So last week we went camping. Early Thursday morning my Mum and her partner Ashley picked us up, and we drove for seven hours until we got to the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. Just a few kilometres (580 to be exact!) north-west of Melbourne, about an hour south of Mildura.
We camp at a super lovely spot on the edge of the Murray River, with a big stretch of sandy beach to call home. The outlook is truly gorgeous, with the river on one side and huge towering trees (and the National Park) on the other. There’s no phone reception, which means no electronic distractions from the daily grind. After five minutes of being there, you switch off from city life and start to unwind.
We met up with five other families who, along with Mum and Ashley, have been going to this spot for the last 10 years. They are seasoned veterans and have this camping thing down to a fine art, everything is incredibly well organised and we are very lucky to tag along. We don’t really rough it as such, it’s all very civilised, with both toilet and shower tents at the ready. Oh and there’s no eating out of cans, wait until you see the roast pork (oh woah!).
So here’s what we got up to.
Day 1: Thursday
We hit the road around 9am, and after a couple of pit stops we arrived at the river at 5ish. Ava was really good in the car, and I only heard ‘are we there yet?’ 3 times, ha!
As soon as we got there, we got our bathers on and jumped in the river. And oh yep! – city life, wifi and flat whites were the furthest from my mind.
Mum had made spag bol the day before, so all we had to do was cook up some pasta. It was super yum, (the slow-cooked-for-3-hours kinda yum), and perfect for us weary travelers.
Ava got to stay up a little later than usual, and once she was bed, it was time to chill by the campfire.
Day 2: Friday
Usually we have the whole stretch of beach to ourselves, but when we arrived, there were other families already set up. This could have been bad, but luckily they were super nice and had several kids, all under 9.
They came to visit us and by the end of the day, Ava had five new buddies to hang with. They played and swam all day and I barely saw her until I made the call for dinner.
In our gang, there were six older kids too, aged between 11 and 17. So Miss Ava (who knew most of them from last year) also got to hang with the big kids. They were all so lovely with her, and she was the absolute centre of attention. AND the best babysitters a parent could wish for.
For dinner, it was marinated chicken, corn on the cob, and a greek salad. And after that it was down to the fire again (the nightly ritual). Ava got to stay up that little bit later than the day before and after one bedtime story, she crashed out pretty quick.
Day 3: Saturday
We spent most of the day swimming and splashing around in the river. We hopped into big inflatable rings and floated down the river, which Ava loved! She hung with her small homies during the early hours and the big homies from late arvo and into the night.
On Saturdays, the gang always cook a roast, it’s an annual tradition. Each family cooks their own, and we join our tables for a big long dinner. Ashley has made his own rotisserie spit contraption (think MacGyver!), and he cooked roast pork, with the BEST crackling. Accompanied with heaps of veg in the camp oven, gravy and apple sauce – we were stuffed!
To the fire again to chill. Geez, it’s mesmerising just staring up the night sky, looking at the stars. It’s so clear out there.
A bit of drawing and playing and then it was off to the pub for lunch, another annual tradition. The pub is in Nangiloc, a tiny town about half an hour from camp. Parmas, fish n chips and burgers washed down with pots of beer and cider and we were done.
Back at camp for a swim another beautiful lazy afternoon. The weather was so perfect and only started to get a little nippy around 6-7pm and by then, it was time to get the fire going.
After a big pub lunch, it’s a light dinner at happy hour. Everyone came over to our camp and we all nibbled nuts, chips, dips, olives and all that stuff. I love eating like that, it’s great, and often reminds me of eating in (western) Europe.
We pulled out the marshmallows and the kids got toasting. It’s the only way Ava will eat them, ‘burnt by fire’ and she was in heaven. The kids watched a movie, so Ava got to stay up until 10.30!
Day 5: Monday
It was our last day, so we made the most of it by swimming and chilling out. A group of us drove about half an hour out of camp and then came back by kayaking down the river. It was so relaxing and peaceful – and I kept hearing Darryl Kerrigan’s voice saying ‘Ah, the serenity!’.
Dinner was steak, jacket potatoes and greek salad, yum! Down to the fire again but an early night for Miss Ava as we were leaving the next day.
Day 6: Tuesday
Up early to pack our bags for home. Eggs and bacon for brekky set us up for the day and we set off for the airport. As Mum and Ashley were staying on, we flew home from Mildura. They dropped us at the airport and before we knew it, we were home.
So there you have it folks, lots of lovely memories and I look forward to going back next year. If you’ve read this far, thanks, it was a bit of a long one!
How was your Easter? What did you get up to?