Date: 14-15 Dec 2013
Party: Too many to mention. The list below is incomplete. A headcount done on Saturday evening arrived at a number of 48 including children which is possibly an all-time record. Apologies for those names missing from the list, there were people on the trip whom I did not know.
Catherine Stansbury, Peggy Huang, Chee Wong, Ashley Burke, Gloria, Claire, Janice, Justin, Yumi, Natalie, Albert Chetcuti, Monica Wang, Gerard Elms, Ruby Stephens, Tara Stephens, Roger Lembit  and Rowan, Dave Noble, Rob Hynes (Mr Bean), John Robens, Chuin-nee and Jasper, Roger Butler, Luisa Ngeow and Jeremy, Martin Pfeil, Helen Smith, Kosta Seiler, Tim Vollmer, Mitchell Isaacs, Dave Forbes, Stacey Ly, Su Li, Pat Miller (Max Cady), Rik Deveridge, Wendy Au, Tom Murtagh, Nicole St Vincent-Welch, Dave Lee and Oliver, David Carmichael, Plus around 7 other people
Co-starring: Phil Wade (Saturday canyon only)

Such was the breadth and depth of SUBW attending this trip it would seem that just one trip report written by just one attendee can’t do it justice. The trip would be worthy of multiple trip reports should anyone else wish to write one.

The Christmas Dinner Walk, held in December every year is one of the most important dates in the SUBW calendar because it is the weekend when members both new and old descend to the same spot on the Coxs River for a weekend of camping, socializing, swimming, eating, drinking and lazing around by the riverside. An alternative viewpoint, as was once famously quoted years ago and recounted many times since, the Christmas Dinner Walk is “Just Another Oldie Pissup”. Nothing could be further from the truth, because as you shall see, it wasn’t just the oldies imbibing. Far from it in fact.

Some things about the Christmas Dinner Walk never change – the location, the granite rock slabs, the campfire, the bullants and Dave. Yet some things do change – the weather, the water level, the shifting sand bars, and lastly and most importantly – the people. And it is for this reason  – the people – that no matter if this is your first Christmas Dinner Walk or your 31st, we all return home with a unique set of memories every year.

The Saturday morning dawned mild and overcast. People from all over the greater Sydney-Blue Mountains area began to rendezvous at various places. A relatively recent tradition of the last 20 years or so is that several people head down a short canyon on the Saturday morning before proceeding to Megalong Valley for the walk in. Our chosen canyon was Grand Canyon and this we did in two large groups. My group of 14 were first, followed by Dave Noble’s slightly smaller group, with the result being that for most of the morning the depths of Grand Canyon echoed with the sounds of canyoners whooping and splashing and calling out. Little baby Jasper, only 18 months old, is an old hand at this, having done the canyon on a lilo a year ago. But today he was a little grumpy – maybe bored of Grand Canyon and wanting to do Danae instead – but whatever his reasons he sat it out with his parents that day. My group were mainly new members of SUBW and so we did some abseil lessons on a dry rock face upstream before entering the canyon proper. Everyone handled the abseiling really well and despite a few people getting pretty cold in the canyon itself, we were soon back out again. A very brief downpour of rain had little effect on the canyoning party.

From about 1:30pm people began arriving in Megalong Valley and setting off on the easy walk through rolling rural countryside towards our destination. Albert, Peggy, Roger, Luisa, Stacey and a few others were among the first to arrive, followed by my group of 11, followed by many many more. By about 5pm most of us were established at the camp and were lounging around on the granite rock slabs by the river or sliding down the rapids or playing hand ball in the water.  There were – just a few – large aquatic leeches that attached themselves to one or 2 people but none of them drew blood. There were no leeches on land. It was cloudy, the sun came out for periods, but once it dipped behind the hills to the west we all returned to our grassy campsite. Picnic rugs were spread around, platters of food were passed around, bottles of wine and of stronger spirits began to appear. Dinners were cooked, food was everywhere, and with nearly 50 people around there was quite a convivial atmosphere. It became dark and the evening was still young.

There was a slack line. People in various levels of intoxication and an even wider distribution of slack-lining ability tried to walk along the tape between two trees. As much fun was had falling off as trying to get on.

Later, Claire brought out her glowing poi balls. When she deftly spun these balls glowing in their reds, greens and blues, those of us whose minds were rendered sluggish by alcohol saw just a continuous blur of colour.

There seemed to be an endless supply of vodka, the most fiery of liquors, and this seemed to compliment the glowing poi balls very nicely. There was Malibu, there was Baileys, there were some find old wines like Roger’s 1991 St George. People got happy. A few shirts came off. Before we knew it, it was midnight. The Anthem was howled out in gusto. Then it was off to the river for the midnight swim. Many moons seemed to be out that night. Say no more.

Then it was back to the fireside to dry out and warm up. The night was still young. More frivolity was to be had. There was a little red Santa hat, and this was worn by one individual in a way that was not in accordance with manufacturer specifications. Later still, Claire wondered if there might be any traditional Australian campfire songs that she might learn. This immediately brought forth some loudly bellowed verses of the Wild West Show but by then I don’t think anyone was quite up to getting through all verses, and none of the dismembered orang-utans found a corner that evening.

Things began to subside and by this point things that a sober person would consider absurd seemed perfectly reasonable. Those still conscious at 2am were surprised when an extra-terrestrial arrived at our campsite. This particular extra-terrestrial bore an uncanny resemblance to someone walking around at the edge of the camp with a head torch on. But no one was sober and so the theory of alien invasion was deemed the most plausible explanation for this bipedal hominid life form wandering around with a light shining from its forehead. This theory received further compelling evidence when, at about 2:30 in the morning, someone looked as if they were wandering around the campsite carrying a 2-person tent upside down on their head. Maybe they were looking for somewhere quieter to sleep. Or maybe they really were aliens.

The supply of vodka finally grew low. Claire passed out. Mitchell crawled into his hammock. By the time the last people crawled off to bed the birds and cicadas had already woken up. It was 5am. It was the final hour before dawn.

Sunday was the morning after the night before. Again the weather was relatively mild, cloudy and cool for the time of year. Many cups of tea and jaffles were had, and once again most people migrated to the river for some more swimming and playing in the rapids. Water levels were around average.

In small groups the gathering began to dissipate. By around lunch time most were back at the cars and heading home. By mid-afternoon the campsite was once again quiet and much as we found it, and this is how it will remain for another year until we return. And return we shall.

What is it about this place that draws so many of us here every year? On the face of it, it is a fairly ordinary spot. There are plenty of other places in the bush where we might have gone. But this is a special place, our place, where SUBW comes together every year when the sun is high and the cicadas loud, to catch up with friends new and old, to play in the water and muck around in the rapids and sit around the camp and drink and be silly and stay up late and relax and laugh and joke around. And it is to this special place that we will gather again next year.

Just another oldie pissup? You be the judge.

Until next year.
Ashley Eylenburg