A dint in the charm and reputation of the Sapphire Coast, with thousands of dollars in camping gear stolen from local scouts at Aragunnu between Tathra and Bermagui on Sunday morning.
Three Venturers from Merimbula Scouts and their two leaders lost everything they had with them, all stolen as they look one last look around this magical place.
“I’ve hiked all over the world and this has never happened,” says Venturer leader Jo Thorpe.
“There was a reasonable amount of people camping at Aragunna and as we went around asking people if they had seen anything, or noticed any cars driving in and out, the comment we had from three or four people was – I’ve camped here for 30 years and this has never happened.”
Jo and her husband Don Peterson set out with three fourteen-year-olds from Goalen Head on Saturday morning, headed for the idyllic campground within Mimosa Rocks National Park under their own steam.
“We’d walked the eight kilometres to Hidden Valley, the most amazing part of the coast, over Bunga Head, which I’d never been to before, we were all so excited, we were navigating with compasses, finding our way and we got to Aragunnu and had a great camp overnight,” Jo says.
It was the first big overnight hike for all three kids, for one of the boys it was the first use of his treasured hiking backpack. All three had just returned from the Australian Scout Jamboree and had graduated to the next level of the famous outdoor skills organisation.
Having packed up from their night and getting ready to hike back the party of five decided to take a look at the ancient Aboriginal middens in the area and track down the wreck of the old steamer, SS Mimosa – which hit rocks in the area in 1863.
“It was all only 500 metres from our camp, so we didn’t take our packs, we put them down behind a really big log, and in the 10 – 15 minutes we were away our packs disappeared,” Jo says with a tremble of emotion in her voice.
“Thousands of dollars worth of camping gear was stolen in the blink of an eye plus two tents that had been donated to Merimbula Scouts by Bendigo Bank.”
Jo and Don also lost their phones, GPS, car keys, and wallets.
“I have to say a huge big thanks to Catherine Green of Jindabyne, she was camping next to us, and the Merimbula Public teacher from Mogareeka who was surfing at Aragunnu, they gave us a lift back home,” Jo says.
“Anybody out there who sees people with camping gear they wouldn’t normally have it probably belongs to us, the boys and Merimbula Scouts.
“We’re still counting the cost but at the moment we’re looking at a replacement value of about $5,500 for packs, tents, sleeping bags and mats, stoves, wet weather gear, clothes, GPS etcetera.
“People trust each other down here, everyone we’ve spoken to is really rattled.”
A report has been filed with police, anyone with information is asked to contact their local station.
“This is not the story the kids thought they’d be taking to school on Monday,” Jo says.
If you’re in a position to help, please donate to:
Account: Merimbula Cub Scout Group
Bank: Bendigo Bank, Pambula
Reference: Stolen gear and your name