Antipodean: Meroo Camping

Words by Drew Rooke

Pictures by Simon Cottee

Published on September 24, 2014


There are kangaroo and wild dog tracks but ours are the only footprints on the beach. The sand squeaks with every step as if it’s alive and makes its way between our toes. Scattered across it are bundles of seaweed and skeletons of seabirds, dumped by the king tide in the days just prior. To our left is the grumbling ocean, waves journeying up from the south and exploding on the sandbank, white-water shooting into the air. For a few seconds, it’s calm. Silence. The heaving sea has settled.

To our right is Meroo Lake, the gentle breeze rippling its surface. It stretches westwards up the valley and disappears into the bush. The freshwater changes colour with the sunlight, from rustic brown, to forest green, to sapphire blue. It’s a giant aquatic dormitory, a shared home to giant pelicans, croaking frogs, darting black rens and jumping fish.

After a week of thrashing storms, no cloud can be seen in the azure sky. The only blemish is the white midday sun that looks like a giant puss-filled blister. A faint sea mist wafts onshore and towards the rows of tangled gum trees carpeting the headland behind us — bush meets coast. The Australian perfume scents the air — a blend of minty, pine eucalyptus and salty seawater.

We nestle in behind a sand dune on the banks of the lake. Sheltered from the wind, it makes for a perfect campsite. The pelicans float across from the corner to scope us out and seem convinced that we come in peace. They know we’re just visiting.

Shit, how did we get here? I mean there’s camping but then there’s this. It’s the Australia forgotten, forgotten from us being intoxicated by the city.

The ocean washes over our naked bodies. Lying on the sand, the wind blows against our skin as if it were nature’s hairdryer. Ospreys span their wings and soar with the air currents. Up in the gums on the headland, now bathed in golden rays, kookaburras laugh and currawongs warble. The sun drops and paints the sky every shade of pastel and the Southern night sky awakes. Our campfire cracks and whistles, our dinner bubbles and sizzles. Then from behind comes a golden glow and we turn to see the bulging full moon climbing from the horizon up the black sky, illuminating a path to eternity across the black ocean.

We tire, our eyes close, and the sand moulds to our horizontal bodies. We’re used to being serenaded to sleep by chugging trains and honking horns, but here it’s just the wash of waves. No tent is needed. Sleeping on country to then wake and do it all again. Until Sydney calls for our return.

Drew Rooke is a writer from Sydney, Australia.

Simon Cottee is an animator and film maker moving to Montreal. Here is a comic about it: