Week one on the road – Free Camping at Bulahdelah NSW
Jan 28th to Feb 3rd: It’s a surreal existence when your dreams are happening around you. It’s a spectacular sense of accomplishment, mixed with a dash of disbelief, a slight twist of vulnerability, and a nagging sensation that it’s all going to crash down around you sometime soon. At least that’s how it felt to me.
Our first few days on the road, well I guess, closer to a week were spent catching up with friends and family before we travelled off into the sunset to enjoy our nomadic dream. It was nice, and a sort-of in-between, where we were officially on the road travelling Australia, and yet floating around the familiar tracks of our past lives, not yet truly on our way.
The 28th of January saw us drive out of Matt’s Nan’s driveway with no real idea of where we’d stop for the night, it was everything we’d wished for; point the car in the direction we wanted to go, and just drive. Take things as they come, trust the universe would lead us to where it was we should go, and enjoy the journey, after all, the journey really is the destination!
As evening began to hit, we decided to pull up in Bulahdelah. This is a pure case of deciding to take a chance on a place we’d driven through probably hundreds of times before, and yet never really looked around. Living on the Mid North Coast made Bulahdelah the fuel and toilet stop of the Pacific Highway when travelling to Sydney; a nice mid-point. But, the highway has since by-passed the little town, and we’d noticed there was a free camp in the area so it was worth a look.
Truly, camp sites don’t get too much better than this one. It’s a dog friendly and family friendly free camp.
We arrived to find a nice big vacant area right on the bank of the river, with a jetty to our left and the walkway to the bridge not too far away. There wasn’t any shade in our new found yard, but we figured we were only staying a night or two, so it we’d work around it.
Van up, table out and a couple of chairs, and we were dishing dinner before we knew it. We’d anticipated a late arrival so had thrown a big feed of beef stroganoff in the Dream Pot before leaving, it was perfect by the time we were ready to eat, and a nice reward after the drive and set up.
There was no time like the present for the kids. Bellies full, they had the rods unpacked, bait net in and were keen for a fish. It didn’t take long before the bait net was host to a small fish. Jackson didn’t like the look of it, with a few ominous spikes giving a warning not to get to close. He gave a yell to Matt to come take a look, and before Matt made it to the Jetty, a lovely guy in the campsite near went to take a look and not wearing his glasses put his hand in to retrieve the little thing.
Ouch! He’d been stung, and boy did we feel bad about it! First night in camp and we’d already inflicted an injury on some poor bloke! We dug out the bites and stings book and I enlisted the help of good old Google to identify the sucker, which we soon realised was a Bullrout. Luckily we carry plenty of pain relief and creams in the van, so we offered him some, and then advised to wash it with hot water as per the first aid directions, also assuring him if it got too bad we’d be happy to run him up to the hospital for them to take a look. Thankfully it was all fine and not too major, but lesson learned for the kids, not to let others touch their nets until we’re there. I’d hate to feel responsible for something bad happening to someone else, even if it’s unintentional.
Crisis averted, Matt and the kids fished well into the evening, before it was time to hit the sack, we figured we’d stay another night, and then see where the road led us.
This plan, to leave the next day happened for several days, and we ended up staying there for five nights. We didn’t realise at the time that the site actually has a 3 night maximum, but it wasn’t full and we spent money in town every day which we thought the small businesses would appreciate so not a major issue.
Our days were filled with swimming, fishing, wandering through town to stock up on supplies, and hanging out with our new friends, the resident geese and ducks, who would often make their presence known and had quite a bit of character about them.The kids enjoyed having a go at camp cooking, and even washing the clothes, although the fascination wore off pretty quickly
We chatted to locals, met lots of other travellers, some who’d been on the road for some time, others who were testing the waters and deciding whether to dive in and head around Australia full time on the big lap. (of course we told them to go for it, life’s just too short, we hope to meet up with them on the road)
If you’re in the area, then we can highly recommend this free camp. It’s an initiative of the local Lions Club, to help aid the community after the highway bypass. You need to be pretty self-contained, there is a tap on site for water top-ups, and there are toilets just a short 100 metre walk across the bridge, we carry our own shower, so that wasn’t an issue for us but I think there may be a shower at the showground for a fee.
Please, if you do decide to stay, support the local businesses, it’s a great spot, one of the best we’ve experienced, and by doing some groceries, going to the pub just for a drink or even for dinner, topping up with fuel, or grabbing lures from the hardware like we did it helps prove that the camp is bringing income into the town, as there have been rumours that there has been some objections to the existence of the camp there. We injected around $400 into the town, and most other travellers we talked to spent relative amounts depending on their length of stay, so the small businesses are truly getting extra income from travellers like us, and goes some way to show that towns offering free camping as an alternative definitely benefit.
It was definitely a difficult place to leave behind. Our deadline for reaching Melbourne to sail on Spirit of Tasmania was looming, and we knew we needed to be there by the 8th of February, so we had to give in to the demands of time and wave goodbye to our riverside home and continue on our way.