Australia Day, the Australian Way

28 Jan

We love camping, seriously, we do. It’s just that since moving to Australia (you know the home to some of the most deadly creatures in the world) I’ve been some what reticent about pitching a tent in the middle of a field and sleeping with only a layer of canvas between me and said creatures.

However, when a group of friends invited us on a camping trip to North New South Wales for the Australia Day weekend, we couldn’t refuse. The long weekend spent by the beach, hanging out with surfers, some SUP-ing, barbecues in the open air, beers in the esky and Triple J’s Hottest 100 on the radio – there couldn’t be anything more Australian than that.

So it was that on the Friday afternoon with a surfboard and SUP board on the roof, tents, eskies and food in the boot and bodies and beach towels in the car, we set off more than five hours north to Point Plomer near Crescent Head on NSW’s North Coast. There was some rain forecast but plenty of sunshine as well so we weren’t too worried. After all there’s something quite comforting about listening to rain on canvas while tucked up in your sleeping bag.

The journey up was fairly uneventful apart from driving along the dirt road to the campsite, seeing the range on your fuel tank plummet to 50km (should have filled up in that petrol station an hour back) and then arriving in the dark and trying to pitch a tent you’ve never put up before. We got it up and all was well.

The campsite was pretty basic; a field by the beach at the end of a dirt road, cold showers, and no drinking water. We woke up to grey skies and rain. James lost his sense of humour slightly and all I had gained was more than a dozen mosquito bites during the night. The surfers in the group went out to catch their first waves of the morning while we unpacked and went to find petrol.

However by late morning the sun was shining, it was hot, we were in a campsite right next to the beach, had spent a good time swimming and messing about in the surf and the rest of the group arrived. Three of us decided to head to a different beach for a swim and although it was too choppy for James to get much use of the SUP board, it was really nice to have escaped Sydney for a weekend and have a change of scene with good friends and meeting new ones.

To cap the day off perfectly, we all headed to the point in the early evening to watch the surfers, have a few drinks and then back to camp to cook sausages and dahl, listen to the final top ten on Triple J and hang out around the camp fire. The surfers compared notes and jellyfish stings and on reflection it had been a very apt way of spending Australia Day: where else do you have to avoid jellyfish in the ocean, spiders in the shower block, mosquitoes in the evening and be ‘dingo aware’ at all times? Yes it was idyllic: great company, good food, great location and a wonderful end to Australia Day.

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Then the rain came.

It is worth noting that ex-tropical cyclone Oswald has been wreaking havoc up in Queensland and is heading south as I write. It seems we suffered some of the effects last night as at around 1.30am we were rudely awakened by the thundering of raindrops (although they sounded more like pellets) battering our tent. (Perhaps less ‘comforting’ and more menacing would be appropriate by now.) Wind gusts caused the walls to sway and lean dangerously in over our now wide-awake bodies. Eventually there was nothing for it. By 2am torch lights could be seen dotted around the campsite. We put on waterproofs and headed outside to attach more guy ropes and hammer in the pegs, which had started to uproot. Through the howling wind and lashing rain, we could hear other campers doing the same and we saw our friends who were all out, making sure everyone was okay. One couple decided to give up and sleep in the car but after spending half an hour pushing all my force against a pole to keep the tent from collapsing from the wind, we settled back to our tent and tried to get some more sleep. It did not come. James soon nodded off. (It must have been that familiar sensation of being in a storm at sea…) I lay waiting for my view of the sky to become clearer as our shelter was unmercilessly ripped from the ground and spent the next half hour watching the swaying tent and listening to what sounded like a firing squad against the fly sheet.

I did manage some sleep but as soon as the sun rose we were up and packing away. It was obvious the rain was not going to ease and so with little more than six hours’ sleep between us we somehow managed to get the tent down in the torrential rain and pack up the car. For not the first time, I was glad of having the 4×4 and a couple of friends in their car decided to drive behind us in case they got stuck on the mud track heading out.

Six and a half hours later we arrived back in Sydney, fairly exhausted and not looking forward to the job of emptying the car of everything damp and dirty. I have to say I have never looked forward to my bed so much and despite a very ‘Australian’ Australia Day, the Australian weather systems were one thing I could probably have done without. Still, it was certainly an experience that won’t be forgotten in a hurry and we still love camping, seriously we do.

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One Response to “Australia Day, the Australian Way”

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  1. A taste of Summer | Upside Down - April 8, 2014

    […] of beach trips and barbecues and our third Australia Day, which fortunately was not as eventful as last year’s camping trip! In fact it involved a picnic overlooking the harbour at Manly – and a few flags just to show […]

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