Date: 17+18/2/2024
Trip leader: Vyom Arya
Party: SUBW: Anna, Ben, Chathurana, Dana, Deevya, Jimmy, Lilian, Natalia, Rafiul, Rohit, Sam, Terry. SUAS: Adam, Ashwin, Benjamin, Jackson, Jaden, Jasper, Lee, Nicholas, Sabrina, Sarah, Takaya

This collaboration with the Sydney University Astronomy Society (SUAS) was the first camping trip that I had led. Jackson, Ashwin, and Ben were the trip leaders from the SUAS side (even though Ben is an SUBW member). Shout out to Chloe who helped massively with the organisation of this trip, and greatly contributed to its eventual success. Originally, this trip was planned for the 10-11th weekend. However, due to forecast heavy rain, we pushed the date back to the weekend after. Because of this, Chloe herself was unfortunately not able to attend the trip since she had to leave for the US.

In the end, however, even the weekend that we did go forecast a chance of a passing shower. This would be an issue for people who bought cheap tents, since they wouldn’t be waterproof. The campground (that Chloe had found) was on the South Coast near Ulladulla, just under 4 hours drive from Sydney. Since this was a beginner trip and a collaboration with a club that did not go camping, a beginner friendly campsite was chosen. Toilets, showers, and drinking water was provided. The site was also conveniently situated in between Meroo National Park and was walking distance from Wario Beach. Carpooling groups had been arranged prior, and most people arrived promptly between 2 and 3 pm. Luckily, I had a driver that actually lived close to me way out in Kellyville! (Lugging 30kg of firewood anywhere else would have been a pain). The weather was cooperating and until now, the drive down south was filled with good views and sunshine. Groups went through scenic locations such as Bald Hill Lookout, Sea Cliff Bridge, and Kiama on their way south to make the most of the trip. We had lunch in a pastry shop in Berry, which was a cute little town (would recommend). Ominously however, by the time we reached Ulladulla, rain clouds had begun to creep in over the escarpment.

Taking a break at Bombo Beach

The first thing we did when we reached was to set up camp, helping those who had never put up a tent before. I had brought along a plastic table cover roll beforehand to do some makeshift waterproofing if it did rain, also doubling as a good picnic mat for people to sit down on. SUAS had also brought their own banner to put up at the campsite (we should have one too!!)

The campsite

Somehow, two cars came along at different times and ended up camping at different places without ever meeting each other! Once we got everyone together, Jimmy, along with Terry, Ben, Sam, and Rohit, drove up to do the Pigeon House Mountain bushwalk almost as soon as they arrived, leaving the rest of us to go and check out the beach.

The Pigeon House Mountain Deserters

For now, the rain was staying inland, so we all enjoyed the sun, sand, and waves at the beach. Some swam, others laid down, and some got buried! Lilian decided to go off on her own and explore the nearby Dolphin Reserve, where apparently at some times of the year you can see dolphins in the water.

Shells at Wario Beach
Men at work

After plenty of swimming in the ocean, the group came back to camp to get changed. The campground’s showers costed 40 cents for 3 minutes of hot water, 20 cent coins were collected from the reception beforehand for this purpose. As the sky darkened, we started preparing for the campfire. The campground did not allow any fires on the ground, only in firepits. Luckily, I had called the campground beforehand to ask whether they had any spares, and fortunately they had a big firepit ready for us to collect from the manager’s house (who live on site). Jackson pulled out some snacks that had been left over from earlier trips, and I laid out some of the plastic table covers as picnic mats so everyone could sit down and talk. By this point, our hikers had returned, and after a quick break, decided to take a dip in the ocean for themselves.

Once the sky darkened a bit, just before 8, I started the campfire. I had brought along lighters, fire starters, and firewood from Bunnings beforehand, so starting the fire was trivial. In the firepit, the shape of the fire doesn’t matter that much, but I had opted for the “log cabin” style that I was familiar with from doing fire rituals for Indian traditions (Google “havan”). It was a warm night, so the purpose of the fire was more for vibes than it was for actual heat or light like on hiking trips. Nevertheless, a camping trip isn’t complete without a campfire and associated smores, which is a snack made from toasting a marshmallow over a campfire then sandwiching it between grahams and chocolate. I had brought along chocolate covered digestives instead to make the process much simpler, as it often gets really awkward with a chocolate bar. While this was happening, SUAS were setting up the two telescopes that they had brought along for stargazing. Unfortunately, however, the sky was completely overcast. I had also brought along “campfire colour changers” from Big W, which was a fun little experiment, and it made for some fantastic photos. Joseph had even brought along a guitar (what’s a good campfire without some live music), and he impressed everyone with his singing. The campfire and smores were definitely the highlight of the trip. Out of the 30kg of firewood I had brought, we went through 20kg, which got us a big fire that lasted us a good 3 hours. (For future reference, for 25 people: 3 big bags of marshmallows, 4 packs of chocolate digestives)

Our blue campfire
Making smores

Jackson then led most of the group down to the beach at night to try their luck again with the sky. Luckily, the sky cleared up for a bit, allowing everyone to get a good look at the stars. Unfortunately, however, by the time they got back to the campsite where the telescopes were set up, the clouds had come in again, blocking any view. We did manage to get a few good photos, though. At this point, around 11 pm, most people decided to turn in for the night, especially since we were going to wake up early to catch the sunrise the next morning. I was already asleep by then, but apparently some possums had shown up and decided to raid our campsite overnight. Luckily, most things were packed away, and a bag of marshmallows was the only casualty.

A brief break in the clouds

The next morning at 5:30 am, the campsite was filled with the sounds of various alarms going off. It took a bit for everyone to get ready, but we reached the beach by 6 to catch the sunrise (which was going to end at 6:30). Unfortunately, the previous night’s weather hadn’t improved, and so we had to settle with an overcast sunrise. What made it worth it in the end, however, was that the sun rose above the clouds on the horizon for a minute, meaning everyone got their sunrise photos.

The sunrise

We then returned to camp and began packing up and preparing for breakfast. I had assumed that I could have just made pancakes directly on the electric BBQ, however the BBQ just did not heat the pans enough for pancakes. Worst case, we’d have to pack up camp and get breakfast in Ulladulla on the way back to Sydney. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but luckily some people had brought along camping stoves, so we were able to make pancakes for everyone on those instead. (For future reference, for 25 people: 5 pancake shakers, 3 packets of blueberries, 1 bottle of maple syrup)

Pancakes on camping stoves

We then completed our packing up and put our stuff back in the cars we came in. A few people made plans to stop at Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay on the way back to Sydney, which apparently has the whitest sand in the world. We stopped at Kangaroo Valley on the way back to Sydney, which is a nice little village with the oldest wooden suspension bridge in Australia. We had lunch in the general store cafe (would recommend), where I had “Foo Yung Eggs”, which Terry insisted were definitely not foo yung eggs (I myself had never tried the dish when I was in Hong Kong, so I couldn’t tell you). Reached back home around 3 pm, where I finally sat down with relief (ignoring the 9 am lecture that I had the next day). I’m so glad the first camping trip that I led went without a hitch! I really couldn’t believe nothing had gone wrong, and we hadn’t seen a drop of rain either!

On that positive note, I think it is safe to say that I’ll be leading many more camping trips in the near future! I’m hoping to find campgrounds that you can get to by train though, since carpooling is always a bit of a headache, although that was also because we had so many people coming along. But anyways, that’s a wrap!