Wandering the wilds of NSW

South East of Araluen sits acres of seemingly untamed wilderness, stretching out to Eden at the coast.

In 1981 John Blay received a fellowship from the Literature Board and National Parks to explore the wilderness.

Blay was at that stage living near Bermagui, working mostly for the ABC as a documentary writer and playwright.

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In 1982, he set off to spend twelve months in the wilderness areas to understand what a place like that could mean to him as a writer.

Blay was meant to take a year to walk from Araluen to Bemboka.

In the end, he spent nearly four years wandering the wilds of the forest.

During this time he came to understand more and more of what he had thought of as the wild country, seeing the history of human occupation in some of the seemingly wildest places.

“When you live in town in a nice house, you get the feeling that it’s harsh out there, but in fact there are extraordinary places out there that are as comfortable as a motel room,” he said.

“I’ve realised that it’s in the wildest country that you come to recognise best how the old Aboriginal people use that country.”

It wasn’t just wandering. Blay visited many of the old people, who had lived beside the Deau in the Shoalhaven and Upper Shoalhaven for many years. From their stories he was able to understand more of the rich history of the area.

A later project saw Blay explore the Bundian Way, an ancient Aboriginal pathway stretching from Mount Kosciuszko to Eden’s Twofold Bay.

Out of his experiences Blay has produced several books, ‘Back Country: Trek through the Deua and Wadbilliga’ and ‘On Track: Searching out the Bundian Way’.

Understanding the wilderness is critical for understanding the region, says Blay.

Blay will be speaking about his growing knowledge of the wild landscapes of Australia, the Bundian Way and Australian Indigenous people at a Two Fires Festival spot fire event in May. 

The event promises to be eye-opening for those who live just north of the Deau National Park. 

It also promises to be entertaining. You don’t spend decades wandering the state’s wildest country without accumulating a wealth of noteworthy tales.

“I’ve got some very funny stories about the country, which brings it all to life,” Blay said

  • A Dingo Stole My Hat: John Blay talks Bushwalking, History and Nature will take place at 4:30pm on Saturday May 5, at the Braidwood Community Arts Centre, 45 Wallace Street, entry by donation