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The Melbourne Bushies

- Fifty years along the track (1940-90)

Chapter 10 - Other Club Activities

Canoeing and kayaking

There have been several private canoe trips over the years and some programmed as Club trips as far back as 1950, when Joan Vincent organised canoeing on the Yarra. In the seventies Tony Morris led a two-day canoe trip down the Goulburn, from Yea to Seymour.

The Club programmed a canoe trip on the Upper Murray for the Christmas - New Year period, 1987-88. I led this trip which started at Bringenbrong Bridge and finished at Jingellic. While it could have been done in three days, it was programmed for five days to allow plenty of time for swimming and resting. Some members had their own canoes or kayaks, but most were hired from the Upper Murray Canoe Hire, which provided transport to the start and back from the finish. An option of a half-day walk up Pine Mountain was not taken up by the group, probably due to heat-induced lethargy. For many of the party, this was an introduction to canoeing and was greatly enjoyed, despite dunkings and tangling with willows. The trip was repeated in 1990-91, and was followed with a walk over Mt Bogong as an optional extra.

I organised a trip with a difference in June-July 1989: sea kayaking in Queensland. The trip was organised through a commercial operation. Ten members met at Cairns and were transported to Lucinda for the start. The first day was a short trip across to Hinchinbrook Island and introduced everyone to sea kayaks. The next four days were spent kayaking along the Hinchinbrook coast, with some short walks at the camp spots. Landing on the surf beaches proved to be an upsetting experience for many of the group. Leaving Hinchinbrook involved a 12-kilometre open-sea trip to the Family Group of islands, followed by a rest day for walking and snorkelling. A further sea crossing brought the trip to an end at Mission Beach.

Doug Pocock


Labertouche caves have often been included in the Club programme as a day trip. Entry to the caves requires abseiling or a wire ladder, and it usually takes a couple of hours to get through. Other caving trips done by the Club have included Bats Caves, near Portland, and various lava caves in the Western District. Caves in the Grampians have also been included in Club trips, the cave in Hollow Mountain near Mt Stapylton being perhaps the most spectacular. Other caves or, more strictly, over-hangs in many cases, with Aboriginal paintings, have been included in Grampians trips, often led by Fred Halls.

The most extensive caving trip programmed by the Club was led by Sue and Rex Filson to the Nullarbor caves. This was a three-week trip visiting about twenty caves, many of which required a wire ladder to enter.

Doug Pocock

At Christmas 1966 we decided to launch a Club expedition to the Nullarbor Caves. This was a very successful venture, with all who attended enjoying the vastness of these underground caverns. One blowhole cave was too deep for the 23-metre wire rope caving-ladder that we had borrowed so we devised a method of descent. We fixed a wire-rope to the bumper of Darrell Sullivan's Toyota, fastened the ladder to the end and dropped it down the hole. The idea was to climb down the ladder to the bottom rung and then signal to the surface - the Toyota would be driven forward gently lowering the caver the 7-odd metres to the floor. All went well until it was Michael Griffin's turn. Somehow Michael's feet became hooked on the cave wall and before the eyes of all the spectators on the floor Michael cleverly turned upside down.

In another cave we had about a 10-metre drop to the bottom of a small dolina. We tied a fixed rope between two vehicles with a block in the middle. Over the block we passed a rope fixed to the Toyota on one end and a bosun's chair on the other. The first person to descend was lowered into the chasm to find a large tiger snake rearing up on top of the rock pile waiting for him to arrive. Screams and yells from below indicated that there was something amiss but it still took some time before we realised that he wanted to stop before he reached the bottom. The snake unfortunately had to be despatched before we could inspect the cave.

We arrived late in the afternoon at Knowles Cave. This cave is a large open overhang suitable for camping. So we carried all of our gear down and set up camp ready to stay several nights. It was a very good camp site and we took a lot of photos of the descent and setting up sleeping arrangements. The next day we drove to Cook and back - a long day - so imagine our surprise when we returned to the cave to find a large hole excavated in the middle of all our beds. We all checked our gear; nothing was missing. There were no signs of other people other than this big hole some 2 metres deep. We were puzzled: no one had noticed the hole before, Michael's bed was only about 30 centimetres from the edge. We concluded that some unknown archaeologist just came along and dug the hole and left. Strangely, the hole appears on the photographs that we took before leaving for Cook.

Rex and Sue Filson

Nick (Fidel) Cole and the end of his caving suit.
Nick (Fidel) Cole and the end of his caving suit. It was removed and ceremoniously cremated, 14 January 1967.
Bob Steel collection

Rock climbing

While many Club members pursue this activity, it has rarely been programmed. Mark Tischler led an introductory trip to Mt Arapiles, but on most Club trips members restrict themselves to rock scrambling. Some members have done the New Zealand Alpine Club course in mountaineering and have continued on to climb in New Zealand.

