Classics By The Campfire

Last weekend Mat and I went on our second camping trip with the Suzuki Club (we went to the Zukana over the October long weekend for which I still need to write up a post). It was just for one night from Saturday through to Sunday and was entitled “Classics by the Campfire”, a chance for members to get away for a short break and do a spot of four wheel driving in a relaxed atmosphere. The location was Abercrombie River National Park not far from Oberon.

We set off at 6.30am to meet up with the rest of the group in Oberon at 10.00am and then drive in convoy to the park. We have got quite a lot of camping gear now but Mat managed to get everything packed in with room for the rear view and last minute things behind the seats. Our little Sierra might be small but she managed to get us there in good time with all the additional weight and we even fitted in a visit to the local pie shop for some breakfast before joining the group.

The weather in Oberon was pretty dismal with a chill in the wind and drizzle to add to the discomfort. We had been warned that Oberon was a particularly cold place, worse even than the Blue Mountains which we passed through to get there, and we just hoped that the rain would abate in time for setting up camp. Before we left in convoy to my delight Tim kindly provided us with the use of a club CB handheld radio so that we could tune in and keep in contact with everyone on the journey (all other people having one of the same or a proper in-car installation). I didn’t realise quite how useful this would be until we set off.

Once we got inside the park everyone pulled over to air down (let loads of air out of their tyres for better grip) and then the real fun began. We didn’t attempt anything really tricky but there were some steep up and downs which warranted each car to take it in turns as opposed to all going at the same time. This is where the CBs came in handy so as each person got beyond the difficult bit they could announce the all clear for the next person. It also enabled the first person in convoy to let everyone know what was coming up and any advice for tackling it, and the last person in convoy to let everyone know how far behind they were and that everyone was going in the right direction. As well as all that it enabled everyone to chat and joke around which added to the fun even more.

As Mat was doing all the driving I was able to sit back (whilst intermittantly grabbing hold of the FM bar) and enjoy the awesome scenery. The rain had stopped not long after entering the park leaving behind a damp misty haze that gave the trees a rain forest feel. There was so much great photo potential but unfortunately, due to the convoy situation, I didn’t feel comfortable with asking everyone to stop so I could take some pictures.

There were two particularly amazing scenes that I was transfixed by. One was the trees, dead and alive, covered with a moss-type lichen up to an inch in length, a pale ice green in colour. Apparently it’s known as Old Man’s Whiskers, though probably has many names as googling did not bring up any pictures of what I saw. With the misty atmosphere, droplets of moisture everywhere and the ice green of the lichen against the blackened tree stumps (many seemed to be victims of past fire damage) it was a beautiful scene.

The other new sight for me was an area of trees that I can only guess had been victims of fire damage again. However, these had obviously had longer to recover as instead of blackened, bare limbs each tree had sprouted new leaves. What made them look strange was the way in which the new leaves had grown. Instead of just growing on the tips of smaller twigs the leaves were shooting out from every available space straight from the large branches and even all up the trunks. I am guessing that previous fire had stripped the trees of all their leaves but not quite killed them. Then, from a need to breath and photosynthesize (which trees do through their leaves) they had shot out new leaves as quickly as they could, wherever they could. It gave the appearance of the trees being hairy and really was very strange to look at.

After an hour or so of driving we breaked for lunch by the side of a creek. After some cheese sandwiches Mat went off to talk Suzukis with some other peeps and I went exploring the creek with my camera:

Casuarinas (She-Oaks) by the creek
Casuarinas (She-Oaks) by the creek

After taking some pictures and playing in the creek skimming stones with the children we got on our way again and after another hour or so arrived at Silent Creek campsite. The rain had held off and it was turning into a rather pleasant day as we set up our tent. We then spent some time chatting and getting to know people a bit better before starting to prepare our evening meal:

Mat at Wombat Camp preparing to cook tea
Mat at Wombat Camp preparing to cook tea

I named our tent and set up “Wombat Camp” because a) we knew there were wombats in the vicinity becuase of the large holes we found and b) on the way to Oberon we had stopped at a toilet and saw our first wombat. Unfortunately it was not as exciting as it sounds as the poor creature was a flattened squashed thing in the middle of the road, our first wombat sighting none the less.

As it started to get dark everyone gathered round the campfire for drinks, toasted marshmallows on sticks and a good chat.

As we were all relaxing we were blessed by a very cute pair of visitors; a mummy brush-tail possum and her baby. I didn’t know that possums carried their babies on their backs and as you can imagine I was overcome with delight at the spectacle, whipping out my camera to take pictures. This is not an uncommon sight for Australians but even those that had seen it many times before still apreciated the cuteness of it. We were very lucky that the possum was obviously used to people and didn’t seem to be fazed by us or our torches at all. She wandered around for a long while and went away and reappeared several times during the evening.

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