My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

Nature – it’s all over me

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Climb every mountain

After a fairly cold night, we got ready to explore the area around Cumberland River. But before we set off one of the ladies came over to see if we wanted to climb the sides of the valley with her son Jeffrey. He wanted to go, but not by himself – a fair point in this treacherous country. It seemed like a good idea, so we made some sandwiches and went to get some water.

Stepping through an area marked “Do not enter: revegetation area” we began to clamber up an almost vertical, unmarked track, keeping a close eye on the ground as we did so (apparently he’d seen a few King Browns the week before). We had to use our hands for the first few metres, grabbing hold of trees and roots to stop ourselves from sliding back down the hill.

Trees whacked us, bushes scratched our arms and legs and the journey was hot and tiring. The path kept disappearing so we kept skirting around fallen branches to try to find our way. We were glad we had our ‘guide’ with us as we would never have found our way without him! After a while we started to walk down, but then the track veered sharply right and once again was almost vertical.

However, after almost half an hour of climbing we pushed our way out of the bushes and into the sunlight.

We were very high up and the view was amazing. The campsite lay before us with tiny tents and caravans tiny below and the sea stretched away to the south. To the north were endless trees, covering the hillside beneath the bright blue sky. It was also very windy!

After catching our breath we descended, a much quicker journey – and not just because we ended up sliding part of the way down the hill (I was the only one who remained standing), getting covered in earth (and more scratches) in the process.

Water, water everywhere

Feeling slightly hot and bothered, we sat by our tent and ate our lunch in the sun, listening to our Woolloomoolloo playlist (Field Day bands). We then set off through the wood at the back of the campsite towards Jebb’s Pool. This was a short walk, but involved crossing the river twice – once on stepping stones and once along a fallen tree, but the water hole was beautiful.

A shallow natural pool from the river with waterfalls (used by the kids as slides) cascading down into the main pool. From there it flowed through the campsite, into the other water hope and under the Great Ocean Road to the sea.

Jeffrey had told us earlier that a few years ago he’d been swimming in the main camp watering hole when a kangaroo had fallen in from the hill we’d climbed earlier. We vowed to go and look around at dusk to try and spot some.

But after a quick paddle in Jebb’s Pool we set off to the beach that was used only by the campsite. The river flowed under the road surrounded by bushes, yet when it became the sea there was nothing but sand.

After crossing the road we followed the path to the beach when suddenly Miss H swore and stepped briskly sideways – Tiger Snake alert!

Kum ba yah

Luckily the beach was almost deserted, but it was getting cold so we stayed a while and paddled before heading back for dinner, noting our new neighbours with interest. Two Australian guys who were already a few beers down.

Of course once we started cooking they invited us to sit with them and use their chairs (as we had nothing) and offered us beer… And chicken on a stick. And sausage sandwiches. We were so good at this camping lark!

Once again we fire sat while they went off to get more beers, making the most of their chairs and speakers. When they got back some friends joined them and the guitars came out. Then of course people flocked over to join in – there was even sheet music.

It felt kind of stereotypical to be sitting around a fire on a campsite, singing songs and toasting marshmallows, but it was pretty awesome. Apparently Shane had been chased by a kangaroo the previous year after “catching it drinking at the water hole”. He swore that the kangaroo had jumped over five bins as it chased after him…

As the two guys had been coming to the site for years and years we weren’t told to quieten down until almost midnight. The rest of the campers dispersed and we declined the guys’ offer of ‘going to the beach’ with them. I did borrow Shane’s fleece lined hoodie though as it was freezing in that tent, despite many, many layers of clothing.

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I like driving in my car

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Fill my little car right up

Up bright and early (although I still missed breakfast), we walked back to South Central Station, via a Hungry Jacks for a frozen raspberry Fanta ($1), and after topping up our Myki cards, boarded the train for Kensington.

With Google Maps as our guide and a LOT of luggage between us, we confidently strode off down the road, realising after 15 minutes that once again we were going the wrong way. Typical. Turning around, we eventually rocked up at Wicked Campers to pick up our little yellow Holden Spark, complete with roof tent.

Sitting behind the wheel for the first time in just over two years was a little daunting, but I took it all in my stride and set off… Realising five minutes later that “there’s not much petrol, you’ll need to fill up soon” meant “the tank is empty”. After ten minutes of quite stressful driving, we managed to fill the car up and set the SatNav for the Great Ocean Road!

On the road

Thankfully Australians drive on the left (something they remind you of constantly), so once we got onto the highway, I was absolutely fine driving, although struggling not to speed (it’s too easy). In just over an hour, we were approaching Torquay Visitor’s Centre, so I parked (perfectly) and we got our bearings.

List of campsites, leaflets and a week’s worth of food in tow, it was Miss H’s turn to drive… For 20km, until I made her swap back to me. It’s just a small issue, but she couldn’t change gear and we were at the top of the hill on a very busy road (speed limit 100 kmh), with lots of cars behind us – slightly terrifying.

Back behind the wheel, I had to be aware of the sudden ‘viewpoint on your left’ signs or we’d have missed them. We almost missed the Memorial Arch, but I managed to swing the car into the car park at the last minute. Perfectly legally… Ahem.

Our cameras were constantly in use as we stopped off at as many (interesting) points as we could. In fact, we’d only just passed Lorne when we realised it was almost 6pm and we needed to find a campsite. This we did after another less than legitimate right turn off the highway.

The campsite wasn’t the cheapest, but it was possibly the most beautiful. Just beyond the sea, the Cumberland River ran into the campsite to form a water hole that was framed by huge hills either side. The showers used rainwater and there were trees and bushes everywhere, plus woods and a private beach. It was peaceful and friendly and full of Australians.

Everybody loves Raymond

We parked up and set about putting up the tent: “You just take the cover off, pull the ladder out and boom. Mattress etc is in there. Have fun.” wasn’t quite accurate…

After ten minutes of giggling and struggling, watched by amused Aussies, about twelve of them came over to help us. The men scratched their heads and pulled bits and pieces, whilst the women who also came over offered helpful advice. The children just looked stunned. I helpfully took photos.

Eventually though, he was up! But there was no bedding and no tent pegs. We did have several poles though that were completely useless. Back to the office I went to beg some bedding and some kind man lent us two tent pegs so – finally – we were all set up.

We were the talk of the campsite! Everyone was coming over, taking photos and asking questions – they all loved it! Most people had been coming to this campsite each year for decades and now brought their own families. They made the area sound so lovely that we decided to stay a second night to explore.

Feeling more outdoorsy now, we got out our stove, ready for our packet pasta (with tinned chicken and veg) and it was all going well (once a nice man turned it on for us), until it ran out of gas. Apparently “you’ve got loads of gas” means “you’ve got no gas”. Luckily the nice couple next door overheard our cursing and gave us a gas canister, also inviting us to fire sit for them while they looked around.

Obviously fire sitting led to a nice evening with them, drinking (their) beer and roasting (our) marshmallows. We even found a use for the redundant tent poles – toasting forks!

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