We stopped for fuel and food at Merimbula, before driving to Tathra. Even though I’d never been there before, it’s a place I’ve dreamed of going to one day. Tathra. It had an etheral place in my mind. A combination of isolation and films The Secret of Roan Inish and High Tide.
Eden was beautiful, but bloody windy. Right up the top of the hill looking out over everything. Wonderful. The police station and shops perched up on top of the hill overlooking a magnificent harbour. I’d heard that Tetsuya’s fishermen kill the fish straight after they’re caught in Eden.
The fish down at the wharf was OK but not that fresh, two days after Christmas. It was too bloody windy. The boys had a swim in the beach then I had to beep the horn to get them to come in. We camped in the bush overnight. We met nice people, one man Ken with his kelpie Patch who lit a fire with them. My boys like dogs. Another astute woman from Tassie. Nature lovers, people who enjoy their own company, peaceful and helpful to talk to. “Safe travels.”
So we drove around the wooded hills of lovely gums, into Tathra. I pull over so I don’t have cars up my arse. I like to go at my own pace to enjoy the view.
The first stop was Tathra Oysters. I had no idea that they’re voted the best in Australia if not the world. I just walked around to the back of the house and asked if the boys could try some oysters. The man himself shucked them and said not to rinse them. So the boys tried the salty ones first which they chewed and said, “too salty.” So they rinsed some and they tried them, but didn’t want any more. They’re grown surrounded by national park in pristine conditions with no run-off.
Then we drove down and parked opposite Tathra Public School, which is in a lovely position. The town’s laid out so well, which is important. So we stopped at Beryl Hart’s house and went to the back shed to buy home-grown produce. Green beans, carrots, apricot jam, all perfect.
They drive half an hour into Bega High on the bus. One boy told us a camping spot at Gillard’s beach a little bit north. Lovely friendly kids. We drove down the hill to Tathra for lunch and saw the same kids getting lunch there. Beautiful crunchy calamari rings. Good seafood. A long stretch of beach through gum trees to the camp site.
I don’t like beaches much in the middle of the day, too sunny and windy. I prefer the wooded valleys of gums a few kilometres back from the beach, sheltered, out of the wind. Perhaps I’d like to live there one day, build a house amongst the trees, literally in the land of milk and honey; and seafood.
I’d wanted to leave before Christmas but it was pouring with rain and the kids wanted a proper Christmas tree and lunch with their grandparents, so we waited. It was the wettest Christmas in 70 years. The next day it was clearing up, so we started driving south, deep south, to where the water was not aqua, but sapphire. On the wharf at Tathra, looking down into the blue, I asked a local girl why the water is so blue. She said I don’t know. It’s a place of peace to drive and drive away to, to run away from the city to a place where sapphires live in the depths of the mind.
She finds a place out of the wind, in the tent and starts to read a book she’s had in the car for months, The Griffith Review. She went to the launch at Gleebooks because her friend Chris Kearney had a story published in it, beautifully written. She’d read the best few stories, she’d heard the authors read bits aloud so in the tent she became impatient with the left-overs.
And she went to the car in search of paper. At one time in her life, particularly before children she would’ve carried a writing book but not anymore. At some stage on this journey south she discovered that she’d left her iPhone charger at home in Sydney. “Yes,” her son exclaimed joyfully, pulling his elbow back and making a fist. No photos. No internet. No phone.
Just the tent in the wind and the fish and chips wrapper to write on. The youngest son came up from the beach and told her outside the tent that they’d dug their holes so deep there was heaps of water in them. Then he disappeared back to his brother to keep digging near the sea full of blue bottles. Yesterday they asked what they were doing. She said, “We’re going to Tathra to turn into whales, seals and dolphins, to swim away.” The thing about siblings is, they might fight in the tent at night, but give them a beach or lagoon and they’ll play happily for hours. Gillard’s beach, not difficult to remember, the Prime Minister’s name.
And so they drove in the morning through the undulating hills of the south coast and they came across a place to camp just back from the beach.
The tent was given to them by two young travellers from the UK who were about to go home from Darwin.
“Would you like our tent?” they asked.
Her son said yes immediately.
That morning she’d said to him, “Have you noticed how perfectly everything has happened during this trip?”
He said, “Yes but we need a bigger tent.”
It’s a big one and as they put it up in the wind and as she sat in it out of the wind, it had their energy in it, a gift of generosity, of giving. To give has a beautiful energy, no strings attached.
The larger the tent the better really with two growing boys, but it needs to be easy to put up. Boys like practical things like putting up tents, taking them down and packing them up effortlessly. Survival skills. Digging massive holes in the sand, they should have been building a house with all their energy.