Party: Tom Gleeson and Fiancé Cat, Peggy Huang, Stephen Zaman, Ray and Natalie Etherton with son Fletcher, Jo Boyd, Ashley Burke, Gloria Wang, Natalie Wang, Kaushalya Madugalle, Lilian Castillo, Adam Kong, John Nafari, Peggy Huang, Ian Lu, Francois Cassagne, Svitlana Golego, Paul Griffiths and his brother, Belinda McCredie, Fancy Chen, Meredith Dodds, Dave Noble, Roger Lembit, Rob Hynes, John Robens, Chuin-nee with son Jasper, Mitchell Isaacs, James Bevan, Albert Chetcuti (Santa), Wendy Au, Su Li
Party (Grand canyon only): Tony Le, Ana Cardlina Faillace
Please accept my apologies if I have missed anyone from the below list. There were lots of people!
Date: 13-14/12/2014

The Christmas Dinner Walk, a SUBW tradition that pre-dates even the PBT, has in recent years become the largest annual gathering of SUBWarians on the club calendar. This year was no exception, with over 35 people participating in the trip in one way or another. Some came primarily to learn to abseil and do the beginners’ canyon on the Saturday morning. Some came primarily for the Coxs River camping, swimming and general get together. But everyone came to have a good time and were successful in that endeavour.

Because of the large number of people coming from far and wide, Saturday’s activities were carried out in separate groups until, by early evening on Saturday we had all gathered together at the traditional Coxs River campsite for our evening get together.

My group on Saturday morning comprised 19 people, all keen to learn to abseil and to have a try at doing Grand Canyon near Blackheath. It was a cool and overcast morning, not entirely conducive to canyoning but most people had wetsuits, and due to recent rain the water temperature was milder than it can sometimes be. We congregated at Neates Glen car park, sorted out vast amounts of club abseiling gear and eventually set off. Down in Neates Glen we stopped where the path descended by a small cliff for our practise abseiling. Here ropes were set up and people donned helmets and harnesses and after some lessons from Peggy and I, many of the new members took their first tentative steps backwards over the edge of the cliff – safely attached to the rope of course. While this was happening, another SUBW group comprising Dave Noble, Albert and others passed us – they were also doing Grand Canyon and we would meet up with them on the Coxs River later in the afternoon.

Once everyone had had enough abseiling practise we headed down the canyon proper, and this was very exciting for the beginners. You have to abseil down a steep and slippery sloping rock surface for several metres until all of a sudden it becomes vertical – even overhung – as you enter the full depths of the canyon with water rushing all around. At the bottom you are in a different world, surrounded on all sides by the dark gloss of wet rock and water running everywhere, the only visible sky is a thin strip of grey far above. A verdant world watered by the mist of a thousand droplets coming from trickles and rivulets unseen. It took time for everyone to work their way down this beautiful gorge due to the slipperiness of the rocks, many deep wades and swims, and great care that must be taken to avoid descending the remainder of the canyon on your backside.

The group spread out and one by one we emerged at the end of the canyon and made our way back to the cars at Neates Glen.  Not only did we manage to recover all 19 people who started out, we actually gained one or two, with Gloria and one other meeting up with the group at the Neates Glen car park. Tony and Ana returned to Sydney on the train from Blackheath, and the rest of us made our way in several cars and at various times down to Megalong Valley for the walk to the campsite.  Because of the size of the group it wasn’t until about 5pm or even later that everyone who had done the canyon were finally settled at the riverside camp. Now at last the relaxing phase of the weekend could begin.

Here were granite slabs and rapids, and the familiar swimming hole in the river. The water levels were around average or a bit better than normal. Some spent time at the river swimming and lounging around. Others chose the camp away from the river for their lounging around. Food was handed around and late afternoon became evening, then dusk, then night. We all hung around the campfire until late, chatting in groups. There was a bit of campfire singing but the Wild West Show was a little lacklustre. A few stayed up until midnight and howled out the Anthem as per club tradition and most people headed to bed soon after that.

It was a warm and sunny Sunday morning, the cloud had disappeared overnight. Some got up late, others headed back down to the river for more swimming, some stayed by the campfire enjoying multiple cups of tea. All in all it was a very leisurely Sunday morning. From about mid-morning people began to walk out in small groups. Most left after an early lunch and by early afternoon the last had departed the camp.

And so concluded another SUBW Christmas Dinner Walk. Each year we come to the same place by the same river and hang around in the same water hole and the same campfire. But each year brings different people and different moods, so every Christmas Dinner Walk is unique and memorable, a great way for SUBW to conclude another year. As always, we will be back again in December 2015. Watch this space.