My childhood is full of amazing memories of Pop driving down their hill to pick us up on his Land Rover. We would jump on the back (his dog was usually already on there) and he would then drive up the road and pick up my cousins on the way past . Three of my Uncles and Aunties lived within about 200 metres of each other, and we spent many a day down at Nan and Pop's river together.
When Pop and Nan got older it became really difficult for them to keep working at the river and they ended up selling it off before they both passed away. Pop went through a lot as he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from things he experienced when he fought in World War II, but I think the thing that broke Pop the most was getting rid of the river flats. We all knew it had to happen, but it was like letting a piece of all of us go, as we had so many amazing memories from spending time there together.
We had a lot of church camps there and would camp for three days over Easter. It was so much fun with activities such as raft races, water slides, hayrides, talent nights, Easter egg hunts in the paddock, funny fashion parades and Pop loved putting his irrigation sprinkler on so the kids could run under it. As kids we would spend time riding our bikes around, swimming and just having the best three days together.
Last weekend Kobe and I had some time to fill in while Harri was at a church activity at Deloraine, and I knew that I wanted to take him to Pop and Nan's river because my boys don't know a lot about it and Jay and Noah were the only ones who spent time there when they were a lot younger.
Kobe loved all the stories that I told him about how awesome Pop's river was and when we got to the bridge he kept saying how lucky I was because I got to go there whenever I wanted, when I was little.
As a family we have never been camping. As a kid my family went camping a lot, but Aaron had never really been camping with his family and said that he hated it. Because Noah had so many medical needs, we couldn't ever go camping which Aaron was actually happy about, as it meant that I couldn't pressure him into it, as he knew we couldn't go anyway.
For a couple of years Harri and Kobe have been begging me to take them camping. Jay is the same as Aaron - if there isn't power, TV, the Internet and fast food close by, then he doesn't want anything to do with it. My brother Chrish said he was going to come down for a week at Easter and we always try to do something together as an extended family over the Easter weekend, so when we started to talk about what we would do my brother Eden suggested we should all go camping. I started up with the excuses that it was too cold and that we didn't really have any gear, but he convinced me that it would be okay for one night and that he would have some gear we could borrow.
I thought I could handle a night and told the boys. Kobe and Harri were SO excited and Jay was horrified at the thought of going bush for a night :) Kobe has been counting down the days all week, and when I woke him up yesterday he yelled 'camping, camping, camping!!!!'.
We were the first ones to get to Pop's bridge so we sat on there while we waited for Mum and Chrish and Eden and Steph and the kids to arrive.
At the end of where our Pop's river flats is some land that is Crown land which means it's available for anyone to use. To get there you have to go around a lot of Forestry tracks, but Eden has gotten to know one of the men that bought some of Pop's river flats. He was lovely and let us go in through Pop's river (it will always be Pop's river to us) so we didn't have to drive the long way around. It was so strange, but still so familiar as we drove through Pop's river flats to get to where we were going to camp. It was so strange to see a house there now.
Kobe couldn't wait to get out of the car so we could start setting up. After we got our tents up he said 'right let's get some wood!'.
Some people weren't as excited about the whole camping and wood collecting thing.
It was such a beautiful place to camp, but there were literally hundreds, actually probably thousands of wasps everywhere! They were swarming all over the place and no matter where you were they were all over you. We found a couple of their nests but no matter what we did, they were still everywhere.
We were so lucky that the weather was beautiful (for Autumn) so after we set up camp we went down to the river for a swim. I wasn't brave (or silly!) enough to jump in but the kids loved it and so did Chrish and Eden and Steph (who were lucky to have wetsuits).
Jay was keen to get to the other side, but wasn't keen to get into the water at all so he jumped on the back of Eden's kayak which Chrish, who took him over to the other side.
He then hitched a ride back :)
There was a great area to play games and to kick the soccer ball and footy around.
Poor Kobe didn't start off the day very well. He went running under a tree and came up too soon and ended up with lots and lots of cuts and scrapes. He was lucky that the stick just missed his eye, but ended up with a very puffy red eye, a huge scratch down his face, and his arm all scraped up. He cried for a long time and I asked him if he still liked camping and he assured me he did. He wasn't so sure when he got stung by a wasp! My nephews Hugh and Ezra were also bitten. Hugh made me laugh when he said 'why did Jesus make wasps anyway?!'.
