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Editor of the Maroondah Bushwalking Club in the Poo!

A Cautionary Tale: 3rd May, Caravan Park, Portland. Having got Footnotes published last night I looked forward to walking with Jan Shaddick at the start of the GSWW section from Battersby Camp to North Nelson Road. I had dropped Brian who was driving the bus, and the 3 other members off at Battersby Camp to catch up with the rest of the walkers, and Jan S and myself walked out behind them for 3 km before turning back. Last night was blowing a gale, pouring rain, and we had woken up to similar this morning, with 90km winds forecast for the day. On the drive out to Battersby we had driven through a very strong downpour, with strong winds, but it was fine when we got out to the camp. Walking along the river the sun came out, and we only had a couple of light showers.

There had been a school group from Warrnambool camped there, but they were packing up to leave as we started our walk, and a truck was waiting to pump out the toilet (which had been done by the time we got back from our walk). On arriving back at the camp I took the advantage of going to the toilet rather than finding a tree, but as I was leaning over to close the lid, my elbow caught my mobile phone sticking out of my shallow raincoat pocket, and it flew across in front of me, down the toilet. Being a drop-down toilet over a vertical pipe, using a torch one could just see the phone case lying at the bottom. Luckily, since the toilet had been pumped out only an hour before, there was only a thin sludge at the bottom, but it was at least 10 or 12 ft down a narrow pipe. I was in despair. Couldn’t believe what had just happened! The end of the world! Not only the loss of my phone, but also my bank cards which I carry in the phone case. Sheepishly I informed Jan of my dilemma, and we racked our brains as to what we could do. Was there any possibility of ringing Parks Victoria and asking if there was any chance I could retrieve the phone when they next pumped out the toilet, since we were staying here another week? Slim chance of that happening, but I was clutching at straws. Just then 2 park rangers drove past (Tom and “Shorty’ from the Nelson Depot), checking for fallen trees and branches following the severe storm overnight. Jan flagged them down and explained my predicament.

After Tom had a dig at me as to ‘why I was playing on my phone while on the toilet’ they spent the next hour trying to work out if and how they could retrieve the phone. First they brought out a very long shovel, but that only went about halfway down, so they added a loose broom handle which they duct- taped to the shovel – but that still didn’t get down far enough. Then they unscrewed the plastic head of a garden rake off the pole and taped that to the other two, which got them to the bottom.My ‘knight in shining armour’ Tom had me holding his phone torch (with the strict instruction not to drop that one too) and he spent about 15 minutes trying to drag the phone up the side of the pipe, but unfortunately there was a lip on the side of the pipe which he couldn’t get past without the phone dropping off the shovel. So they decided to go back to their depot in Nelson to get something better to get under the phone and lift it up. In the meantime Jan and I were stopping a school group that we had met on the track from using that toilet (I had used the disabled toilet, so there was still a regular toilet on the other side available for use). After they had left, a horde of Year 9 students from Beaconsfield arrived on trail bikes, so after explaining our predicament (further embarrassment) we had to block them from using the toilet too. Then our Park Rangers returned, with an excellent tool that would fit under the phone and bring it up. Unfortunately that proved too wide to go down the toilet. They did everything they could to bend the tongs of the tool and bashed it with a hammer, but got nowhere. So that idea went down the toilet (excuse the pun, and anyway it wouldn’t go down the toilet!) Then with lateral thinking they had 2 small L shaped brackets which they taped to a short piece of dowel, then taped that securely to the multipiece-pole still sitting in the toilet. They removed the shovel at the bottom of the multipiece ‘pole’ and by stretching down (and by this time his mate was holding the torch, since I couldn’t blame him for not trusting me!)

Tom successfully brought up the phone. Hallelujah!! There was a tap nearby so I was able to sluice off most of the faeces, and put it in a plastic bag. It was still working! I asked the rangers to have a drink at the pub on me for their wonderful efforts, but they wouldn’t accept any payment.

Back at the caravan park I thoroughly washed the phone, my two credit cards, and a $5 note in hot soapy water, and threw the suede phone case in the rubbish bin. While generally appearing to work, pushing buttons didn’t get results, but after removing the clear plastic sheet which protected the screen, the phone worked perfectly. Of course, at happy hour that night, Jan stole the show recounting our events of the day, and for the next 24 hours it was the main topic of conversation (and regrettably might be the most remembered part of the basecamp).

Jan sent an email to Parks Victoria thanking and commending Tom and Shorty – ‘On a busy day for them, they took time to assist us, and we are very grateful. Please thank them again and congratulate them on their willingness to help’.

Alan Stevenson

Photos: Jan Shaddick