little penguins occasionally seen away from Bowen Island, and the magnificent sea-eagles soaring above the beaches.
"Starting points for a number of easy/moderate walks are the car parks at Summercloud Bay and Stony Creek Road, both reached by turning off the Wreck Bay Road, and from Murray's Beach, Greenpatch and Bristol Point - all reached from the Jervis Bay Road. Call in at the Jervis Bay Information Centre for more detailed information.
"Although the climate is pleasantly mild all year round, one can experience those changes in the weather that are common by the coast, so remember - put a warm, rainproof jacket in your backpack. Also carry your own water and light your campfire only in the places provided."
And the club has had so many, many more walks - one day walks, weekend walks with overnight camps, car camping at a specific point with shorter day walks, returning to the cars for a cheery campfire and some marathon 6-9 day hikes. We have also had lots of successful two to five day stays at lodges, hostels and guesthouses at popular venues in the Blue Mountains, Snowies, Southern Highlands and far South Coast.