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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Great Outdoors...Ugh.

I loved caravanning as a kid. 

Loved everything about it: sleeping in a bed with curtains for a door; sliding into the bench seats around the table; hearing the exaggerated sound of rain on the roof.

Camping, however, well...that's another thing.

When my husband first took the 9yr old and 7yr old for a one-nighter a couple of years ago, I was all for getting the Taj Mahal of tents, in light of the fact it seemed only logical that the 4yr old and I would join in the 'fun' later, and why waste money on something that wasn't going to go the distance?

Hubby was dubious at the time. "You won't want to go camping," he accused. "Yes I will!" I protested, probably sounding a little more convinced of the fact than what I actually was. I started ticking off my fingers, "Firstly, there was the time I camped at Margaret River when I was 17, and...well...I camped there for a WHOLE week!" Hubby just shook his head in dismay.

Still, he went off and purchased the three room tent I requested, and I, in turn, promised that the 4yr old and I would eventually join him and our brood in their great outdoor adventures.

However, as time went on, and the suggestion of said camping trip started to look like becoming a reality, I felt even more hesitant. I liken it to looking back on what I thought parenthood would be like before my children were born. (Need I say more?) Hence, my concern about the camping thing. I felt quite certain it wasn't going to be how I imagined it: lazing in my camping chair, reading a good book whilst my children frolicked and played around me. Picking flowers to place in my hair. Hubby catching our dinner from the nearby waters that he would later cook over an open fire he had built from scratch earlier.  


I had managed to avoid that promised camping trip up until last weekend, when Hubby and I, the kids and the dog (not in my original daydream) all set off on a short camping expedition up to the central coast.

Before we left, there was the overly ambitious attempt to fit our Taj Mahal tent, camping chairs, esky, clothes, sleeping bags, gas burner, picnic table, the fishing rods, inflatable mattresses, five pillows, the dog, and more, in to our car. (Oh, and the kids.) To say we were cramped - even in my four-wheel drive* - wouldn't be underplaying it.

Then came the car trip from hell. There was the random rolling of a car tyre across the road at full speed towards us on the highway (Hubby managed to swerve and it only hit our back left tyre - we couldn't work out where it came from). Having to stop after the first twenty minutes because the dog started hyperventilating in the back (probably smothered by all the pillows, no doubt). Then there was the one hour crawl in bumper-to-bumper traffic, caused by a truck losing it's load on the F3 - all through the incessant rain.

Fortunately, on arrival, a break in the weather allowed Hubby and I to erect the tent without getting wet. (Small blessings and all that.) Which meant we had time to go fishing. You know, for that dinner I had imagined.

Now, that was kinda fun to begin with. We even caught some fish. Four of them, in fact. However, not even all four together would have made a substantial meal for the 4yr old alone, so sadly, they were sent back to their watery home. Then the dog ate some of the bait, we lost our tea towel to the murky waters and the 9yr old managed to get the hook from his fishing rod lodged in to his thumb. (This did not go down well.  Believe me.) He survived.

There was no fish for dinner, however there was the culinary delight of baked beans, sausages and buns - most of which the dog greedily consumed.

Post-dinner with three overly tired children, and two rather exhausted parents, it was no surprise a shouting match between all ensued at one point. (Lots of 'GO TO BED! It's LATE!' But hey - at least we no doubt entertained the rest of the holiday-makers.)

Having (naively) anticipated tired, sleepy children and a full evening ahead without computers and/or televisions, I had packed two books - neither of which I could read because the lighting was so bad from the camp lanterns. Sigh. With the rain persisting, the possibility of sitting out in front of a fire chatting to Hubby or the like went, well, up in flames, and so I retired early after taking to Twitter briefly (you don't think I'd travel without my iPhone, now do you?) with boredom being the overriding factor for my early night.

During the night, there was the obligatory toilet visit to be made, which involved the unsuccessful attempt at quietly unzipping, zipping, unzipping then zipping two layers of tent doors without waking anyone; repeating the process on my return after traipsing through the dark in drizzling rain to the closest amenities block - watching out for bats, snakes, spiders and anything creepy, flappy and/or crawly as I went. Interesting.

