The Simple Life: Solitude on the South Coast and Cooking at River Cottage Australia

Albert Camus once wrote:

“There are no more deserts. There are no more islands. Yet there is a need for them. In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion; in order to serve men better, one has to hold them at a distance for a time. But where can one find the solitude necessary to vigor, the deep breath in which the mind collects itself and courage gauges its strength?”

I found it recently in Tilba on the South Coast, New South Wales.

There is something about getting away from the city that really soothes the soul. For me, it’s the simplicity of taking off with only the essentials and realising that there is more to my life than the next Lululemon or Gorman item I want to buy (I have more than my fair share of overpriced yoga outfits and cute printed skirts); the next addition to my wine collection (of which I never cellar but often share with friends on casual week night); and the ridiculous amount of secondhand books that I buy from each quaint country antique store I visit (many of which I am yet to read).

My journey to a simpler, less material life is clearly still a work-in-progress but one that I am getting closer to- it must be all those days meditating in my Lululemon tights that helped me reach this evolved state of mind…

In any case, my recent trip to Central Tilba and it’s surrounds was a time to appreciate the simple life in solitude, away from the usual distractions of the city. While the trip was focused around taking part in the River Cottage Australia Cooking School (as from the television series River Cottage Australia) and understanding the intricacies of farming and living a more self-sufficient and sustainable existence; it was also a time for reflection and rebirth after some recent life decisions.

Campervan 8
Chasing the sun: en route to Tilba…

Tilba is about a five hour drive south of Sydney, so leaving in the campervan at 6am on a rainy Friday morning allowed me to see the clouds part as I headed south and to see the sun rise to a beautiful day. The drive itself was relatively smooth (especially in the early hours of the morning) and being able to stop to buy local produce from roadside fruit and vegetable stands was a great way to start a long weekend.

Fruit Stand2
The simple things are often the best: a roadside fruit and vegetable stand in Tabourie- produce picked in the last 24 hours.

Just after 11 am, I arrived at the National Heritage village of Tilba Tilba at Pam’s General Store to start the walk to the summit of Mount Gulaga, an 11km round trip (to find out more about walking to the summit of Mount Gulaga, click here). After buying some locally made Firecracker cheese (to find out more about South Coast Cheese, click here) and chatting with the staff, the owner drew a map to a local secret near the summit where there were amazing rock formations where the Dalai Lama had apparently once meditated.

The map to find the rocks

The walk to the summit of Mount Gulaga was in perfect conditions. After only passing one couple returning at the start of walk, I had the mountain to myself. Gulaga has special significance for the local Yuin people of which it represents a mother-figure providing the basis for the people’s spiritual identity. You can feel the significance of this mountain as you walk through the misty rainforest and sit upon the granite outcrops overlooking coastal lakes.  Definitely a walk to be experienced if you are in the area.

Seriously lucky: perfect conditions for a walk up Mount Gulaga
Welcome to Summit: the hardest part is over…
Chilli cheese and crackers: A perfect way to celebrate a summit!

After coming back from the mountain, and thanking people from Pam’s General Store, I headed to Island View Beach Resort,  a beachside ground where I was camping for the weekend to cook mushroom risotto and make some mulled wine from produce I had purchased from the roadside fruit stand for dinner.

Click here for the recipes:

Mushroom Risotto

Mulled Wine

Being the start of winter and during school term, the caravan park was relatively quiet so other travellers were camped a distance away. The caravan park is about 200m from Handkerchief Beach, where I was spoiled with private sunrises for the next couple of days as I drank coffee from a Thermos.

Handkerchief Beach: Sun, sand and solitude…

Arriving at River Cottage later on the Saturday morning was amazing. The team from the cooking school (including Paul West) were fabulous and it was interesting to hear of the wonders of country life, particularly from Kelly, the cooking school manager and Paul who had both spent time in Melbourne- a stark contrast to the pace of life in Tilba.

Without a doubt, the farming life can be tough. The physical labour, the unpredictability of weather and the cost of raising and feeding animals can make both self-sufficiency and profitability very difficult for the average farmer.

River Cottage11
Welcome to River Cottage

River Cottage1River Cottage4River Cottage3

There is however, no doubt to the satisfaction that you can get from cooking something from the fruits of your labour or from produce that have come from another local source.

Click here for the River Cottage Australia Jam Drop recipe

River Cottage10
Making butter with Paul West

While some would argue that cooking with sugar and butter are not conducive to a healthy lifestyle, I believe in moderation and that the energy that you spend and the mindfulness you achieve when cooking your own food from scratch (and enjoying it), is something that should not be overlooked. In our world of excess (of which admittedly I am often a victim), sometimes our focus needs to be more on how much we consume and with some consciousness on what we consume- of food or otherwise.

River Cottage6River Cottage9Jam Drops

As the saying goes : “enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were big things”

It is true, the simple things give me the most genuine pleasures. It was great to rediscover this during my trip to the South Coast: reveling in the beauty of nature, learning about the origins of the food supply, cooking food from scratch at River Cottage and in my campervan, appreciating the kindness and generosity of strangers, and experiencing the sunrises and sunsets over Tilba.

So here’s to holding onto this precious knowledge and these priceless moments before my next unnecessary purchase decision…

Sunset: Until next time Tilba

2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s