(Photos by David W Noble)
Despite deteriorating whether forecasts, which increasingly promised showers for the long weekend, I was determined to head out on the PBT having missed it the last two years.
The PBT, or President’s Bludge Trip, is an annual tradition of the Sydney Uni Bushwalkers, dating back to the early 70’s. This year it lacked the patronage of the president, and with more than 16kms to cover each day was light on with the bludge part, but was still worth it for the walk along the Uni Rover Trail — which I’d never done — to a section of the Kowmung River I’d never visited.
I was particularly keen to finally walk with some of the lifers from the club. People like Ashley Burke, who has completed 26 PBT’s straight and Dave Noble, who was on the second ever trip in 1975, when the tradition was just being born.
Despite a late night at work on Friday night, from which I didn’t get home until well after 2am, I was feeling surprisingly fresh at 6am when the alarm went off and quickly bundled everything into the car and set off. I grabbed fuel and breakfast on the way, picking Chris up at Blaxland Station before punching on up the mountains. Despite the long weekend, traffic was light. We made great time, pulling in to the end of the Uni Rover Trail just on 9am, ahead of a good number of others including some who had camped down the road.
The track was simple enough to follow, with recently added tin tags making it much more distinct than in the past, so we made great time. We paused at Lost Rock to admire glimpses of the view through clouds and mist. Water was no issue, with several creeks crossed, so we filled up with the sweet tasting fluid.
With rain threatening, and a need to wait up so the unruly mob of walkers could be united, we stopped on Mt Savage where a small fire was lit just in time for the first downpour of rain. We had a long break, enjoying the warmth and hoeing into some hot food and cups of tea (or hot Berocca in Jo’s case!).
From here it was on again, with the forest looking very other-worldly in the fog. The trees, understory and even rocks changed at regular intervals, giving us a range of interesting things to admire even without any expansive views.
We paused briefly on Lannigans Spur at the lookout, which was completely whited out, before walking a short way and turning off the track and down the steep spur to the Kowmung.
Given the wet weather, there was some debate about the planned camp site by the river and it was decided a dryer spot higher up would be preferred. After crossing the river at some shallow rapids, where it was still about knee deep but flowing very quickly, we filled up with water and climbed a small way up the ridge above Broken Point.
The rain had set in again by the time we got there, already after 5pm, so we quickly set up tents and collected wood while Dave and Ashley managed to light not one but two fires in the wet conditions.
The rain settled into a gentle drizzle, with the growing fire providing enough warmth to slowly start drying us out. Dinners were cooked, cheeses and chocolates passed around, and an amazing mix of fine beverages appeared ready to warm us from within.
Bed still came earlier than usual, with the weather making it a tad miserable, but not before Jo and Ashley could put on a spirited rendition of the Wild West Show.
In the morning I was among the many slow risers, with each shower of rain on my tent convincing me there was no point getting up. Eventually I did, with the weather holding long enough to have a nice warm breakfast and pack up.
Five of us had to return home after just one night, so we bid the group farewell, set off back down to cross the river, and began retracing our route.
No sooner had we crossed the Kowmung and the rain restarted, a condition that continued almost unbroken for the next five or more hours.
The return trip, despite being harder due to the fact that we were now going up hill, was completed in under five hours, with any stop in the freezing wind proving far to chilling to be worthwhile.
Despite the conditions, the bush was once again beautiful, with everything a fresh green and water flowing everywhere. As the rain reached its hardest we made it back to the cars, quickly turning on the heater, stripping off the wet clothing and hoeing into Kosta’s stash of chocolates that he’d kept in the car.
The journey out was surprisingly smooth, despite the weather, although we did see two ambulances race by, which combined with the helicopter we’d heard during the walk had us a little worried. It turned out to be an unrelated walker who had suffered a suspected heart attack.
After all the excitement we stopped in Mt Victoria to warm ourselves by the fireplace, grab a celebratory schooner, and have a quick feed before making the final trek home.
Despite the appalling weather I’m now kicking myself that I could stay for the whole trip. Oh well, there’s always next year!