Zen Disrupted: drop toilet wars and meteor showers on the South Coast of New South Wales, Australia

in #travel2 years ago (edited)

The rock books of North Head Campground Beach, Murramarang National Park, New South Wales South Coast

The sun beats down as the car sways through coastal curves. I've hit the road with my camping buddy Chantel for an ingeniously timed mid-week getaway. Our hands hang out each window moving in a synchronized wave to a summer soundtrack. We're headed to a secluded, and free, campsite along the crystal blue beaches of the South Coast of New South Wales.

I know I need a dose of Zen because two days ago I started a verbal brawl with a bloke in the supermarket. I live in Western Sydney so this is not a life affirming move. While my motives were honourable, I am not proud. I tell you this only to illustrate how far down the slope of stress I have fallen. An argument with a stranger is not my usual fare. I intend to right the ship with a few nights sleeping to the sounds of waves, waking to salty air, and digging my toes in the sand.

Just past the dirt road turn off we are charmed by the shaded groves of bush land leading to North Head Campground. Views of the ocean bounce gems of light in the distance. There is no other sign of life. Just us, flying dust and fabulous tunes. Talking about what we'll do with a campsite to ourselves. As we turn the final bend we are confronted with a mass of Juicy vans, hire campers, caravans and tents. More appalling, our isolated campsite appears to be full of children. Insert the sound of the needle sliding to a halt on that soundtrack. We have stumbled upon a hot spot for tourists making their way along Australia’s East Coast and homeschooling parents. Two laps of the campground leave us with one option. The spot next to the drop toilets. The parks service keeps those well maintained, right?

Drop toilets are a very deep hole in the ground dug in the hope that what is at the bottom will disintegrate before it reaches the top. Ideally they come with a lid. We immediately break for them. Four hours on the road has created a sense of urgency. The first thing that strikes me is the flies. Thousands of them guarding the rim. I wave them away alarmed to find that their exit reveals a near full toilet and a smell that crawls into things and takes up residence. Chantel and I meet again on the path back to the car. Her usual tanned complexion has taken on a grey sheen. When she’s regained the power of speech she tells me hers was a bit full. With high thirty degree summer days on the way, a pair of full drop loos does not bode well for the sweet scent of life in the wilderness.

North Head Campground Beach, Murramarang National Park, New South Wales South Coast
A less threatening beach dweller at sunset on North Head Campground beach

We decide the best course of action is to ignore this and explore the beach. An isolated stretch of sand in a cove surrounded on both sides by quirky rock formations and delicious rock pools. I flick off my shoes and get ready to feel stress seep out of my toes and into the natural world. I wander in a state of blissful drop toilet denial when something catches my eye. I am in the middle of a field of blue bottles. A delightful organism that looks disturbingly like a used condom and packs an unpleasant sting. I am surrounded on all sides, acutely aware as to why our fellow campers have abandoned the glistening water. I slide my shoes back on and hop my way between these nasty prophylactics like a thief dodging laser wires.

Back at camp Chantel wisely keeps her distance of my foul mood and offers to make dinner. I decide things have to change and launch an attack the toilets with citronella coils in the hope of masking the smell. As I head off on my mission to neutralise the enemy a convoy of P platers rolls in. An Australian phenomena identifiable by their inability to understand that noise travels in the bush and unruly response to feedback from fellow campers on this matter. My cup runneth over. With steely resolve I march to the loo and plant the citronella leaving Chantel with the job of monitoring the youth.

This idyllic campground contains more hidden perils than you can poke a stick at. It is a surface that should not be scratched. Possums raid our camp at night, enamoured with the clattering sound empty bottles make when knocked to and fro. I am comforted only by the fact that this hulabaloo drowns out the P platers. We dodge lizards the size of small crocodiles while making breakfast. We have a fellow camper whose morning business combined with thirty plus degree heat (that’s Celsius folks) and a habit of forgetting to close the lid would leave nuclear chemists in awe. The citronella I have planted barely cuts the mustard. There’s nothing like the scent of effluent first thing in the morning to get your juices flowing.

North Head Campground, Murramarang National Park, New South Wales South Coast
Pre-parasite hammock chill

As we wage continued war on our environment we contemplate cutting the trip short. Chantel, ever determined to locate her calm, kicks back in the hammock while we discuss. Moments later she is leaping and hopping. A tick has attacked and gets busy burrowing itself in her leg. I set forth to Google tick removal. Phone in one hand, tweezers in the other, I approach assuring Chantel I’m a professional Googler. It is at this moment, while she desperately demands the removal of her parasite, that I notice a messenger thread informing me there is a meteor shower that very night. Distracted I take a seat and begin to share the details with Chantel. I find her highly unappreciative of my efforts to improve our trip with an rare astrological phenomena and overly demanding on the tick removal front.

It turns out that we have stumbled upon a clear view of the north sky during the once a year Geminids Meteor Shower. As a bonus we’ve managed to do it the one time in the last nine years that it will be particularly close to earth and clear. Absentmindedly I pass Chantel the tweezers. Rejuvenated by this turn of events I get to the business of planning our seat for the show while she digs out her tick.

