50 shades of summer

Source: Illawarra Mercury

Witnessing a shark attack in the summer of 1966 has stopped Herbie Weegen stepping foot in the surf, but it has not kept him from spending every holiday season since at a popular Illawarra camping spot.

Mr Weegen, 70, started camping at Coledale Beach Camping Reserve in 1962 with his parents and four brothers.

Yesterday, half a century later, he was enjoying the same view of the ocean along with his wife, Mary, daughter and son-in-law, Donna and Mark Reilly, and their two girls, Paige, 13, and Mia, 10.

And though he's taken his trusty Winnebago around Australia - and even along Route 66 in the US - he reckons nothing beats this stretch of Illawarra coastline.

"You can't beat this view," he said. "I've camped here every year since '62, and while the amenities have improved and the faces change, the view stays the same."

But while the Sydneysider's family can't wait to take a dip in the ocean, Mr Weegen prefers to watch from under the shade - and safety - of his caravan's awning.

"I don't go swimming - the water is for fish. I leave them alone and they leave me alone," he said.

"I witnessed a shark attack here in the '60s - a young boy was pulled out of the water with a shark attached to his leg - a surfer had to bash it on the head with a surfboard to get it to let go.

"No, I prefer to stay on dry land myself."

The young boy in question was 13-year-old Raymond Short, of Hurstville, who was rushed to Coledale Hospital for emergency surgery, where his leg was saved from amputation.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the camping reserve yesterday enjoying their first Australian Boxing Day were Dutch backpackers Dyonne van den Bull and Saskia Peeman.

The 22-year-old tourists parked their hired campervan at the Coledale camping ground two weeks ago, and have enjoyed the sun, sand, and surf - and some wind and showers - since.

"It didn't really feel like Christmas as it's cold and snowy in Holland at Christmas time, and we usually have a big barbecue hot plate inside," Ms Peeman said. "But we had fun - we love Australia."

On Christmas Day, the pair enjoyed a barbecue with their "neighbours" at the campsite.

"We had a good day," Ms van den Bull said. "We put some tinsel on the van and had some nice food, although no presents as we're spending all our money on travelling."

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