What do you do when you wake up at one of the best campsites you’ve come across so far? If you’re M, you drop two fishing lines in the water, while your girlfriend goes and blesses the amenities. All bites and no action.

We set off, without breakfast and did a brief investigation of Grassy Head- a caravan park, but very attractive, and Scott’s Head – the place that I want to stay on the way back . The beach is so sublimely swimmable, it looks like a pool. It has a perfect learning-to-surf size wave curving across that has my name on it. I wrote it on our ‘must return to’ list.

That area of the coast can’t decide if it’s the Sapphire Coast, the Banana Coast, the Coffee Coast, or the mid-north coast. Whatever. It’s so lush and pretty, it barely needs naming at all.

Nambucca Shire is particularly beautiful. I want to live there. So many rivers and creeks. We stayed in Nambucca Heads back in July on our way down to Melbourne, but whisked past this time, because we were keen to get to Brunswick Heads.

All the places I had been languishing over on the map, and pursuingon realestate.com.au popped up on signposts as we drove along. Valla Beach, Emerald Beach, Bellingen, Dorrigo. We stopped for breakfast at Woolgoolga, a very white-bread sort of township, saved by the cafe that we went to – the Blue Dolphin Brasserie. M got his usual scrambled eggs and bacon. I had a breakfast that rang my bell – butter fried mushrooms, tomato chutney and camembert on thick toast with rocket. It was so right in so many ways. If I get hit by a bus in the next few days, at least I’ll know that I’ve breakfasted well.

Back on the road M stayed behind the wheel until we stopped for petrol. Then I got to drive, all the way to Grafton and beyond. It’s river country. The rivers are hugely wide and spread and swing their way toward the coast. The Clarence river must have doubled back on itself about three times as we went over bridge after bridge.

I was really waiting for the Richmond River- because it’s the one I really want to travel down in Oomoo. It passes through Ballina and out to sea, and I want to chase it back up through Woodburn and beyond.

As always, scooting toward our destination meant that we looked longingly at places where we wanted to turn off but didn’t. Brooms Head, Minnie Water, Wooli, Sandon, Yamba, Woodburn, Tabbimobile. All to be saved for another time – or later this trip if we’re lucky.

Finally got past Ballina and saw signs for Brunswick Heads. It was hardly believable. The signs began with about 48km to go, and I whittled them down. When there was 4km left to go M and I looked at each other incredulously.
“I think we’re almost really there!”

“It wasn’t so painful after all, with all those places we stayed.”

Yah! We went round two roundabouts and cruised down the road into town. Last time were were in Brunswick Heads it was during some one-in-fifty-year flood and we couldn’t see three metres in front of the van. Not this time. The day was beautiful, and it was only about 2pm – we had made very good time.

Strategically we thought we would check out the ‘Terrace’ caravan park that we booked into while we were still anonymous, in case it was revolting. It was in a great position – if you’re into being central to everything, close to the shops, pub and beach. It was, however, quite manicured and sterile. We looked at each other uncertainly, as we walked past the unpowered sites.

“It’s a bit of a let down after all the other great campsites we’ve had on the way up.”

“Yep.”

“So…?”

“I dunno. Let’s go and check out the other one in town. No one knows we’re here.”

We tootled around to the other caravan park, which didn’t seem to have its underpants on quite so tightly. The could give us a spot for ten days for slightly less money. We hummed and hahed. What to do?

We went back to the Terrace. Decided not toss away our 50 buck deposit, and paid up for our site. When we went and checked it out, it was so far past where we had investigated an hour or so before, that a sinking feeling began to come upon us.

Although we had been told our site was ‘waterfront’, we couldn’t actually see the water, which was skillfully hidden behind a fence that was overgrown with vines. At reception we’d been told we could keep Oomoo in the water, but besides the fact that there was no nearby easy way to put him in the water, I didn’t want him floating out of sight.

M went for an exploratory saunter. He came back looking despondent.

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I called up places in town and asked if this place was OK, and everyone said it was the best place to stay.”

“Yeah, but people are weird. Look who they voted as primeminister.”

M sighed. I, for once, was decisive.

“I don’t want to stay here. It sucks.”

M looked relieved. I went back to reception, where I remained on my excitng blunt-speaking kick.

“Hi. We didn’t realise what site it was when we paid, and we don’t like it. Can we have our money back?”

“Certainly. Minus your 50 dollar deposit for administrative fees.”

“Administrative fees?” I breathed deeply. Soothingly. I decided that escaping this Pleasantville style ‘accommodation park’ was probably worth the 50 bucks. I remained polite, which was lucky, as I later remembered I’d asked dad to send some mail up which I would now have to go back and ask for. So it was useful to not have thrown the payphone across the reception desk .

