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Recollections of camping on the Murray in celebration of 30 years of Easter camps

Submitted by Murray Guardian
on April 06, 2010

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Back in the late 1970s a group of young men, who had all been scouts and rovers together, decided to organise a camping trip to the Murray River for the Easter break.

That year, with wives and girlfriends, they chose a site at Torrumbarry and as everyone enjoyed themselves, it was decided there and then, that an Easter camp on the Murray should become a tradition.

The next few years were spent near Mathoura, but with wet weather making the tracks into the river nearly impassable, and with a growing number of young children, it was decided to move closer to the Rutherglen area. Each year the numbers kept growing with the addition of new families and young children so a system of administration was formulated, each family taking turns to try to organise the chaos. These days there are menus, rosters, food shopping lists, and equipment lists.

On special anniversary occasions an evening banquet has been organised with linen tablecloths, silver candlesticks and formal dress (from the waist up), much to the astonishment of other campers in the area.

Over the past 30 years many friends have been made among the local farmers, Parks Victoria rangers and the local CFA on their rounds collecting for the Good Friday Appeal.

If you happen to see us in the future, call in and say G’day and have a cuppa.

The first camp was at T’rumbarry, up near Echuca town, Where there were many ski boats all harin’ up an’ down, The din was somethin’ terrible, ya couldn’t fish or think, Enough to turn a sober bloke to that evil demon drink, About that camp there’s not a lot that I can say or tell, Except those bloody speed boats made it livin’ bloody hell.

Now drink was somethin’ we did back then out of glass or mug or cup, Sittin’ round a campfire till the sun was fairly up, With a flagon of plonk or beer or some other tasty grog, We’d wake at nearly lunch time for a “hair of the flamin’ dog”, But now we’re old and cannot drink the way we did back then, And so these days we’re all in bed by half past bloody ten.

So then we moved to Picnic Point away up Denny way, Where the Murray’s called the Narrows, or so old bushies say, The carp up there were plentiful, you could pull ‘em out by hand, The dirty, rotten, stinkin’ things, they should be bloody banned, The bush around was pretty thick, the dust was much the same, So everyone just sat around and prayed for bloody rain.

And rain it did the next year, that dust all turned to mud, But still we went, the Easter camp now firmly in our blood, The mud was thick and slippery and so we used the ute, To get around with all the kids all yellin’ “this is beaut!” First bogged down to the axles, then sliding through the mire, We’d all go back and clean up and dry out by the fire.

Now kids there were aplenty, more and more kept showing up, So to save ‘em all from drowning we penned the buggers up, We built a fence and chucked ‘em in and then they started howlin’, It wasn’t long before their mums gave up and chucked the towel in, They released the kids and fed ‘em and then sent ‘em out to play, Then grabbed their books and climbed inside and settled down to stay.

Now when it comes to setting up it’s something like a circus, We’ve picked a spot with shade, and room enough to suit us, “Where’ll we put the big tent?” “Somewhere over here?” “No over there, beneath that tree”. I think I’ve earned a beer! “But where will we put the dunny tent? No move that back to here!” I think I’ll go off fishin’ and have a lot more beer.

Another thing ‘bout this campin’ lark some people think is funny, It doesn’t matter where you are, you’ve gotta have a dunny, So the men go out and dig the hole at some very sacred site, Then Susan comes along and checks that it’s shaped just right, These days we’ve got a special tent and a seat on a little stool, But when you drop your wallet in you feel a bloody fool.

In early days they made a rule where machinery was banned, The noise of generators was a thing they couldn’t stand, We had to do without the box, miss Neighbours, that was good, But now we take a chainsaw to cut the firewood, And I can see the day will come, maybe sooner then than later,

Where just to dig that dunny hole we’ll take an excavator. So then we moved along the road to a place called Gooramadda, Don’t worry folks the rhyming here, can’t get all that badder, Along the track, around the tree and down that big steep slope, Will we make it through the creek? We never give up hope, Then onto the bank and out on the flat, beside that big old tree, Will there be any water? We’ll have to wait and see.

It was here at Gooramadda that they started out canoeing, They paddled here, they paddled there but they were always blueing, There never were enough seats to fit in all that crew, So some of us would stay at camp and cook the bloody stew, And then they’d all come back to camp as tired as bloody hell, With sunburnt knees and noses and feet and toes as well.