Doug Pocock

Club cycling trips

Programmed cycling trips by van and train began in the mid-seventies, when many Bushies had bought cycles. They were keen to get away from the suburbs and head for the countryside on good, quiet roads with low density traffic. The trips were held on a Saturday. Train trips were pleasant but could not be compared with the ones by van - a real luxury. The most important advantage was that the leader was always able to organise a wind-assisted ride, which ensures a more enjoyable and, at times, thrilling ride. A strong wind at one's back makes cycling a real joy.

Otto Christiansen and Art Terry on one of Art's cycle rides.
Otto Christiansen and Art Terry on one of Art's cycle rides. This trip was from Clarkefield to Bachus Marsh and Melton. Taken on the road to Lerderderg Gorge, 1978.
Ken MacMahon collection

Denis Barson was our main driver for van trips, and the Club owes him a great deal for his help. A van cycling trip meant much extra work, for Denis would have to remove three-quarters of the van's seating on Friday night in preparation for loading up to 18 cycles on Saturday morning. Cycles would have to be protected with packing material of some kind, then roped in securely. After the ride Denis would have to replace the seating in preparation for the Sunday walk. As the leader and organiser of these trips, I used to go back to Clayton with Denis to help him with this.

Over the years interest in Club cycling has ranged from high to low. At one stage, when Jopie Bodegraven was our excellent Walks Secretary, interest in cycling plummeted to such a low that the Club had to subsidise a couple of trips and Jopie was forced to cancel van cycle trips. However interest revived and they were resumed about a year later. They continued to be well patronised until about 1988, when the last trips attracted only seven riders on one and six on the last.

Shortly after this, Denis became very ill and had to retire from his position as the Bushies' official van driver - the end of an era for the Melbourne Bushwalkers. This brought an abrupt end to the van cycle trips as it was not possible to run them without Denis for a few reasons. The van trips ranged within a 90-100-mile ( 160-kilometre) radius of the city and the distance pedalled was up to 50 miles, some riders retiring after 30 miles; with Denis only 2 or 3 miles behind, they could easily be picked up. Occasionally a bike would break down and both rider and cycle could be bundled into the van; this happened on more than one occasion. Again, in case of accident, Denis was there: two riders, as a result of falls, had to spend time in hospital.

At times Jim Hedstrom would lend Denis his cycle for an hour or two and Jim would drive the van.

I enjoyed leading these trips. It was grand to be out riding free from the traffic and a pleasure to introduce a large number of Bushies to the joy of country cycling.

Art Terry

Broadford to Yea marathon

This event began as a weekend walk in 1966 then, in 1976 I thought that it would be a challenge to do the distance of 50 kilometres in a day and altered the route a little to make it more suitable for running.

The approximate route of the traverse is: east out of Broadford crossing several creeks to the spurs leading to One Tree Hill on the slopes of Mt Tallarook, across the grain of the land to King Parrot Creek, a stiff climb to Mt Marianne, along the Yea Spur for a few miles and then along a valley for some distance before climbing Mt Jimmy, then down off Mt Jimmy for the 6.4 kilometre run into Yea.

In the early years of the event transport to Broadford and home from Yea was by train and we had to carry our change of footwear and clothes with us. When the Mansfield line was closed we travelled there and back in Gronow's van and later in our own van.

The first trip was the slowest trip ever and we just made it in time to catch the 8.05 p.m. train out of Yea. On Sunday, 1 September 1991 four of us left Broadford at 10.15 a.m. and arrived in Yea after 4 p.m. We all finished feeling well, but much better again after a hot shower and afternoon tea at the Yea hospital, courtesy of the matron and nursing staff.

Mike Griffin, who was on the Walks Subcommittee at the time the event started, graded it 'tough'. It wasn't until he took up long-distance running and participated in the Broady-Yea run that he realised how accurate this assessment had been. He became a regular runner in the event for a few years.

The group has never been large; after all, only a few Bushies are long-distance runners as well as walkers. However, there have been some fine athletes on these trips.

It is incredible that only one person has been injured over the 25-year period to 1991. Alex Farcas suffered a badly sprained ankle, which later put him out of action for a couple of months. However he was able to hobble to a road where we picked him up a few hours later.

The rules are as tough as the terrain, for if a runner breaks down and cannot keep up a reasonable pace, he is left and has to find his own way back to Melbourne or to Yea where he can catch the van with the rest of the group. However only three runners have broken down on the traverse.

A very important member of the Broadford-Yea group has been the Club's excellent van driver, Denis Barson, who would wait for us in Yea. Often he would walk and climb the four miles from Yea township to the summit of Mt Jimmy and, when he saw the group approaching in the distance, would make his way down and back to Yea.

