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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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.

 

School holiday destinations: Yamba

My best childhood memories are of school holidays spent running wild on secluded beaches with my sister or family friends. Bush walks through native Australian flora, scrambling up rocky outcrops for sweeping views of the rugged inland sprawl or endless turquoise ocean. And while some of these destinations could take days and days to reach, others were not that far from home.

Places like Yamba, on the New South Wales north coast, are a perfectly balanced little gem. You have all of the everyday conveniences one becomes accustomed to when living in a city (great cafes, restaurants, food stores, ice cream shop), as well as absolute isolation just a short drive or boat ride away. Instead of camping, we upgraded and stayed at the aptly named “Hilton”, a little shack a short walk between the surf beaches and town. So that everyday we could walk to the beach and hang out in the sun and surf. Then every afternoon walk into town for an ice cream… because what else are school holidays for!

A ten minute drive down the road to Angourie and you’ll find swimming holes to dive into, rock pools to explore and kangaroos feasting in the late afternoon sun. A little bit further south off the main highway is the Yuraygir National Park. Take the inland 4wd track to find a nice little surf break off the point at the northern end of the beach or drive down through Wooli and access the beach at the southern end and drive along until you find a spot to set up for the day.

Regardless of where you end up, you really can’t go wrong spending school holidays at the beach somewhere.

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Byron Bay

I love visiting Byron Bay. Every time I go I tell myself I need to visit more often, but inevitably life takes over and there are a multitude of excuses that prevent me from making the return trip. But for those few days that I am immersed in the blissful chilled-out haze that seems to have permanently engulfed Byron, I remember why it is one of my favourite places on earth…

Tofo, Mozambique

If you’re the kind of traveller that loves a good backpackers party then you can’t go past Tofo. With gorgeous sandy beaches, surf, scuba diving, and a bunch of other fun activities on offer it is a backpackers Mecca. But it’s once the sun starts to dip beneath the hills that the real activities of Tofo unfold.

Dj’s, bands and plenty of drinking, plus chances are that Tofo is the place you will run into every other traveller you’ve met in Mozambique. If you’ve had enough of small fishing villages and getting to hang out with the locals then Tofo is also a good stop over. It has definitely been taken over by the tourism bug. You’ll get charged more for everything here, alcohol, souvenirs, accommodation, and the locals are not quite as friendly to deal with as other destinations in Mozambique. The influence of the Western world is visible here in locals capitalizing on the tourism industry, and so they should. There is money and job opportunities to be had and it should be locals benefiting from this.

If you are after a relaxing travel experience where you can immerse yourself in the culture with the locals of Mozambique, then Tofo is not the ideal location. But for a good time with plenty of sun, beach, and backpackers then Tofo is it.

The Old Hotel, Pomene, Mozambique

Mozambique is a slow cooker melting pot of tropical tribal traditions, laid back beach lifestyle and lost in time Portuguese influences. Perched high on the point at Pomene are remnants of the Portuguese in the form of the Old Hotel. Crumbling under the pressure from the ocean and time, it’s a stark contrast to the raw beauty and traditional living in this coastal reserve.

Vilankulo, Mozambique

For Christmas 2012, my Dad and I decided to road trip through Mozambique. Our first destination was Vilankulo, a 14 hour drive from the South African border crossing of Komatipoort, and the coastal town gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago.

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Vilankulo was the highlight of our 10 day Mozambique road trip. Compared to other towns it was less touristy, the weather was perfect with bright sunny days and cool breezes, and the locals were super friendly. A day trip out to Bazaruto Island and Benguerra Island is a must. With crystal turquoise water, soft white sand, and miles of sand dunes, beach and coral to explore, it is a spectacular trip. The snorkelling at 2 mile reef is ok. But, having grown up in the Whitsundays, I am a little hard to please when it comes to snorkelling spots now days. They have to be pretty amazing (full of schools of fish, turtles, large coral reef shelves and an abundance of marine life hiding in amongst the coral) to impress me.

Top of the sand dunes Bazaruto Island

Top of the sand dunes Bazaruto Island

Baobab Beach Backpackers is a little run down, but what it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in personality and atmosphere. Christmas Day the kitchen put on a roast dinner and our Mozam family gathered to feast on the usual Christmas delights, minus the usual family fun-filled squabbles or stress of presents. For Dinner later on, members of my new-found international family, bartered for some fresh calamari and reef fish, for a Christmas night Braai. So regardless of being thousands of kilometres from home, we still stuffed out selves silly for the day.

Christmas Dinner Braai preparation

Christmas Dinner Braai preparation

Located 3-4 houses up the road from the entrance to the Backpackers is a dress makers. For around $10 USD you can have a custom-made dress, top, skirt whipped up in a matter of hours. Head down to the market in town where there is a decent selection of cheap local fabric to choose from, before heading back out to the dress makers to get measured for your outfit. While making alterations to my finalised dress we were invited to join in with the families Christmas celebrations.

Christmas celebrations with the dress makers family

Christmas celebrations with the dress makers family

The friendliness of the people in Vilankulo is what made this place so special. No where else in Mozambique were we able to interact and hang out with the locals in such a relaxed way. In Vilankulo it wasn’t all about trying to make a buck off the tourists, instead trying to overcome language barriers to learn a little about each other’s way of life and enjoy a few laughs, while relaxing in tropical paradise.

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