And may I say, that if you think having a 4yr old squeeze in to your side of the bed in the mornings is uncomfortable, try doing that in a sleeping bag.

We managed a fairly incident-free, if not slightly dull, breakfast (Vegemite on bread rolls) before packing up the damp tent and making our way home. The return journey, thankfully, far less drama-filled, and much quicker. (Except for the dog puking just prior to our departure. Still - better that he holding it in until he was in the car, right?)

Just as I thought: camping's not really for me. Give me a 5-star hotel...hell, give me a 3-star one any day, and I'm there.

But the kids? Loved it. LOVED it. No doubt, there will be a repeat performance for this family.

God help me.

Do you go camping? Did you go camping as a kid? Do you like it? Love it? HATE it? What's your ideal family holiday?

* But please note I'm not one of those rude, terrible 4-wheel-driving Mums you see on the road near your local school. Honest!

Image: We Heart It


Corinne – Daze of My Life said...

I LOVE camping. I never went camping as a kid, my dad used to take my older brothers but I stayed at home with mum.

When I met my husband we started going camping, our first big trip to Fraser Island. It took a while to get used to, but now I couldn't think of a better holiday.

We spent 12 months living in a 2-man tent travelling around Australia. We only put the fly on if it was raining, so most of the time it felt we were sleeping under the stars.

Waking up in a remote part of the world, next to a picture-perfect creek or the Bungle Bungles soaring above you beats a 5-star hotel any day of the week.

Megan Blandford said...

You know I love camping. Actually, I'm a camping snob - to me, having phone reception and an amenities block isn't 'real' camping. Sorry. I have a great fear (slight exaggeration) of caravan parks - all those people, all that noise, so we go bush to camp.

I will admit, though, that camping in the rain isn't great. Hopefully it will be better next time!

Miss Pink said...

I spent most of my teen years sleeping in the dirt every other weekend. Seriously, like at least once a month i would leave to go camping on a Friday night and not come home until Sunday night. And i'm talking full blown bush, no toilets, no nothing. I did it for a week twice a year also. No tents per say, just a bit of tarp string between 2 trees incase it rained.
I loved it then, but now with kids? I know i won't like it as much. I will complain about being uncomfortable, i won't want to squat, or fix meals for them.
We do plan to camp eventually (my rule is not until we are out of nappies, which Greenie is toilet training atm, so it coupld possibly be next summer!), and i won't go camping in the rain. That would be just awful. Oh and at least when we do go camping we will have an actual tent.
But your blog? It made me remember that i may not want to go camping tbh.

River said...

Like you, I'd happily camp in a 5 star hotel. Tents and sleeping bags can stay with the boy scouts as far as I'm concerned.

aumummy said...

I hate camping. Lots of horror stories in our household. Rain and more rain. Tents falling apart from hail and wind. 40c temperatures another trip. Lightening which kept us all awake another trip. AHHHH, did I say I hate camping. Kids on the other hand keep asking when are we going camping again. I tell them when they have their own kids.

Sarah @ Mum's gone 2 Aus said...

In February we did a "My first time camping" experience at Lane Cove National Park (Sydney). When we arrived the tent was up, and beds made. We got pizza on site for supper and a bacon roll and proper coffee in the morning. It was perfect for my camping ability...if only I could convince the kids that this is real camping!

Jane said...

Oh, I'm with you - hotels all the way!

I was completely scarred by school camps where I had to pee behind trees, bury the toilet paper, that kind of thing. Yuck. I'd be happy to do glamping though, aka glam camping. If there's a camp site with electricity and showers, I'd be fine.

I wish I'd done more outdoorsy, camping stuff as a kid. I've heard so many great things about family camping trips. Am planning on marrying an outdoorsy man (who is happy to glamp rather than camp), so I enjoy the camping experience with my kids xxx

Thea said...

I'm hoping that's something I manage to avoid...permanently!

I have been camping, twice, in my previous life. Even without kids it's not for me.

B said...

What a wonderfully written story, to which I can relate.
When our three boys were young, we had some wonderful car-trip holidays, but it really only worked when we stayed in any-star motels.

BS said...

That was me above; bloody computers, why won't they listen.