As much as I love big cities, I always list ‘camping’ as being one of my favourite things to do. Campfires and being in the same swimsuit for days and Banana Boats and a few books and I’m in heaven.
Fortunately my friends in Melbourne love camping too and, unlike me, they actually own camping gear and go quite often! One of their favourite spots is in a national park just outside of a small town called Echuca, and sits right on the Murray River – Australia’s longest river connecting the two states of New South Wales and Victoria (fact: on land, you’re in Victoria. In water and you’re in NSW. Cool!) There aren’t any sites, and it’s always been so busy when I’ve been there that you can kinda squeeze yourself into a free spot near the river. AND, the camping is free. Free!
Sidenote: I’ve just come to the realization that I’ve done more camping in Australia in the last 10 years than I have in Canada. We need to change that when I get home!
The best part about camping over here, aside from showing the Australians how we make life jacket diapers in North America, is all the Australian wildlife.
I know, I know…Australia has the craziest and most terrifying wildlife known to man. It’s true. In NZ you can go for a walk in a field and feel like a country princess taking a stroll – nothing could possibly hurt you. In Australia, though, there are fucking snakes and spiders and probably mammals that are poisonous and could kill you with nothing more than a look in the right wind.
This said, it’s pretty cool.
I’ve been to Echuca twice now, and each time I saw something cool. The first time, in April 2012, started with a man from the neighbouring campsite coming over to tell my friends there was a massive goanna making its way to our site. I was swimming/float-drinking in the water and my friends yelled down “JENNY QUICK! COME UP! COME LOOK!” I stumbled out of the water and up the muddy hill to our site, and saw my friends crowded around a tree with my camera taking photos.
This goanna must have been about a metre and a half long, and dude look like he could’ve ripped my arm off. Luckily he retreated to a tree to get away from the gawking humans, so he didn’t do much damage.
Most recently, while float-drinking in the water, we were constantly nipped by yabbies which, so far as I can tell, are kind of like crayfish. I either didn’t find the bites too bad or I didn’t get bit, but all the guys kept making a big deal out of it. Weak Australian men. What can I say?
Kookaburras were all around the campsite, too, laughing creepily in old gum trees (just like the song!) and swooping down to catch prey. Jacqui wanted me to see how they killed their prey, so she cut up some raw bacon and threw it on the ground to them. The birds swooped down, grabbed the bacon, then proceeded to whack it on the ground with their beaks to ‘kill’ it. Dumb birds didn’t realize the bacon was already dead! Lol. Anyways, it was neat.
The boys decided to try their hand with bacon too – by tying it to a rope and waiting in the water for yabbies to bite. They didn’t catch any yabbies, but moved on to fish; Shane would hold a basket below the bait, and when a fish bit, he brought the basket up. I think men like to do things that bring them closer to their ancestors and get the testosterone pumping. They caught three fish, all of which we couldn’t eat. Sausages for dinner again.
If you’re a North American who is going camping in Australia (Victoria, at least), here are a few tips:
– The trees aren’t low and don’t give a lot of coverage (all the leaves are near the top), so you can see pretty far into the distance….which means you’ll probably need a little tent set up to go pee if you’re a chick, unless you can hold it until sundown.
– It’s nothing but dirt and sand and dust. Don’t bring anything white.
– Maybe there will be a fire ban. Don’t get excited at thoughts of s’mores, because you might have your hopes crushed.
– No raccoons will get into your shit. Rejoice! Possums might, though, so put things in hard containers. Still, no raccoons to unscrew lids and spill juice everywhere!
– Make sure to have plenty of raw bacon to get animals hooked to delicious pig and clogged arteries. Animals, they’re just like us!
I’ve loved my camping trips here, and am beyond fortunate to have friends who love to camp and are eager to take me. An experience I never would have gotten otherwise! I can’t wait to get home and hit up the parks this summer. Anyone got a tent I could borrow?