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Six Foot Track Walk 20th Anniversary - a volunteers perspective

by Six Foot Track Walk 2010 Head Chef, Narelle Willems 

Well, another 6ft Track has come and gone. And can I say what a weekend it was! The 20th year of this event, one that has come to be much loved by many, and cursed by a few. But, as that say, that is another story.

I arrived in town on the Thursday before, dropped off the chainsaw, trunk and other things that we needed for the weekend and then later met up with Joan to do the shopping. This I can say is a mammoth task. With 4 trolleys of supplies, with special dietary needs sorted out like gluten free and one delivery trolley laden with water and drinks, Joan and I get quite a few strange looks, but that is only the beginning. Friday morning comes around and I am off to Joan’s again, this time to get the salads and little things like a new toilet seat, then back to Joan’s to sort out the food and pack it all in the right boxes, much to Paul’s distress. 

While we pack away, Paul and Les head off to the clubhouse to collect the tent, tables and water containers, and then off to buy the wine and beer. Salads are packed in the iceboxes, ready for the next day and the cooking essentials like the stoves and gas bottles are all packed securely in the trunk, along with washing bowls and any other loose items that will not fit into the food and other boxes. Meanwhile, Joan has also banked cheques, arranged for the meat to be delivered and managed to fit in a waxing, all in a couple of hours! How multi tasked is that! In the afternoon Bob Fickel arrives to drop of the fruit and Paul builds a toilet that is grand.

Saturday morning dawns bright and breezy, and the 6ft Track organising continues. With an early start for all, the pace just keeps going, Bob & Pete’s arrive with cakes and bread, walkers to drop off packs and cars, Joan telling us all to be quiet as the neighbours are still asleep. Joan handing out the workers shirts, confusion for some, but all is in hand. I head off to the lake to hand out the 20th Birthday souvenir and other vehicles arrive to pack the packs of those waiting at the lake. A few Westies wander up to say hello and see us off, which is always a good way to start the weekend. 

After a check of names and a bit of arranging of seats, the bus heads off to the mountains, closely followed by a few vehicles. Other vehicles head off to the garage for ice and milk and fuel, I start the day with Les in Daniel’s car as he, Adam and Joe are cycling up to the Explorers Tree, and we will sort out passengers then. At this stage, I need to introduce the new apprentices for the weekend. Barbara Awad, Steve (a mate of Tony Farrell) and Robert Ellison. Robert is no stranger to the 6ft Track walk, but this year he has changed sides and will be a crew person.

And, so we commence our trip up the mountains, ready for a hot and busy weekend. Meandering along the highway, Les and I talked about a few things and laughed at the site of the toilet sitting atop Paul’s car. We picked Joe up along the way; poor old bugger was doing it tough and so we continue. At the tree, Daniel and Adam are waiting along with the sweepers, Joan, Vic and Tony, as well as the other cars. Here we sort out the passengers, Barbara with Joe, Robert with David, Steve driving Tony’s car and last but not least, me with Paul, I am the lucky one! 

The convoy commences, off we go into the valley, and I must say it looks magnificent, green and lush, with rolling hills; Barbara is in awe of the beauty. As Robert is in the lead car, he has the duty of opening and closing the gates, 3 in total that is his initiation into being a crew person. Normally it is me, and the boys are giving me a bit of curry about it, but I am happy sitting with Paul, listening to his CD of the best of the Caravan Park hits, what a life! 

We arrive at the cattle yards and Geoff loads up with water and drinks, along with fruit etc to head off to the Cox’s River, at this stage it was getting pretty hot and we wanted to make sure that the walkers were OK and had water. The rest of us headed off to the Little River where we would be camping. When we arrived Tim was already there, he had run and beaten us to camp! A bit silly for a hot day, but what can you say about runners, they are all a bit mad.

Once we get to the campsite, vehicles are unloaded, sites for the kitchen tent and BBQ are chosen and for those who are lucky enough to be with the crew, you get first choice of a tent site, if you can find one away from the thistles and the rocks and of course, with shade on flat ground, easy , not!

Anyway, while all this site picking is going on, Adam, Daniel and David load up with drinks and head of along the track to ensure that water and food is available along the way and by this time it is getting hotter, so we are not taking any chances with the trekkers. With our tents erected, and the toilet dug and ready for use, a job desired by many, but mastered by Paul and ably assisted by new recruit Steve, Robert, Barbara and I begin our task of food preparation, with water boiling, bread and butter at the ready and water and first aid on hand -  we are set for the onslaught.

Lunch was made for the crew, some sitting at Little River, in the shade, with Tim, Lillian and her friend who also ran, we await the trekkers arrival. One by one they arrive, in vehicles by those who found it just a wee bit hot and others by foot, while others took longer, resting and thankful for the water and drinks along the way, of which we had plenty! The younger trekkers were happy to see the river and splashed away, while the older trekkers enjoyed the waters cooling effect on their hot feet while the cold beverages soothed the dryness in their throats, lunches were made by the crew, peanut butter turned to satay, and the flies were nowhere to be seen, what a change from other years! 

