Ghosts of Summers Past


For more than a decade, the Professor and I took our tribe of kids and teenagers on a yearly trek to Croajingalong National Park. We would camp at Thurra River and spend long, crowded days (crowded with family and friends) walking, swimming and cooking up a storm.

This year was the first time the Professor and I visited there without any of our crew. It was great to be back but every beach and fireside was haunted by the ghosts of summers’ past. We had a quiet little campsite and watched with nostalgia the comings and goings of hordes of teenagers and clusters of small children. There were crowds of little girls on tiny pink bikes, long and lanky teenagers in wetsuits, a small boy learning to cycle for the very first time, another boy practicing his trumpet as he wandered down the dusty road and the sound of endless thwacking as a totem tennis set next to the campfires was thrashed from dawn to dusk.

Though we arrived late in the season, there were still a few of our old friends camping at Thurra and so it turned out to be a grown-up sort of social time. It also provided a good opportunity to catch up on some sleep and reading and recover from the frantic weeks of preparation. There’s no running water at Thurra, no electricity, no internet, no mobile phone reception. I wrote a few blog posts but couldn’t upload them, caught up on emails but couldn’t send them and finally let go a little and snuggled down with a couple of good books.

I tried to take some atmospheric photos at Thurra and naively attempted to photograph the amazing, swirling stars above the bridge that spans the river. But of course they came out as rather dull, black images with blurry pinpricks of light. The shots of the ground turned out to be of more interest than the spectacular night sky. I should probably just give up on taking pictures. I like words much better.

We left Thurra River yesterday. For more than a decade, at the end of every holiday, when we reached the Princes Highway, we turned left and headed back to Melbourne. Yesterday, for the first time ever, we turned right and headed north. Finally, it felt like the adventure was really, truly beginning.

Now we’re in Mallacoota, camped in the foreshore holiday park. As much as I loved Thurra River, it’s great to be back to hot showers, electricity and access to the Internet.

As I write this, the Professor is in town putting up posters to advertise Mr Punch. On the spur of the moment, he’s organised a show to be staged at the local Mudbrick Pavilion on Sunday afternoon. There’s nothing like a dose of Mr Punch to exorcise every melancholy ghost.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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