Dunn’s Swamp. Kandos Weir, NSW, Australia. 2010

My wife Engogirl and I, decided we wanted to get out of town for the weekend so we invited some friends to come camping with us up at Kandos Weir at the Dunn’s Swamp campground which is in the Wollemi National Park.

Kandos is about three and a half hours drive north east of Sydney. Although the weather forecast was for rain we left on Friday night anyway.

Just about everyone we hang out with is fairly experienced with the outdoors and they all have plenty of camping gear for just about any circumstance, so the weather was of no real concern for any of us. As a matter of fact I always feel good when it rains at night and I’m in my tent as it seems to justify bringing all the equipment.

Engogirl’s uncle Ray brought up his kayaks so we could get out on the water and have a look around the lake created by Kandos Weir. The kayaks were quite nice sleek things that were designed for better kayakers than me. Being so narrow made them not only fast but also a bit tippy. I felt a bit nervous in them although I’ve done quite a bit of paddling in wider, more stable kayaks. Whereas, Ray and Paul (in the photo below) were quite home in them.

Although I was in constant fear of falling in, Engogirl and I went out for a couple of kilometres to paddle about the lake. It was absolutely beautiful and if I hadn’t been so afraid tipping over and getting my camera wet, I would’ve taken some shots while we were out in the kayaks.

The Weir was built back in the late 1920s to supply a cement factory 25 kilometres away and it flooded a narrow valley of sandstone pagodas. I’m pretty sure such a structure wouldn’t be allowed to be built in a UNESCO world heritage area (due to the biodiversity of plant and animal communities, including the recently discovered Wollemi Pine) with Aboriginal cultural sites nowadays.

The name “Dunn’s Swamp” doesn’t sound very promising but I’m sure it comes from before the weir was built. When ever I hear the word weir, I think of one of those low walls in a stream that the water flows over. Kandos Weir is more of a dam in the real sense of the word being about 30 metres high (about 90ft).

When Engogirl was at university she did an assignment on the weir and we went to the cement works to meet up with the engineers who run it now, to have a look at the original drawings. It was a bit of a shock to see that the plans for such a large structure were in pencil and seemed so simple and yet the weir is still there working just fine.

One of the things I love about my country is that places like Dunn’s Swamp have been made available for public use at a very reasonable cost. Only $5 a day per person and firewood is supplied plus there are environmentally friendly composting pit toilets, but there is no potable water so you have to bring your own.

All around the lake there are various walking tracks and on Sunday a few of us went up to a look out, which gives a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Because of all the rainfall lately, the vegetation was lush (by Australian standards) and I can’t remember seeing the area looking so beautiful and green in the past 15 years I’ve been going there.

 

It was just so beautiful that it came as a surprise to come across a large group of people (foreign university students) who were out there drinking and leaving their beer bottles lying about, discarded on the track. I went up to them and said, “hi, it’s a beautiful area isn’t it?” They all smiled back and said yes. Then in a polite and gentle way, I suggested to them that the area looks better without the bottles and they agreed.

From a distance I watched them leave and the guys who had been drinking weren’t carrying anything back with them.

It’s funny how people will say one thing and do another.

When we came back to the area we found a bunch of bottles hidden behind rocks and under bushes so we collected them up and took them back to the campground. On the way to our tents we passed the students, so my friend Joseph and I went up to the group of about twenty with smiles on our faces and I said, “Hi! How are you all?”

Smile and greetings of “hi” came back to us.

I walked up to one of the guys who I had seen drinking the beer and I pulled out one of the bottles from my coat (a Gore-Tex with large cargo pockets) and said, “here, I think this is yours”.

He looked embarrassed and his friend stepped forward and said, “oh thanks, we were looking for them but we couldn’t find them”.

I said, “yeh right!” and then I handed the other bottles back to various other guys, “saying, here, I think this one might be your’s” until I was rid of the rest of the bottles.

Sheepish looks of embarrassment all round. I then dug out all the bottle caps that I’d also picked up on the way back and said to the group, “these are so small you can just put them in your pocket and bring the back with you”.

All the while I was making sure I was smiling and speaking in a polite and gentle manner. I was into winning hearts and minds, not getting the crap beaten out of me.

I went on with, “it’s great to share these places with you, but let’s try and keep it nice for each other” as I patted the biggest guy in the group on the back in a friendly and brotherly way (I’ve read that touch can help make people more calm and co-operative). Much to their credit, the students seemed to be taking what I had to say on board, and there were mumbled apologies (which I hadn’t come for) and smiles.

Hopefully that will be a group where some of the people will think twice about littering in the bush.