Ralph Blacket's Canoe Trip

The canoe trip down the Endrick and Shoalhaven was published in the Sunday Times (Sydney NSW) of 18 October 1908 (page 20 of edition no. 1187). The Sunday Times was a weekly publication of 24 pages; pages 13 to 24 forming the Magazine Section. The newspaper offices were in Castlereagh St., Sydney and the paper cost twopence. The text was written by E. P. Dark, Ralph Blacket's friend and companion on the canoe trip. Here is the text as given in the newspaper.

Down the Endrick and Shoalhaven in a Canoe

The Experiences of Two Sydney Boys

The following description of a canoe trip down the Endrick and Shoalhaven, undertaken by two Sydney boys of between 17 and 18 years of age, should prove interesting. The writer is E. P. Dark, of North Sydney, one of the voyagers:-

My friend, Ralph Blacket, and I, started our trip on Friday, December 27,1907. First of all, our outfit, consisting of a 15ft. canoe built of quarter-inch cedar, provisions for a fortnight, firearms, camera, &c., had to be carted from St. George's Basin to the Endrick, near Nerriga.

We had lunch where the main Nowra-Braidwood road crosses the head of the Danjera Creek. Only a few hundred yards down the creek there is a fine waterfall about 300 ft. deep; on either side of the falls, perpendicular cliffs open out like a gigantic horseshoe, walling in a valley of exceptional beauty; the whole reminded me of Govett's Leap, on a slightly less majestic scale.

We reached the Endrick at nightfall, and camped at a picturesque crossing. Next day we started down the river and about a mile below the crossing came to the Endrick Falls, our first real difficulty. At the head of the falls the river was broken by a number of rapids, where the water raced along between great jagged masses of rock and finally hurled itself over a perpendicular cliff into a pool some 300 ft. below. The falls seemed to mark a sharp dividing line in the character of the country bordering the river; above it was comparatively grassy and undulating, while below it was shut in by rugged mountains that towered a good thousand feet above its bed. It was a matter of considerable difficulty to get the canoe round the falls for on both sides the banks were fairly steep. After several hours exploration, we decided to try the right bank where we had to make a detour of over a mile through rough country, and it was not till the afternoon of the next day that we reached the riverbed again. On account of the weight of the canoe and provisions we had to make two trips whenever a portage was necessary.

We had not gone far down the river from our new starting point before we found that in the Endrick, at any rate, there would be very little navigating to be done, but plenty of carrying, as sometimes the water entirely disappeared beneath large boulders for half a mile at a stretch while the pools never exceeded 150 yards in length. But we were rewarded for our sore shoulders and tired feet by the magnificent scenery, shooting, and the splendid swims we had in the clear pools after a hard day's work; while at night we would wrap ourselves in a rug beneath some fine old oak tree and fall asleep, listening to the gentle music of the river and the sighing of the night breeze in the oaks.

We travelled thus along the Endrick till Friday, January 3 when reached the Shoalhaven with our provisions. The next day we had to carry the canoe practically alI of the last four miles down the Endrick, in the broiling sun, over scorching rocks, and with our sandshoes almost worn out, so that, when we reached the Shoalhaven we were not sorry to think that on the morrow we could have a day's rest. The whole of the Endrick that we traveled had the same general features . Its course was tortuous in the extreme, for in no part was it possible to see straight down the bed of the river for more that half a mile. From the falls down the banks on both sides are high, averaging about 1,000 feet but they are absolutely perpendicular only in a few places being generally composed of detached layers of rock much broken up. The river falls rapidly, but the descent is accomplished by “steps" rather than by a steady slope. It is "navigable" only by means of series of pools varying in length from 50 to 150 yards, and sometimes half a mile apart; between them the water flows through large boulders and several times disappears from sight altogether, the water evidently fiItering through beneath the rocks. In one place the river flows in two distinct levels, one ten or twelve feet higher than the other. The water is magnificently clear, and in the pools, some of which appear to be of great depth, assumes a beautiful shade of light green, All along the banks are dotted with magnificent oaks, and alI the oldest of these have the bark knocked off on the side facing upstream to a height of about 20 ft. from the ground, thus bearing testimony to the violence of the floods that thunder down the Endrick. The river abounds in fish and spIendid shooting is obtainable on the banks.

