Life is just so busy. And over the last twelve months Covid has added layer of complexity, anxiety, and restrictions. Everyone wants something. Everyone pulling you in a different direction. What I love about travelling is that you can set all that aside … even for a short time … being transported to another place where there are no expectations, and you are just another regular Joe.
With a public holiday on Tuesday we grabbed a couple of extra days and made it a five day weekend. So we hooked up the trailer, took off, and unplugged from the world for a few days and escaped to the bush (via Bathurst to catch up with Deb’s sister for lunch, and a quick lap of Mount Panorama) and setup under the shade of trees and just chill for a few days.
Actually there was very little chilling happening as the days were mid to high 30s. So a lot of our day was spent chasing the shade and trying to keep cool.
With all the current travel restrictions there has been a huge increase in people taking up camping. And with current covid restrictions limiting numbers at camp spots, even getting somewhere to camp is a challenge … especially when you don’t start planning until the week before. So finding somewhere available within 3-4 hours of Canberra was a bit tricky as it seems like everyone was taking a long long weekend and camping. The NSW National Parks has a great website where we found space at the Abercrombie Caves campground which is somewhere we have been meaning to go for a few years. Unfortunately all the caves were closed.
Mount Panorama is one of the iconic race tracks in Australia for a very good reason, it’s an amazing track set into the mountain overlooking Bathurst, with imposing concrete walls as you climb the mountain, and for the majority of the year it is a public road (and heavily policed). For those who love motor racing, to drive these tracks gives you a real appreciation of the scale, the altitude changes and how tight some sections are that television just can’t provide. You can only imagine what it must be like coming over the top of the mountain at full noise.
From Bathurst we back-tracked an hour to Abercrombie Caves and with only a couple of people set up we had a choice of places to setup.
This is the first outing with our new tent. In a previous post I discussed the various options we were looking at for upgrading our existing tent. In the end we purchased something different again. Wandering through a camp shop a few months ago I came across the Oztrail Hightower tent that I had previously discounted as I didn’t like the look of it, however seeing it setup it had a few features that I really liked. The main one being the big awning as the whole side lifted up. This is a great.! The last few times we’ve struggled with shade and having an awning like this would have been great. The downside was I didn’t like the inside configuration of the Oztrail as it had an outside door in each room on opposing sides, and the rooms where just not quite big enough for full size stretchers set length-wise.
The Wanderer Goliath II looks very similar to the Oztrail tent but addresses both of these issues and while slightly bigger – the bedroom space, good living space, and an external awning on both sides fit our criteria for motorcycle camping perfectly. And this was it’s first outing.
All our camping supplies tetras-ed into our little trailer and includes our: tent; stretchers, airbeds, and sleeping bags; all our cooking equipment (single burner butane stove and trangia); camp furniture (two chairs, and two tables); a little BBQ; 5ltr of water; food for the weekend; and our lights (head lamps and Luci solar lights). All our clothing fits into our panniers with a small tool kit, first aid kit and wet weather gear in the top box.
At this camp ground there is no, zero, zilch mobile reception, and no power. But there are showers and toilets (but no lights) so it’s a step up from bush camping. Luxury. But this is million star accommodation and lying in the tent next with the open window flaps, looking up at the night sky with no light pollution the night sky is awash with stars that you just don’t see in the city. You also don’t have the noises of the bush that leave you wondering … ‘what the heck was that!’. And leaving the awning up gives you an uninterrupted view.
I know a lot of people who will only sleep under five stars but there is something special about million star accommodation.
And when camping you also occasionally get some interesting visitors – sitting reading (I guess audio books aren’t really reading) … listening to my book, a fairly large goanna wandered passed and climbed the tree next to our tent. I wandered over and had a look at a comfortable distance, and the size of his claws were huge so I backed up a bit … thinking … the fly screen on our tent would not present much of a barrier to those! mmm, must ensure there is nothing edible sitting in the tent to tempt him with. It reminded me of a camping trip a number of years ago by the beach when one of our party left some bread on a table in our kitchen tent – we were woken to the sound of a big roo in the kitchen tent trying to get out. It’s safe to say that that tent did not survive that encounter.!
If this was a snake I would be in a different postcode.! I have a healthy fear of snakes!
We also had this little guy wander through our camp site a few times. Such beautiful markings.
The one downside of camping is that when the temperature gets hot and shade became harder to find it can be hard to keep cool, so we retreated to the tent with water and wet towels – where is the air conditioning now!! We noticed a few retreat to their cars for a brief relief of cool air, or retreat altogether with one family escaping to Bathurst for the day to seek coolness in the cinema. The next day we assisted the local economy and purchased some cold beverages from a pub down the road … the fact it had air conditioning was purely coincidental. And it would have been rude to just drink and run so we lingered for awhile.
It’s hard to remember when we weren’t contactable all the time. A time when you weren’t home nobody could contact you. I remember when the first mobiles came out and how convenient they were … but why would you need that level of contactability. But now we are addicted to connectedness. Unable to break that link. And you feel lost leaving home without your phone. Sometimes it’s all too much and you just need to have a break. Unplugged is a great feeling, no pinging of messages, no phone calls, no need to check what others are up to or upload that latest insta photo, and work can’t chase you. But even then you still have your phone as its your music device, clock, camera, entertainment centre, book, and even your torch … it’s an addiction that has been woven into our society. But with no coverage you don’t feel compelled to be plugged in so it was often just locked in the topbox if you weren’t listening to music.
For the most part we spent our time sitting just hanging around the camp relaxing and taking in our surroundings, playing board games, and relaxing. We also ventured out for a few short walks and a couple of short rides to get supplies from the closest small town 10km away.
It was a real shame that the caves were closed … standing at the entrance of the self-guided cave you could feel the coolness just out of reach, the perfect retreat to escape the hot sun just behind this locked gate. So close yet so far away.
While we had a couple of fairly hot days (high 30s C) this year has been such a contrast to twelve months ago when the nation was sweltering in 40+ C days and it seemed like the nation was on fire, and chocking on thick repugnant smoke. So it felt strange to light a camp fire in January to cook on. One of our new pieces of kit for this trip was a little BBQ (similar to this one) that folds flat and only weighs 3kg. It’s only light weight but is great for small fires and cooking up meat, although my technique needs some improving … especially if you don’t like your meat too char grilled.! There is something very therapeutic about sitting by a camp fire, mesmerized by the dancing flames and just getting lost in the moment.
Unplugging … the best way of recharging.