Party: Jo Boyd, Ashley Burke, Joy Shen, Tim Hanigan, Yumi Hong, Nuria Douglas-Jones, Dave Noble, Roger Lembit, Wendy Au, Rob Hynes, Patrick Miller (Max Cady), Roger Butler and Jeremy, Su Li Sin, Brent Roylance, Martin Pfeil, Damon Ward, Mitchell Isaacs, Chantal Bronkhorst
Leader: Ashley Burke
Date: 10-11/12/2016

This trip report is in two parts. See Part 1: the Grand Canyon on Saturday morning

This year’s Christmas Dinner Walk was a little quieter than in recent years, a relaxing gathering by the river of some 18-20 people, some new faces but a group otherwise comprising almost entirely of Christmas Dinner Walk veterans.

My group of 6 people arrived at the river after a warm walk through farmland. Although it is always warm in the Megalong Valley in December, it was milder than other years. When we reached the river we found it flowing very nicely, a good volume of water was charging through the familiar rapids, creating several spa baths, and the water this year ran clear. The contrast in the temperature of this water to that of the Grand Canyon earlier in the day was remarkable, as if the Grand Canyon water had been boiled in a kettle before being poured into the Coxs River.

So after putting up tents it was time for a swim. This year the riverside was accompanied by something a little different, the occasional wafting smell of carrion. Jo and I followed our noses across the river until we found the source of this aroma, a festering fly blown dead goat lying in one of the river channels upstream of where we had been swimming. Thereafter we chose the other channel, the one closest to camp with the spa baths, for our swimming and drinking water as this was the one free of dead things lying in it.

And so, after a relaxing swim in the bubble bath upstream from the main pool, we returned to the warm granite rock slabs to lounge around and rest as the sun lowered and became less fierce, and as afternoon progressed to early evening.

The Megalong Valley on a hot summer evening has always been a place where the sky is filled with humming, tweeting, buzzing and hovering things, be these birds, bees, beetles, mozzies or dragonflies. Therefore it should have come as no surprise when on the scene of this year’s Christmas Dinner Walk there appeared a new and never before seen buzzing hovering thing in the skies above us. The difference this time though, was that the new thing appearing in the skies was no bird or insect. Rather, what hummed overhead was nothing other than a lithium polymer battery powered, GPS enabled, wifi capable, Bluetooth paired, HD video streaming, image stabilizing, self landing, wind compensating, auto pilot capable remote controlled drone. And it was owned and operated by, yes, you guessed it, the droner himself – Dave. The key difference between this new buzzing hovering thing and all those birds and insects which have monopolized the skies of the Coxs River until now, is that unlike Dave’s drone, what the birds and insects see around them won’t necessarily end up on YouTube by the Sunday afternoon. And so if you thought you could laze on the warm granite rocks and chat with an old friend in privacy on a Christmas Dinner Walk, think again. A new thing in the skies is watching you.

Now the truth is, that this new flying thing could quite easily have been brought down by a carefully aimed handful of river slime, and there was plenty of that around, and yet you have to marvel at the technology and the quality of the photography that the thing can produce, and its capabilities in the air – and its price tag. And so it was that Dave’s amazing little drone became the object of much interest and curiosity for the afternoon, as it swooped up and down the valley, and landed safely on the rocks, and then took off again, and never seemed to waver or falter in its flight. And the spectacular video of the trip that it captured may be viewed here:


Once the sun went down it was time to get the fire going, get the billy on and the jaffle irons going. Much food was prepared and there were lots of cups of tea, bottles of wine and jaffle irons. Martin, who in the past has hoarded jaffle irons much as Smaug covets gold, was actually offloading some of his excess hoard, and so brand new jaffle irons were there for sale and Joy bought one. Also being distributed were ground sheets made of some special lightweight material. Mitchell and Chantal turned up before dark, which is remarkable.

Joy made a bread and butter pudding, which was exceedingly high in calories. It had lots of bread, lots of eggs, lots of milk powder, marshmallows and sugar, all mixed up together in a large pan. The challenge was to cook it right. Too cool and it would remain as slop. Too hot and it would burn. Unfortunately the cooking process involved both, so regrettably this pudding didn’t quite work out. But it was very entertaining.

Later there were many fine wines and the evening was mild and warm with the fire burning low and so it was a great evening, but by midnight most had retired.

Some left early in the morning and others were late to rise. But after a cloudy start the sun came out and when that happened the full force of a summers’ day burst forth. Birds and insects (and the drone) took to the skies and many of us took to the water again, after a long breakfast of jaffles and tea.

During the course of the late morning people made their own way back to the Megalong Valley car park and thus concluded another Christmas Dinner Walk.

And so another Christmas Dinner Walk came to an end, and the waters of the Coxs River will gurgle and churn, and the flies and mozzies and ants will stay for a while then disappear for the winter, and then they will come back in the spring and they will be there waiting for us next December when we return. And will the drone be back too? Probably.

Ashley Eylenburg