It was December 1965, I was in my final year at the University of Sydney and had scored a university vacation job ( I didn’t know what!) with an organisation called Outward Bound ( whatever that was?). I was told to go to the Hawkesbury River, find Brown’s wharf, be there at 7pm and I would be picked up and brought to the Outward Bound School, ( wherever that was?). There were no street lights and few names but I eventuality found a lane that led to a place which a local told me was Brown’s wharf (whatever that was…it wasn’t a wharf.. and had no name!). It was all dark and there was no one there. I waited… At 8pm I decided I must be in the wrong place so I got back in my little car ( Morris Minor) and drove into the village to make more inquiries. I found someone who knew …and who said I had in fact found the right place so I went back. At 10 pm I decided to go back to the public telephone box and try ringing. The public phone was dead. Phones weren’t as available as today and certainly no mobile phones. I returned to Browns wharf.
At 11 pm I wondered.. do I give up?.. Is this a bad joke? I decided to have a sleep in my car until morning and see what daylight would bring.
About 12.30 am I was awoken by a car pulling up and then there was a big guy walking around. I approached this shadowy figure… “Hi there” says I …” Do you know anything about an organisation called Outward Bound”…”Yes” came the reply …”I am Adrian Middleton, the Chief Instructor at Outward Bound.. Who are you?”… “I am Garry Richards, I was supposed to meet someone here”
“Oh great… I don’t know anything about you, but I am pleased you are here, I have 5 tons of food and supplies to load onto a barge and boat and wondered how I was going to do it… grab your gear and come with me!”
I was led about 100 yards ( yep.. pre metric!) and sure enough there were huge piles of boxes there.. He pointed to a long rickety narrow jetty … and said.. all of that has to get onto the barge out there and into that boat. Then he disappeared again into the dark. ( happily only for 10 mins while he got something from his car). I started loading about 1 am. By 3.30am we had loaded up and headed off on the water to “the school” ( wherever that was?)
Out into Broken bay and slowly up a huge river.. all black…. absolutely no idea where I was. Adrian, although a friendly guy, was too exhausted to talk much and I was in a daze.. so most of the dark journey was in silence. ( Adrian Middleton ( now deceased) was Chief Instructor at that time.. little did I realize that some years later I would succeed him as the Director of the Australian Outward Bound school !) . At about 5.30 am we arrived somewhere. The only thing I could see was a jetty. We secured the barge and boat and climbed many many steps. There were no lights on. It was a hot night. Adrian said he didn’t know where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do.. so took me into what I later knew as the staff common room and told me to sleep on the couch there. around 6.30am I fell asleep. At 8am I was awoken and taken to see the Director of the Outward Bound School ( at that time called The Warden!)… an Englishman by the name of David Witham. I still hadn’t seen where I was!
He told me I was now an assistant storeman !