Much of my knowledge of towns and regions is because I have travelled there or knew a person from there. As I meet more people and travel more places, the pages of my personal atlas gradually get filled in. I once played footy with a guy from Pambula in NSW, and had driven through the Sapphire Coast of NSW as far as Merimbula. But the pages in my atlas remained blank between these towns and Sydney. I knew little of what lay ahead as we planned our next stop, but a photo of a stunning white-sand beach called Green Patch piqued my interest.
Mrs Bugler did some research and found that it was possible to camp near the beach at Green Patch in Booderee National Park. It seemed that we were not the only people keen to explore the area. The information she gleaned was that the campsite books out well in advance in the summer months, especially on the weekends. Unperturbed, we stocked up on cheese and supplies in Bega for a few nights in Booderee.
The weather proved less than ideal as we drove north. Grey clouds slowly rolled in from the west and a cold wind began to blow. We arrived at the gates of Booderee National Park to find that the weather was not the only thing unfavourable. Sites at Green Patch were booked out for the weekend. We could have set up camp elsewhere in the national park overnight before transferring to third camp site in the park for our remaining two nights. Instead we chose to ask if there was a campground closer to town that might be better for us.
We didn’t quite understand why we were pointed in the direction of Huskisson rather than nearby Vincentia. Nevertheless, we took the advice and set up camp on Currambene Creek just north of Husky. Our drive through the towns helped me understand the advice given. It became clear that Husky was the tourist town while Vincentia seemed to house more permanent residents.
A summer storm confined us to our tent and we spent some time reading up on the local area. Booderee National Park has a fascinating history. The park is wholly within Jervis Bay Territory, a Commonwealth of Australia territory similar to the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. For the purposes of Federal Government representation, Jervis Bay Territory is part of the ACT and is governed under the laws of the ACT. The Australian Federal Police enforce the laws and cars are registered with ACT number plates. This is despite Jervis Bay being nearly 200km from the ACT and not part of the ACT. It is the smallest mainland state or territory and was created in 1915 so that the Federal Government in Canberra could have access to the sea.
The territory is now recognised as mostly Aboriginal land. The majority of the residents are of Aboriginal ancestry and live in the towns of Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay. Employment in the territory comes in the form of the navy base, HMAS Creswell, or from the administration of the Booderee National Park. The administration of the national park was also somewhat controversial. Despite it being declared a national park in 1992, the park wasn’t transferred to the Wreck Bay community until 1995.
With this history in mind and increasing our curiosity, we set off the next morning to explore the mainland territory of Australia we did not know existed. We were a little tired due to a curious pygmy possum, and the weather had not cleared but we headed straight for Green Patch. It was immediately obvious why the campsite was so popular. People had set up camp in beautiful sites amidst the temperate rainforest. A short walk away was an incredibly picturesque beach that has arguably the whitest sand in the world. Even with the inclement weather, it would have been brilliant to wake up in our tent there.
Others had found places to picnic and we did likewise. The mini Bugler explored the vicinity and chanced upon a shy wallaby. After so many stories and toys about kangaroos, we thought he may have been more excited. His reaction could have been better described as curious confusion. He did have a slight smile as the wallaby hopped away.
We walked off our lunch with a walk along the beach and through the trees. A short drive to Murrays Beach presented us with another stunning white sand beach and amazing views across the water. Grey clouds obscured the vista somewhat making us ponder how incredible the beaches must look on a clear day.
We drove across to the south side of the park’s peninsula on the less-travelled road. Our destination was the ruins of the Cape St George Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1860 despite controversy about its location. The maps were a bit unclear and the builder decided the location was closer to the quarry. It oversaw a series of shipwrecks before being replaced by another lighthouse in 1899. But because the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse was so close to the Cape St George one, ships got confused in the daylight. Thus, Cape St George Lighthouse was used as target practice by the navy and ruined following the World War.
Other than its controversial history, the lighthouse was not a happy home and many residents died. Despite all this controversy and death, the location was another spectacular site in Booderee National Park. There were views up and down the coastline of dramatic cliffs. The ruins were also worth seeing. The sandstone blocks were made to last and parts of the ruins were in superb condition even after the navy’s battering.
By this time the mini Bugler was tired and it was time to head back into Huskisson for some first birthday cake. Perhaps I had heard of this other mainland Australian territory at some time but I never committed it to memory. After a day exploring Booderee National Park and reading of its history, my personal atlas has certainly had a blank page illustrated thoroughly. If you are ever on the south coast of NSW, I would recommend visiting the Jervis Bay region. Just make sure you book a campsite in advance.
The threat of bushfires in the Victorian summer is ever-present. There are constant updates on all media formats and every puff of smoke sets people talking. Over Christmas a haystack caught fire not far from Burramine South and we were advised to flee the family home. The conversation drifted to a number of things, but always returned to the status of the nearby fire. We took the risk of staying to watch and wait, and happily the fire did not progress.
