Bournda National Park is a little-known place of great natural beauty on the far South Coast of New South Wales. The park is filled with lagoons, beaches and miles and miles of native bush. We camped here over Christmas and saw a red-bellied black snake slither across the dirt road next to our site. We saw lumbering goannas, kangaroos, wallabies, the ever-present possum and a wolf spider the size of a small bird in the women’s toilet.
On our first night, we met a family on the site next to us from a town just sixty kilometres up the road. I was amazed at how free and easy the parents were, even with four kids, including a baby. It all felt a very long way from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.
When their kids were getting ready for shower time, the five-year-old wore her towel like a giant cape that dragged along the dirt of the campsite. Her mother didn’t seem to take note. I looked at the girl in the dirt and fought an urge to yank the towel off the ground and keep it just a little bit clean for after her shower.
Later, I said to Lee, “I want to be that relaxed.”
Later still we all sat round their campfire with guitars and a uke. As it grew dark, I interpreted the conversation for my daughter, K, who’s deaf. The boy in the family, who looked to be about ten or twelve, watched me sign. And after a while he said, “Sign language is so cool!”
Sadly, they were leaving the next day, going back to Christmas with the mum’s five siblings and their partners and kids. “I love big families,” she said to me, baby at her breast, and she told me how her grandfather was the 21st of 22.
They live in a town, a village, really, on the same stunning coastline as Bournda. I always thought that small town life would be cloistered, dull and gossipy and maybe it is, but this family appeared so much happier than any family I know back in Sydney.