For a back-to-nature break, try a First Time Camping Experience –it’s an easy way to start your camping career, writes Vanessa Walker.
It’s not often you get to skite about camping in the H&G office, but I get to do just that on my return from Bents Basin State Conservation Area. My colleagues had professed sympathy about how much effort it must have taken to camp for just one night, conjuring up images of me and my husband lugging all the gear to the campsite, setting up a four-person tent for us and our two children, sorting out the food, trying to get the electric barbecues going…Was it really worth it?, they asked.
My trump card was that I had been on a First Time Camping Experience: my family simply turned up to this lovely spot just over an hour from our home in a suburb of Sydney (so by the time the children asked ‘are we there yet?’ we were there) unzipped our already erected tent, complete with stretchers and alfresco furniture, laid out our sleeping bags, then headed off for a walk to the basin for a dip in the cool water. We were officially camping within ten minutes of pulling up.
And what a place. Bents Basin is a deep waterhole that forms part of a gorge on the Nepean River in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. We were treated to a beautifully warm day with just a sprinkling of other families in the campground. That meant it was quiet enough to hear the birds singing, the trees rustling and the laughter of children. After our dip, we went on a beautiful walk around the basin, through vegetation just thick enough to make it feel adventurous, before we encountered a great obstacle course in the form of boulders sprinkled along one boundary of the water; the only way to complete the circuit. Afterwards, we repaired back to the tent for a lazy snooze, before heading out again to play some soccer. Across the way from us I spotted some children, wet hair stuck to their heads, playing totem tennis with just towels wrapped around their waists. It was a lovely scene, all too rare in my urban life.
As the sun went down, we all started to get excited. The First Time Camping Experience has an option add-on, the Camp and Cater package. This means that, just before dinner time, we headed up to Bents Basin Kiosk to pick up two bags of food, one for dinner and one for breakfast. Nature and swimming had made us hungry and we were thrilled to see hamburger patties and buns all ready to sling onto the barbecue, with two generous containers of potato salad and coleslaw to complete the meal. Someone was very thoughtful, providing little containers of sauce and butter. We woofed down our food just as the light began to fade then grabbed some firewood - again provided as part of the package – and made an outdoor fire that warmed us just as the cold started to bite. The children were excited by the packet of marshmallows given to us when we checked in, so we search for little sticks, popped some on the end and roasted them up – the melted sugary blobs a real treat that has seen them request to go camping again within record time .
One slightly cold night later (I had been lulled into such minimal effort I forgot to pack enough bedding for my husband and I – the children, meanwhile were in their snug little sleeping bags) we were woken by the sun peeping into the tent. We had to head back to Sydney, so our stay was less than 24 hours but it felt as though we’ve been gone for so much longer.
Bents Basin: Camp only package $176 first night (additional nights $160 per night):
Camp and cater package: $242 (additional nights $220 per night):
Note: All packages are for one to four people. www.enivronment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks
For other first-time camping locations try www.lcrtp.com.au/firsttimecamping
Vanessa Walker stayed courtesy of Bents Basin State Conservation Area