52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 29: Water and Hastings Point holidays

View from the hillside at Hastings Point

The topic for Week 29 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Water. Do you have any memories of the sea or another body of water? Did you live there or just visit? What did you do there? You can also describe a body of water by which you live or visit in the present day.

As a young girl I’d enjoyed Guide camps so when asked to go camping at the beach with the neighbours I was keen to give it a try, but Mr Cassmob’s camping experience was of Army cadet camps at Canungra in the middle of winter…not positive. However encouragement from our new friends meant that we took the plunge and went camping with them over the border of New South Wales at Hastings Point. Well, that was the start of a love affair with a beautiful place, not just for camping but for day drives and picnics. So many family memories were built up there. Even arriving exhausted from work we would soon unwind and truly relax.

I should describe Hastings Point’s geography a little. The Point is a high ridge line between two superb beaches with vistas in both directions. Below it is a marine park with huge rocks and many little nooks and crannies with shells and sea creatures. To the northern side of the hill a creek runs out to the sea and adjacent to this is a wide flat area that is the open camping area. It had no facilities other than open air cold showers down one end, water on tap and public toilets down near the road and nearby a little shop.

The view south from Hastings Point

It was, and largely still is, a beautiful spot…you can see other images on my Summer post. We were never keen to camp there during peak season at Christmas or Easter and I can’t remember ever doing so. We loved it when we turned up and the camping ground was empty bar one or two other tents. Our favourite site was right near the water, overlooking the mouth of the river where it ran into the sea. Of course this was also the position which got the maximum wind from the ocean so many was the time when we needed tent adjustments in a storm. Not to mention that every one of our tent poles had an impressive bend in it!

Every time we’d visit Hastings the path of the river would have changed with tides or other unknown influences. One time the walk along the creek to the toilets would be wide open sand, the next time it would be pebble or rock-strewn. On one magical night as we walked along it, the fluorescence (I think) sparkled each time we stepped into the sand. It was like sparklers going off….gorgeous.

Another time the river was so shallow we explored little rock pools within it and in one found a myriad of sea creatures: shells, crabs, anenomes etc. It was totally enthralling.

Camping in splendid isolation at Hastings Point...that's our tent.

Hastings was where we went to watch Halley’s Comet pass over in 1986..something I’ll never see again in my lifetime though our children might. The sky was so clear that the stars were always like a light-show so we could see the comet easily. Actually we got the best view of it one night ahead of the “advertised” optimal viewing and saw its movement across the sky.

On Anzac Day one year we were camped there when the Air Force, no doubt from Evans Heads, skimmed the ridge and flew very low over the rocks and water holes giving people something of a fright. As the jets continued on their way towards the Anzac Day ceremony at Tweed Heads or Coolangatta they had to flick a wing over any yacht masts so you see they were definitely flying “mach 2 with their hair on fire” at about 500ft or lower.

Apart from all the little rock pools to be explored for sea creatures (including baby octopus), there were usually a couple of much larger pools formed among the rocks which filled with each high tide. These were perfect for small children (and large adults!) to swim/loll in quite safely. The creek was better for swimming as the kids got bigger and as the flow could be quite fast was great for the boogie boards too. The creek’s only downside was the oyster shells on the rocks at low tide…cuts best avoided. When surfing was required we could swim across the creek to swim on the surf beach across the way. Our children were always fearless and looked set to swim for New  Zealand though the day we saw what initially seemed to be sharks brought them back in with great speed. Turned out to be dolphins but it gave us and them a bit of a start! Another heart-starter moment was coming within inches of a death adder in the nearby bush while in bare feet….luckily it was lazy from sleeping in the sun!

View over Darwin harbour.

Although we now live quite close to the sea and it certainly looks beautiful, it holds less attraction because of the presence, or potential presence, of crocs and stingers which means you can only swim a few months of the year, if you’re game. I think we’ve been in the ocean only two or three times in over a decade…sticking to the pool is safer! Australia has more than its fair share of hazardous creatures but the Top End does it even better.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Week 28: Summer Down Under

The topic for Week 28 in Amy Coffin’s and Geneablogger’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History series is: Summer. What was summer like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.

Heading for New Zealand again? Boogie boarding in summer.

How ironic that this blog topic arrived just as we left Charleville in western Queensland on a bitterly cold morning, but then that’s the hazards of living in the Land Down Under.

I suspect somehow that summer has quite different connotations for Australians than for those overseas. I remember reading a column, years ago, by former Brisbane mayor, Sallyanne Atkinson, then a journalist for The Courier Mail. She was bemoaning the multiple responsibilities and deadlines at the end of the year, especially for the mothers in a household. Not for us two separate event schedules: summer holidays in August with leisurely times and sunshine, after completing the school year; then Christmas arriving in the cool/cold weather
and an event entirely on its own (except perhaps for Thanksgiving).

You see summer in Australia runs from December to March and so coincides with the end of the school year, school graduations and concerts, Christmas shopping in the hottest time of the year and then the long (six weeks) school holidays, New Year, Australia Day, the commencement of the next school year….all in a period of about eight weeks! Great for kids, less great for parents, making a family holiday at the beach a well-earned rest.

Christmas Holiday camping at Hastings Point in northern NSW

Of course lots of people went camping at the beach in summer but our family didn’t go away at this time of the year, and preferred off-season holidays, a habit we follow even today. Nevertheless the iconic photo image of an Aussie summer is kids at the beach in their swimsuits (aka togs, swimmers, bathers, cozzies) hopefully with zinc cream on the noses. Unfortunately many of us of a certain age, also spent too much of our time at the beach lathered with coconut oil, slow roasting our skin with resultant skin cancers as adults. I remember as a teenager getting my first bikini and going to the beach with a friend blessed with non-Celtic skin. She got a lovely tan but I ended up with major sunburn which needed treating with a mix of metho and Friar’s Balsam dabbed all over the burnt area, lots of water to drink, and a good rest…. a lesson well learned!

So did summer affect what we ate? Well not at Christmas certainly, as we dutifully followed northern hemisphere traditions of roast chicken/turkey/pork and roast vegetables in the midday heat, followed by a traditional Christmas pudding….delicious, but hardly consistent with the weather. These days many people have adapted their Christmas celebrations to
take into account the 30C+ temperatures, and more often involve seafood and salads.

At home during summer I would retreat to a cool spot under the house and eat mashed-up homemade coconut milk ice blocks from a glass. Yummy! While the traditional Queensland architecture was meant to be ideal for the hot sub-tropical summers with wide verandahs and lattice, and squatters chairs for relaxing in with a cold drink, people seemed to be too busy with chores to be just chilling out and doing nothing much. As kids in those pre-swimming-pool days we’d turn the sprinkler on in the backyard and run shrieking and squealing through its cooling jets!

A rather more tranquil Hastings Point and creek, off season

On a grander scale, summer is also cricket season with the Boxing Day test match being a “must watch” event as is the Sydney to Hobart yacht race through the treacherous waters of Bass Strait. Hence another iconic image of an Aussie summer: people glued to the TV enjoying these events.

PS Images scanned with my new Flip Pal –couldn’t be simpler!