Camping truly is one of life’s great levelers. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, a person unknown or a person of influence, you are all on the same level when you are camping. An instant sense of community prevails. For instance apart from maybe a hospital ward, where else might you find yourself talking to complete strangers in your pajamas?
There are times for sharing a knowing glance with fellow campers and generously extending compassion and assistance as the new arrival struggles to pitch their tent in treacherous weather. Compliments are shared for innovative equipment, ‘that is a nice chair you have there’, ‘I like what you have done with your annex’ or ‘these are the finest amenities we’ve come across so far’. The simplicity of the camping lifestyle, combined with the commitment to ‘do the hard yards’ of setting up and packing up, bonds you as campers and brings with it a strange sense of satisfaction and mutual admiration. Although camping isn’t always easy, it’s very affordable and allows access to the remotest of places and connection with the nicest people that you can expect to find on your travels. Our next few days camping at ‘The Prom’ would only confirm these thoughts and be our first real test of the suitability of our camping set up.
After a wonderful start at Wallaga Lake we were eager for the next part of our adventure. Excitedly we entered the Wilsons Promontory National Park and, after a magnificent half hour drive in, arrived at the Tidal River camping ground. Contending with a persistent wind and with rain clouds hovering we set up camp. It was certainly cooler than we expected for December. Obviously we hadn’t thought very logically about just how far south we were travelling, but thankfully we had packed some warmer clothes just in case. Once set up, we were able to fully take in and appreciate the magnificence of our location. Surrounded by awe-inspiring mountains and a rugged coastline, we felt privileged to be here.
On that first evening we utilised our abundance of Wallaga Lake bream fillets, safely stored in our camp fridge. I happily made a sweet coconut fish curry with basmati rice, although Mr G was a little skeptical about me using his prized bream in a curry. Thankfully it was delicious and the perfect meal in the cooler weather conditions. We all really appreciated it warming our bellies and Mr G’s concerns of me ruining “his bream” were relieved.
We had been fore-warned by the park ranger that the native wombats come out at dusk in search of ‘tourist food’, and have been known to gnaw their way through the side of your tent if they smell anything remotely edible. Heeding such warnings, we were careful to clean up and pack away all traces of food. Whatever wasn’t packed in our sturdy fridge or a tub with a secure lid, we stored in the car overnight. That night it poured with rain and we relished our safe place in our warm, dry, wombat free tent. The next morning we awoke to hear that the family in the tent next to us had had two very large hairy-nosed wombats chew through their tent and help themselves to some food scraps that had been left out, before rapidly exiting through another wombat-sized hole in the tent wall. Needless to say, we remained vigilant in leaving no food in sight or smell after that, as we retired to bed each night in the Prom.
Wilsons Promontory is a pristine place, a popular spot for bush-walking and wildlife enthusiasts. Lilly Pilly Gully Nature Walk is an easy stroll where bushland meets rainforest, and some incredible birdlife can be seen. For more spectacular, unforgettable 360°C views of the coastline, we took on the climb to the top of Mt Oberon on the Mt Oberon Summit Walk. It is a demanding climb, following a fire trail round and round the mountain, up and up for well over an hour before reaching the plateau, then the summit. However, the challenge of the climb is soon forgotten when you see the expansive views.
Our visit to Squeaky Beach (named as such because the rounded quartz sand squeaks when you walk on it) revealed stunning rock formations covered in a striking reddish-orange lichen. Boulders clumped together at the western end of the beach created an excellent maze of passageways in-between, just perfect for a game of ‘hide and seek’.
Another favourite spot that was walking distance from the camping ground was Norman Beach, a vast coastal stretch where Tidal River flows into the sea. We enjoyed many lazy strolls along this beach, gazing south over the water toward the many clusters of islands on the horizion, it was a beautiful place to watch the sunset. Quietly we were imagining Tasmania awaiting us across Bass Strait. When the wind swept through the Prom (which it did most days), the temperature dropped noticeably. Great for those in search of an invigorating swim, but not so good for those with hopes of sunbaking! On these cold afternoons we retreated to the campsite and made the most of our leg ham and south coast cheddar cheese supplies we had with us. We’d make Croque Monsieur (the ultimate in toasted sandwiches) to warm us up, and spend the afternoon reading or playing cards.
The Prom was such a restorative place for us, when we weren’t out bush walking and exploring nature, the cooler weather forced us to stop and spend time resting, snuggling, reading and unwinding. It had drawn us in, gradually persuading us to surrender our plans for now and any concept of time and schedule dissipated. There was so much adventure ahead of us but here, it was so lovely to rest.
© Excerpt from Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel by Jane Grover