The third of three weekends away over the school holiday, Easter and Anzac day breaks. First was four days on the , second was with the extended family at Lorne, the last was to be four days, three nights camping at Wilsons Prom.
It didn’t start out particularly well; all three of us had varying levels of a cold, so we weren’t intending to do anything particularly strenous while camping – no full-day hikes or speed-climbs of Mount Oberon were planned!
At around 2.30 pm on Anzac day we arrived at the Tidal River campground to strong winds and a cloudy sky. A brief check for a suitable campsite – perhaps too brief – and we set the tents up. Jo and I in our three man dome and Cam, as is his want the last few camping trips, in my small hike tent. Due to the wind we took a fair bit of care and pegged everything down as best we could in the sandy ground, even unrolling and using the guy ropes that in the past three or four years haven’t yet been touched.
A dinner cooked on the campground barbecue, we joked about the wind blowing the sausages away, then mercifully the wind dropped and the clouds cleared for a few hours and we could sit around and watch the sky and the stars. Stars that you simply do not see from the city or anywhere that they’re drowned out by the ambient light, a hilight of the trip.
Then to bed, an early night. The wind picked back up and continued to blow hard all night, blasting fine sand in through the mesh liners and pulling pegs and guy ropes out of the ground. About one an hour I had to get up and frantically peg the tent back in as gusts and storms hit us; at 11.30 pm, 0.30 am, then a “lull” of three hours of strong wind followed by particulary bad occurrences at 3.30 am and 4.30 am that had me thinking that the tent was going to get airborne as the wind howled under the floor and lifted one end of it – and me – bodily into the air.
Periodically through the night we heard hammerings and bangings as other campers frantically attempted to reattach awnings, gather up belongings as they blew away, or packed up to leave. Stressfully I worried about the chances of being hit by a flying picnic table or solar panel given the amount of hardware I could hear banging around.
Around 6 am it died down to a steady roar and I dozed for a while, then thankfully managed to get some sleep from 7-8 am as Jo got up to start on breakfast. Cam’s tent stood up to the wind, but the design of a lightweight mesh inner with a fly as a cover meant that he had about a centimetre of sand covering everything inside – the floor, his sleeping bag, clothes, everything!
So began a very tiring day. After a breakfast – prepared in the shelter of inside the car – we took down the tents and bundled them into the boot. I was surprised that nothing had snapped or broken, but the only way it would all stay together during the day would be if we sat inside or beside the tent the whole time, re-pegging everything every half hour or hour as the gusts pulled it apart!
A morning walk along the river and boardwalk, thankfully a little protected from the wind, then up to the information centre and café, first to read the weather – windy – and then for a hot chocolate and to shelter from the darkening skies. With perfect timing too, as a squall and hailstorm came through, blasting everyone who was outside and leading to much frantic running about.
For the afternoon we decided to hike over the headland to Squeaky Beach so, taking sandwiches and snacks, off we went. Under the tea-tree there was a bit of shelter from the wind but out on the headlands it was very exposed, thankfully blowing in from the water so we were being pushed back inland and not out towards the cliffs and slopes! With the rain that had fallen the sand was too wet to squeak, so Squeaky Beach failed to live up to its name, and with the sight of dark storm front heading across the bay towards us we turned around to head back to Tidal River.
At a suitably protected spot we decided to stop for our lunch, the only shelter was under the low growing bushes so the three of hunkered down out of the wind and had our sandwiches & fruit – amazed to see tiny blue wrens somehow managing to fly about. Clearly they’ve learned to stay down low, none of them seemed to get more than 30cm off the ground as they shot from bush to bush and inquisitively hopped near, presumably hoping for crumbs.
Back from our hike to Squeaky beach and all three of us wanted nothing more than a nap – but the wind hadn’t really dropped and the tent was still packed up in the car. Quick family conference and we chose to pull the pin – if we left now we could be back home before it was too dark and too late and we got too tired – so
For the rest of the weekend we addictively kept checking the weather reports for the Prom, the wind never dropped, the news was full of stories of the huge waves at the Bells Beach surf competition and 10m swell in Bass straight. Yes, we’d made the right decision given our camping gear, it would not have been a pleasant few days in the giant wibbly-wobbly tent.
Tuesday morning at work and I was looking back through the BoM data for Wilsons Promontory, unfortunately I can only seem to find data for the last 72hours, so I can only see hourly observations back as far as Saturday morning when we were home, but from the daily observations of the past month:
Maximum wind gust speed:
|date||direction||max gust (km/hr)|
The average wind speed and wind gusts, the 72hr readings only go back to Saturday –– morning but you can see what it would have been like if we’d stayed, it only started to dip down to pleasant early on Monday morning.
Overall, not the best camping holiday I’ve ever had, and certainly shorter than intended. The best part of it would have to be the stars and the milky way when the clouds had cleared, but a close second was the sheer absence of dogs – not running around the campground, not barking at night, and not barging up and down the beach – being a national park there are no dogs allowed. Unfinished business, we’ll be back camping some time, and hopefully won’t get quite the weather we had this time!