I can’t think of a better way to spend a birthday than a bit of cycling, cake, friends, bubbles, boardgames, a good dinner and a beautiful cabin in the woods.
Where we stayed: Paper Bark Camp
What we did: Read, cycled, kayaked, wetland walk, played games, dinner at the restaurant, slept, woke to Kangaroos, went to Hyams Beach.
Things have been a bit quiet for me on the travelling front recently. Partly because since the start of October I’ve been coaching a women’s cycling program called ‘She Rides’, run by Cycling Australia. The aim of the course is to build the confidence and skills of female cyclists. I’ve absolutely loved seeing my group improve during the course, but it has meant I’ve been in Sydney every weekend to run the course.
My birthday fell on a Thursday last week, so Ben and I decided to treat ourselves to a night out of the city. We looked at a couple of ‘glamping’ spots within easy reach of Sydney:
There’s also Jamala lodge down near Canberra which I’d love to go to one day, where you can bunk with an animal, but it was a little far for one night (and it is $$$!)
Friends of ours had been to Paper Bark previously and gave it rave reviews so we booked it in.
After the Thursday morning Coogee Club cycle we packed up and drove the 2.5 hours from Sydney down to Jervis Bay. It turned out that the campsite was actually on the Husky Tri bike course but I’d never noticed it before as I whizzed past on the bike.
Check in time was 2pm and after we’d gone up to the Gunyah (restaurant and reception building) to check in we got a lift in a golf buggy from car to ‘tent’. It was a grand total of about 250m but hey, might as well start the stay as we intended to go on…relaxed!
We were staying in the ‘Bandicoot’ tent. I say tent, but it felt more like a cabin given the luxury inside. It was made of a thick canvas and on a raised wooden platform (the area is susceptible to flooding!) We had a gorgeous big bed, with mesh windows all around so it felt like there was nothing between you and the forest.
That afternoon we read, cycled around the camp (took about 2 minutes!) and then decided to venture out in the camp kayaks. We’d already been warned that the current was coming in especially fast that day, and when we got to the river I looked at the water gushing past and I’m not going to lie was slightly terrified.
Paper Bark is about 4km from Huskisson town by road, and 7km by creek. Apparently the camp challenge is to kayak/row the whole way to Husky. Before I realised how far it was I had grand illusions of Ben and I doing that. We made it about 400m.
I was getting ready to squeeze into my kayak when Ben suddenly said to me…”So you’re happy rolling out if it goes upside down?” you should have seen my face… “Ummm no, no not really, why is it going to go upside down???” It was actually a reasonably tight fit, and not very comfortable as you had to sit with legs straight out. We kayaked against the current, and I knew there was some water in mine when I got in but my legs were getting more and more wet as we went on. After about 5 minutes I admitted defeat and told Ben I wasn’t really enjoying it, so we returned to the pontoon, disembarked, only to discover that my kayak was basically full of water. It turned out it had a crack in the bottom and I’d been taking on water. Lucky we didn’t attempt the trip to Husky otherwise I would have had a rather watery end to my birthday!
Rather than give up, Ben suggested we try the two-person rowing boat. This was far more enjoyable and we floated happily along the river as the sun started to dip. The swampy surrounds reminded me of North Queensland…but thankfully the creek was without the crocodiles that brings.
Time to clean off the river water in the gorgeous outdoor shower!
We booked our dinner slot when we’d checked in and had the option of 6.30pm or 8pm. We opted for 8pm which gave us some time for a pre-dinner drink. The restaurant was licensed but you could have any of your own food and drink down at the tents so we’d brought a bottle of Bunnamagoo fizz from previous adventures. The camp kitted us out with an ice bucket and glasses and we settled out on the porch, surrounded by citronella candles and the sounds of cicadas for a game of monopoly.
It got a little competitive, some insults were traded, but we finished the game and the bubbles and were still on speaking terms when we headed to dinner.
The food was delicious. Our package included a 3 course meal, the only things that we had to pay for on top were drinks, and sides (which I thought was a little bizarre since it was set menu!) The table next to us finished their meal and after they’d left the possums were straight on their table, fearless!!
We made our way back to the tent after dinner and it was so magical going to bed with the sounds of the forest all around. There was definitely some possum intervention in the night but they didn’t make it into the tent. Even better was waking up in the morning to the views of the forest from bed.
A little thermos was left out on our porch, full of hot water so we could slowly wake up with a cup of tea and enjoy the view.
Breakfast didn’t start until 8am, so when I heard rustling outside the tent about 7.30am I nosily wondered if people were going there early. I looked out of the mesh window only to see a family of kangaroos walking past on the path. I rushed out onto the porch and they paused to observe me before hopping on their way.
Breakfast was a total feast. We were there at 8am on the dot 😀 An amazing fruit platter, passionfruit (my favourite!), a whole rack of honeycomb, and then a choice of cooked breakfasts!
After breakfast we did the wetlands walk, discovered the kissing tree, and made the most of relaxing some more before checkout at 11am.
I had an incredible time but would recommend staying 2 nights so that you can have that full day of relaxation in the middle without even having to think about the outside world!!
Not that the outside is particularly bad in that part of the world. We popped down to the trusty favourite Hyams beach for a dip before driving back to Sydney.
Finally I closed off the celebrations with my first ‘real’ crit race when we got back on Friday night. All that eating, drinking and relaxing had obviously got the better of me as I could only muster legs for 4th in the sprint… Looking forward to more racing next year with the Cheeky Chicks Audi race team!
Thanks so much to everyone for all the birthday love from around the world!!!