The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

We Are

The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

We Are

The Student Media Site of William Clarke College

We Are

Shack Life

Shack Life

When asked to write for the ‘Staff Takeover’ of We Are I was briefed with the task of writing about something that I am passionate about. My first thinking was my Christian faith, my family or indeed running but I thought, why don’t I do something a bit different, and tell you about my passion for a simple old ‘shack’.

This ‘shack’ is nestled within the serene confines of the Royal National Park south of Sydney at a place called Burning Palms Beach. The shack is heritage listed and was built during the early 1920s. My grandfather bought the shack in 1954 from their neighbours for the sum of £80 (roughly $6000 today).

What makes this place very unique is the access. We park our car roughly 2km away from the shack and have to walk everything in (and out) which includes all the food required for the time of your stay. My grandfather decided in the early 1960s he wanted a brick fireplace. He carried down 279 bricks and built the fireplace we still use and love today.

The shack is only 100 metres from the beach with views that stretch across towards Wollongong. The beach is broken into three by rough landmarks. We look directly over ‘1st beach’ and the waves that crash over the rock shelf below. A beautiful creek runs down beside and in front of the shack with banksia, palms and lomandra littered around the hill above and below.

The shack is simple in its design with some bunk beds made of driftwood and a few other pieces of furniture. Water is sourced from tanks that collect rainwater and well plumbing…there is none, so all your ‘business’ is deposited into large deep pits we have made. These pits are actually very environmentally friendly as they help maintain the banks.

In recent years we have gone solar which has given the shack a few more luxuries such as switch on lights. When I grew up we used kerosene lanterns. I still remember the hum of the lantern and the smell of the kerosene as it burned. Even cooking is different but simple, a gas stove or using the fire to heat your water for your shower or cook dinner in a hot camp oven.

The days can be spent in any number of ways. As a child and even as a teenager I would head off exploring, fishing, surfing or creating my own games with my sisters or cousins. I used to love finding clay and making clay models and baking them in the fire. I enjoyed scouring the beach for driftwood to use for a fire or make my own boat to race down the creek.

When I was in just Year 8 (so about 14) would you believe my parents allowed myself and my cousins (around the same age) to stay there the night by ourselves. I look back and think how they trusted us but we had learnt from such a young age how to light a lantern, cook our food and safely navigate the shack and its surrounds.

As I got older I became involved with the surf club and assisting with Landcare programs around the park. Furthermore, I have, along with other family members, assisted to repair and update the shack. Carrying down large treated pine beams to replace wood eaten by termites. With my cousins we have we carried down (and at times up the hill) water tanks, gas bottles, fridges and mattresses.

The great thing about this place is its special all year round. Even on a cold winters day it is simply stunning. Nice crackling fire on, the sea roaring outside the window, a hot cup of tea and a good book. In summer it’s the invitation of crystal clear water followed by nibbles and cold drinks on the patio overlooking the ocean.

Although more people have been coming down in recent years to visit the famous Figure 8 rock pools, I still love the isolation. 30km from the city but a million miles away. The empty beach at night, the quiet – it is amazing!. Burning Palms has this ability to bring life back to the very simple and I love that! In recent years I have loved taking my family down, all six of us!

My love for the place was so much so that I actually picked it as the spot where I would ask my wife Kate to marry me. I took her to the famous ‘crocodile eye’ high up on the ridge line. I pulled out a pair of binoculars and asked her to look at the view. She couldn’t see through as blocking one eye piece was a ring. We still look up there today and reminisce.

I love seeing my girls, like I once did, put on a concert or a play in the shack and watching them play games invented from almost nothing but what is around you. I love seeing them get away from devices and TV and all that is modern and connect with nature. In our ‘normal’ life I feel I hardly have time to see this but at Burning Palms I get to see it close up.

For me, Burning Palms, the shack, is a great way to escape the chaotic World of ‘busy’. As a Christian, I love getting down there and being reminded of Gods amazing creation. I find at Burning Palms I can be another type of man. I am always closer to my girls and my wife Kate when I am there, even just due to physical proximity.

I am very blessed to have this shack and thankful for the amazing experiences it has and continues to provide. My ability to handle challenging situations, to experience things a little rough and to be ever adaptable is all thanks to this shack. My ‘shack life’ was the catalyst and has truly enriched my life in all manner of ways. Whilst not everyone has access to a shack like this I would highly encourage everyone to get outdoors, get away from the modern World and for just a moment live a ‘shack life’.

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