A Weekend at Little Rapids

Moving three car loads of confirmed city dwellers out of mobile coverage by 1pm on a Friday is something that scheduling only allows us to do once every nine months or so. Our convoy of food, alcohol and pillows (for the hyper hygienic types) snakes its way north-west up the highway and through the mountains for a lazy four hour journey towards a place where the stars aren’t bleached by city lights, the bathroom basin has spring loaded separate hot and cold taps, and wine o’clock starts at a bees dick before noon.

I witness some hand waving conjecture about the fastest route but I’m drained from planning three days of comfort food and outfits in advance – I can’t be bothered arguing that it’s all the same. The truth is that some linger for longer at the pie shop and some regard speed limits as a suggestion only. The last thirty minutes of the trip is the prettiest, with the sun setting on rolling farmlands dotted with graphic patterns of sheep, cattle, and lush green paddocks (if the weather has been kind).

The property, named ‘Little Rapids’, has been in the Harris family for a couple of generations. It sits on the Duckmaloi River, near Oberon in central NSW. Neil Harris, our mate, has been taking his friends up there for years.

It’s our adopted country cottage and we’ve all accumulated plenty of personal history there now. I once took photos of Neil and Satchmo the Labrador under the pin oak near his dad’s memorial plaque. Now Satchmo rests there too. The spot where the lounge is in the new living room used to be the hallway location of the bunk beds – the ‘singles’ sleeping quarters that I ached to graduate from as a dubiously eligible bachelor.

In the background of the political-career-killing photos taken of me on the infamous fancy dress night you’ll see the kitchen. Meanwhile the slow burning renovations of friends and family have progressively lent every simple comfort a sense of gratitude. We’ve all pissed off the deck into the hedge to save water. The place has soul.

I enjoy being the first one up and try to slip out the door wearing borrowed Blundstone boots as close to sunrise as I can, generally on my own. It’s the most likely time to bump into wildlife and enjoy the warm, sculpted light punching through layers of chilly atmosphere. A fresh hangover and cold cheeks mess with my habitually retentive picture taking and I become one of those loose prolific photographers. The woodpile, the frost, the low rolling clouds, the bluish white eucalyptus trunks popping out against the hills. I’m feeling proud and possessive of My Australia. Everything about the land feels right to this city body and I buzz with the familiarity of home despite not having had Wi-Fi for almost forty-eight hours.