Category Archives: travels closer to home

Beyond the city walls but still in Oz.

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 …

1am.

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?”
“No.”

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.

Morning.

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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1960s flashback … the Portland pool

For the past two days I’ve been on a photography shoot, driving around in 38 degree heat with no air conditioner or fan in the car. It reminded me of childhood summers except the seats aren’t sticky vinyl anymore. Does anybody remember that – awful.

So yesterday, I’m on my way to Lithgow, to a goat farm, gasping in the heat, and I happen to pass the Portland pool. And it’s just so 1950s retro I have to stop and take a look. At the far end of the pool is this wonderful mosaic created by the Portland community.

mosaic at the portland pool

Portland pool

mosaic at the portland pool

Never in my life have I wanted to jump into a pool more.

portland pool

The water was crystal clear. But alas I had a date with a goat farmer …

beautiful clear water

We were in Portland a few weeks back and we were introduced to Aunty Barb who’s like the heart and soul of Portland. Ever since that little meeting this smile has stayed with me so it was an extra bonus to see her again. She’s so gorgeous.

aunty barb

Portland Olympic Pool

I left with a smile on my face thinking about The Sandlot Kids. It’s one of our favourite kids movies. It’s set in 1962 and it’s a coming of age story that takes place over one summer. There’s this very funny scene where one of the boys, Michael ’Squints’ Palledorous, pretends to drown so that he can make a move on the lifeguard, Wendy Peffercorn who’s a good 10 years old than him. Makes us laugh every time we watch it. It could have been filmed at the Portland Pool. We’ve got to hang on to places like this.

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Home. But not home.

This is where I grew up. Well not quite here. Just over that first headland. And a little bit inland. Back then it was all dairy farms and orchards. There’s a highway now where we used to ride our bikes. Feet up on the handle bars. No hands.

overlooking forresters beach australia

I took myself off for a walk along the cliff. Past the mansions. Past the jet skis.

cliff walk

To the quiet of the banksia forest.

banksia

To a secret place where driftwood comes to die.

driftwood beach at the base of the cliff

Walking with my bestie. A naughty night with old friends. A week with my boys. Swimmers and sarongs. Salt water cocktails. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

chris

Reading, resting, recharging. Browned by the sun. Eyes white and clear.

rocks

We’re home now. And yet not. I feel like I’ve left a little piece of me there.

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  • About me

    Hi I’m Margaret, a creative soul
    fuelled by wanderlust and big dreams.
    A full-time mum, wife and graphic designer
    at red moon creative.

    I live and tell stories from Bathurst, Australia, a couple of hours inland from Sydney. In 2016 my husband Steve and I are planning to blog our way around the Mediterranean. In the meantime I'm doing it virtually over on the facebook page.
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