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