by Ian Ross (S.U.B.W.)
(From The Bushwalker, No. 11, 1948)
The Kanangra marathon has taken place. The scheme was to work off some youthful high spirits by staging a walk from Katoomba, via the Platform Cave at Kanangra, to Yerranderie, first team home to win an insignificant prize and some glory.
There seven teams, seventeen walkers in all, three other clubs being represented in addition to the S.U.B.W. which perpetrated the whole scheme. Picture the scene: 9.20 p.m. one night in May, no moon, no stars, just a light touch of rain. A row of bushwalkers on the footpath outside the Katoomba Railway Station, a small cluster of astonished nocturnal bystanders, and the official starter brandishing a flag, and warning that two breaks would disqualify. The drop of the flag and eleven pairs of iron-shod boots roar down Katoomba Street towards Narrow Neck, while six other pairs reveal their subtle intentions of taking the long King’s Tableland route by shooting unexpectedly back through the railway gates and pounding off towards Wentworth Falls.
For various reasons, only one team – Bill Taylor and Alan Jackson – fulfilled all the conditions, turning up in Yerranderie in the good time for the 60 miles of 25 hours 35 minutes. Two parties decided to sleep on the job – one of these was Bill Woof who had overfed his ample silhouette in Katoomba while waiting for the start – and then bypassed Kanangra, coming up to Yerranderie at their leisure.
Then there was Jak Kelly who lost a boot while crossing a much swollen Cox’s River at the foot of Black Dog at two in the morning. Finally, one party, whom modesty and shame prevent me from naming, accidently climbed to the top of Ti-Willa Buttress when they meant to have climbed Jingery Ridge, and were so overcome with disgust and chagrin that they went straight back to Kowmung and into Yerranderie.
But the best episode of all occurred at Kanangra. Bob Shelston and Marie Naylor had nobly pushed their bikes through a snowstorm out to the Platfrom Cave, there to prepare an incredible stew for the sustenance of the weary passing through and to ensure fair play. They left late on the Saturday afternoon, and shortly afterwards Twid and Alan Tapsell appeared, and fell voraciously on the stew, which had been left a-bubbling. Then in a corner they spied a tin of Grainut, a cereal beloved of so many rugged types, who feel no doubt they can eat anything if they can eat these unpredictable granules. This tin they consumed, remarking however that it was the stalest and soggiest Grainut they’d ever eaten. It was only a month later that a casual conversation between Twid and Bob revealed they’d been hoeing into a tin of dried mutton – neat.
Well, everyone staggered into Yerranderie eventually, some of us in the middle of the night, with hot eyeballs and heads ever-aching from following vague tracks with wilting torches, others on Sunday morning. The prize, of 1 Pound worth of liquid refreshment, was duly shared at Mrs. Nott’s by such as were able to stand.
Such was the Marathon – and now to parry the brickbats. The scheme was criticized on several counts, chief among which it was foolhardy. This I would contest: every club runs an occasional ambitious walk, and this was simply such a walk, with added safety in numbers. In addition, single walking was not allowed, sealed copies of the route to be taken were handed to the starters, adequate food was obligatory, the country was familiar, and the time available – a whole week-end – was adequate for anyone to walk out to civilization should he decide not to follow the entire route. Bushwalking at night has its risks, but they are often taken, and in any event are in no ways comparable with those attendant on mountain climbing, which is officially condoned.
We still talk about it, and now the memories of those last few miles down the Long Track are becoming less acute, the “never agains” are changing to “maybe sometimes”. Quien sabe?