A resident of the town, Mr Wayne Caban, had just reported an encounter with a Yowie he had experienced in the Barrington Range area, and we wished to interview him.
Mr Caban had recently been attempting to secure photographic evidence of the Yowie on the Barrington Range without success. Wayne's encounter with the Yowie took place while he was employed with a mining company, engaged in carrying out an exploration programme on the Gummi River, at the headwaters of the Manning River near Tomala in the Barrington Range area.
Wayne remained with the company from October 1973 to February 1974, during which time he learnt of many strange things in the area from among mining acquaintances. He said "When I began my employment I was asked by Barney Matthews, a contractor who hailed from Armidale, if I knew anything about a so-called 'gorilla' which was said to roam around the Tops area and had been seen from time to time by timber cutters". One night in mid-January 1974 Wayne was to have an experience which was to bring back to memory the question which Barney Matthews had asked him.
Wayne was left alone in the camp at the time as caretaker while the rest of the workforce went on their six-day leave period.
The time was about 10pm on the third night of his lone vigil. Wayne lay on his bunk watching TV in the caravan which he and Barney had occupied together.
The night outside was pitch dark and pouring rain to boot. All seemed well until Wayne suddenly felt a mighty thump against the top side of the caravan, followed within seconds by the van being lifted as though something or someone was trying to push it over. Wayne yelled loudly and the van was immediately dropped. The only light in the van was coming from the TV screen. Wayne jumped off his bunk and leapt the length of the van to grab and light a gas lantern, which was thankfully stowed in a cupboard at the time.
As he lit the lamp he heard a commotion outside and knew that something had tipped over a table left outside the van, and which was laden with cooking utensils. Then he heard guy ropes snapping on an annexe of the van behind, immediately followed by the same sound in the general direction of a six-man tent pitched a few yards from his caravan. Wayne told us, "I knew it had not been a bull or steer for there was no noise involved, such as there would have been had a bovine been the culprit. It was dark and wet outside and I had no intention of going out to check on anything."
Wayne grabbed and loaded the .270 rifle that he always kept in the van, and sat there waiting for whatever it was to hit the van again; for by now Wayne held fears that it was indeed the 'gorilla'. But the 'thing', whatever it was, left the camp without further sound. Wayne said, "When daylight came I checked for damage. I found the table had been hurled some distance from its original position, with pots, pans and dishes scattered all around the camp. Some of the guy ropes on the annexe of the van behind were broken, as were a couple of the tent ropes."
Reluctant to think it was anything but a bovine he began to look for hoof prints but failed to find any. What he did find were enormous footprints in the mud about the camp grounds. When the crew returned to the camp Wayne told them fo his experience and showed them the footprints. They all agreed that the creature had indeed been the mysterious 'gorilla'. Wayne had first heard about the Yowie from a young Aboriginal boy while working in the Armidale district some years previously.
The description of the Yowie by the Aborigine was: "Man-like and covered from head to foot in long hair, and anything from 7 to 10 ft tall." He also informed Wayne that Yowies were said to frequent the Walcha Gorge. This was also supported by the boy's father, an old dingo shooter. One story concerned an old Aboriginal man who had wandered into the gorge whilst drunk, and who was later found by a search party, which included the boy's father - propped up in a sitting position against a fallen tree. His head had been torn from his shoulders.
Wayne Caban began to spend a lot of time on the Barrington Range east of Scone, searching in the hope of finding evidence of the Yowie, and in the course of his searches came across a set of large, ape-like footprints in the mud of a mountain track high up in the forest country of the range. Driving up the range Heather and I searched the area where the footprints had been found, but saw nothing. However, we experienced here the distinct feeling that we were being watched from a distance by 'something', a feeling we would experience again later, in the course of our search on the Carrai Plateau west of Kempsey.
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