Every opportunity I can, I try to get out of the suburban hustle and go camping. Some of the teenagers I work with had never been camping so I set about finding somewhere really special to introduce them to one of my favourite past times. Eventually, I stumbled upon such a place – Turon Gates, NSW. I almost don’t want to share that in the off-chance that someone is actually reading these and word gets out about how amazing it is. I asked the proprietors if we were likely to get a campsite since they didn’t take bookings and they assured me it would be fine. So we packed my little Astra to the roof and squeezed four of us in and drove the 9 hours to the little farm. We took a few interesting back roads and had to stop off at a small sheep farm with some breathtaking views.
We slowly picked our way through the back roads (suitable for 4WD only, oops!) and began to wonder if we had taken a wrong turn as it began to grow dark. Finally, we came to a gate signed “Turon Gates” and we came upon our little treasure hidden in the hills of Turon National Park.
In the dark and racing the oncoming shower, we set up camp and gather firewood to make some dinner. The managers were right, there were a few families scattered along the creek near a large, grassy field and only one other lot of campers near the bathroom facility (which I thought weird). We set up behind a little rise which hid us from the rest of the world with a short walk to the bathroom and an even shorter walk to the creek
Our camp kitchen was pretty basic but we managed to pull of some pretty impressive meals nonetheless. Probably one of the favourites was our take on an Ethiopian dish – Doro Wat. Normally we make it in a slow cooker but we took it back to basics and made it over the fire in our dutch oven. Essentially, the dish is chicken slow-cooked with berbere spices, honey wine and a few other ingredients. We set it up around lunch time and left it to cook for a few hours while we explored the surroundings. It’s served with boiled eggs and usually injera (fermented flat bread). We didn’t bring any injera this time but enjoyed our Doro immensely. Some other hits included lamb skewers grilled on the hotplate and chicken and vegetables wrapped in foil and cooked on the coals.
While the Doro was cooking we hired one of the on-site canoe. There was a little miscommunication about that. There was a canoe near the deeper part of the creek and a canoe in the shallow part for the kids. We though that we were going to the canoe near the deep part. We struggled a lot with the rocks and could hardly imagine just how shallow the shallow part must be. It turns out that’s where we were after all. Later on in our exploring we found the deeper part and the canoe chained up near the tree. The girls were a little dirty on the managers for pointing us in the wrong direction but we had a bit of fun anyway.
One of the girls was on her learners so I let her have a little driving practice on the dirt roads and we went to check out some other parts of the property. The creek winds its way through the farm and there is a stretch a few kilometres long where camping is allowed. Closer to the main road (on the way to Capertee) there are cabins tucked away in the bush. There were a few families staying in these that were fishing near the causeway. We pulled over and worked our way through the bushes and hopped over rocks in the creek before deciding we better head back home and start making dinner. Two of the girls were feeling extra adventurous and walked back to the campsite while our learner drove. Perhaps that inspired their adventurous spirit! I told them just to stick to the creek and they would be fine since our tent was barely ten metres from the edge of the creek. I was beginning to get a little worried as it got closer and closer to sun down but they eventually emerged from the bush safe and sound!
Another day had us exploring in the other direction and farther off the track – on horseback! This was another first for the most of the girls so the quiet, experienced trail-riding horses kept on the property were just right. We took on up the track that had been used decades ago to move sheep from the property to be sold in town. It felt like it was straight up the mountain. We had started walking up that track looking for firewood previously and it was tough work! We were extremely glad that the horses were doing all that work for us this time. A slow paced horse ride is such a nice way to take in the scenery.
The water in the creek was mountain fresh and very cold! But it meant that the water was drinkable. At least that’s what we were told. It amused the girls greatly that the brochure provided to us invited us to drink the water, claiming it was perfectly safe since, “we drink it and we’re still here.” The girls weren’t convinced that good enough reason but we stuck to our adventurous guns and drank it anyway.
As I said, I don’t want everyone finding out about our little hidden treasure of a campsite. It was so peaceful and quiet and I can’t wait to find an excuse to go back, even though it was quite a long drive. We did have another “little” side excursion while we were up there so close to the Blue Mountains but I will save that for another post. Instead, I’ll leave you with a few of our favourite photos from Turon Gates.