We trailed dejectedly to the other caravan site and thoroughly investigated the sites we’d been offered. Site 98 was right down the end near some boats that were moored in a small marina. We decided to try and make a go of it, and went and paid for ten nights. We were further from the beach and pub, but could leave Oomoo chained up on the beach where we could see him.

As we set up camp, M continued to be despondent.

“Why did we come here again?” he said at least twice, and my hand itched to to give him a short sharp slap.

“Because,” I said, with patience dredged from my toes, “We wanted to come here and stay a while. We love it here. Remember?”

M looked unconvinced.

“I know you want to stay in one place for a week, and it’ll be all right for you, but…”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot that I had lower standards than you. It’s fine for me to stay here, but you might find it too hard? Can you be a bit more positive?”

M grunted and patted a blue heeler that had come over from where it had been sitting near a boat, to say hello.

We gathered up towels, black of mood, and began walking in the direction of the beach. The dog followed.

“Go home!” M told the dog, “Go on. Off you go. Go home!”

“I don’t think dogs know what ‘go home’ means. Just ignore him he might give up.”

M managed to ignore him for three whole minutes as we got near town, and then grabbed to dog to see if he had any tags on his collar. Nope. Nameless-dog-with-leather-collar-and-a-flea-collar. Huh. We got to the bridge across to the beach,and the dog ran ahead of us.

“See,” said M hopefully, “He knows where he’s going.”

The dog negotiated his way across the road and over the bridge. In the carpark he went an said hello to another dog, and we skulked off out on to the little headland to observe the waves. The dog found us, sniffed us, and basically said,

“You guys are so slow. Just wait there, I’m going in for a swim.”

He took no notice of the NO DOGS sign and pranced delightedly in and out of the waves. M changed his tune.

“I love this dog. Look how independent he is! I’d like a dog like that! Would you like a dog like that?”

“Um. Possibly.”

The dog finished his dip and ran up the other end of the headland.

“Quick! While he’s not looking.”

Evilly we clambered down the rocks to the beach, and I paddled as M went in. We both kept looking to see if the dog would find us, half hoping it would. The dog stood up on the headland, where we had been standing and looked around for us. It was terrible. Finally he trotted off.

“Poor dog.” I said. “He was almost our dog. I need a drink. We have to go to the pub.”

Crossing the carpark, our dog caught up with us and ran ahead on to the bridge. Every time a car came from behind us and drove across into town the dog would jump from behind the walkway railings and chase the car, barking stoutly.

“Oy my god. It’s going to die.”

It chased every car that went over the bridge. It was quite good at it. We reached the end of the bridge and headed for the pub. The dog followed. As it got ahead of us again we ducked into the beer garden,unsure of what to do.

Halfway through a schooner of Coopers, one of guys collecting glasses walked past our area asking if anyone owned a dog.Gulp.

“The heeler?”

“Yeah. Is he yours?”

“Nah. But he followed us to the beach from the far caravan park, and then followed us here. We thought he mightbe with one of the yachts moored near the fish co-op. He went for a swim at the beach.”

M went out the front of the pub and found that our dog, in ourabsence, had adopted a woman who was walking her two dogs. Our dog followed her home. She thought he’d been waiting for his owner to come out of the pub, so she put him on a lead and walked back with him. M told her the story and she said she would walk him up to the yachts and see if anyone claimed him. And that was the last we saw of our dog.

We got chatting (well, M got chatting – I rarely chat to unknowns) to the people on the next table. To be honest, they looked like they had emerged from the mountains for the first time in many years,and had decided to sample society to see what it was like. Both M and I felt bad for our assumptions, because they were very nice, and bizaarely interesting. They had three horses, a few cows, two dogs and three cats. They had toured freaky bits of Australia on a motorcycle. They told us about her vegie garden and where they’d been in their little boat.

Despite their niceness, I started poking M in the back so we could get going and find some dinner. We left after about half an hour of chatting and ordered some fish potato cakes, calamari and a tiramasu from the fish and chip shop to take back to camp. Near the boom gates was a telephone box, and I asked M if he would call J & I to let them know we’d arrived.

M had said previously,

“Let’s not use the car for the first few days. I’m car-ed out.”

I knew that if I spoke to our friends and arranged to catch up (which would involve driving) M would stand there shaking his head at me as I arranged where to meet them. Thus, I asked him to call them. Excellent strategy. He organised to meet them for pizza tomorrow night in Mullumbimby. Huzzah!

I will not go into how he blamed the failure of my phone card on me and then dropped the tartare sauce on his foot and the tiramasu in the phone box and that was my fault as well. It had been a difficult day.

We went to sleep.