At the recent Outward Bound Asia Pacific Symposium in Hong Kong, Outward Bounder Col Bolton was invited to share his life journey as an outdoor educator and adventurer. For a number of years Col worked at the Outward Bound Australia, Fisherman’s Point campus. Col currently resides in Hong Kong and still gets out to lead sea kayak trips around the area. Outward Bound Australia was lucky enough to catch up with him after the symposium as he shares some of his memories from his time working in the 1960’s for Outward Bound Australia. Photos are from the Outward Bound archives.
In a time and place far, far away
Fishermans Point Outward Bound, Australia 1966 – 52 years ago
After working in Outward Bound (OB) Schools in the UK and Norway, I looked for an instructor position at Minnesota Outward Bound (MOBS) in the States. MOBS in those days was a seasonal school – just open from the months of May through September. I heard on the OB grapevine, that a friend, Dave Whitham (who worked Ullswater OB and Loitokitok OB in Africa) was now the Director of the Australian OB school. In September of that year, I got in touch with Dave who said “come on down”. After working and travelling through the Pacific Islands I ended up in Sydney, then to the little town of Brooklyn. In those days the local pub was famous for it’s six pm swill (due to prohibition back then pubs in Australia closed at 6-00pm).
Dave appeared in a speedboat towing a small leaky barge. We loaded piles of food and equipment on to the barge and chugged up the Hawkesbury river for an hour or so – the heat and isolation was proving interesting. Eventually we arrived at Fishermans Point.
Fisherman’s Point had an old colonial bungalow as the main building whilst the students (clients) were housed in small dormitories. In a walk around the grounds I saw the OB classics – Wall and Beam, Ropes Course, Spiders Web and a small rock face close by – used for basic climbing instruction. Two of the biggest Goannas ever lay sunning themselves on a gum tree and a couple of red bellied blacks slithered by.
The small Instructor team were a great bunch – well versed in living in the bush. Visits to town were few and far between. Clientele came from all over the country including Aboriginal students. Courses were the classic 26 days long program. The basic outline of these programs were first expedition followed by training week then rock climbing /river expedition culminating in a final expedition.
For me, the expeditions were the highlight of my stay at the school. Coming from the UK and ending up at Fisherman’s Point, I learned so much about Australia from the students on courses; the camaraderie, the friendships and the trust one builds up with students.
I can still remember the silence of the bush in the very early hours of the morning: bird calls, buzzing of flies, carrying a spider stick to wipe the cobwebs out of the bush in front of you, the midday heat, the Old Great North Road, finding convict irons, exploring Russian’s hut, Hangman’s Rock, the Colo Gorge, the salt smell of the river, ghost gums, bush kangaroos, learning about the convict and settler history of the Hawkesbury and meeting people from all walks of Australian life was a huge experience.
After working in many Outward Bound Schools around the world Fisherman’s Point still holds special memories for me.