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by Barry Ferguson
photographs by Mike Christian, VL Corner Inlet
(as published in Australian Scout, June 2006, Pages 4-5)
On Friday 7th April Laura Smith, Michael Thomas, Chip Casey and Mike Christian left Foster Scout Hall en route to Mt Eccles via Ballarat and Hamilton. We picked up Simone Farmer and Nathan Kemp as well as Ben Browning and Trevor Wyhoon of Tarwin River Unit and John Clark a Scout Leader from Inverloch.
After driving through some fairly ordinary weather we found ourselves at the Mount Eccles camping ground at 30 minutes past midnight, where we were met by the caving team leader Steve Holden. After setting up, we were asleep by 2.00 am.
The Venturers cooked bacon and eggs early the next morning after which we met the other three members of the Scout Caving Team, Dave, Nathan and Teri, who gave us a briefing before taking us to the caves.
The caves were formed by volcanic action and as such tend to have rough and sharp surfaces which does not make for easy crawling, sliding, slithering and creeping.
Exploring one of the caves
We went into six caves in all on the Saturday some large and easily accessed, some like little rabbit holes which you really had to squeeze into but once inside opened into sizeable caves.
Lunch time outside the North Pole cave
Back left to right: Casey and Chip Christian, Trevor Wyhoon, Michael Thomas, Nathan Kemp, Laura Smith
Front: Ben Browning, Simone Farmer
Saturday night tea was soup followed by rump steak, mashed potato and veg, most of which was cooked over an open fire (a rare luxury in this day and age) followed by home made damper. After tea the caving team headed off to decorate a nearby cave with tea candles for an awe-inspiring investiture of Michael Thomas. It was an experience none of us will forget.
After another early morning cooked breakfast we packed up camp and headed down the road towards Hamilton to explore more caves.
Stretching the truth (the original South Gippsland 4m long earthworm).
Trevor pulls Ben 'stretch' Browning's arms, Casey, Michael, and Simone
look on in amazement, while Chip and John Clark (1st Inverlock SL) pull
Ben's legs (or yours)
We reluctantly handed back our helmets, say our goodbyes and hit the long road home. It was a weekend to be remembered with many different memories, fears conquered, physical limits tested but always, as is the way with Scouting, safety is the paramount factor.
Our very sincere thanks to the Caving team for their very professional approach and consistent good humor; to the leaders for their hours of driving as well as organising the weekend; the Parks staff for a super campsite and outstanding facilities, but most importantly to the Venturers themselves for making the most of the wonderful opportunity which was offered to them.
Deep underground - Chip, Laura, Simone and Casey