Patonga Caravan Park is nestled along Ettalong beach and Patonga Creek – just 5min from Umina and 90mins from Sydney. It has clean and modern amenities, and the front office comes complete with a kiosk that serves snacks, milk, bread, bait for fishing and refreshments.
As a newbie when it comes to camping, it could not have been more perfect as a way to transition this self-confessed lover of creature comforts to the world of outdoor activities.
But first I needed to be kitted out. I headed to Kmart and invested in a Jackeroo 5 person tent (I like my space), camping stove, cutlery and pots – all for under $200. That way if I decided camping is not for me I will not have to take out a loan to pay for my newly founded hobby.
We arrived at the caravan park and set up camp. Things to consider before pitching your tent – or so I have learned is:
keep away from overhanging branches
aim for as flat ground as possible
try to keep out of the wind if possible
After setting up camp, we called the local Kayaking company to organise kayaks for rental and then headed down for a walk along Ettalong beach. It is good to keep active during the day so you are not too cold once the sun goes down. Or take a stroll with as many layers as possible!
Fire pits are permitted in Winter at the caravan park – firewood is BYO. When you are camping in cold temperatures, this is your best friend for the night:
It was that night when my sleeping bag failed me. The temperature dropped to 8 degrees and i had three layers of clothes on but my sleeping bag was a hand-me-down from my brother that was from the 80s. Lesson learned – try a sleeping bag that was designed for colder temperatures, and better yet, stuff your sleeping bag with your spare clothes to keep you warm. As a novice, I brought an air mattress to sleep on which stops the cold coming up from the ground, however I have been told that a self inflating mattress is a must-have.
Failing that, you can always sleep in the car, and learn from your mistakes for the next camping trip.
Uluru is more than a rock in the red centre of Australia. It is the country’s spiritual heart. Believed to be more than 700 million years old, it holds a powerful presence, that has to be seen to be believed – it was not until I jumped off the tour bus to bask in its giant shadow that I realised the true meaning of this. I felt an instant connection with this land, despite being first generation Australian born of Italian born parents, it is almost like Uluru has a maternal energy, one that holds on to you long after you leave and makes you feel like you are part of its long history, whatever your own origins.
Uluru represents many things to many Australians. The indigenous Australians believe the rock is a sacred place, much like a church, where for millions of years tribes gather to perform rituals even to today. Climbing Uluru is possible but discouraged for this reason. They believe the rock was formed during Dreamtime, and ancient carvings and paintings adorn the side of the rock, telling stories from more than 10,000 years ago.
My favourite experience at Uluru and what I believe is must-do is the Sounds of Silence dinner. Imagine eating canapés as the sun sets over the majestic Rock, and then walking along a walkway which expands to reveal your dining room for the night – a large open plain on the red desert, decked out with tables with white cloths – under the stars. Nothing can prepare you for what happens after your three course dinner – a buffet of Aussie delicacies including crocodile and kangaroo – your waiter blows out the candles that adorn each table and all of a sudden you are sitting in the desert, in the shadow of Uluru – with only the star light overhead. An astronomer then explains the many constellations complete with telescope for those that wish to see Saturn or other visible planets. A breathtaking and unique experience for every traveller.
Located in the Northern Territory, getting to Uluru is easy. Direct flights to Uluru operates from major cities around Australia – and the Ayers Rock Resort, holds a range of accommodation options, with free airport transfers from a camping ground to deluxe hotels. Activities around the resort include a Guided walk around the gardens with Indigenous guide through to frequent sunrise, sunset and day tours to Uluru.
So don’t delay – the spiritual centre of Australia awaits.