Happy new year, everybody! David and I started the year with a couple of days away.

On January 1, we left the girls with David’s parents and headed for a nearby beach. We took the truck so we could camp overnight (comfortably) and drove to Station Creek, part of Yuraygir National Park, on the NSW coast north of Coffs Harbour.

At the camping ground, we parked the truck and packed a bag for the beach. Because it’s the middle of summer school holidays and a public holiday, the National Park was busy with many visitors, families camping in tents, single guys sleeping in vans and couples on a day-trip. The campsite was about 1 km from the beach, so as we headed down the track, we didn’t really know what we would find.

A couple of hundred metres down the sandy track that wound through the scrub, we saw a brown muddy creek. David was delighted to see the water, but I wasn’t so impressed, as I thought it looked stagnant and very unappealing. David pressed me to abandon the track and start walking down the creek towards the beach.

The water widened and started flowing more rapidly. As the creek deepened, it reflected the sky, turning a beautiful aqua blue. The water was clear and pristine; what I thought was unappealing turned out to just be mud flats exposed at low tide.

Further down the creek we saw a number of 4WDs (SUVs) lined up, crossing the water at a shallow ford. We passed a number of people playing in the water and reached the beach. The creek narrowed as it reached the ocean, curving along a length of rocks that served as a habitat for sea plants, small shrimp, oysters, crabs and fish.

We set up our shade shelter on the sandy beach and then crossed the creek to explore the rocky point. As we sat in the shade of casuarina trees further up a steep cliff, dangling our feet in the water, small shrimp crawled over our toes and fish about. Further around the point, rock pools housed small schools of fish and various crustaceans.

The wind and pounding ocean had carved out shallow caves in the rock, and we sheltered from the sun in one. At another point, we climbed up to the top of headland and lazed under the shade of the trees. Further along, at another point, we discovered a cool glade of native violets under banksia trees, so we snoozed there in the heat of the day.

While we were sitting, walking, climbing or lazing, David and I talked a lot. About everything. We reviewed many things that happened in the last year, discussed the relationships that dominated our lives, reminisced about the girls’ antics, analysed past conversations and spoke about our future. It was an extra-special time of reconnecting, reinforcing our relationship and cementing our commitment to each other and to our family.

Meanwhile, it turned out that the creek I thought looked “stagnant” was the place to be. Whole families turned up and swam, snorkelled and played in the water. Canoeists paddled up and down. By mid-morning, the place was very busy, and it appeared to be the choice location for everyone based at the campsite.

In the afternoon, David and returned to camp and brought some more things down to the beach. We loaded up the canoe and used it to ferry our gear down the Station Creek to our shade shelter. We ate our dinner on the beach and then walked further down the beach just in time for a spectacular sunset.

Sunset at Station Creek beach, January 2009
The beach was deserted, and as the sun went down, we were rewarded with a gorgeous display of colours.

David, January 2009
After the day at the beach, we were both very sandy and salty, but also fully relaxed.

Lauren, January 2009
I was enjoying the freedom of not being a mummy for a day, sharing special times with David and enjoying the glorious sunset.

Although we intended to spend the night sleeping on the beach, the wind whipped up the sand, so went back to our campsite and took refuge in the truck. I started to feel sick with the flu-ish symptoms that had plagued our family earlier in the week, and by the next morning I didn’t feel like doing much more exploring.

We packed up and drove to another beach, stopping at a service station to shower and change. I really enjoyed the hot shower, freely provided to travellers by the service station that gambled users would also turn into customers. (They were right in our case — we bought some breakfast from the café.)

Our second night of “camping” (can you call it camping if you sleep on a mattress in a fully-equipped vehicle?) was in a small seaside village. In the morning we walked down to the beach and let the fresh breeze wake us up properly before driving back to Grafton to reunite with the girls.

When we arrived at the house, our truck drove in, unnoticed, so we could slip around the back and peek in the windows to see what was happening. Aisha was dancing to some music playing on her shaker, Brioni was lying on her boolah, sucking her thumb and laughing, and Calista was crawling under the table close-by.

It was good to be back with our family. The time away was just what we needed. In the past we’ve pooh-poohed the idea of “dates” away from the kids, but these days has shown us how valuable the time is for our relationship and hopefully we may make it a more regular thing.