Weekend wandering: Teewah Beach with Salty

A few weeks ago we upgraded from our “tarp mahal” tent camping set up to an off-road camper trailer. “Salty,” as she (the camper trailer) has been christened, was welcomed into the family with grand plans to take her to the beach as soon as possible. However, life got in the way and Salty sat forlornly in our backyard, providing a bed for my dad to sleep in during his recent visit, and a cubby house to play in on the weekends, but no off-road adventures or ocean breezes. That is, until this past weekend. Salty, packed and ready to go for the past six weeks, finally made it to the beach.


We cruised up to Teewah Beach in the Great Sandy National Park. Salty was in fine form, happy to be out of the yard and finally feel the sand between her All terrain tyres. As we arrived at our camp site, I left my hubby and Salty alone for some quality bonding time. There was some cursing, and the odd pole thrown at the ground in frustration, but they eventually found a way to get along. As the sun disappeared behind the coloured sand dunes rising up behind our camp site, Salty was set up and ready to relax.


Salty had hoped to see a whale or two swim by, but sadly the whales had stopped for a break further north for the weekend. There was still plenty of entertainment, including a few championship games of totem tennis, giant jelly fish spotting, and hammock swings.

And after a big day of sunshine and sea breezes, Salty warmed up by the campfire, before we all turned in for the night.


All too quickly Salty’s adventure to the beach was over. We packed her back up with gear and hooked her up to the Landy. Salty, a very happy camper – covered in sand and salt – daydreamed about her next adventure to the beach the whole drive home.

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Weekend Wandering: Sunshine Coast

My days as a solo traveller are a thing of the past – well, for the time being anyway. The way I travel has adapted to become more inclusive of my new family. Instead of flying off to some distant location with very few ideas of what I’ll do once there, now I negotiate how many stuffed toys are required for a weekend camping trip. Family travels are squeezed in around work and school, so the destination must be close to home to make the most of the limited time. Which has inspired me to start a new little series on the blog… Weekend wanderings: because travel is anywhere outside of home, no matter how long or short the trip. So on Friday afternoon we headed north to Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast for a weekend of family-friendly fun.

Learning how to catch waves with Dad

Learning to catch waves with Dad

After our two camping trips earlier this year to the Yuraygir National Park, camping in a designated spot with limited space felt a little claustrophobic, however, having an amenities block with clean flushing toilets and hot showers on demand does make life a little easier. The key to any good camping destination though is the distance to the beach, because its the sound of the ocean you want to fall asleep too and not the sound of traffic on the main road. Tucked in behind the dunes, we could head to the beach before the heat of the day kicked in, or the kids could ride bikes and play around our campsites. And at the end of the day we took chairs and drinks down to the beach to relax in the shade and admire the view.

SONY DSC

During the day we escaped the stifling stillness of the campground and went to Bli Bli Wake Park. A feature in more than a few memories from our not so distant past. Instead of jumping on the cable for a wakeboard, dads and daughters explored the aqua park. Jumping, slipping and sliding along the inflatable playground, splashing in the water and squealing in delight. When 50 minutes was up and they stumbled out of the water with big giddy smiles, we retreated to the shade of the deck and reminisced about summer days spent working and riding at cable parks and living to wakeboard.

Sliding at the Aqua Park

Sliding at the Aqua Park

Whether you are camping for two days, two weeks, or two months, on the last day – as tents begin to collapse and you try to remember how to pack the car so everything fits back in – mumbles and overtired cries of “I don’t want to go home” and “I wish we could stay here forever” escape both adults and kids. And we all plot and plan our next miniature escape… or how to turn the weekend wandering into a permanent lifestyle.

 

 

Wild & Free: Illaroo

“All good things are wild & free.”

I grew up camping. Days were spent running wild across beaches, climbing trees, rocks or exploring over-grown bush tracks, either by myself or with a tangle of dirt-crusted kids. My fellow adventurers were either friends I’d known since before I could remember or whatever kids happened to be at the campground at the time. I was aware of these earlier friendships through the stories our parents told of us as mischievous toddlers or the sepia toned photographs of our cloth nappy clad, or naked, selves sitting in the shade of a tree playing with washed up stalks of coral. Some of these friendships were for a few minutes, a day, week, or, on the rare occasion, a lifetime.

After hubby & I spent the Christmas holidays camping at Illaroo, & exploring the Yuraygir NP, our passion for camping was re-ignited. It was this passion for nature that we wanted to share with my husband’s little one, just as our parents had shared with us. There is something incredibly liberating in switching off from technology/work/society & returning to the freedom of nature. Time slows down, connections are formed, & memories made.  

I watched as dad explained & guided daughter to cast a fishing rod, encouraging & answering her questions on how to cast out further after the hook landed only a metre from shore. Cheeky grins lit up their faces, co-conspirators in adventure, as they paddled across the Sandon River to look for shells together on Plover Island. And together we watched as she peddled off on her bike with her new camping best friends, memories of our own childhood camping adventures resurfacing with each squeal of delight & ringing bell that drifted on salty air across the campground.

The beauty of camping lies in the simple moments. Shoes are optional. Hair tangles & knots in the salty air, the hair brush ignored in the bottom of a bag. Showers, warmed by the sun, hang from a tree branch ready to trickle water over sunscreen clad bodies. After a day of swimming & exploring, as adults all over the campground spread out a newspaper or book, a cool drink in hand, & campfires crackle to life, the campground kids converge on the nearest hammock to see how many of them can fit in at once… And how high they can swing it. There are goannas to stalk & kookaburras to cackle at.  

