A Chasing After the Wind
Excerpted from Ocean
June 2004 Long Weekend
voyage from Nerong to Bungwal Myall Lakes National Park,
Mid North Coast of NSW, Ray Tolcher, Brad O’Sullivan
and Ed Brown. TS 16.
TS Kate slid effortlessly into the black, tannin-stained
water of picturesque Nerong village under a million-mile sky.
Weeks of planning and excitement had paid off for three mates
praying for clear winter days over the June long weekend.
Kate was loaded; swollen with fuel, drinking
water, tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and vitals. Surprisingly
there was still plenty of room for the unlikely crew of accountant,
bricklayer and trainee chef.
With millpond conditions, the 2HP 4/S Honda at
half throttle delivered 3.7 knots on the GPS. Two hours into
the cruise on The Broadwater landed us relaxed and hungry at
Mungo Brush. This is one of several developed campsites marked
on the Port Stephens Tourist Map.
We used this map in preference to topographical
maps because unlike the latter, it showed navigation marks which
were easily followed.
A map is necessary since most beaches and landing
sites are well concealed by Casuarina trees which fringe the
waters edge. This map can be purchased laminated for $12 from
Port Stephens Tourist office via the Web.
We found our campsite in pristine condition and
virtually deserted. We expect a different situation would apply
Lunch at Mungo was a freshly prepared tomato
and onion salad in olive oil vinegarette, as an appetiser, followed
by Turkish bread gourmet sandwiches of rare roast beef, cos
lettuce, peanut butter and French dressing. Italian coffee bags
were a welcome and convenient change from instant coffee.
After lunch and a wee nap, we left the Chardonnay
coloured waters of Mungo to find our evening camp at Myall Shores
Resort (formerly Legges Camp).
No breeze at all, we slid along an oily lake
surface at quarter throttle, under a Monet sky of mauve, navy,
yellow and red hues as the sun rushed to the horizon. The sun
absconded with its warmth and we chilled. Tracky daks and Polar-tecs
were the go.
Myall Shores has hot showers! It also has top
shelf cabin accommodation, a restaurant and conference centre
facilities. Our campsite cost $18 and for that we were relegated
to the extreme shore of the resort which suited us fine. Kate
was beached and secured to a sapling. A truckload of gear was
unloaded, instructions on erecting tents were read in the dim
light while our chef prepared the evening meal by torchlight.
Space blankets should be laid out with the shiny side facing
the ground you know.
It’s a good idea to watch overhanging branches
when mooring close to shore. A brush with an overhanging tea
tree snapped a strand on one of the spreader hounds. I wanted
to replace them anyway. There is no tidal influence, so there
was no concern about being marooned high and dry in the morning.
Dinner was served: Stir fry bok choy and fresh
garden vegetables, with silverside, ginger and garlic infusion,
spring and red onions fried in salted butter served on a bed
of spaghetti noodles. Up to the restaurant for a hot chocolate
nightcap, some fellowship with guests of a church conference
and off to bed with full bellies.
It had been a big day.
The chirping of Rainbow Lorikeets at first light
mercifully ended a rough night sleeping on the ground. A hot
shower brought about semi consciousness. Another perfect day.
The leaves of the tea tree overhangs danced with the sun's quicksilver
reflections off the water, ducks paddled in the shallows, the
flowering Belbowrie droned with bees and the air was sweet with
nectar. Surely we were created for this scene rather than city
life. Breakfast of crispy bacon and "toad in the hole"
was washed down with steaming tea, tents were wrapped and stacked
and bow rope cast off.
Myall Shores is located at Bombah Point where
the vehicular ferry completes the road gap from Bulahdelah to
Hawks Nest. You can only cross the winch cable when the ferry
is stationary, otherwise the cable becomes quite a hurdle.
As Murphy would have it, the Honda started sucking
air as we approached the ferry. The ferryman was patient enough
for us to put another 3 hours worth of fuel (amazingly only
1 litre) into the tank, all the while being extremely careful
not to spill fuel everywhere.
Past Bombah Point we entered the gin clear water
of Boolambatye Lake, which is the smallest lake in the system.
Our destination was Violet Hill camp.
As we approached halfway, we noticed a light
breeze rippling the water. Engine off and sails up, slow progress
was made with just enough breeze to fill the sails, and from
the direction of our heading, of course.
Several tacks in this narrow stretch of no more
than 200 metres advanced us windward about the same distance.
Back on motor we putted into the paradise of Violet Hill camp,
and again tangled up with overhanging branches. The Myall Lakes
Yacht club is credited with having built two landing wharves.
We tied up to one, and this certainly helped with unloading.
The gunwale matched the rub board of the jetty
perfectly and a Woollies bag stuffed with plastic bags and spare
washing up sponges served as a useful fender.
This was another beautiful campsite, spoilt only
by a ratbag in a ski boat who apparently thought the "No
Wash" sign referred to no bathing and the "4"
sign referred to golf or something. Next time I will record
his number. The same bloke and his mates kept everyone awake
with his ghetto blaster until the early hours of the morning.
What's wrong with these blokes? or am I approaching middle age?
As night fell, dinner consisted of tuna and vegetable
casserole, with fried onions. Biscuits for dessert and more
of that Italiano coffee.
The firewood ballast we had been carrying was
put to good use in a campfire, supplemented by a nearby fallen
tree. Warmed by the lure of the campfire under a brilliant sky
and with full bellies, we exchanged exaggerations, and pondered
the vastness of the universe and the purpose of life.
Laziness dictated that I should sleep aboard
and apart from the sound of doof-doof-doof all night, I slept
very well indeed.
The occasional bump of the boat against the jetty
was startling, but all things considered, a boat beats a tent
for sleeping quarters.
Leaving the gin clear waters of Boolambatye lake
we entered Myall Lake.
This by comparison with the other lakes is significantly
larger. Depth varies between say, half a metre to maybe three
or four in most of the lake.
The clear water revealed tall forests of Labomba
weed, and the frightening realisation of the complete absence
The one exception was a large eel we glimpsed
as we glided over a sandy clearing. Where have all the fish
gone? We trolled a New Zealand Jig for long stretches without
result. A few years back the lakes system suffered a major Blue
Green Algae bloom which we presume resulted in the annihilation
of fish stocks.
I wonder if that is what killed the dinosaurs.
Four kilometres from our extraction point at
Bungwal, at the very top of Myall Lake, and at lunch time on
our last day, we landed at an isolated beach suitable for our
last picnic lunch.
Here our chef prepared a masterpiece omelet with
our remaining vitals as ingredients. We drank the last of our
water which meant that the three of us had survived on 24 litres
of water over three days, including some used sparingly for
washing up dishes and brushing teeth.
Although there is drinking water at each of the
permanent campsites throughout the system, it’s a safer
bet to take spring water from the supermarket. It comes in convenient
disposable containers as well.
After lunch we chased small patches of rough
water all over the lake by motor, with the fluky breeze eventually
picking up to steady 10 knots, directly from the direction we
needed to travel, of course.
We worked and worked our way up the wind and
eventually came to a safe enough distance to motor in to the
ramp at Harts Bay, carrying the feeling of being cheated by
the wind, but counselled with the beauty and serenity of this
magnificent water way.