A tale from Dunn’s Swamp in which Hogey shadow boxes a possum …

When Darce and his friends were invited to a party near Rylstone (about an hour and a half north east of Bathurst), Steve and I seized the opportunity to spend a night camping nearby at one of our favourite haunts, Dunn’s Swamp, on the western fringe of the Wollemi National Park.

dunn's swamp

The name doesn’t sound particularly inviting but Dunn’s has a special vibe. Originally the Cudgegong River ran through the gorges but in the 1920s the area was dammed to provide water for the nearby Kandos Cement Factory. Thesedays it’s a long peaceful stretch of water that serpentines its way through sandstone cliffs and reedy swamps, perfect for canoeing. We’d always known that the area was important to local Aboriginals but we learnt this morning that it has special significance to Aboriginal women, a place where they would come to give birth among other things.

Could reflections at Dunn's swamp

For us, it holds its own power. As the kids were growing up we spent many mid winter camps here. Mid winter specifically because it would mean that we’d often have the clear blues days, freezing cold nights and the entire campsite to ourselves. I couldn’t believe it had been nine years since we’d last been out and everywhere I turned I could hear the children’s voices, see our friends huddled around a campfire and hear the roars and laughter that echoed through the valley as we got it into our heads one day to go skinny dipping after a particularly boozy lunch. Madness.

our favourite cave

To be honest, as I wandered the campsite yesterday afternoon, reacquainting myself with its rocks and trees and textures I found myself getting a little melancholy … feeling a sense of sadness for happy times past that we won’t ever quite capture again. Missing my friends. Wishing the kids were with us.

textures of dunn's swamp

But we dropped the 16 year olds off to their party and Steve and I returned to our little pup tent. He had a fire set and ready to go. Instead of the expected cloud and rain, we had a sky full of stars and barely needed a torch to get around, the moon was so bright. A super still night.

Sound asleep …


A couple of late campers arrive and decide to set up camp near us.  Not just a little pup tent and do the rest in the morning. No they decide to set up the full catastrophe crunching their way past our heads along the gravel.

And once they have their tent set up they start talking.

Meanwhile there’s some scratching at the tent. Steve, already toey with the newcomers, stirs and says “Is that you?”
“Is that me what?”
“Is that you scratching around near my head?”

Next thing a huge possum appears under the edge of our little annexe, ferreting its way into a loaf of bread we’d left out. Steve quickly unzips the tent and retrieves the bread, rezips it back up, then next thing, the possum’s in the annexe and I’m watching an Indonesian shadow puppet play – backlit by moonlight – of Steve trying to thump the possum while the possum is unleashing its best ninja moves jumping from the esky to the bag pile going berserk in the annexe. This goes on for a good couple of minutes till Steve finally connects fair on its head and the possum ingloriously takes its leave.

Meanwhile the newcomers are still talking.

As you can imagine, Steve’s a bit fired up now, having just gone two rounds with an aggressive brush tail, so next thing he’s out of the tent, walking quietly over to theirs (as quietly as you can on crunchy gravel), leans over as close as he dares to their canvas and says in the most sinister, frustrated, possum whipping whisper he can muster “SHUUUUUUTTTTTTT  UPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!”.  Scuttles back to our tent, zips himself back in, and the pair of us break into a fit of uncontrollable body racking giggles, the sort where you can’t get any air.

And the newcomers – at 2.30 in the morning – finally shut the fuck up.


We woke early to a clear blue sky and as everyone else was up besides the newcomers, we busied ourselves with some serious gravel crunching, pot banging and toilet door slamming.

dunn's early morning

early morning at dunn's swamp

And then we took ourselves off for a canoe ride.

canoe and cliffs

We’d noticed, when we drove into the park, that there was an enormous amount of water lying about in the lowlands and apparently the water level at Dunn’s rose by a metre after a massive storm on Thursday night. For the first time ever (in our experience) the spillway was overflowing, not that you can canoe this closely. We pulled ours up on the shore and did the short walk to take a peek.

dam wall overflowing at Dunn's Swamp

Back to camp, a quick pack up, some more gravel crunching and pot banging and we were on our way.

