When I was a young bloke growing up on the Central Coast of New South Wales, I was spoilt for choice when it came to awesome places to explore. Me and my mates spent every weekend checking out caves and climbing trees, following creeks and scrambling up mountains. At some point women and booze got in the way, but for a few years there every Saturday and Sunday were full of wonder.
Me and my mates would throw whatever we could into our backpacks and just walk out into the scrub, with no mobile phones or any of that crap. It seems amazing that my mother was fine with with the 15-year-old version of me swaggering out into the bush, but almost lays an egg if the 32-year-old version goes away and doesn’t get in contact with her every 24 hours.
We only camped at Narara’s Old Railway Dams once, but it’s an experience that has always stood out when I look back upon my teenage years. Brett, Charlie and me hiked into abandoned dams and pitched our tents by the water, spending the afternoon jumping into the dam’s sparkling water and spending a great night under the stars. In the morning, we woke up with drug addicts throwing rocks at us from the hills above.
I copped one in the head, but it didn’t knock me down. The others were hit, too, as we frantically packed up our tents while dodging the missiles. When we had all our stuff in our bags, we disappeared into the bushes while the druggos hurled insults and projectiles. They thought we were gone. They were wrong.
We circled around them, our fashionable-at-the-time (no they weren’t) camo clothes making sure were weren’t seen. After half an hour we were behind where they were sitting, smoking bongs and wanking each other off (that might be an exaggeration, but it’s my story). And that’s when the counter-attack begun.
We hurls rocks at them from the bushes, cleaning the bastards up as they desperately tried to grab their bongs and get out of there. I’m as good at throwing rocks as Rosie O’Donnell is at giving men stiffies, but I sconed one dickhead between the eyes, knocking him backwards. Yes, the olden days were good, back when an enjoyable afternoon included maiming drug abusers.
Today, I went back there for the first time in nearly two decades. Like me, the dams have changed. I picked up my brother Bubblin’ Beno and we headed out to revisit history. The original dam was built way back in 1901 to supply water to Gosford Railway Station, with a second dam constructed in 1925 to provide additional storage. After the train line was electrified in 1960, the dams didn’t have a lot of use, except as waterholes for hot and sweaty Gosfordians who were too poor to afford backyard pools.
When I visited as a kid, the dams were easy to find, but they’ve since fallen into disrepair. There’s a track off Reeves Rd, Somersby, that leads to them – just follow the pink ribbons that some kind soul has tied to the trees on the way, and try not to fall down any cliffs. Me and Ben struggled along the overgrown track for 10 minutes or so, before stumbling upon the upper dam. There are still signs of life – rope swings and ladders nailed to trees – but it’s obvious that not many people go there anymore.
After stopping to admire the impressive concrete dam wall (shit, I just read that sentence back to myself and I can’t believe I wrote it – I am getting old) we headed downstream to find the lower dam. Again, the track was as overgrown as a feminist’s armpits, but we managed to reach our destination. The lower dam was always the best for swimming back in the day, so it was sad to see that half of it was choking with some sort of reeds (no, not Lou) and the other side was basically cut off due to the impenetrable bush (no, not George W.). Still, I managed to strip off and have a dip in murky water that 50% mud, 40% tadpoles, and 10% H2O.
With Ben chomping at the bit for a Dagwood Dog and a good, long sit in his spa, we headed back to the car, leaving the abandoned railway dams to the insects and the frogs. Bloody hell, it’s a much nicer place to be when you don’t have scabby junkies trying to take your head off!