About forty-five minutes drive north-west of Brisbane is a place where you can get away from it all and immerse yourself not just in nature, but in water so cold it’s easy to imagine it wants you to die. I once spent a whole day at minus thirty in the Canadian Arctic; that air wanted me dead. The water at Cedar Creek is possessed, I’m convinced, by a similar murderous intent, at least in winter. And contrary to what “southerners” will tell you, winter does exist in Brisbane. Don’t let pictures of people basking in the sun wearing T-shirts fool you; that’s just marketing spin. Some days it doesn’t even reach twenty degrees (Celsius).
Unfortunately, Cedar Creek has become so popular as a swimming and picnic spot in summer, you may as well be on a Gold Coast beach. Far from getting away from anything, you will be surrounded by hundreds of people, some of whom think you also want to listen to death metal and be amused by their drunken antics. Unfortunately, this means that on the very type of day you want to go swimming in a cool fresh stream so does everyone else. The only alternative is to go when no one else wants to: in the bitter depths of Brisbane winter.
Last Wednesday, I decided I did need to get away from the hectic hustle and bustle that is Brisvegas, so I drove out to Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek road ends at a gate because the people who live there don’t want a crowd of esky-toting, beat-box wielding thugs driving through and parking on their properties. Go figure. There is a small swimming hole near the gate, where you can sit on the rocks and picnic and have a dip, but for those willing to make the effort, paradise awaits.
You’ll need to follow the creek upstream for about twenty minutes. This is not as easy as it sounds as it involves a lot of strategic hopping from rock to rock, sometimes wading through shallow water and pushing through spiky plants. There are snakes, but they all go to sleep in winter and most of them run away if they hear you coming anyway. You’ll know you’ve arrived because, bruised, scratched, and wondering why you agreed to this Bear Grylls adventure, the creek will suddenly open out into a wide pool, fed by a loud waterfall.
The good thing is, you will have warmed up enough to feel like swimming, which is how I felt last week, so I stripped off and, without giving myself time to think about it, jumped straight in. I don’t think I could have felt more pain if I had dived into a pit of razor blades. Even my hair hurt. To call it a swim is probably not entirely accurate as the whole immersion lasted approximately three seconds.
I once read a list of things that are unAustralian to not do. One of those rules stated that on diving into cold water it was unAustralian to not yell out to those still on dry land, “It’s cold at first but it’s nice once you get in!” In the three seconds I spent in the water I did say this in my head, but on finding it to be a giant lie, swam as fast as I could back to the rocks, climbed out, and grabbed my towel. I had just changed out of my swimmers and into dry clothes when two young men arrived to disturb my solitude. But I didn’t mind, because all I wanted by then was to return to the warmth of civilisation.
Of course you can just go for a winter picnic at Cedar Creek and enjoy the serenity, but I think it’s unAustralian to not go for at least a micro-swim. And you don’t have to lie about it being nice once you’re in because you’ll be out before you can make that judgment. And then you can congratulate yourself, like I did, for being daring and fearless, especially once I was on the couch under my electric rug, because, after all, it only reached twenty-two degrees that day.