As the small Bugle family set off an on Australian Odyssey, the threat of bushfires increased. A stopover in Maffra to visit friends was an enjoyable start, and the conversation was littered with talk of fires in Gippsland. We again took a risk and set off for the eastern-most town in Victoria – Mallacoota.
Set in the hills of Lake Tyers State Park, the hamlet of Nowa Nowa rarely gets mentioned on the national news. When we drove through it, the smoke haze increased and we noticed some fire trucks on the road. Our trusty adventure mobile saw us safely past and it wasn’t long before it was safe to open the air vents once more. But the temperature was rising and as we tuned in to ABC Local Radio the conversation had again drifted to bushfires.
Mallacoota is a gorgeous place. The still water of the inlet gives an air of calm to the town that seems to slow the pace of the world. Without the chaos of school holidays to contend with, we were allowed our choice of sites at the caravan park. We drove a couple of laps before setting up camp in the place with the most shade. A swim in the waters of the Tasman Sea helped to cool us off, although the mini-Bugler found it a touch too chilly for his liking.
We strolled to the main street to buy some cold drinks and in a brief talk with the merchant discovered the the following day was going to be a difficult one for firefighters. Another day with the temperature expected to soar above 40°. A later wind change could create havoc by changing the fire’s front. But that all seemed a long way off as we slept with a cool ocean breeze drifting through our tent.
It is easy to rise early when camping. Without walls and curtains to block light and sound, a burbling mini-Bugler is a reliable alarm clock. I jogged around Mallacoota Inlet as the sun rose out of the sea. The mild morning quickly turned warm and we did our best to keep cool. An air-conditioned drive to Betka Beach for a picnic proved just the ticket. A number of families had similar plans. There was safe and gentle swimming in the inlet for those less confident, while the colder waves of the main beach were for the braver. Everyone found some shade to hide from the brilliant sun in the clear blue sky. But in the west, some odd clouds were rising.
By mid-afternoon, it was sunny no more. Enormous banks of smoke cloud rolled in as the fires in East Gippsland burned away. The light in Mallacoota turned an eerie red, changing the feel of the small town. Calm was replaced with concern, not for Mallacoota but for those less lucky elsewhere in Victoria. Concern was highest for those nearby in the remote areas of East Gippsland, small townships like Nowa Nowa that barely rate a mention otherwise.
We stopped in at a cafe on the main street and got talking to another young family. He was from the Czech Republic. She was from Latvia. One of their children was born in the USA and the other was born in China. Despite this heritage, inherently they understood that conversations in Victoria in summer must always come back to bushfires. We discussed our travels and related our experiences with the smoke on the Princes Highway. One question they asked made me pause for thought – was what we were experiencing normal?
I had to answer that it was. It may not have been a usual experience for me, and in fact I had never had an experience like it. But to many Victorians, summertime means threatening fires, conversations about fires, and clouds of smoke. It may not be this year that the fire is close to one person’s house, but their turn will almost inevitably come. Each of us has a story to tell about bushfires.
The brilliant yellow sun had turned into a red disc in the sky. The sky was so thick with smoke it felt overcast, as though a thunderstorm was brewing. A few people were enjoying a cool beer as the sun went down and we joined them. I overheard them talk of Yarrawonga, a town not far from Burramine South. They were on their way there and we talked of our travels. But inevitably the conversation turned back to the bushfires.
The forecast for the day following was for a cooler day but still sunny. The day that arrived was certainly cooler but far from sunny. Smoke haze sat over Mallacoota making us think the weather was somehow different from what it was. We drove out to Genoa as the mini-Bugler dozed in the air-conditioned comfort of the adventure mobile.
Croajingolong National Park is a stunning example of Victoria’s natural beauty. We climbed to the top of Genoa Peak listening to the calls of a lyrebird. We were further rewarded at the top with a 360° panorama of the region. We could see the coast to the east and south. Mallacoota Inlet snaking in from the east. The mountains of the Snowy River National Park to the north-west. And forests in every direction. But back at the picnic site as we sat down for our lunch, the conversation of course went back to the bushfires.
After taking the Melbourne media by storm, your humble scribe has uprooted the Bugle family and left town. The Bugler sits in a camp ground in far east Gippsland pondering the different weather patterns that affect this corner of the country. And this scene will be repeated all along the eastern seaboard and across the Top End in the coming months.
But do not despair. The intention is to continue to Bugle intermittently, albeit with a slight twist. Some of the Buglings may come with less of a sporting flavour. A twist of travel will add some tang to the taste of the musings on the Burramine South Bugle. Some stories from the road, if you will.
There will still be plenty for sports fans out there so check back regularly. And if you are somewhere around Australia, get in contact to try and tee up a date with the Bugle family.