posted on Jan, 16 2008 @ 05:29 AM
The Kings Cross Hilton is now a thing of the past.
Kings Cross in Sydney, New South Wales, has at one time or another in its checkered past been every incarnation of a red light district, from
high-faluting place to be seen to heroin-soaked coc aine-dusted cesspit of ethnic gang violence and hookers who HAD to be seen at night- the
daytime version would have sent even the drunkest punter screaming into the wild blue yonder.
Meeting in a select room of the red light district Hilton, overlooking the cosmopolitan Oxford Street, The Yowie Club met once a month.
Part urban spelunker, part ghost story raconteur and part authentic Sydney "character", the typical member of the Yowie Club was a well-heeled
Australian male, "old enough to know better but young enough to do it anyway".
The Yowie Club was founded by Gus Hogarth, a man eventually distinguished by becoming one of the least clean and most foul-mouthed of the "Sydney
Ducks" of San Francisco.
Prior to this career he was an ex-convict in Sydney with a penchant for digging under the colonial architecture. On one of his excavations he found a
cache of someone else's treasure, and with this "tosh" founded a mercantile empire for a year or two, before being summarily caught and flogged.
After this, other than some wanderings around Sydney, it was not until he claimed to have seen a "Yowie", a kind of bear-ape-man, in the Blue
Mountains, that he reappears.
Originally the Yowie Club was not much more than a group of thugs who met in a grog shop and told tall tales. When the later version of the club
gravitated inevitably to the Hilton at the Cross, they had become one part sewer adventurer and one part classic 1970s Aussie male, complete with
shirt open to the waist to display gold medallion and lots of hair, and the obligatory Newcombe mo.
Where the Yowie Club becomes more interesting is on their expedition to the Tank Stream.
Like many a river in a long-settled city, the Tank Stream began its life since white settlement as an aboveground creek. As building progressed and
the years went by, the Tank Stream went underground, until now, when only by a secret entrance from Sydney Harbour and a considerable spot of swimming
and rowing can the full labyrinth be explored.
But what a couple of surprises waited for the Yowie club members who did so back in 1978...
After a short row and a long swim, they emerged deep under Sydney and not too far from the basement of an office block. At this point there was still
filtered light from the office block sewer culvert, itself in a small square courtyard behind the ebb and flow of one of Sydney's busiest shopping
Pressing on past a Y-fork, the adventurers passed convict era brickwork and a low arch of clay bricks and tiles- complete with convict scratchmarks
Taking the less flooded section, the adventurers found a ledge that had not been touched for a long time. Breathlessly, they turned over the rotting
leather package on the ledge.
They hoped for gold coins, ancient letters, a treasure map...
What they found was a moldering wad of what was once a newspaper circa 1890 and a few colonial coins. Treasure enough! It was decided to turn back.
The tide had decided otherwise.
Where they had come from was now completely flooded, and as the tide in the harbour rose, so did the chance they would be drowned where they stood.
With water now waist deep, they realised that the ledge was never flooded- or else the package would long since have disappeared. Working this much
out, they climbed past the ledge and looked for another tunnel, a ladder, anything. They found nothing useful and climbed higher, closer to the sewer
Halfway up the tunnel to the sewer opening, they found another tunnel, running parallel to the pavement above. They crawled along it. Below, water had
swirled in. There was a loud dull clank from the tunnels below.
They crawled on, bitching to each other about the loss of their dinghy back at the entrance to the Tank Stream.
Eventually, they arrived at the end of the tunnel. Filthy steps led upwards. Downwards, a smooth concrete tunnel was gushing with what had been
flushed recently in the city above. They decided on the steps.
Carefully, and not without many a slip, they made it to the top of the steps, where they found another concrete tunnel, an electric light hanging in a
metal cage, and a locked metal door.
They had come prepared, and with only a slight spot of vandalism (Gus Hogarth would have been proud) they were through the door. Behind it was a tiny
service room with a ladder upwards. Climbing up that ladder took them to a square concrete bunker. Unable to resist temptation, they left their own
more or less scatalogical entry in the sewer technician clipboard notes and made their way back to the surface.
They looked they had lost a bet and smelled none too fresh, but with a handful of old pennies and an English threepenny, and a rotted and illegible
colonial newspaper- The Yowie Club had triumphed again!
I am indebted to Roger McKenzie Smith, the leader of the expedition, for sharing his account of their adventure.