The younger Eisenuth’s were being praised by some for their assistance to those trekkers that were finding the going a bit tough and the crew were able to assist with food, water and other needs as they were required. Eventually tents were popping up all over the place and our intrepid sweepers appeared on the horizon, tired, hot and happy to see the camp! With the famous Hilton ready for occupation, and Paul’s lounge in place, anyone would have thought we were on a Fiji Island, even passing motor bike riders were impressed by our setup!

Six Foot Track Walk 2010 Head Chef, Narelle Willems

And so as the afternoon comes upon us, temperatures dropped dramatically and before long, jumpers are on and we all welcome the cool change, even the light rain did not deter the trekkers from sitting back and taking it easy. With kids happy and running around, Willy Nelson and Elvis serenading us as night begins to fall, BBQ chefs Vic & Tony ready to go, what more could we want? 

Our trekkers are very happy with their dinner and seconds and thirds are the go, and with full tummies after a beaut desert, and a celebratory drink and congratulations for the 20th Birthday, what better way to relax than with a bath! Oh so nice, sitting in the kitchen tent, in a blow up row boat, half filled with water and radox, who said life wasn’t meant to be easy! A bit of dancing, a bit of drinking, great food and plenty of good company, hard work, yes, but worth it.

After a bit the trekkers retire to their tents, some to the Hilton and young Matthew Whitbread rests his weary legs on the lounge, under the starless sky, all ready for the next day and the final trek to Caves House. Oh the tranquillity!

As morning dawned, trekkers started to emerge from their tents, water was boiling for those cuppas and the BBQ was fired up by our chefs, Vic, Tony & Steve. Breakfast was sorted, sandwiches made for lunches, snacks, fruit and water dispersed, and by 8.00am, the trekkers were on their way. The last to leave were the sweepers, followed by Geoff with refreshments for the trekkers. 

The weather was much cooler, thankfully, so packing up the campsite was much easier, and with the new recruits now fully fledged crew, things went along smoothly. Tents were packed up, vehicles packed, rubbish collected and bagged, toilet dismantled and filled in by Paul with the assistance of Matthew and the younger Daniel Eiso, who both forgo the second day, and so by 10.00am, we were ready to hit the frog and toad (road). What organisation, what teamwork, you would not even know that we were there!

Up the track we went and did not encounter any walkers until we were nearly at the Deviation, they were certainly moving! Along the way we stopped to refuel the sweepers and a photo opportunity was taken with me sitting on the lounge, which was on the trailer, a Granny Clampett moment for sure!

As well, Daniel and David Eisenuth, Paul & Joan’s sons, decided to take a different route, 4WD style, and Robert Ellison, who was a passenger, was well and truly initiated into the art of four-wheel driving! All in the fun of the weekend.

At the Deviation, Geoff, Joe and the other drivers met up for a rest stop and while we waited for trekkers and the sweepers, Joe left with Barbara to get some petrol at Hampton. After about an hour, we progressed to the huts and waited with supplies, and thought that Joe must have gone down to Caves House as he had not returned from his expedition to get petrol, and as we were about to head on down the long and winding road to the caves, Joe and Barbara pulled up, explaining that the petrol station at Hampton was no longer there and they had to go back to this side of Katoomba for the petrol!

Oh well, next time he will fill up before we go on our journey. We continued to our destination and the arrival of our weary trekkers. Lunch for some at Caves House and for others time to lament the tales of the weekend, mostly I must say happy and pleased to have conquered the track for the first time for some and others a time to reflect on just being able to be a part of the weekend. By 2.30pm, with our trekkers and sweepers accounted for, our mob were bus ready to head off by 3.00pm, and with weary bodies dispersed, a few trekkers in vehicles, our convoy headed off for the trip back to the Lake.

By 5.30pm we were back, with bags unloaded, final hoorays and more thanks from the trekkers for the crew and support vehicles and shouts of “We will be back for next year”, we bid farewell to those from Billy’s Bushies, The Westies and other trekkers, who had made the weekend so enjoyable. Heading off to Joan and Paul’s place to collect our car and help unpack and sort out things, we were pretty tired and looking forward to shower, a cuppa and a proper bed! Saying our hoo roo’s always takes longer, but eventually Herb and I set off, to start our journey home. I would like to say thanks to Barbara and Robert, they were able apprentices, thanks to the sweepers, Joan, Vic and first timer Tony, who do a great job, a special thanks to David, Daniel and Adam, for their diligence in making sure that the trekkers were OK, especially on Saturday, to our other crew members, thanks to Geoff for coming from his home on the other side of the Blue Mountains; thanks to Joe for leaving Adelaide and the Tour Down Under, to Les Hunt who is our elder statesmen; thanks to Steve; thanks to Doug for the use of his vehicle, and most of all, I would like to say to Joan and Paul, you are the Six Foot Track and thank you both for the undying loyalty and enthusiasm you have for the weekend. 

Now, I have to say I have told most people that this will be my last Six Foot  Track. After ten years I am a bit tired, and living over 450kms away can take its toll, but upon reflection, can I really give it up? Is it worth driving all that way? I have to, yes it is worth driving for and no, I don’t think I will give it up just yet, who else would go with Paul!

That’s all folks,

Narelle Willems 
Head Chef, Six Foot Track Walk 2010