Sky’s the limit for cen­tral NSW camp­ing ad­ven­tures

Dubbo Photo News - - Opinion, Analysis, Features, Depth. -

LEAV­ING out names to pro­tect the in­no­cent, here’s a ‘great out­doors’ yarn to cel­e­brate Camp­ing Month which has been given a nod on the main cover of Dubbo Photo News this week.

Ex­hibit A is an Aus­tralian fam­ily of five, camped wild and in the snow at the top of a re­mote snow-cov­ered Amer­i­can moun­tain in the heart of moun­tain lion coun­try (ev­i­denced by the paw prints ev­ery­where in said snow, dis­cov­ered on a spot­light­ing ad­ven­ture by ju­bi­lant head-lamped chil­dren, who were only too happy to stay quiet in their tents all night af­ter that).

Camped on the edge of an aban­doned 1920s ski field, the wide open tree­less space of­fered a 45-de­gree down­ward slope, and the per­fect play­ground for to­bog­gan­ing.

In­evitably when par­tic­i­pat­ing in any ac­tion sport, it’s al­ways go­ing to end in tears, but who ends up cry­ing in this tale, isn’t who you think.

What made this to­bog­gan slope ex­tra ap­peal­ing was a lit­tle launch­ing dip at the bot­tom so if you lined up your to­bog­gan just right, you could “get some air” to end your ride plus lots of gig­gles and laugh­ter to boot.

All jolly good fun. How­ever, hi­lar­ity came to an abrupt end when the youngest in the fam­ily who has a par­tic­u­larly straight eye, caught that dip bang on cen­tre.

With a spec­tac­u­lar demon­stra­tion of “air” more akin to “strato­sphere”, New­to­nian forces got the bet­ter his ve­loc­ity and mo­men­tum, so like an empty Space X rocket he sep­a­rated from the mother ship and fell back to earth, sadly sans re­us­able land­ing gear.

With a sus­pected back in­jury di­ag­nosed by his wail­ing at any at­tempt to move, the Great- frozen-moun­tain-top-bot­tom-of-ag­ul­ley-out­doors of­fered just one so­lu­tion; carry the in­jured out.

Be­cause she was a mother, a line of work which re­quired the skills of a pack horse, the role fell to her, to be­gin the slow trudge to camp up a snow-bound moun­tain road with in­jured child slung to her sturdy back.

The re­main­ing fam­ily mem­bers hoofed it cross coun­try to fetch a camp bed which could dou­ble as a moun­tain res­cue stretcher.

Alone in the frozen wilder­ness with six known moun­tain lions (as she would later dis­cover that morn­ing to be a fact, when a ranger ex­plained why she al­ways car­ried a side arm clipped to her belt); the mother (and her in­ner bear) put a good kilo­me­tre of below-zero, 45-de­gree up­ward hik­ing be­hind her.

The moun­tain res­cue party of Dad and sib­lings re­turned with their makeshift am­bu­lance, where the pa­tient was trans­ferred for the re­main­der of the trek, to lay hor­i­zon­tally un­der the com­fort of a warm blan­ket, his fam­ily of heroes each tak­ing his weight at the four cor­ners of the stretcher.

Ar­riv­ing at camp, flush faced, ex­hausted and filled with con­cern for the fu­ture of the baby of the fam­ily who the mother feared might never walk again, the stretcher was soon gin­gerly set be­side the crack­ling camp fire.

Tak­ing stock of their ex­er­tion in that mo­ment, stretch­ing backs and gulp­ing water, all was quiet for oh, I’d say, about three sec­onds, be­fore the in­jured child sat up, mirac­u­lously cured, got off the stretcher with the agility of a gym­nast, thought­fully say­ing, “Thanks for that,” be­fore adding, “What’s for lunch?”

Now there are sev­eral ironies to this story. One is, the youngest mem­ber of the fam­ily still lives, the sec­ond is the fam­ily still loves him, and thirdly, they all still love camp­ing.

While it’s not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea, and glamp­ing is nudg­ing at that raw, dan­ger­ous, liv­ing-inthe-wild ex­pe­ri­ence, the num­ber of cam­pers and car­a­van vis­i­tors in our neck of the woods do crunch very well and bring eco­nomic ben­e­fit.

In the year end­ing De­cem­ber 2017, the num­ber of in­ter­na­tional and domestic car­a­van and camp­ing overnight vis­i­tors to NSW was 4.2 mil­lion. They spent $2.1 bil­lion dol­lars and 96.7 per cent of all those lovers of the great out­doors are Aussies.

Clearly we love the great out­doors.

In Cen­tral NSW that trans­lated to 397,000 peo­ple or 9.8 per cent of the to­tal vis­i­tors drop­ping in to pitch a tent or plug in a car­a­van.

Dubbo and sur­rounds can’t of­fer trips to the beach for cam­pers, but we do have plenty to see and do, plus one thing the Eastern se­aboard can’t com­pete with – our bril­liant dark skies.

Kids love learn­ing about the plan­ets, look­ing at the moon through a tele­scope and hear­ing sto­ries of what Saturn smells like and what life will be like on Mars.

In the win­ter es­pe­cially, skies above the Cen­tral West of­fer a gal­axy of dis­cov­ery and par­tic­u­larly good view­ing.

In 2016, NSW strength­ened its po­si­tion as Aus­tralia’s astro-tourism cap­i­tal with the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of Aus­tralia’s first Dark Sky Park at War­rum­bun­gle Na­tional Park by the In­ter­na­tional Dark-sky As­so­ci­a­tion (IDA).

Ob­ser­va­to­ries are found in the Blue Moun­tains, Parkes, Dubbo, Bro­ken Hill, Bathurst, Port Macquarie and Mudgee, plus many other sites of astron­omy sig­nif­i­cance.

In the past month, the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity put No­bel Prize-win­ning as­tro­physi­cist and vice-chan­cel­lor of ANU Brian Sch­midt on stage here in Dubbo at the DRTCC, along­side wun­derkind as­tro­physi­cist/cos­mol­o­gist Dr Brad Tucker. Their talk was fol­lowed by a star gaz­ing gig in Vic­to­ria Park.

Dubbo Col­lege Se­nior Cam­pus hosted a star party on Wed­nes­day, May 23, al­low­ing 50 lo­cals to of­fi­cially par­tic­i­pate in break­ing the Guin­ness World Record – which they did – for the most peo­ple stargaz­ing at any one time. It was more than 40,000 across Aus­tralia.

There’s al­ways lots go­ing on for cam­pers and in the great out­doors plus plenty of rea­sons to rug up and go out­side to look up.

We don’t even have to worry about be­ing eaten by moun­tain lions.

Dis­claimer: Yvette Aubusson-fo­ley is pres­i­dent of In­land Astro Trail Inc. com­mit­tee ded­i­cated to en­cour­ag­ing star gaz­ing and astro-tourism west of the Great Di­vide.

ABC’S Stargaz­ing Live hosts Pro­fes­sor Brian Cox and Ju­lia Zemiro are pic­tured with other Guin­ness World Record par­tic­i­pants at Sid­ing Springs Ob­ser­va­tory last week. Stu­dents at Dubbo Col­lege also helped set a new world record for the most peo­ple stargaz­ing at the night sky across mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions. PHOTO: LUKE WONG

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