These days we’ve got a roster that tells us when we work, But some of them have worked out ways their duties they can shirk, Like fallin’ over tent ropes and breakin’ a bloody leg, Then sitting round and gutsing on a bloody Easter egg, With a glass of wine in one hand and a foot up in the air, That really was lots more than most of us could bear.

One thing about these Easter camps is the top-notch flamin’ tucker, And whenever there’s a banquet on they dress up somethin’ pukka, It’s formal from the waist up, and that’s the stuff of fable, But you wouldn’t want to see what’s on beneath the bloody table, With tablecloths and candlesticks and lots and lots of wines, Which Norm insists on testing ‘bout a dozen bloody times.

But then as far as tucker goes you can be sure there’s always plenty, When we’re all full it’s Norman’s job to make sure pots are empty, For Edna’s Anzac biscuits we always had a thirst, If Gerald kept his fingers out and didn’t eat ‘em first, Rob’s gourmet meats for lunches are such a great delight, But who will get the cold lamb bones? That’s sure to cause a fight.

And then we go off tasting to the wineries all about, But I’ve never really seen the point of spitting it all out, It really is disgusting and very, very rude, To me it’s just a bloody waste of good and wholesome food, And the places are full of yuppies all yakkin’ lots of bull, About this nose and acid and how the body’s nice and full.

Then there was the time we pulled the bull out of the drink, He was stuck up to his pizzle and kickin’ up quite a stink, We rowed across the river and got a rope around his head, And pulled him up on the river bank where he lay like he was dead, I went over and undid the rope and gave him a little push, He sighed and staggered to his feet and strolled off through the bush.

And then one year we decided we’d like a new camp site, So we set up an expedition to try and get it right, With ranger John as tracker, Ian and good old bloody Rob, We trekked along that river to do the bloody job.

We started up the top end near a town they call Wodonga, And ended up a long way down near Yarra-bloody-wonga. We cursed and fought our way along through the virgin bloody scrub, We battled and floundered in distress, didn’t even stop for grub, We bashed along that river bank where no white man ever trod, And found some real good fishin’ holes but I didn’t have me rod, Lumby’s was a place we found and then later we surveyed it, But without that ranger’s four-wheel-drive, I doubt we would have made it.

And nearly every morning when the sun is up on high, Out will come the Scrabble board and you’ll see the feathers fly, “You can’t use that, that’s not a word, ya stupid silly twit”, And “Kate it’s time you went to school to learn arithmetic”, Then Rhonda gets her crossword out, Jan and Kate they join in too, And all this time Rob’s fishin’, stayin’ right out of the poo.

Now I’ve been fishin’ many times along the Murray’s shore, I’ve drowned about a million worms or maybe even more, I’ve lost me gear and got all wet from fallin’ in the drink, And I’ve piled the carp up on the bank where they began to stink, But never yet have I had the feel of a really decent cod, Strugglin’ on the end of the line of me old black fishin’ rod.

But now and then I’d get a bite and sure as you can bet, Some snotty kid would come to say “ya caught us anythin’ yet?” Their mothers used to send ‘em down to get ‘em out of the way, To annoy the hell out of poor old Rob for half the bloody day, Now those mothers sent their kids along to annoy me that’s for sure, So I’ll hatch a plan and catch ‘em out and “even up the score”.

I like to sit along the bank and watch the world go by, The kingfishers on the branch, the eagle in the sky, The snake down there by the water’s edge, the wrens on me fishin’ rod, And now and then a great big splash that could’ve been a cod, The cockies settling down to roost and the smoke from a stubble fire, And the ducks all swimmin’ round the reeds, what more could a man desire?

I’d like to go on fishin’ ‘till I can fish no more, Along those shady reaches of that Murray River shore, And then above my resting place when the grass has gone to seed, I’d like to have this epitaph for other folks to read, “Here lies a Murray fisherman whose soul has gone to God, But his ghost is still here fishin’ for that giant Murray cod”.

There are possums in the tucker box and ants are in the honey, I’m out of grog and cigarettes, and I haven’t any money, There is no wood, the billy’s cold and the fire’s nearly out, And half the mob are laid up with the backache, flu or gout, But every year at Easter time I’m always in a hurry, To be campin’ out with all me mates along the River Murray.

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