Morning tea with my new friends and a last goodbye to the lovely town of Woolgoolga and I was on my way to my next adventure – camping for five days before my next housesit assignment. I had decided to visit a town that I hadn’t seen since childhood, and near where my father’s family originated from – South West Rocks.
The Trial Bay Gaol camping ground appealed to my inquisitive side, and I was pleased with my choice when I arrived. Still quite busy from a weekend triathlon, I selected an isolated spot that had some shade trees on the western side to protect me from the hot afternoon sun. I pitched my little tent and was all set up in under an hour.
Not bad for a novice with a brand new tent! Ventured in for a swim in the bay mid afternoon – the water was like bath water, it was so warm. Cooked sausages on the barbecue and enjoyed my first ’camping’ meal – all on my own. Dark by 8pm – what to do? Internet doesn’t work, so I read my book by torchlight until I was weary enough to call it a night. Slept better than I expected – my blow up mattress wasn’t so bad.
Day one: Decided I needed to get tent poles and rope to put up a tarp over my tent in case of rain. These little tents are only made of nylon, so may be showerproof, but not stormproof. Spent longer trying to get the tarp up than the whole tent.
Finally I succeeded, good job I did. I was woken from an afternoon nap by a ranger calling out that a severe storm was on its way.
I just managed to throw a few things in the car that I didn’t want wet and down it came. I tore around securing ropes and each time I entered the tent, the tarp drained its load on top of me, at the entrance to the tent. I entered for a final time, soaked to the bone and sat cross legged on the floor watching the waterfall in front of my doorway. I could do nothing but giggle – here I was living out the most dreaded of all events when camping, with not a soul to share the adventure with!
My little tent held itself together for the duration of the storm, and I emerged in dry clothes feeling quite proud of my efforts – the only thing that got wet was the end of my sheet which copped a drenching from the waterfall before I turned the mattress around, away from the entrance.
A stroll around the camping ground filled in the remainder of the afternoon – there’s something quite appealing about walking in the rain after a storm. The rain eased just long enough for me to prepare and eat my dinner before it started again and continued through the night. The only water that appeared inside the tent the next morning was fortunately all collected in one corner of the plastic flooring – from melted ice inside my cooler bag. So, no they are not waterproof if you are considering buying one instead of an esky.
As it so happened, I had a mop in the back of my car (leftover from vacating my apartment three weeks previously – I am loathe to throw useful items away, so kept it), so was able to mop up the water with no problems. As well as mop the mud away from the entrance to my little Taj Mahal. Who’d of thought I’d be needing a mop during camping!
Day two of my camping expedition took me into the town of South West Rocks, to a delightful beach called Horseshoe Bay.
I had remembered it being a pretty place from my childhood – it still was. A refreshing swim (colder water today) and I was ready for lunch.
Fish and chips and a ginger beer overlooking the beach – life doesn’t get much better than this! Well yes, actually it does. I finished it off with a Mojito flavoured gelato from Chillati, the local gelateria. Now I am in heaven!
A quick afternoon nap filled in a bit of the afternoon, then a brisk stroll along the beach. It is low tide, so no waves to speak of and I spot a pod of dolphins making their way across the bay. I recall something about having a blessed life if you see dolphins frolicking – that makes me feel good. I really am ‘living in joy’ at the moment!
The rain holds off and I enjoy another barbecue under the huge shelter at the campground, accompanied by a family of kangaroos, all oblivious to my intrusion of their territory.
I’m loving the wildlife here, there are kookaburras and kangaroos everywhere – even a goanna that lives by the barbecue shelter. I haven’t seen him since my first afternoon and I’m happy about that.
An early night as there is nothing to do with no internet (and no tv) and of course I am awake at 3am! I post a message on Facebook from my Iphone – “Can’t sleep! Frogs are croaking, waves are crashing!” The sounds of nature are keeping me awake!
By the third morning I have developed a routine of sorts – breakfast, housework (mopping!), a shower and I’m ready for the day. It’s a little overcast so I use the opportunity to retrace my origins at the nearby town of Kinchela. My great, great grandfather settled here in the early 1800’s (I do like to stress that we were part of the second fleet, not the first – we came as free settlers!), owning a small shop in the main street of the village.
Of course, now there is no village remaining, but some delightful homes along the banks of the Macleay river.
I am captivated by the beauty of this mighty river – it is wide and full and surrounded by beautiful lush farmland. I even spot nasturtiums scrambling down its banks. I feel an attachment to this place, almost a sense of belonging. I think it is beautiful.
A quick call to my sister confirms that my great grandfather and great grandmother are buried in the cemetery at nearby Frederickton, along with some other descendants of my family. Of course, I head on down to find their gravestones.
I recall a story about three of the Sanders brothers (my ancestors) marrying three local Hurrell girls – talk about keeping it in the family! But our real claim to fame is the legend that William Sanders (my great, great grandfather) introduced blackberries to Australia! “Blackberry Bill” he was known as! Not overly sure I should be proud of that accomplishment – they are now considered a noxious weed.
Being in Frederickton, I had to have lunch at the famous Fredo’s Pie Shop – famed for it’s crocodile pies.
I wimped out of trying that one, but settled for a curried chicken mornay pie, and a coffee from the café adjoining the pie shop. While eating my lunch on the pretty garden deck, the proprietor stopped for a chat – turns out we are related through the Sanders lineage! Nothing surprises me anymore. She gives me her card, and her sister’s phone number to call – she is tracing her family tree and would love to hear from me!
I was so drawn to the little village of Kinchela that I decide to go back through it, stopping at the small town of Gladstone for a browse through a quaint arts and craft gallery in the old church, with a beautiful riverside restaurant attached – called ‘The Riverside Restaurant’. It looked enticing but I had already eaten. I would recommend it, it’s in an amazing setting.
I opted instead for a shandy on the verandah of the local pub – another lovely old building overlooking this river that has me so captivated.
Then onto the Smoky Cape Lighthouse for a look. Another one of those nautical things that I am intrigued by. Like shipwrecks, I have a fascination for them. Perhaps I was a sailor lost at sea in a past life?
This one still operates, but is of course electrified now so un-manned, which I always find such a shame. Life as a lighthouse keeper has such a romance about it. I photograph a cute little B & B at the foot of the lighthouse – what a great place for a weekend getaway. More photo opportunities of amazing coastline views before making my way back to camp.
Dinner that night was another pie from the famous Fredo’s Pie Shop – this time a Moroccan Lamb flavour. How do you heat up a pie with just a single camp stove, you ask? I wrapped it in foil and heated it in a frypan with a little water – it worked perfectly. I’m not just a pretty face you know! The rain set in for the night again – I was continually interrupted by the sound of a waterfall outside my tent entrance. I should have been bottling the water.