Tri­als of the trail pay off

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Emily Smith emily.smith@cnbtimes.com.au

THE first two times Bob Swain­son came to Mun­gungo he walked there from Cook Town.

And out of all the peo­ple and places he saw as he walked close to 5000km along the Na­tional Bi­cen­ten­nial Trail, it has been lit­tle old Mun­gungo he keeps com­ing back to.

“I just love the coun­try, you would never, ever find me hol­i­day­ing at the beach,” he said. His jour­ney, which saw him on the side­lines of the Mun­gungo v the world cricket tour­na­ment this week­end, started when he picked up a magazine back in 1997.

“I saw a story that men­tioned the bi­cen­ten­nial trail and thought ‘I re­ally wouldn’t mind do­ing that’,” he said.

The Bi­cen­ten­nial Na­tional Trail was just a horse trail from Cook Town to Mel­bourne, un­til leg­endary bush­man RM Wil­liams paid a man on a horse to map it out in 1988.

The trail is now pub­lished in guide books and passes only 100m or so away from the main street of Mun­gungo. “I went to the Waratah Ho­tel and asked for a room, and met Nev and Faye Dahtler,” he said.

“I got on so well with them that I’ve been com­ing back twice a year, I con­sider my­self a lo­cal now.

“Af­ter leav­ing (in 1997), I called on Jan­uary 3 the next year be­cause I knew one man (Nev Dahtler) would be at the Waratah Ho­tel cel­e­brat­ing his 50th.

“And a lady re­cently said to me ‘Bob that night you called Nev it was like you called all of us’ and I thought that was just lovely.”

Af­ter leav­ing Mun­gungo, Mr Swain­son made it down to Broad­mead­ows sta­tion out­side of Grafton where he helped out for eight weeks be­fore giv­ing up on his quest to walk to Mel­bourne.

“I think I stopped in Septem­ber and had been walk­ing since Good Fri­day in 1997,” he said.

But af­ter the only other walker he had met dur­ing the walk fin­ished the trail, Mr Swain­son took a sec­ond shot at the track in 2000, this time mak­ing it to Par­adise Dam be­fore knee trou­ble forced him to hang up his boots again.

The 5000km Mr Swain­son now has un­der his belt has left him with a trove of tales to tell.

Food was so heavy he would buy pro­vi­sions, di­vide it into por­tions and get each por­tion de­liv­ered ahead to dif­fer­ent places he was plan­ning to stay.

One time he got lost it was a bread crumb trail of un­der­wear, hand­ker­chiefs and t-shirts hung on tree branches that helped him find his way. “I fi­nally found a wind­mill, and drunk co­pi­ous quan­ti­ties of the rusti­est wa­ter I’d ever seen, I was so thirsty,” he said.

But the most heart-warm­ing tale is the great friend­ship that de­vel­oped be­tween Bob “the walker”, Nev Dahtler and his wife Faye.

PHOTO: EMILY SMITH

WALK­ING THE TALK: Bob Swain­son first ar­rived in Mun­gungo while walk­ing the bi­cen­ten­nial trail from Cook Town in 1997.

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