We felt like we’d got our money’s worth.

Not to mention our own back 😉

The moral of the story …

Don’t mess with the possum puncher.

Oh, and P.S. we hired our canoe from Southern Cross Kayaking and had the best dumplings we’ve ever eaten at 29 Nine 99 in Rylstone. Na Lan has just had an excellent write up in SBS’s Feast Magazine.  Worth the trip. Yum.

And if you want some more information about Dunn’s Swamp, click here or check out google images – there are some beauties.

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    1. Norah
      Posted 13 April 2014 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      What a great story with wonderful photos and descriptions and it gave me a good laugh too! Thank you

      • Marg
        Posted 13 April 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        Glad you enjoyed it Norah. A funny night, in a bizarre kind of way 🙂

    2. Chick
      Posted 13 April 2014 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      I love it!! Go Steve!! What a magic place it is – a little piece of paradise. Thanks for taking us there Marg x

      • Marg
        Posted 13 April 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Magical indeed Chick. I’d forgotten actually just how special it is and it looks to me like National Parks are really on the job out there. There was a macramé hanging plant in one of the toilets lol, the whole campsite was immaculate and we thought there was a lot of regrowth at the water’s edge. Last time we were there there was quite a lot of broken glass. Not so this visit. None at all. Just lovely.

    3. Jen O'Donnell
      Posted 13 April 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Hmm..he shall be ever more known as Steve (aka PP) Hogan..love it…have fond memory of my one trek to Dunn Swamp…

      • Marg
        Posted 13 April 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        You should have been there Jen. It was hysterical 🙂 We’re battling to keep our eyes open tonight.

    4. Leah
      Posted 13 April 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      Seriously stunning (and entertaining).

      • Marg
        Posted 13 April 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        🙂 Thanks Leah.

    5. Victoria
      Posted 13 April 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      One if my favourite posts of yours marg about one of my all time favourite places. Great pics and a great story. X

      • Marg
        Posted 14 April 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

        That’s lovely to hear Vic. Thankyou x One of my favourite places too.

    6. Tracey
      Posted 14 April 2014 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Gorgeous photos – I remember your beautiful camps there – sorry we didn’t make it for the camp wars, paddling and dumplings.

      • Marg
        Posted 14 April 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        We were convinced we were going to get rained out Tracey and nearly didn’t go. So glad we did. We say it every time we do something like that “We’ve got to do this more often!”

    7. Posted 14 April 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Gorgeous photos, those rock formations, textures and those twisted trunks…..and you always make me laugh! I love your adventures xx

      • Marg
        Posted 14 April 2014 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        It’s not far (as the crow flies) from where they discovered the ancient Wollemi Pine, tucked into a deep gorge amidst pagoda formations like these I think Millie. I could sit out there and draw for a week. So much visual fodder. We had one of the trippiest canoe rides we’ve ever had out there a few years ago. The water was like glass and you couldn’t tell where the horizon was. All the rock formations were perfectly reflected. I was getting vertigo in the front of the canoe feeling like I was going to fall through the sky. We were hoping for a morning like that on Sunday but we were so buggered after the night that was, we had a slow start and missed the best of it on the water. I’ll try and dig out some pics and put them on fb.

        • Posted 14 April 2014 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

          that sounds so DIVINE, canoe ride on water like glass, with a sensation of falling through the sky 🙂 . I have a feeling there is not many dull moments with you guys! Love to see more pics Marg xx

    8. Posted 15 April 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Cracking up about Steve telling the newcomers to shut up. 🙂 Hilarious! Bear would’ve done the same thing. The scenery is stunning! We’re winter campers too – I love it. 🙂

      • Marg
        Posted 15 April 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure that Queensland winters count as winter Krista 😉 Could you survive minus 8? If you leave a half cup of tea out overnight it’s often frozen solid in the morning :|| But I love that you’re a winter camper, or at least try haha… Hey, congratulations about the book deal. You’re going to have to tell us what it’s all about … intrigued 🙂

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