 

There are games of hide-n-seek to play. And when the colour begins to fade from the day, adults & kids tramp down to the beach together to watch nature’s scheduled show: the moon rising above the crash of waves, the orange glow stepping down wave by wave until it reaches the shore & the light creeps closer to our toes on the incoming tide. For a moment the chatter stops. But the sting & slap of mozzies soon breaks the peace & we all head back to the fire. Then there are marshmallows to burn & sparklers to twirl. 

 
And when it’s time to pack up camp & say goodbye, soft echoes of “I don’t want to go home” or “I wish we could stay camping forever” float among the sounds of folding tarps & tents collapsing. Maybe one day we will pack it all in to live wild & free. But, until then, our consolation lies in the pull of the wild, it’s in our blood now, we’ll be camping again before we know it.
    
   
   

Vitamin Sea: Yuraygir National Park

“The cure for everything is saltwater – sweat, tears or the sea.”

The sweetest words I’ve ever heard from a doctor: “you need salt. Eat it, swim in it. Just add it in any way you can into your life.”

For months, we’d (my new hubby and I) tossed around the idea of packing up and heading off camping over the Christmas/New Year holidays. I’d had a relapse of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) start a few months before and other circumstances kept changing around plans for Christmas, so we flipped back and forth on the idea several times… that is until my new Doctor told me to get some Vitamin Sea. Decision made.

Sandon Beach, Yuraygir National Park

Sandon Beach, Yuraygir National Park

Yuraygir National Park encompasses the coastline between Yamba and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales with the Solitary Island Marine Park covering the ocean/waterways from Plover Island (Sandon River bar north), out to the Solitary Islands and south to Coffs Creek. We spent 12 days camped at Illaroo South Campground under the shade of Eucalypts and Banksias just behind Sandon Beach. A perfect little spot to easily access supplies from Minnie Water, the 4wd beach access track to Sandon, the road to Wooli or Grafton, or simply do nothing but move between beach and campsite hammock all day.

There is something about camping that suddenly makes lethargy and sloth-like behaviour socially acceptable. For 12 days it was perfectly normal to go bed when the sun went down at 8/8.30 at night and sleep for 10-12 hours. It’s fine to nap at least once during the day, if not twice, even if you only woke up an hour before hand. If you brush your teeth and had a swim in the ocean that day then you are clean. If the sun was out and you end up with hot water in your solar shower then maybe you’ll wash in fresh water too, but not for long, as you have to conserve the water in your jerry cans until you can be bothered driving out to the tap to refill your water supplies. Hair washing is definitely out of the question (well it’s not, but I was glad for the excuse not to wash hair as it’s one of those mundane tasks that lately requires between 30 minutes on a good day and over 2 hours on a bad day to recover from). For 12 days I didn’t feel guilty if I was tired. I didn’t feel as if I should be doing more. Instead, I simply enjoyed ‘being’.

For 12 days I also switched off my phone. There were no power points, laptops, TVs, microwaves, or washing machines. I disconnected from the technological world and reconnected with the natural world –  the real world. We loaded up all of our fishing gear, which we had very little idea how to use, and dropped a line in the Sandon River. My hubby puffing out his chest and feeling manly when he caught a Silver Trevally. I’m a hunter. A provider. See – he said, waving the fish towards me. After taking it off the line though neither of us knew what to do next. Slit its throat. No, just put it in the bucket with water. How do you gut it? Where do you start filleting from? We caught two more fish over the following days and ended up gutting them and baking them whole on our camp fire. It was just easier. Our campfire became our main source for cooking. Baked potatoes, baked fish, damper, garlic bread, and caramelised whole sweet potatoes. Then we’d sit around the fire reading and warding off the sandflies and mozzies through the plumes of smoke blowing onto us.

All the gear, no idea. The waterways in the Yuraygir National Park are some of the cleanest waterways in all of Australia.

All the gear, no idea. The waterways in the Yuraygir National Park are some of the cleanest waterways in all of Australia.

In the early afternoon, Black Cockatoos screeched overhead dropping empty Banksia pods on the ground. Soft thuds on the sandy grass. Goannas slowly creeping around camp, their tongues flicking out smelling for scraps of food and insects seeking shelter under the edge of our tent. I came across a baby whip snake on the path back from the toilet one night. Burnt orange and brown scales blending into the ground below. I thought it was a shoe lace, left behind by one of the kids that race around the campground on their bikes, then the end moved and a tongue poked out, head tensed into a compressed ‘S’, body ready to spring forward.  Who needs TV when Mother Nature puts on a show 24/7.

Yuraygir National Park is home to the Coastal Emu with 100 roaming through the park. Signs warn you to slow down – Emus active. But we saw none. I suppose them disappearing into the bush is no different to us heading bush to get away from the Christmas craziness. I can’t stand people lately. I prefer silence, well apart from the soundtrack provided by Mother Nature. The dolphins, on the other hand, seemed to love people. Surfer’s anyway. There is something quite meditative about watching dolphins frolic in the waves. I also felt a lot safer in the knowledge that hubby wouldn’t be eaten by a shark with a pod of dolphins chilling beside him.

Dolphins playing in the waves off Diggers Camp

Dolphins playing in the waves off Diggers Camp

More than anything, disconnecting from the material/technological world and reconnecting with the natural world reinvigorated my desire to write (something I haven’t wanted to do or been capable of doing due to mass brain fog over the past few months). I started taking photos and reading again too. Some days lying in the hammock reading until the sea breezes gently rocked me to sleep. My dose of vitamin sea may not have magically improved my energy levels, but it did inspire the creative juices to start flowing again. I could happily live in a tent beside the ocean for the rest of my life, but until that moment comes when I can shut off from the ‘civilised’ world, my mantra, my goal, for the new year is to slow down, to reconnect with nature and myself, and to simply be present. Busy is no longer a part of my vocabulary.

 

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