Jervis Bay, Australia
“I have some bad news.”
Great. Just what I needed.
I was on the phone to my boyfriend, about an hour before I was due to get on a train and head south from Sydney to a house where he, I and a bunch of friends would be staying for the next few days. It turned out that the bad news was that the house, for reasons which were never fully explained to me, apparently didn’t exist. The friend who had booked it seemed to have fallen victim to some kind of internet scam and now we had nowhere to stay. It looked like we wouldn’t be going after all.
“Is that ok?”
No, that was not ok, and I told him as much. I had been looking forward to this holiday and I was not going to give up on it that easily. “Just wait a minute,” I said, “I’ll call you back.”
I immediately headed to the internet, hastily looking up holiday rentals with room for 10 people in the Jervis Bay area (making sure that it was through a reputable real estate agent). Within a few hours, and after a large number of telephone conversations, I had secured a house for the next five days – the only one large enough that I could find at such short notice – and was on the train heading south.
The house was located in the tiny town of Basin View, about three hours’ drive south of Sydney (just south of Nowra and west of Jervis Bay) on the edge of St Georges Basin, a sizable estuary. Having caught the train a considerable way south, the last part of my journey was made by car. The road out of Nowra wound through the bush, with densely growing gums on either side. After about half an hour I made the sharp turn off the main road and onto Basin View’s quiet streets. As I finally pulled into the driveway of our rented house I felt an immense sense of relief – not only had I arrived safely, but the house actually existed!
Stepping inside my relief intensified further. There had been very little information about the house available on the website, so I had been in a state of quite considerable anxiety on my trip down – as the one who had booked it, felt a great responsibility to ensure that it was actually a nice place to stay. Could it be that the house was a complete dump that I’d been overcharged for? My fears proved unfounded, however – the house was a lovely single-storey place with four bedrooms, two bathrooms (although only one shower, which caused quite a queue after we went to the beach later in the week), and a spacious kitchen and living area. Outside were a spa, a barbecue and outdoor seating, and a wide expanse of grass which led down to the muddy shore of St George’s Basin itself, hidden among the trees. It was better than I had dared hope.
Gradually the rest of our party of 10 arrived and we settled down to some serious relaxation. Board games and DVDs were the order of the day (order of the week, really). It took us two days to get the chemical levels in the spa right, but once it was finally free of sludge and looking spick and span it became a much-enjoyed diversion as well. One beautiful evening in particular was spent soaking in the deliciously warm water as the stars, unspoiled by city lights, twinkled overhead.
The feeling of being right out in the bush was accentuated by the kangaroos. They came every evening, peacefully cropping at the grass of the front and back yards. We identified our mammalian guests as Eastern Greys – their plush greyish-brown fur looked soft enough to cuddle, but we knew that, despite their total lack of concern regarding us humans, these roos could certainly not be called ‘tame’. At one point I stepped out the front door onto the verandah and found myself not three metres from a snacking roo. It lifted its head from the grass and regarded me piercingly, staring me right in the face as if to say “What are you doing on my lawn, human?” – it was the roos who were the residents here, we were just passing through.
Not all the wildlife we encountered was as benevolent as the roos, though. At one point a leech decided that my leg looked like a tasty morsel, and later our fridge was subject to an invasion of very large and apparently cold-resistant ants. Perhaps most worryingly we had an interesting encounter at the beach…
Hyams Beach – a 20 minute drive from Basin View – is a glorious stretch of blindingly white sand lining Jervis Bay. Not being a surf beach, the crystal clear tropical-island-blue waves tend to be perfect for relaxed bobbing around, although on the day we visited there was a fairly strong current dragging us south along the beach. We swam for quite some time, eventually wandering back up the warm sand as we tired of paddling against the current.
About 10 minutes after we had got out, a large man further up the beach began to shout. At first it was hard to understand what he was saying, but the cry spread rapidly down the beach: “Get out of the water!” Confused swimmers splashed ashore as those lounging on the beach began to gather a few metres from the water’s edge. The sharp-eyed man had spotted a shark, the crowd’s murmurs seemed to suggest. It took several minutes for us to see it, but sure enough a dark shadow was slipping through the water about 10 metres from the shore. As a wave passed over it, the shadowy blob resolved itself into a definite shark-like shape. Beachgoers stood huddled a few metres back from the water’s edge, phone cameras at the ready. I think most, like me, had never seen a shark in the wild before. Luckily we had had our swim already – after that point there was no going back in the water! We decided our spa was a safer place to be.
On the last night of our holiday we cooked an enormous roast dinner to celebrate our time away. I don’t think we were really looking forward to the prospect of returning to real life back in Sydney – a few days of relaxation in our home here among Basin View’s gumtrees had been just what we needed.
Thanks to Nick Bull for the kangaroo photographs.