A camping we did go

First night back from camping, I sat in bed and whilst it was lovely to be reclining once again in familiar comfort, something was missing. Walking to one of our bedrooms windows and pushing my face against the scratchy mesh of the flyscreen, I gulped in cool night air like a drowning person. Closing my eyes, the gentle hum of cicadas and rustling leaves of trees washed over me. That is what I was missing. Sister Three had declared that upon returning home from camping, she would have to live outside as she couldn’t bear to be stuck inside once more. Once again disconnected from nature.

Supposedly camping re-sets our circadian rhythms and whilst this light earplug-wearing ninja sleeper may not be able to vouch for that, what I do know is that our children run free, unfettered from the every day bane of television and overt technology. They play games, bike, swim, walk and carry on like pork chops. As adults we also walk more, talk more, chill more, read more, laugh more, puzzle more, connect more and carry on like pork chops more. All this is accomplished in the great outdoors that this very beautiful country provides for us.

For the first week of our two weeks this year, there were five families, 17 all told. We were back at our old haunt, the riverside camping ground in South West Rocks on the mid north coast of New South Wales. Sure, there was the odd unpleasant moment or two. Strong winds that sent tarps or tents flying can frighten both both young and old and a day or so of rain can kind of get you down. (Trying to dry towels whilst camping is one of my bugbears, don’t care if it ain’t clean but a damp towel seems so well, unnecessarily uncivilised.) Setting up camp is rather exciting but breaking down a camp and going home is well, far less so. There is usually fevered talk of burning the whole lot down and starting again next year, thus far, sanity, economy and a wish to stay of jail has won out. But any camping benefits far outweigh the negatives, making for the kind of holiday that allows you to totally check out of the everyday humdrum of life.

As usual we ate and drank very, very well and nobody starved. This part of the world is beautiful. White sand, turquoise waters on bright sunny days and the everchanging darker hues that the ocean provides on days that the sun refused to shine. Tall dark green Norfolk pines stand as silent sentinels, ever watchful and noble. Surely there is no greater marker of the Australian seaside than a stand of these magnificent trees?

Last year brought some sad changes to our lives and it was good to nudge them to the side, even if that sadness was merely simmering under the surface. This year brings new adventures for our family as our no longer chubby-legged big boy heads off to high school and into the somewhat scary state that is adolescence. As we purchase uniforms, pencils and new shoes I wonder where my little headstrong blonde curly haired lad has gone. He still likes a good argument but his body is lengthening and the planes of his face are refining, no remnant of baby fat is left except in this mothers memory. The Yak and myself are re-evaluating career paths alongside personal goals and right now, even though things feel wobbly, we know more than ever that life is bloody short. As cliched as it sounds, there are no guarantees (only death and taxes boom-tish) and our intention is to make the most of this life we have been given. So thanks South West Rocks, until we meet again.


Bonny Bonnay

School holidays had arrived so we decided to hitch the cart to the horse, throw the sproglets in the back and take off to the Hunter Valley. This is a beautiful wine growing region a mere one and a half hours drive north from Sydney. A mini-break that involved wine tasting? You don’t have to ask me twice.

A quick visit to the local Hornsby Growers Market for supplies, then we hit the open road. We knew we were in wine country the minute we hit the vineyards. (A real bunch of Einsteins are we.)

First stop before arriving at the house was a spot of lunch, we spied a rustic looking joint called the Lovedale Store Cafe. A simple cheese toastie for the eight year old and a ‘slap me silly sideways it was so good Asian style pulled pork on a toasted bun with homemade coleslaw’ for Kid 1 and myself. A big pot of Yorkshire tea for the grown ups and a veggie frittata with a tasty potato salad for The Yak. And a chilled out Highland goatie oatie out the back. (Alive of course.)

Our first wine sipping stop is Peterson’s Wines where they make killer sparkling wine. Friendly, funny and attentively served, this Cheergerm solely sipped on stars and maybe even purchased one or two. A chocolate shop stop to keep the smaller people happy, then off to the house we went.

This soothing green house is timeless, stepping inside we feel instantly becalmed. Steady ticking clocks, the heartbeat of this home, remind us both of childhood. Patchwork quilts and vintage china, a well-stocked kitchen and a claw-footed bathtub. We look out onto pastoral landscape and an old school garden with lavender and citrus trees.

An afternoon walk, warm sunshine on a winters day. Kid 2 slipped his little hand in mine and chattered about the shapes of trees, what we will do next and other topics that are dear to this eight year old boys heart.

Sitting on the white bed, the view of the vibrantly orange mandarin tree from our bedroom window distracted me as I wrote. The only sound was the chirrup of birds and the occasional bovine moo.

Night fell and we rugged up to stargaze in the darkened country night. Kid 1 was initially frightened at the overwhelming vista, never has been before. Perhaps it is merely a symptom of his burgeoning awareness that sadly, the world is not the safe place he thought it once was. Our eyes adjusted to the night sky and Kid 2 marvelled at the Milky Way and multitudes of stars. He spoke of a high powered telescope and perhaps, another stargazer has been made.

A Peterson’s sparkling Shiraz Viognier goes very nicely with a black pepper pie and a gluten free veggie roll purchased from the Hornsby Farmers Market. (It’s my bloody holiday too.) A homemade baby kale (adorable or what and so much nicer than the grown up version) and fennel salad dressed with caramelised balsamic and olive oil, offsets the pastry richness.

As I sat in bed reading, the boys and Yak were fast asleep. I listened to the crackle of the open fire and felt lucky and grateful to be there, tucked cosily under the roof of this country home. (I also felt grateful for the sturdy fire guard that ensured we did not burn to death in the middle of the night.)

My master plan of slap up huge lunches and easy dinners worked a treat. Japanese and Thai food at Oishii in the Tempus Two complex is surprisingly good. On the next day, a solidly decent lunch of fish and chips at The Deck Cafe in Lovedale kept us going amongst the very difficult work of a spot of wine tasting. Vineyard highlights included Cappercaille, Brokenwood, Allandale, Tamburlaine Organic Vineyards and the stunningly beautifully located Audrey Wilkinson. Needless to say, we are well stocked in case of a wine apocaplyse.

Our final night found us by the open fire, scoffing Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese triple cream Brie. A delightful floral, chalky and creamy cheese. The lyrical and come hither strains of bohemian French Cafe jazz, (why does everything sound better in French?), kids revelling in toasting marshmallows on the open fire and a Hunter Valley Chardonnay from Allandale.

The Yak wanted to freeze time as he watched his two lads reading in their voluptuous white cloud-like beds. But the morning of leaving arrived as mornings are bound to do. As my mum always says, you have to leave so you can come back. And that we will.

http://www.bonnay.com.au

http://www.stayz.com.au/accommodation/nsw/hunter/hunter-valley/76903

https://www.facebook.com/lovedalestore

http://www.oishii.com.au

http://www.petersonswines.com.au

http://www.capercailliewine.com.au

http://www.allandalewinery.com.au

http://www.deckcafelovedale.com.au

http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/hunter/hunter-valley