Just a perfect day
'Good morning sweetheart, are we doing anything today?' Peter said when we opened our eyes yesterday morning. 'Well, that'll depend on the weather. Remember we talked about driving out to The Cotter River for a picnic or BBQ,' I replied. 'Oh yes,' he nodded. It was overcast when we first emerged, but within an hour it had transformed into a glorious autumn day, the kind that should be celebrated. After breakfast, I baked a batch of ANZAC biscuits, made a thermos of sweet milky coffee and packed a few bits and pieces into a picnic basket. On our way, we popped in to a shopping centre and bought some Wagyu steaks from a small butchery, and freshly baked Turkish bread rolls from the baker next door. We arrived at The Cotter at midday and parked the car at my favourite picnic spot. To our great delight, we were the only ones in that area.
Back in the 60s...
Having migrated from Hungary, my parents celebrated the great Aussie outdoors and, no matter what the weather, Sundays were dedicated to 'going for a drive' for a picnic or barbecue. Even the family dog came along (see photo bottom right, that's our dachshund, Zsa Zsa!). The Cotter was one of my father's favourite destinations and my mother was always well prepared with travel sweets, a picnic rug, a wet facecloth in a plastic bag in case someone felt ill, an esky full of food, and a thermos of her home made café au lait.
Research indicates that the Cotter River was named after Garrett Cotter, an Irishman and former convict who was transported for life to Australia at the age of 19 for firing at British troops during an uprising. For a time, he lived beyond the river which would eventually bear his name. You can read more about Cotter here.
Recommendations from the BBQ chef...
'Keep it simple' is our advice if you are planning a delicious day outdoors. Sure, you can cook for a few hours beforehand if you prefer, but a few fresh ingredients can form a most enjoyable lunch. Here's what went into our picnic basket:
2 Turkish bread rolls
2 Wagyu steaks
1 large brown onion, sliced
butter to grease the BBQ and spread on the rolls
sweet, milky, thermos coffee
freshly baked biscuits
paper towelling (so you can make a chef's hat and clean up the BBQ)
plates, cups, BBQ tools (tongs and scraper), small knife
A picnic rug, fold up chairs, umbrellas and rain jackets were also in the car.
The sound of silence: birdsong and water...
Peter lit the barbecue and cooked our lunch while I channelled my inner child, chased a few ducks and skimmed flat stones on the river. We sat and ate lunch, sipping on hot coffee and talking about times past. For a while we sat quietly, the sun on our faces, simply enjoying the sound of silence, birdsong and gentle running water.
The Cotter Dam discovery trail...
After lunch, during a light rain shower, we walked along the new 'discovery trail'. According to ACTEW's web site: The Cotter Dam Discovery Trail runs along the hillside adjacent to Cotter Avenue, near Cotter Road. A walk along the river commences near the new car park, opposite Cotter Avenue (the old Cotter Pub site) and continues along the Cotter River for 1.4 kilometres towards the viewing platform. The viewing platform is situated above the heritage listed Cotter Trout Hatchery and approximately 350 metres southeast of the new dam site. Standing on the platform you will be approximately the same height as the half-way mark on the 80 metre high enlarged Cotter Dam.' The views from that platform are indeed breathtaking!
The Cotter Dam...
The water that flows into the Cotter River from catchment areas provides water for the ACT and region. The River was first dammed in 1912 when Canberra was first established and in 1951 the dam wall was raised to 102 feet to increase the capacity of the reservoir. The 'new' and enlarged Dam, completed in October 2013, was built around 100 metres downstream from the old dam, is 80 metres or 26 storeys tall and comprises some 400,000 cubic metres of concrete.
A plaque 'memories of the Cotter' on site...
The Cotter has been a key recreational park and swimming hole for Canberrans, and long-time (or lifelong) residents (like me) have very fond memories of family outings to the area. Unfortunately, the old wooden suspension bridge across the river was destroyed in the 2003 bush fires. There is a new bridge leading to the discovery trail, and the playground at The Avenue was recently upgraded too.
Celebrating a glorious autumn day...
Just look at the colours! That's a European wasp on the Jeep badge. And, while taking photographs during a rain shower, we were almost clunked on the head by the hard balls of fruit falling from the towering Liquidambar trees!
And the Lou Reed song, 'Perfect Day', just because...
Tell me dear readers, what constitutes 'a perfect day' for you? And do you take the opportunity to celebrate a glorious day by 'going for a drive' and having a picnic or barbecue?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.