Adventure | 30th October 2020
Low Key and Local Camping Adventure
Adventurers Angela and Andy take us on their eco-conscious and dog friendly camping weekend.
Not too long ago the immediacy offered by airlines to connect you from point A to point B was plagued with a sense of instant gratification as the by-product of some quick trip interstate or a grand adventure abroad for the privileged few. The further you went or the more extreme the itinerary somehow felt like a greater use of those carefully saved dollars and annual leave days. To my pre-pandemic self, forever longing for the far-flung and the exotic, those passport stamps not only validated entry visas but admittedly they seemingly also validated the quality of the experience to follow. Now with the peaks of Patagonia and the scenic trails of Hawaii’s volcanic coastlines well out of reach and a collection of dubious travel credit vouchers age slowly in cyberspace limbo – the gaze has inevitably shifted inwards and the tempo has slowed, but the newfound experiences have been as enriching as ever.
Recently in our household, we unanimously agreed on one thing: our dog Bowie has been the real winner of 2020. No doubt Bowie is acutely aware of this jackpot win: suddenly we are home all the time; there are daily jaunts to the park and numerous opportunities to guilt us into sporadic snacks from the treat jar. No more surprise packing of the dreaded big suitcases and duffel bags that signal a long & humans-only trip far away. Because these days, dog always comes with. And we go out of our way to research all the dog-friendly possibilities, camping included.
With this turbulent pandemic setting off waves of cabin fever, it would appear that camping is shaping up to be the perfect antidote. Social distancing, al fresco dining, an opportunity to reconnect with nature and restore your circadian rhythm via a peaceful slumber under the stars. All at your own pace in your own way, with more dog-friendly camp options on the rise. Sign me up, every weekend please. And it’s a done deal, thanks to a next-gen crop of “camp-share” websites. This camping equivalent of Airbnb connects lush & ample campsites on private acreage with happy campers. A welcome option for both parties as it ensures your dollar goes back into local communities. It’s a better time than ever to explore our own backyard…or someone else’s for that matter.
Although being under lockdown has been gruelling and unbalanced, the silver lining is that many of us have realised there are some things that are worth preserving. We’re questioning the fundamentals of the “normal” we had come to unthinkingly accept – and realising that maybe we don’t really want to go back…not necessarily to all of that. This time has offered some of us a rare opportunity to reflect on & reshape our values and reassess our priorities. “Simplify” as a mantra has become louder than ever: re-use, use less, want less, buy less and only to buy, with intent, the option that is built to last, that leaves the smaller footprint. The 5 key elements we seek in investment items are: ethical production, classic design, eco-conscious materials, comfort and longevity. This points squarely to Teva’s range of sandals with straps fabricated entirely from traceable, verifiable recycled plastic. Built to last, these high-performance sandals will see our feet through many summers to come. So, when presented with a sunny long weekend we saw the opportunity to head north out of Sydney & test out not only a new dog-friendly camping spot but also to finally christen our Teva sandals with Bellingen Shire’s imitable sand, soil and dust.
The mood on the drive north out of Sydney along a relentlessly busy highway transformed almost immediately after the turn-off to Bellingen. Here the vista opens out to verdant green pastures that race up to meet the misty Great Dividing Range. The sun was dipping by the time we rolled through Bellingen township. On the home stretch, it felt like we all let out a collective inhale and exhale (the dog included - his happy alert head out of the window and giddy from the wind) as we navigated the winding gravel roads under purple dusky skies.
Arriving just after nightfall in the closing dark, we set up camp swiftly under the bright gaze of our car lights and moonlight. A little bit of research led us to book this serene patch of creekside heaven on a private property in the rolling hills just outside of Bellingen. Our host was a wonderfully gregarious member of Bellingen’s original bohemian set, a keen innovator & staunch environmentalist, with an amusing penchant for puns. He took pride in having the opportunity to share his beautiful space with respectful campers. On offer were a limited number of unpowered, very well-spaced out sites and not one eyesore amenities block in sight! To be highly commended was the very considered and eco-friendly approach to the beautifully simple facilities - the crux of which was the infamous long-drop “loo with a view” nestled in a private niche high up on a forested slope. We were going to be very happy here. Bowie the dog, the happiest of them all.
The ensuing days were dedicated to unhurried exploration. A salt-soaked day spent at dog-friendly Valla Beach and the return via a winding gravel track from the coast. Kicking up dust as we roll through the terrain, we spy one or two red-bellied black snakes slipping away from the path. On another day - the scenic drive from Bellingen along Waterfall Way. Meandering upwards to the fertile Dorrigo plateau through towering swathes of rainforest, past gushing waterfalls and over the Bellinger River. Through the tops of the trees, glimpses of the Bellinger Valley roll out toward the blazing blue Pacific Ocean in the distance. The air is noticeably cooler on the plateau, but this time of year guarantees sun with just the right amount of intensity to warrant a refreshing dip in the river. We swim then lounge like lizards on the rocks & then swim again on repeat until our only marker of time: the rumble in our bellies – lures us back to bohemian “Bello” in search of a late lunch.
It was a long weekend well-spent. Three days that felt like so much more, which is realistic in a year that has been marked (for the most part) by a blurring of time. This time last year we were so used to moving through life’s peaks and troughs at warp speed, taking planned breaks to recharge but only when the calendar would allow. It is a familiar formula: a period of inaction as a necessary precursor to the animated, high-energy one that follows. If the same can be true of the pandemic and life after it, then perhaps this dormant period of prolonged stillness is what will make the chapter that comes afterwards all the more compelling, colourful and geographically diverse. But until the time comes to dust off the passports, you know how we’ll be spending most weekends as we head into the summer months: setting up camp in someone’s “backyard” with our thrilled dog in tow. And chances are we’re not very far away from home at all.
5 Tips For Camping Responsibly With Your Dog
- Ensure you have actually booked a pet-friendly site and remember that rules & regulations vary, especially on private land, so best to call ahead to scope out restrictions.
- Part of good camping etiquette is to establish boundaries for your dog. Keep your dog close by and within your campsite at all times. Do not allow your dog to chase any wildlife or ingest unknown flora. Keep an extra-long lead/extension handy for dogs with rogue chase tendencies (similarly, if a dog is meant to be kept on a leash, ensure this is followed).
- Remember that National Parks are entirely out of the question in order to protect our native flora & fauna. Plan any external day trips around dog-friendly trails & sights.
- The Australian bush is prone to ticks – so make sure you have all bases covered in terms of tick-prevention measures if camping in an area prone to those dangerous little critters. Religiously inspect your dog for ticks and ensure you are familiar with treatment methods.
- Clean up after your dog as always (anywhere, anytime)
Written and photographed by Angela Hamilton.
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