After a swim and lunch we decided to go for a walk to 'Ayers Rock'. In one of the paddocks is a massive rock which was always known to us as Ayers Rock when we were little.
We had to walk past the couple's house who now own the land and he had told us that we were welcome to go for a walk and look at the animals with the kids.
They have such a great set up with an amazing veggie garden, fruit trees, so many animals including chicken, ducks, pigs, sheep, goats, cows and bulls. I kept thinking how strange it was to see it all there on Pop's farm, but how much Pop would love that someone is using his land so well.
'Ayers Rock' looks a lot different now to when I was little as it's very overgrown with blackberries, but everyone still loved climbing it.
Right near Ayers Rock is a great place to jump in the river as it's deep right near the bank. I had packed for cold weather as I didn't want to be cold while camping, as I knew it would turn the boys off camping forever, but it turned out to be so warm. It was so warm that everyone was keen to jump in the river right there - clothes and all!
When we got back to camp we enjoyed just sitting around the fire, before having tea.
Nothing scares Chloe and when Kobe and I were squealing about having leeches on us, she would run over and grab them and put them on herself and would say she wanted one as a pet! It seemed like a good idea until she wouldn't stop bleeding for a little bit! :)
We had to get the 'first time camping as a family selfie' :)
As it got dark we all played 'Capture the Flag' together. It was so much fun and there was lots of screaming from me as I would get caught. The kids and adults loved it and we were all so puffed and tired by the end of it. We had a lovely night together sitting around the campfire, toasting marshmallows, telling stories to the kids about things that happened when we were kids, lighting sparklers and the little kids even had a little dance party.
Jay would never admit it but he actually had a much better time than he thought he would, and being able to get the Internet on his phone helped a bit :)
Because the weather was quite mild it wasn't that cold at night and we all slept pretty well. It was nice to sit out near the warm fire this morning when it was a bit fresh when we all woke up.
Mum was determined to kill a few wasps before we left, but we had to laugh because no matter how many she killed there were still thousands of them!
We had such a great time playing Capture the Flag, and talked about other games we liked playing as kids. I used to love the game 'Rocko' and both Kobe and Harri said they had played it at school, so we taught everyone the rules and played it after breakfast. We had such a fun time, hiding in the bushes, and behind tents and cars while the catcher had to find us. Chrish was sure that this fern was a great disguise to hide behind! ;)
An old ring of rocks where some other campers had a fire, was our 'jail' where we all had to sit if we were caught. It was fun watching everyone run out of the jail when they were freed.
Everyone was very hot from all the running around, so they were keen for another swim before going home. I love having Steph and Chrish around as they love taking photos as much as I do.
Hugh cracked us up as he absolutely loved having this grasshopper on him, but when it went on his arm or back he freaked out.
While the kids were swimming, Mum hid some Easter eggs so the kids could have a hunt before we left.
We were planning on having lunch before we packed up and left, but the wasps were so bad, that we decided to drive up to 'Pop's swimming hole' which was on the way out, and to have a swim there and have lunch there. It was so nice to go there again. It was where we spent so much time as kids and we all knew how lucky we were to have such a special spot to go to. I told the boys lots of stories on the way there and laughed about how Nan would always jump in and squeal really loud because the water was so cold. Now whenever I squeal in cold water it's known as the 'Nan squeal'.
We were very excited to see a big tube there so Chrish, Harri, Chloe and Lachie when down the rapids on it.
I love that Harri got to experience a little of what we would do for hours and hours as kids.
Despite the wasps, the run in with a tree, having to go to the toilet in the bush, smoke in our eyes, and three loads of washing when we got home the boys said camping was heaps of fun. Jay still jokes that it was torture but I know he actually enjoyed it more than he makes out. We had a really lovely time and wish that my brother Jared and sister Nicki and their families lived closer so that they could've come with us too. It was so nice to be able to share so many memories with the boys and for them to experience a little of what it was like when we were kids.