Monday, January 31, 2011

The Coorong

We've just spent two days camped in Coorong National Park, which is our first foray into seeing how self sufficient we are in our van. Also to see how the kids went camping in a place where there are no facilities specifically for them. No big bouncy cushion, no other kids running around everywhere, no swimming pool, just nature. We pretty much have all mod cons in the van. A good sized fridge; gas stove with a griller and full size oven; 4 large batteries connected to four solar panels; a dedicated 80 litre drinking water tank and three other 80 litre tanks for general use; an electric inverter and a series of power points allowing us to run 240 volt appliances off the 12 volt batteries; a toilet and little shower.

Many people have told me how beautiful the Coorong is and we were greeted on the way in to the national park by a couple of emus running alongside the road. There was the promise of some good wildlife encounters. But when we arrrived in the camp ground, everyone was a little shocked I think. It was predominantly surrounded by low lying scrub and grasses and was not really a place of outstanding beauty. And we've sort of got used to living in the comfort and often sterility of caravan parks. I was a bit nervous to unhook the van as we still have the dodgy jockey wheel and hooking back up just never seems to be an easy operation. So we spent the first night with the van remaining hitched up to the car. There were a few other campers around in their tents or camper trailers. I decided to have a bit of a chat to some of our new neighbours to find out some first hand information on the Coorong. All indications were that it was a bit of a long walk from our campsite to the beach over the hilly dunes. With temperatures in the 30s, it was going to be a bit of a tough trek for a pregnant woman and two young children. There was a sandy 4WD track down to the beach, but with no recovery gear and no real experience yet in four wheel driving, I felt a bit nervous of that too. The thought of getting stuck just seemed too real. To add to that, I discovered that our toilet wasn't working and so it was going to be a hole in the ground for everybody. Tori said she found it liberating sitting bare arsed over a hole. Jazzy needed to go before bedtime and so I took her and a shovel for a walk through the scrub. The hole was dug and she made a legitimate effort, but the strangeness of it all seemed to get to her and after a couple of attempts, she no longer had to go. Our initial leap into off road camping had a bit of a tentative start to say the least.
The next morning everything had a new complexion on it. Jazzy successfully completed the mission she'd begun the night before. I found some new confidence of my own and unhooked the car from the van, lowered the tyre pressure to around 20psi and decided it was time for some sand driving. So we hit the 4WD track to the beach. Up over a steep dune we ploughed through the thick white sand, the car and driver doing admirably. On happily making it to the top I could see that we would have no real problems. If we could get over that thick sand hill so easily, there would be nothing more difficult. So we drove on down to the beach. It is actually possible to drive the sand dunes along the full length of the Coorong, some 100km or so. We drove perhaps 500m and then decided to stop for a play at the surf's edge and have a picnic. The waters around here are not swimmable.
The currents are strong, the waves choppy and fierce and the water becomes deep very quickly. It is a place where surf fishermen come and drop their lines into the deep gutters fishing for mulloway, salmon and bream. We lazed on the beach. The kids played in the sand. When we got hot we all lay on our backs down near the water's edge and waited for the wash from the waves to run over our bodies and cool us down. It was a beautiful afternoon. When we got back to the campsite, we fired up the barby, played some games and I had a few very cold, very enjoyable and self satisfied beers. I even managed to fix the toilet.

1 comment:

Kev said...

This is essential viewing. This is the first thing I read from work in a cold and wet UK. Looking forward to a whole year of reading about your adventures.

Kev Charlton