Friday 5th January – Tent Camping Like a Bitch

There’s a reason I don’t make plans. This blog was supposed to be about the start of a journey from the west coast of Australia to the east in a bright yellow car. Instead, it’s about a small road trip around the south west corner of Perth in a car with about as much character as a log (sorry Falcon). After ten solid weeks pulling apart, sanding, painting and rebuilding our treasured Mini Moke, I hit a pothole on only its third drive and broke the suspension ending all hopes of the planned road trip. At least now Dad will have possession of the bright yellow monster, leaving me to wait a while longer before I get to enjoy her. Anyway, on to this adventure!

Sheldan, a friend I met during my Tesla days, has been staying with me at the farm for the past few weeks and after much festivity, we hit the road to explore the Great South West, something neither of us had done before. Without much order, we packed everything in to the Falcon, drawing on some farm supplies and bits and pieces from Mum & Dad’s caravan, the most notable of which being the Engel fridge. Since we had the space, we figured we might as well go luxury.

It was just after lunch when we left, hugs all round by the parents, they were probably happy to be getting a couple of weeks peace having had a full house for at least a month. Sheldan drove us out of Wandering and south west towards Collie. We’d been this way before but something we hadn’t seen last time was storm clouds on the horizon! Bullshit, we said, we’re going to a swimming hole anyway. In Collie we shopped around for some essential supplies like stove gas, a double cigarette lighter adapter and a squeezy water bottle for showering purposes.

After stocking up and checking the fridge was working as it should off the double adaptor, we were on our way to Wellington Dam. We came into Potters Gorge, a popular swimming spot, to find a packed campground. There were tents and vans galore with only a few meters between sites with generators running and all the common kitchen areas full. I don’t understand why you would pay $12 per person to stay in a place like this when you can camp for free on the same water with no one else around.

Sheldan was not keen for swimming but he came round when he saw me stubbornly putting my bathers on despite the dark clouds. There were a few people in the blue water of the lake and a guy spinning around on the jetski, but most people obviously thought it too cold for swimming. I walked into the shallow water and dove in while Sheldan waited on the banks. Soon enough, he followed me in and we both shivered in the wind after getting out. Whose idea was that to go swimming?

It was only 3pm but we were both happy to make early camp on the Wellington Lake. Being our first night, we wanted to take our time setting everything up. On the way out of the National Park with me driving, I took one detour down a steep dirt road in search of a camp but we were met with no camping signs even though there was a nice clearing right by the water. The Falcon made it back up the hill alright and we carried on out of the park.

On Dad’s suggestion, we went around the south east side of the Lake to find ourselves a camp by the water. Driving on forest roads, with Sheldan navigating using some offline maps, we found numerous tracks leading off to the water. When we took one, we found the road ended right by the water just as a group of guys on dirtbikes flew past. We followed them as they rode along the edge of the river on makeshift roads.

This was perfect! There were plenty of camping options and hardly anyone to be seen. We drove probably a kilometer by the water, getting over a bumpy dry river crossing to make it to a nice spot in the alcove of some trees with a rope swing hanging from a tree and a Christmas tree pitched by the water’s edge. Yes, this will do just fine.

Thanks to some strong winds, it was too cold for another swim so we got on to collecting firewood and setting up camp. Sheldan was a little challenged by his new air mattress but he soon got it blown up and the tent pitching went off without a problem. Like real domesticated campers, we even hung a clothesline between a couple of trees to dry our swimming clothes.

We chatted by the fire ring as I used Dad’s binoculars to spy on other campers around the lake. Just before dark, we lit the fire and the binoculars went away. Thanks to the wind, the fire took straight away and so Sheldan enthusiastically collected more big logs to keep her going longer than an hour.

Also because of the wind, I decided to cook on the fire because my gas stove wasn’t going to hold up and how well did that work out! Sheldan prepared the coals for me and soon enough we had chicken and mushroom pasta in our bellies. By the time the sun went down, Sheldan was regretting not bringing any long pants and I’d donned mine. The wind made it cold but the huge fire made it alright.

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