We make grand plans to wander out to the cliff edge with wine, cheese, chips and chairs. As night begins to fall we reassess after remembering that the Australian bush eats people and doesn’t spit them back out. Questioning the wisdom of combining wine and cliffs our senses return and we decide to follow a well marked path to North Head lookout (assuming rightly that this points to the North Sky). A frenzy of downloading astrological apps occurs and we totter off to attempt to translate the night sky into the likely location of our meteors.

2017 Geminids Meteor Shower
Watching meteors shoot wonder across the sky

Lots of holding of phones up to the skies follows. Also lots of wine drinking which doesn’t assist matters. Eventually, in a moment that I can only call inspired, the sky comes together with my app into a vision of clarity. I begin pointing out constellations to Chantel who scratches her head and tells me she doesn’t see it.

Our lookout comes with a deck and we lie down to watch the show. The first meteor shoots across the sky as scheduled just after 10pm. They fly in all directions from Gemini. I have never seen a meteor, never mind a whole shower of them. I will pay the price in fatigue tomorrow, the drive home long and winding. For tonight I stare in wonder as the universe rights my trip and reminds me how little of it matters in the grand scheme of things. Arguments in supermarkets seem absurd under the cover of a darkness containing so much magic.


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wow! must have been really exciting to be able to see a meteor shower! i love the way you write by the way! oh and by the way, about ticks, its good to take precaution when removing as i had read somewhere that they carry lots of bacteria, and it could get transmitted to humans if you remove them the wrong way.

It was quite a thing. Thanks for the tip. Our googling did explain that <3

my pleasure! see you around! :)

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Thank you! I really appreciate that <3

Beautiful pictures
I enjoyed reading your experience @onethousandwords

You're welcome! congrats on this awesome post!

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Truly spellbinding the view you had of the stars. I have seen a metor shower quite of few times, but not with that level of clarity (I live in the city).

I always love reading your descriptions-- the way you described the toilet was poetic "their exit reveals a near full toilet and a smell that crawls into things and takes up residence." It brought back my own vivid memories of concert porto-potties (blargh!)...

Can't wait to read your latest adventure!

It was quite a view. Almost made up for an intimate weekend with a drop toilet. Thank you so much for such lovely feedback. It encourages me to keep writing.

Your post made my laugh a few times. Stress gets the best of us from time to time. That's nothing a bit of nature can remedy. I'm glad you got to see the meteor shower. They are pretty epic if you catch a good one!

I'm glad you got a laugh. At least the nature was distracting at this spot.

Wow these photos are truly breathtaking! I have a lot to learn about photography before my photos are anywhere near that, and I'm definitely taking notes on how you blogged. Great work all around @onethousandwords , I am definitely going to follow for more of this!

Thank you so much. That is such kind feedback. I really appreciate the positive vibe.

Nice post and lovely photos @onethousandwords, very nice to be featured alongside you in the #TravelDigest. Have upvoted and followed you :)

Thanks. I just read your In Patagonia piece. Wow, you can write and those images are just stunning.

Your description is picturesque, auditory, olfactory and gustatory. Which is generally great, except when writing is intense enough that I smelled the loo! lol.

Excellent story. And a nice way to bring it back together at the end.

Gustatory I think may be my new favourite word. I LOVE it <3

Thanks for the lovely feedback.

Laughing at your story about the outhouses, (Holes in the ground). I always imagine crazed people lurking at the bottom of them just waiting. Even in our "port o pottys" . I guess it's universal!! Fun story as always. Toasting you with a glass of wine now!!

ha ha I think the idea of someone at the bottom is more disturbing than a nearly full one! Cheers <3

Heya, just swinging by to let you know you're being featured in our Daily Travel Digest!

That's awesome. Thank you so much.

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"Arguments in supermarkets seem absurd under the cover of a darkness containing so much magic" A quotable quote. Keep up the good work, mate. Wish you luck.

That's very kind of you to say. Thank you.

Wow what a trip - I can imagine the disgust when you stopped to google instead of removing the tic- im starting an annual trip with my young family, i cant wait to share similar stories.

It was quite an experience. I hope you have some grand adventures


What an eloquent blog with beautiful photography!
Although drop toilets kinda scare me 😳 😂
Looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

Me too! They're always perilous. Thanks so much for the lovely feedback

Your storytelling is so amazing. Another total gem. Love that photo of the night sky too. Wow! What awesome timing you had.

Thanks. Don't tell the others but you're my favourite 🤗 We got lucky on the timing. It was a beautiful clear night to so winning all round on that one.

Oh thanks, lol. I'm glad this got curied too. As I've said in the past, your work is so undervalued. I totally would have submitted this myself but I thought it was a bit risky given you'd been curied a couple of times already. 😡

Thanks for thinking of me. How do I know that I've been curied?

You got a big fat upvote and curie is one of them. Plus I am one the curators so I know. I check these things since I'm always on the look out for exceptional posts to submit.

You can see everything that recently got upvoted here, although you've dropped off the list already:

I thought something had happened. I am very flattered and grateful. How can I thank them?

You'll be tagged in the next weekly update so you could comment in there.

Oh fabulous. I'll keep an eye out for it. You're so darn helpful and patient. Thank you ❤

Great post , I grew up in on the South Coast in the Wollongong area and now live in Western Sydney too - damn I miss those beaches and secluded getaway spots 🌱🌱

THe South Coast is gorgeous. I do plan on going back and having another crack at it <3

Yeah absolutely. I just put up a little drone footage from my area actually. Enjoy