If you don’t mind a long drive and face-to-face confrontations with snakes, spiders and lizards, then there’s a place a few hours south of Sydney that fulfils the romanticised picture of Australia that every traveller dreams of. Caves Beach at Jervis Bay is the perfect weekend get away for those with an outdoor lifestyle, especially if your into surfing, camping and wildlife. The beautiful little spot is hidden at the back end of Booderee National Park, a luscious area of land that makes the journey out of the city along the mundane highways worth your time and effort. Whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring, the bright green forests enchanting atmospheres are hard to ignore, the trees look grander, the beaches more remote and the world surrounding feels like it is inviting you explore.
The Camping Experience
It was mid November when a group of us decided to take a weekend trip together, making the booking at the small beachside campsite a few weeks prior to ensure we’d get a spot (a necessity for long weekends but just a precaution any other time). It was twilight on a Friday afternoon, slightly overcast, and the roads leading in to the park were empty making our journey among the trees and wildlife that much more enjoyable. A few 4×4’s were already sitting in the campsite car park when we arrived, all with surfcraft tied to the roof and mud splattered up the sides from adventures off the beaten track. The gravel under our tyres crunched and caught the attention of two nearby wallabies, both of which watched curiously as we approached and bounded off into the bush the moment we opened our doors. The cicadas were singing so loud that not much else could be heard, just a few lorikeets chirping and some of the bigger waves in the distance crashing onto the shore. ‘This is it.’ I thought to myself. ‘This is what I’ve been missing.’
It was only a small campground, occupied mostly by groups of young surfers that smoked joints and drank beer by campfire, but there was enough space for a group of nine of us to find a little corner where we could keep to ourselves for the duration of the weekend. Barbecued meat and smokey wood fires lingered in the air whilst we erected our tents, attracting a dozen or so Kangaroos that were brave enough to hop in between the guy ropes to beg for scraps. The warning against feeding the wildlife was hard to abide when a cute young joey poked it’s head from it’s mothers pouch with hungry eyes.
The cicadas had stopped buzzing once we were done setting up but a few persistent crickets chirped nearby until the possums and bandicoots managed to find them them and devour them, bringing the night almost to silence. The glow of burning embers and the salty sea breeze blowing against the tents was incredibly peaceful and had all of us forgetting about our trivial worries, if only for a moment.
Wildlife & Waves
Australia’s alarm clocks, cockatoos and kookaburras, woke us in the morning but it was the scream of a young woman that stirred us from our sleeping bags. It was a bloodcurdling, horrible shriek synonymous with terrible crimes and painful injury, but the cause was something much less serious. A couple of two meter long diamond pythons hung from the rafters of the toilet block, and even though they hardly moved their menacing appearance was enough for the entire population of the campsite to find somewhere else to do their business. Of course this only led to more reptilian encounters with more terrible shrieks, each one a bit less of a shocking than the last. At the back of the grounds were ten’s of red-bellied black snakes, highly venomous creatures, bathing in the sun on fallen logs and tufts of dry grass at the side of an ominous looking swamp. Then there were goannas, skinks and even more pythons amongst them to keep us looking elsewhere for a secluded little spot.
Keeping clear of the dangerous animals we spent the day at the beach and made the most of the good weather, the girls relaxing on the sand and the guys out on our boards in the surf. The might of the ocean had calmed overnight and the swell had died down but that wasn’t important, it was enough just to be floating out at sea with the sun beaming down on our backs and the wind on our skin. Every now and then a set would come in big enough for us to to try and have some fun together, and as there were only five others in the water there was no real battle to catch anything, making for a far less infuriating experience than surfing in the city. The water was warm too, giving us no reason to leave except for fatigue and for food, and even when we did make it out we returned within an hour. It was only when the sun went down that we decided to call it a day, making our way back to the campsite exhausted but content. A few more campers had arrived during our absence, a couple of families and some backpackers, but they mostly kept to themselves after a few friendly greetings.
We were still a little cold taking off our gear but the heat of the campfire had us warm and dry as we tucked into a medley of sausages, burgers and chicken skewers that the girls had prepared earlier, all of which tasted so much better after the long day in the water. None of it lasted long and even though we were beginning to feel the oncomings of a food coma, we couldn’t let the night come to an end just yet. We made our way down to the beach under the star and moonlight, setting up a little cave with candles and torches where we could enjoy a few drinks in each other’s company in a wonderful environment, sharing old stories and playing silly games for entertainment.
I’ve been to many places and I’ve experienced a lot of incredible things, but weekends like this are the times that I cherish the most and I’m sure that a lot of others feel the same way. We dream big, work hard and grow old fast, but it feels like there doesn’t have to be anything else to life when your sitting under the great cosmic abyss surrounded by wilderness. There’s an invigorating nature about nature and that’s all we needed, that and each other’s company, the rest was just excess just to pass time in between.
“A man’s heart away from nature becomes hard, a lack of respect for growing, living things soon becomes a lack of respect for humans too.” – Luther Standing Bear