Hastings is more than a holiday spot for these lucky souls
IT MAY have been '79, or maybe even '78 - the year's not important anyway because neither Richard Philip nor his sister, Jennell, can quite remember.
What's important is they were some of the first campers here, to this plot of land hidden in the remains of a headland that acts as the gateway for Cudgera Creek to spill into the overwhelming might of the Pacific.
Where the stars of Hollywood in 2015 did their best to create another instalment of Jonny Depp's blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, and where there was once a makeshift whale carcass cast across an outcrop of rock.
The smile rips across Richard's face. He's here on holidays and continuing a family tradition now going back four generations. They come together - cousins, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers and anyone else related to them, it seems - to set up camp on Hastings Point, in temporary allotments the council hires to a few fortunate souls.
Richard sizes me up and looks at his family sitting in the shade of the tent. His head's sweating on top but it'd be worse at home, up the road at Salt. "It used to be that you'd get here at dark and put a bucket where you wanted to put your site - you had to wait until the first day of holidays,” he says. "That was about '79 or so.”
He smiles again and steps into the glare of the afternoon sun, points in the direction of an unusually-placed white box set up in the middle of the lot, surrounded by tents and near the communal Christmas tree where everyone puts their presents. It's a communal shower that apparently is better than the original, but the sight of it doesn't explain Richard's excitement.
"Back in the day,” he says, as if understanding my confusion, and points to a concrete slab. "This area where we're camping, there was a barbecue, and we used to... get an 18-gallon keg and put a funnel in one end and a spout in the other and put it in the fire and boil it. You'd put cold water in one end and hot water would come out the other end.”
The communal shower of 2016-17 runs on a gas bottle. For Richard it's a sign of everything that's changed since they began coming here along with the cluster of families who all seem related in some way or another to him - and a sign of everything that hasn't. He says there's some people here - adults in their thirties and forties - who have never spent Christmas elsewhere.
Why would they?