On starting down the Shoalhaven on Monday we found that there was much more water in it than in the Endrick, but still it was very low and muddy so that the canoe sometimes came into violent contact with hidden rocks, and that, together with dragging her over shallows and through rapids, cracked the planking a good deal. The mountains beside this part of the Shoalhaven were lower and less precipitous than those beside the Endrick, and were dotted with kurrajong trees, and some species of large shrub covered with beautiful pointed silvery leaves.

During the day we only covered five miles; still it was more than we had been able to do in the Endrick. On Thursday afternoon we passed through the "Block-­Up,” a magnificent gorge nearly a mile long. On either side jagged walls of rock rose perpendicularly from the water to a height of about 1200 feet. Near the middle of the ravine two chasms have been rent in the cliffs on opposite sides of the river, and down these in flood time rush seething torrents which hurl themselves into the river and add to the chaotic grandeur of the scene, as the boiling waters thunder through the gorge.

A little later a heavy thunderstorm came on and we were expecting an uncomfortable night, when we caught sight of smoke rising through the trees about half a mile ahead and here we found a prospector' s tent, and those of surveyors who were marking out his claim. The prospector gave us a real bush welcome and soon had a substantial meal ready for us, after which he gave us the use of a comfortable tent. While on the Shoalhaven we noticed several abandoned claims, and only the day before we had seen a large pumping engine, and other machinery, apparently in good order. But we had not met anybody since leaving Nerriga.

In the morning our host directed us to Bungonia which was not marked on our map, as we wished to get more provisions. The town lay about seven miles west of the mine, and after the 2,000 feet climb to get from the river bed to the plateau the country was fairly level but the ground was very poor until we got near the town, which possesses a post office, police station, church, two stores and an hotel.

After dinner on Friday we took Ieave of our generous friend, who, in true bush fashion refused to take any payment for our two days’ board. By Tuesday /08) we had passed the Shoalhaven “Look-Down", a limestone precipice 1,500 feet high, and Barber's Creek, and were among the famous Shoalhaven gullies. On either side of the river the banks receded with a bold sweep, rapidly becoming steeper and terminating in sheer precipices, sometimes I,500 feet high. In some places the slopes were short, steep, and rugged, while the cIiffs almost overhung the river. In others, deep gullies with dense vegetation, among which were many cedars, stretched far back, but always, above all, hung that grim unbroken wall of rock. For two days and a half we did not see a single place where it would have been possible to reach the top of the cliffs 2,000 feet above the river. Several creeks come in here, forming waterfalls, one of which had a drop of about 900 feet, but unfortunately, on account of the drought, the creeks were dry, and we saw nothing but the stains of the water on the cliffs.

During Thursday afternoon we Ieft the rugged country behind us, and that night we camped at the junction of the Kangaroo and Shoalhaven; the Kangaroo had ceased to flow, and by this time there was no more than trickle in the Shoalhaven.

From there to Burria the river was a good deal more open, but there were still some long stretches of carrying to done, while from Burria the river is tidal. By travelling 43 hours out of the next two days, and leaving the canoe at Nowra, we got back to St. George’s Basin at 3 o'clock on Sunday morning, January 19.

The trip had been well worth taking in every way for both on the Endrick and Shoalhaven the scenery had been magnificent and game plentiful, wallabies, wallaroos, duck, pigeons, lyre-birds, with rabbits and a few kangaroos on the tableland above the river, and fish and eels in the river. I would advise anybody who thought of taking a trip down the Shoalhaven to have his canoe taken to Corang, as I have seen that since, and with the exception of the last mile, there are very few places where it would be necessary to carry a canoe. The scenery certainly is not so good as that on the Endrick, but it should be possible to get from where the Oallen Ford road crosses the Corang to the Shoalhaven in a day; and once in the Shoalhaven the rest should be fairly easy in a good season, for we averaged eight miles a day when the river was lower than it had been for 60 years as we were told in Bungonia.

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