Orientation Week 2nd March, 1961
by Elizabeth Scott
I suppose there are quite a few among you who haven’t done much walking yet, so I’ll try & fill in a few gaps for you from my own experiences.
If you are at all like I was, you will have vague ideas about the beauties of bush life and its ideal healthy conditions — you know — striding it out with a spring in your step and the wind in your hair, cooking delicious smelling meat over an open fire, and falling asleep at night under the stars. It’s a picture rather difficult to reconcile with the sagging creature gasping it out step by step beneath a huge bushwalking pack, with blistered feet and splitting shoulder blades, too exhausted for more than a few pathetic nibbles at some half cooked food before crawling into a thin sleeping bag and lying shivering and aching all night on unbelievably hard stony ground.
It’s true — it’s no bed of roses to live in the bush for a few days on the bush’s terms. Once you’ve knocked yourself into shape (and according to the boys, we girls come through the mill permanently scarred — with grooves in our shoulders and a stooped stride) — once you have got yourself fit enough, you still have your surroundings to cope with — like a cold wet sleeping bag on a cold wet night. When you’ve been blundering for ages down the wrong steep mountainside, among masses of huge stinging nettles and flying rocks, or when you’re preparing to breathe your last in the middle of fierce, rough, scrub, you amazedly wonder how on earth you got involved in such a crazy situation. So on nearly every walk you see the effects on different people — one will subside in a limp little heap of misery while another will keep you royally entertained with strings of abuse.
Above – David Darmanin, SUBW President 1961, slips over on a trip down Harrys River. From SUBW logbook no 2.
But don’t be put off, because although bushwalking is probably more gruelling than you had imagined, it’s also more wonderful than you can possibly conceive. And it all goes back to the fact that you simply enjoy being in the bush. If you enjoy that enough, and want to go walking badly enough, you’ll end up a bushwalker.
You can’t imagine how wonderful it is to come to a clear flowing creek in the middle of the day and drop your pack and drink your fill (and put your shoulders back into position) and then take off all your boots & socks & bandages and just sit with your feet in the water till you are sufficiently restored to think about your lunch rations; and then to have a snooze before setting off again. Or after tea in the camp at night — your goulash sits quiet and warm in your tummy and you lie around the flickering fire talking into the night. And if you’ve never had a really good wash in a quiet cliff guarded creek called the Yarramun, as beautiful as its name, then you really haven’t lived. Or if you haven’t dragged yourself up mountains or through prickly vine & jungle to glimpse a blue fairyland of peaks and high places, or if the sides of the world haven’t flattened out in front of you and left you & the breeze free to tread a wide expanse of grassland, then you have some real pleasure in store for you. And if you haven’t apprehensively felt you were walking to a manly death, penetrating the secrets of creeks guarded by great cliffs and canyons, or scaled the Breadknife, then you’re probably one of many, but I think it would be good to have done them. And if you haven’t eat and slept for a day & 2 nights after walking yourself into the ground, then you don’t know what enjoyment is.
But it isn’t only the memory of the bush itself that you bring away with you after a walk; it’s the memory of good times had with others. Somehow or other people are just themselves in the bush, and very close bonds of friendship seem to form quite unconsciously. And people are full of surprises — you’ll come across a long legged streak of misery who is always among the first to the top, preciously clutching a bunch of wild flowers he couldn’t resist picking. One always feels sad when the party splits up and each follows his separate way home.
For months after I started walking people, especially people I was hitching with, would ask why on earth I went walking — lugging a great pack seemed nonsense to them. And for months I couldn’t give an answer even to myself — I could see their point of view only too well. But it’s a simple answer: we do it because we enjoy being in the bush and enjoy experiencing it fully, not with our eyes through a car window.
Walking may be both more gruelling and more wonderful than you had imagined. But to become a bushwalker, all you have to do is enjoy being in the bush and want to go walking badly enough to put up with some discomfort and push yourself into shape if necessary. If you’re doubtful, then come and give it a go.