There seems to be a direct correlation between age and the desire for simplicity – the older I get, the more I value the simple things in life. And yet so often I am reminded of how deceptively complex simplicity is, especially in our culture where more rather than less is billed as better, and busyness is synonymous with successful.
New Year’s Eve was no exception, on both accounts.
Instead of joining friends at a festival, we decided instead to bring in the new year with a few quiet nights ofbush camping. The picture in my mind was clear – a bell tent happily situated in a secluded grassy grove shaded by spreading gums, a clear mountain river flowing nearby, and a small cooking fire. Simple.
Visiting family in Canberra, the net for our camping site could be cast within a two-hour drive of the capital, which afforded many options of parks and reserves right down to the coast.
Reality caught up to my imagination though the week after Christmas when I realised that a good number of the Australian population is similarly loaded up with swags and eskies at that time of year looking for the perfect campsite. Seclusion equates more to suburban.
The night before our departure I put out a desperate plea on Facebook, and within minutes a woman offered her 300-acre bush property outside Braidwood for our private use.
“There’s a huge waterhole in one of the rivers,” she assured me over the phone. I jumped around the room in celebration.
It sounded too good to be true, and was. The bush was dry, hot and hilly, and the only swimming hole I could locate, a dirty dam. Unwilling to give up the dream, we resolutely hammered in tent pegs over a tussocky mound. With dusk approaching, we looked up at each other grimly, and smiled.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said. Speeding into Braidwood we found a sleepy B&B owner willing to let us in for the night.
In the morning town was thick with cars heading to the coast, in my mindall bound for the perfect campsite that looked almost certain to elude us. While my increasingly grumpy companion was leaning towards a new year in the Braidwood pub, I wasn’t yet willing to give in.
At the visitor’s centre I poured over the South Coast forest map, wishing my finger would be directed bya séance to a spot. Mongarlowe River, I read, rolling the pleasant syllables on my tongue. It was close, had a road running parallel to the river, but moreover, had a good feeling to it, which was about all I had left to go on.
‘Come on’, I said bravely.
A tense hour later and I spy a small track. Running the last fifty metres ahead I find a secluded grassy grove shaded by spreading gums next to clear flowing mountain stream.
Dusk on New Year’s Eve and I sit on a log watching a platypus duck and dive as the last light falls on the overhanging tree ferns. By the small campfire we share a bottle of Bollinger as greater gliders fly silently overhead, and boobook owls sing their plaintive call and response. Simply beautiful. Beautifully simple.