Like an irritated dwarf, the kit list for our adventure weekend in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park was short and punchy: find the cheapest inflatable vessel your hard earned dollar can buy. And bring a bottle!
I floated this unusual idea to a gaggle of like-minded friends in Sydney, and within four and a half minutes we’d confirmed a crack team of six frothing wild men in need of a vagabonding fix the city cannot cater for. Three days later Tom ‘the 6 fist’ Heyes picked us up in Bondi and we shot 1 hour north to the mighty Ku-Ring-Gai, wet with anticipation but none of us entirely sure still of where we were going exactly… Parking up in the sleepy residential suburbia of St Ives, it’s hard to believe that within just a stone’s throw from freshly pruned rose blossoms and perfectly manicured lawns lies an outdoor playground so wild, so seemingly remote and so epitomising of Australia.
Backpacks on, we skipped off down the small walking track at the end of the street with all the excitement of opal miners after a winning dig. We cut off the trail almost immediately and bashed the bush for two hours through steep, tangling foliage in search of the source of Cowan Creek. It really wasn’t too dissimilar from slashing through the Amazonian jungle; only here we heard the occasional Boeing 737 pass overhead and had with us the navigational assistance of a trusty Google map. We arrived at a dried tributary sweating like blind lesbians in a fish market, with legs looking like they’d taken 50 lashes for bad behaviour, and yet our widening grins pointed down-stream determinedly. “Pure serenity!” beamed Levi, our resident Aussie for the weekend. He was lugging a swag the size of a small adult under his arm, a decision he regretted almost immediately but gave little to no indication of any pain as he hoisted the mobile bed through the dense foliage. His dripping forehead and heavy wheezing told a different story. Having clambered over huge moss ridden riverbed rocks we finally found an irresistible body of water worthy of the $25 inflatable boats we’d sniffed out at Ray’s Outdoors. We foot pumped the vessels up, which to any bystander would’ve looked like a pack of techno dancers during a furious one-more-tuner, only we were entirely out of time with each other and relatively ‘compus mentus’ at that point.
Some say the fun in life is in making poor decisions. The poor decision of this trip lay in strapping the boats to the outside of our bags in such a way that during the walking leg the cheap vinyl material took a severe scratching, rendering mine and Luke’s almost completely redundant through punctures. Error.
Nevertheless, we took off down stream, hoped for the best, and drifted down the river at dusk. For all we knew in that moment we could have been in the deepest of Australian bushland, not 1 hour’s drive from Bondi! As I sunk lower in my boat it was the feeling of total contentment with the world that washed over me, not the river water. Adventure. The only words I could hear from down stream were Levi’s unceasing outbursts; “it’s pure serenity out here boys, pure serenity”.
As darkness set in, Jamie did what he does best and sniffed out an almightily impressive cave dwelling that overlooked the river. Fred and Barney weren’t there but they would have been proud as punch. We chewed the phat, gauged on fajitas and guzzled our way through rum like true pirates, before retiring to respective hammocks and swags satisfied, albeit totally shit-faced.
Whether you’re in a hipster café in the eastern suburbs or out in the wilderness, breakfast is an essential Sunday morning exploit. This day was no different. Hash browns, sausages, bacon and eggs formed the basis of our sizeable cave breaky, before venturing further downstream in our futile transportation. In fact, Mac and Tom’s vessels endured the grade 0.5 waters with fortitude, although mine fizzled out in a pathetically amusingly fashion, a bit like a whoopee cushion. Occasionally stunned day walkers would stop in their tracks to see what must have been quite a sight to behold: “Where you headed fellas?” they would shout. “Absolutely no idea” we’d respond. It’s a fair enough question to ask but the Ku-Ring-Gai pirates don’t do no plans.
We carried on as far as we could go before traipsing through tidal muds and climbing up to a returning footpath. We ventured back towards St Ives for a spot of suburban tramping to retrieve our vehicles, narrowly avoiding the North East’s infamous ‘garden derby’ (a friendly hedge jumping competition across neighbouring properties) to close out a phenomenal weekend. Next time.
Adventures are always best when things don’t go to plan, and even better when shared with good friends. This weekend was exactly that. There’s something exciting and deeply rewarding in getting a crew together and just setting off to see what happens. It’s the true essence of adventure in fact. Invariably it’s awesome but even when things go wrong, it always tends to make for a better story, don’t forget that. So go exploring, experience the great outdoors, the greater possibilities, nourish the soul, recharge the spirit and reconnect with yours truly.
Lesson of this adventure weekend?
We’re blessed with so many incredible possibilities right here on our doorsteps in NSW, and I for one have barely even touched the sides. The winter may mean it’s gets a wee-bit nippy, but it’s a double edged sword – the mosquitoes and flies take a sabbatical in Winter so it’s actually a better time than ever to go exploring. For warmth then, just don’t forget your rum.