(header photographs by Harry Waite 1912-2011)

The Myth of the Sacred Brumby







Wandering Through Araluen Valley

by YVONNE DOUGLAS and CHAS. ROLFE (Sydney Bush Walkers)

from The Bushwalker 1939

BUSH WALKERS seeking an ideal Summer walk should visit the Araluen and Deua River Valleys. Here rural beauty and rugged grandeur go hand in hand. Crystal clear streams flow through ideal grazing lands and fat cattle lie contentedly in the shade of casuarinas. In the distance blue peaks beckon to the more adventurous.

Last November saw us aboard the train en route for the "Dewy." Our starting place was Tarago, from where we travelled to Braidwood by service car. We found Braidwood a picturesque old town, rich in historical interest, for years ago it was a thriving mining centre. Now it has settled down to the less exciting occupation of farming. We were told by a resident that one of the churches was literally built with gold nuggets which the miners used to put on the plates on Sundays. Next day we stocked up with fresh bread and a few vegetables and set off for Bell's Creek. Our way led us through undulating pastoral lands dotted here and there with farm houses, and watered by swampy creeks. Bell's Creek was once a rich alluvial gold diggings, but now consists of a Post Office farm house. ;

Here the road left the pastoral lands and passed through typical mountain growth, and being fairly high up, we were able to catch glimpses of the surrounding mountains. We had noticed the heavy mist clinging to the hill tops and asked the lady at the post office if it was a sign of rain. "Oh no," she said, "that's just a sea breeze from the coast" (approximately 50 miles away). It was the first sea breeze that we have ever been able to see. The ruins of many gold races were along the creeks, and deserted huts bore silent witness of the "roaring days."

From the lookout above the Valley we were entranced by the magnificent view before us. The Araluen Creek meandered along through green paddocks, its, banks lined with graceful willows and casuarinas. The summer sun simmered down and everything looked drowsy and still. Wending our way down the pass, we soon arrived in Araluen township, and while we replenished our supplies we learned that the population was once around the 50,000 mark and that some 100 odd hotels had flourished throughout the Valley.

Interesting Personalities

We found a pretty place to camp just outside the township, and while we were waiting for the butcher to corn us a piece of beef we wandered about and made the acquaintance of one of the locals. He became very interested in our trip and warned us of snakes on the Deua River. "They stand up on their hind legs and bark," said he. Incidentally, we didn't see a snake on the whole trip. Whilst talking to us, he put his hand into his vest pocket and produced two eggs which, he informed us, were hard boiled and for his tea. He then proceeded to peel them, still keeping up a conversation. In the meantime the door opened and we were able to see signs of recent ablutions, for in the centre of the room was a large bathtub, while water and clothes were scattered around the room. From out of this chaos stepped a most immaculate vision dressed in a well pressed brown suit, complete with vest and bowler hat and shoes all polished. But, to our amazement, when he approached us we noticed he was sans .shirt, singlet, collar and tie. After bidding us good evening, he strolled off with more swagger than a Duke of the Realm.

Nor was this the end of our adventures, for that same evening, as we were about to retire, we were disturbed by loud voices and flaring lights in the distance. We decided to investigate, and, armed with large sticks and a tomahawk, crept cautiously down to the river and awaited the menace. As it advanced down the river towards us we were able to distinguish the forms of men carrying kerosene flares and long wooden spears. They were wading knee deep in the stream, and cussing and swearing like a cartload of bullockies. Every few minutes one of them would shout out, make a sudden dive with his spear, and thrust a writhing body into the chaff bag on his back—yes, they were only enjoying Araluen Valley's Saturday evening pastime—eeling.

A Hot Run

Next day we left the Valley and, after a very hot morning's walk, met still more adventure in the shape of a BULL. We had asked permission to cross a paddock to avoid, as we thought, a hot walk, and so get to the Deua more quickly. The farmer warned us of young steers in the paddock, some being a bit on the wild side. Soon we came to a nice cool pool and decided to have a dip before lunch, but, not liking the look of a young bull who was eyeing us, we left our things near a fence—in case of an accident. Just as we were finishing our meal, Yvonne looked up, muttered something, and made a wild dive through the fence. We soon found out the cause of this burst of energy, for, glancing up, we beheld the bull, charging full speed ahead across the paddock, and it was only a matter of seconds before we too were scrambling after her. About fifty yards away from us our young friend pulled up and stood looking at us with such a bad glint in his eye that we thought it was time to move. So with sticks we hauled our packs through the fence and threw things into them as fast as we could. It was only a short while before we were moving off again. Our way now passed a large herd of cattle that were peacefully browsing in the shade of trees. When we were nearly abreast of them, the bull started to bellow, and very soon the peaceful cattle were peaceful no longer, but were moving towards us in a solid mass. We didn't wait to meet them, but turned and tore up a hot, treeless hill as fast as our legs could carry us, nor did we stop till we had reached the road. Later on in the day we found that the temperature at that time was around about 106°. Were we hot!

We reached the Deua, however, without further mishap, and spent a whole day recovering. From here on to Moruya we passed through some of the most beautiful walking country one could wish for. Crystal water to swim in and cool, green, tree-lined banks along which to stroll— what more could any walker ask? We were able to buy fresh eggs and milk all along the way, and so lessened our burdens.

The week passed all too quickly, and soon we found ourselves back in Sydney with dozens of photographs and memories of one of the best holidays we have ever had.

The work of the Federation is increasing by leaps and bounds in all spheres, and in particular it is pleasing to note that its prestige and public force show a vast improvement on previous years. This is due largely to the greater number of enthusiasts in the movement and to the untiring and ceaseless efforts of the Hon. Secretary, Mr. C. D'A. Roberts, and those who act as his assistants in carrying on the administrative work of the Federation. For the first time, the Federation this year has printed an Annual Report of its work during the year 1938-1939, and a perusal of this document, totalling ten pages, will indicate how extensive are the ramifications of the Federation and what its administration entails. Many copies of this are still available and will be furnished on application to the Hon. Secretary.