This trip got under way on Saturday 29th January when Cecily arrived in Risdon Vale at 8am to pick up Annette Ball, Rodney Dare, and Phillip Milburn; and Dave Gatenby to pick up Derek Dare and Brett Sutton; while I took Maria Stephenson, Sandra Ford (Shrimp) and Peter Ford, and the trailer of canoes. The rest of the kids Derek Stoneman, Michael Stoneman, Brendon Jackson, Mark Pearson, Cheryl Scotney (Mother), John Scotney, Michael Scotney, Peter Bruinger (Bru), and Mick Van Angeren were due to leave at 10am in two mini buses.
We arrived at Brady’s without incident and set up camp down near the lake itself where we hoped for some quiet nights away from that other undisciplined mob of canoeists camping by the course itself.
Saturday and Sunday were spent just paddling around here and there, with one trip across the lake to get firewood in the doubles – our canoe complement being four Barker doubles, two Dean Tourers, three North Sea Tourers, one Splinter, one Clubman, two KW7’s and one Olymp. There were many capsizes and rescues over the weekend, due mainly to high wind, fast flowing water out of the canal, and the fact that we were mainly novices – the honour of the first capsize going to Michael Scotney right out in the middle of the lake in a NST.
The party increased to its final size of 23 with the arrival of Ruth Errey, Elizabeth Dean, and Ross Nicholas on Sunday morning. All but a couple (who stayed to fish – and got some) went to Tarraleah Sunday night and then back to camp for an early start for Lake St Clair.
Monday morning saw us at Cynthia Bay at about 9.30am with a difficult decision – to canoe or not to canoe – the wind was gusting straight down the lake in no uncertain manner, the white caps screaming round the northern point of Cynthia Bay would have deterred more seasoned paddlers that ours.
Cecily and Dave decided to give it a go so all the canoeists packs (Cecily, Dave, Ruth, Elizabeth, Mother, Mick, Derek and Michael Stoneman, Peter F, Brett, Derek, Shrimp, and Annette) were loaded on the jet boat while Ross and I got our nine walkers together. We all set out about 11am to ensure the walkers were behind the canoes and be able to pick up the pieces on the way up the lake. This paid off as Shrimp decided she’s had enough halfway up the lake and walked the rest of the way, the Splinter being left behind at this stage. Then just before the last point before Echo Point Hut Elizabeth decided to rest her arms and give her legs some exercise, and a KW7 was left behind.
The walkers were waiting at Echo Point Hut for the canoeing party and after a tea break, and with moderating weather we decided to push on to Narcissus, some of the canoeists electing to walk while some of the walkers reckoned it was easier to paddle. In the meantime Dave and I had walked back down the lake and brought the discarded canoes up to Echo Point. The footsloggers arrived just on dark, a good hour behind the canoes but only a couple of tents were erected as the hut was practically empty. The double canoes came in handy for wood collecting again, there being enough wood on the other side of Narcissus River for years to come.
Tuesday morning saw a bit of swimming and canoeing before leaving for Pine Valley after dinner, the canoes being carried up behind the hut and the paddles being hidden in the scrub half a mile along the Overland Track.
As on the first day there were many stops but nevertheless our three elderly ladies (Cecily, Ruth, and Elizabeth) did a magnificent job especially when our fearless leader decided we should have a taste of button grass and took the Plains Track. Pine Valley Hut was made with a lot of daylight left and we set up camp down by the river, a quiet peaceful little spot but incredibly damp, it being so sheltered that the sun and the wind just don’t get there. Anyone contemplating camping there should take several ground sheets, or a lilo, or a mattress roll, just a ground sheet and sleeping bag are not enough.
Wednesday was officially a rest day so we had an easy walk up the Acropolis, everybody making the plateau and about half going on from there, the keen ones being Cecily (with camera) Ross, Dave, Maria, Annette, Mick, Mark, Rodney, Brendon, Derek S, and Peter F.
An early start Thursday morning saw us back at Narcissus about lunch time in brilliant sunshine which enabled all sleeping bags and tents to be dried out and left plenty of time for swimming, fishing, and paddling around. The elders had an informal conference later on in the evening, with Mother serving tea and coffee, and we decided that as our transport was arriving at Cynthia Bay at 2pm the next day we would send all packs by jet boat, accompanied by anyone that would not be able to walk out in a hurry. This left 13 to canoe out, 5 to jet boat out, and 5 to walk out.
Another early start Friday morning as we were expecting the jet boat between 9.00 – 9.30, the walkers getting away by 9.30 with a few bars of chocolate and a jar of fruit saline. Maria set a cracking pace to Echo Point Hut where we had a ten minute break. With no sign of the canoes having left we thought we'd beat them out, particularly as Bru is not a person that can be hurried when canoeing. With only another ten minute break halfway down the lake we arrived at Cynthia Bay in just under 4 hours, with the first canoe beaching about 60 seconds behind us, a near thing indeed. It was a tremendous effort even with the help of a very light northerly, although they all claim without Bru they could have made it in a lot less that the 2 ½ hours they took.
The kids got along pretty well together, and apart from one unfortunate lapse, on the last night at Narcissus Hut there were no incidents, and the camp sites were being left cleaner and cleaner. Cooking was done by trial and error, some of the Rosella looking like soup, and some nearly needing to be cut with a knife, but on the whole we ate reasonably well (I have to confess that our leader concocted a special brew of Rosella one night which nobody would eat so he left it our for the possums, but even they wouldn't touch it). The best spot for camping at Narcissus is about 200 yards up the river from the hut, down on the river bank, where Mother set up camp with stools around the fire and a table complete with tablecloth, in fact the area was so neat and tidy I was forced to go up river for a bath and change into clean clothes before sitting down for tea.
My very sincere thanks (and I am sure from the kids themselves) to all the people who made this trip possible, namely Bruce Davies for giving up time to help us train; Kerry Behrens for making a trailer load of canoes, paddles and life jackets available for training; Daryl balding for all the helpful advice; Roy Stoneman for making his 14 seater bus available, as well as his own time to drive it; The A.A.P. for the use of their mini bus; Dave Gatenby for assisting in training and taking part the trip; Ross Nicholas for giving up evenings for showing slides, checking gear etc. and leading the trip; and last but not least by a long shot Cecily who gave up time for training and not only got the canoes there (and I still don’t know how) and back again without incident and was also a great help and comfort to our four younger girls and was their chief blister bandager, and official photographer.
Without Ross and Cecily’s participation we would not have got past the planning stage. And finally to Iain Barnes from the Division of Recreation who also made the trip possible by way of making available tents, groundsheets, rucksacks, chuffers, billies, first-aid kit, sleeping bags, machetes, plastic bags, and especially canoes, trailer, and life jackets after our negotiations with Geilston Bay High School for the use of their canoes broke down. From nowhere else could we have equipped so large a party so well.
(From the Editor) Thanks for such a prompt report, Laurie, and those kind words too. But everyone who had anything to do with this trip will agree that the credit for its success is due to the blood, toil, tears and sweat put in by the organiser, Laurie Ford.
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