Art Terry

Athol's historical rambles

Melbourne, both city and suburb, has retained much of its Victorian past. Until the late 1960s the ruling sentiment was to get rid of the old and modernise, but since then there has been a groundswell of effort to protect the character of Melbourne against unsympathetic development. Early on, the National Trust was classifying buildings and streetscapes, and soon local councils were conducting conservation studies of their areas, and purchasers of old properties were often moved to restore them to their original styles. In the 1970s the Commonwealth Heritage Commission and the local Melbourne Conservation Study had the mammoth task of identifying areas worthy of preservation according to their architectural and historical value.

During this latter period a number of publications appeared that described walks through areas of historic and often aesthetic note. The first of these to be appropriated by the Club appeared on the autumn programme of 1982, and was taken from W.H. Burchetts' East Melbourne Walkabout. All the walks described in this book were completed by the Club as were those detailed in Melbourne on Foot, a book of walks compiled by academics and specialists in architecture and history.

After a while it became evident to me that there were many other localities with enough interest to merit exploring, but about which nothing much had been published. This led me to do some research, culminating in some successful forays into areas such as Caulfield, Coburg, Essendon and Mordialloc, to name a few.

Average attendance on a historical walk is about 12 people, ranging from 5 to almost 30. The largest number to attend was on a walk around Collingwood, which I reported as an excursion into 'Frank Hardy' territory (or 'Carringbush'), and quite topical as the television serial adaptation of Hardy's Power Without Glory was currently being screened.

From the very first of these walks there has been a core of enthusiastic attenders. These include Alwyn Bloom, Lorraine Delaney, Harold Graves and Winifred De Souza, who have attended most of the 60-odd programmed items. The easy afternoons have seen new and old faces; the new are often those about to join the Club and who want to get into walking gradually; the old are past or inactive members - 'long past their prime' - but wishing to take part in some interesting outdoor recreation once more. Of course very active bushwalkers join in. Some members show interest when they see a walk programmed for their own locality. Now and then, if en route for a walk, we have been invited into their houses for afternoon tea.

Sometimes a Club member or a visitor will contribute to the interest of the walk by telling a bit of local lore or history. One afternoon at South Richmond I was telling the party a story about the locals during the thirties Depression which concerned the road leading into the now decommissioned electrical power house built in the last decade of Queen Victoria's reign. I was saying how I had once read that the poor would be waiting with sacks to pick up briquettes spilled from trucks slewing around the corners of the roughly paved streets. Lloyd Reynolds, a Club member from way back, broke in saying he used to work at the power station and remembered driving in with his boss engineer who, on seeing the gatherers, stopped the car, got out and officiously ordered the poor away, telling them that the briquettes belonged to the power company. As soon as the street was clear, the boss took a bag out of the boot and got Lloyd to help him gather up what had fallen off the back of a truck for himself.

There have been occasions when, passing some residence, the owners have invited us complete strangers in to look over their premises. One lady thought we must have known something of the very old house she had recently bought and wanted our historical appraisal of it. Another lady living in an Urban Conservation Area showed us over her classified Victorian terrace house. Unfortunately, this lady, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, had picked dishonest workmen, leaving her with a sham reconstruction costing thousands of dollars.

On another walk a rather embarrassing, but at the same time humorous incident occurred. One of our members invited a lady friend along. This friend, who had decided at the last moment to attend, remarked that her daughter was living in Sydney and she hadn't seen her for some time. Now this walk led past a large Victorian mansion that had been classified by the Heritage Commission, but that required a good deal of repair. Because it was set in large, leafy grounds we ventured a little way through the open gateway to get a better view of the old place. There appeared a fellow with a girl walking towards us along the driveway. Our lady visitor got a terrible shock. The girl was the daughter who was supposed to be in Sydney, and both of them burst out in an explosion of tears and laughter. It was an incredible one-in-a-million chance meeting! The chap, an artist, had a studio in the house, and he showed us over the mansion. The tenants of the building, he explained, were having to endure all kinds of dirty tricks from the consortium of owners who would not spend anything on maintenance as they wished to demolish the place and redevelop. However the place was resold and the new owners have spared no expense in bringing back this particular grand old mansion house to its former glory.

Because of recent developments and redevelopments history is being made all the time, the new replacing the old, and so, unfortunately, a significant number of the walks can never be fully repeated. Other walks have been made rather unpleasant by the noise of ever-multiplying motor traffic - a case in point is the arterial road along Gardiners Creek, despite compensating landscaping. Quiet, or relatively quiet, areas of historical interest are still to be found by anyone with the time and inclination for a little research into the past and the present.

Athol Schafer