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Pub Trivia Knowledge
From the Mudawangs: “The Northern Budawang Range and Upper Clyde Valley form part of a rugged mountain range on the south coast of New South Wales. A thriving Aboriginal community for thousands of years – and, more recently, and, even by Australian standards, somewhat insensitively, a bombing range for the Australian military (complete with unexploded ordinance to keep an eye out for), it seemed like the perfect location for a bit of weekend exploration.”
Keen Over Yonder readers will know we have been to the Budawang Range, more commonly known as The Budawangs, before. One of our more infamous adventures, we barely scraped through the first day - down two bikes (with shot brakes on account of the heavy mud) and having completely run out of food. Reduced to drinking river water and, with no more spare parts to keep the remaining bikes on the road (er, mud), we had reluctantly pulled the pin less than a day in. That adventure became known as the Mudawangs - a rare and comprehensive defeat.
This time we would be better prepared, with upgraded gear (including 2 brand new Giant ToughRoad SLX GX 0 workhorses), more supplies and a fresh crew. In the meantime, some random history from the area.
Firstly, a nod to some of the colourful characters who shaped that history. At the very top of that list are the Clarke Brothers, otherwise known as ‘Australia’s deadliest bushrangers’. Thomas ands John Clarke committed a string of high-profile crimes in the region, including 71 robberies, the murder of at least one policeman, the suspected shooting of 4 more, as well as killing one of their own gang members.
Unsurprisingly, the Clarke Brothers were almost single-handedly responsible for the enactment of the Felons' Apprehension Act in 1866, which, essentially, permitted citizens of the colony to shoot bushrangers on sight. They weren’t without a whiff of charm, however, reportedly shaking hands with the police after their capture, before being tied to the “Bushrangers Tree” in Nelligen to await transportation to Sydney where they were, ultimately, hanged.
Less well known than their more charismatic counterparts (one iron-clad gentleman and his gang in particular), the Clark Brothers have been variously described as the most bloodthirsty of Australian outlaws, leading at least one journalist to rationalise "Their crimes were so shocking that they never made their way into bushranger folklore — people just wanted to forget about them."
Another well-known local was Major William Sandys Elrington. An ex-soldier and veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, the Major was given a free grant of 2650 acres by the British Government, which eventually came to include Majors Creek and his own farm, Mt Elrington.
A harsh, but successful, pioneer and farmer, the Major thrived in this frontier environment, where much of the labour at the time was supplied by assigned convicts, and escaped convicts lurked in the surrounding ranges. So much so, he became the first Justice of the Peace and one of only two magistrates who served to enforce law and order on the fledgling region. Stories flowed of re-offenders being marched up to Mt Elrington to meet their fate with the Major.
Moving to present day, and mention must be made of the Royal Mail Hotel or, rather, the haunted Royal Mail Hotel, in Braidwood. This large, mustard-yellow pub was once a staging point for coaches during the gold rush, and is said to be filled with the ghosts of past publicans and guests.
As we joined her for a beer, hotel manager Jacqueline Coy recounted seeing grown men leave in the middle of the night because of an "encounter" with the supernatural. Meanwhile, the pub's owners, Kevin and Dianne Bell, casually mentioned that Room 14 was, in particular, a hotbed of strange activity (pardon the pun). Room 14 was, coincidentally, the second of our rooms for the night - and we did indeed have our own interesting story to tell afterwards. To find out more, you will need to read the adventure.
Our second Budawangs adventure was unsupported by vehicles, meaning we carried everything with us on the bikes. For this adventure we opted to stay in accommodation along the way (a good country pub is always so tempting), so our bikepacking was confined to food, water, clothing and equipment. You can read more about what we took along with us in the Road Book.