Rocky road of an unhappy camper
SOME people are born campers. I am not, but even so it is an activity I have attempted on occasions.
My first go, building a makeshift shelter with fellow Boy Scouts, failed dismally. To tighten the ropes holding the wooden supports together, we wet the rope. Said rope shrank and held the poles fast until they dried out and the whole contraption collapsed about our ears.
During a trip to Canada’s Rocky Mountains, I was banned by my family from erecting a borrowed tent. It was one of those complicated contraptions made of canvas and cane. Bendy bits of timber had to be placed inside sleeves in the correct order and then, in theory, the whole contraption would spring into shape. More often it did not, and if you let go, the tent was likely to take off in the wind like a runaway parachute.
Although it was summer, the nights in the mountain states were remarkably cold. The tent also provided little in the way of insulation from the weather. I was made to get up in the morning and light a fire before either of my ladies would emerge. First came my wife, drawn by the smell of coffee. Later (sometimes much later) my then teenage daughter appeared, swathed in a jumble sale-like collection of clothes, looking as if she had just emerged from hibernation. By common consent, she did not speak until after the second cup of coffee.
We had our own tent for a trip to Broome. My wife and I slept in the tent while our daughter had her swag in the back of the station wagon. Arriving late at South Hedland after a dash from Paynes Find, we stopped at a service station for a meal and a shower and then went to look for somewhere to pitch our tent. Finding the South Hedland Caravan Park closed for the night, we chose a flat bit of spinifex nearby.
All seemed well until the police arrived at about 3am to make sure we were not about to sabotage the airport runway, which was next to our parking spot.
Having decided we were harmless, the constables departed, and then we noticed some intense itching. We had camped on top of an ants’ nest and the occupants were mining us as a source of protein.
Later we toured Tasmania in a campervan. We soon got used to a top speed of 20km/h up hills, but other tourists did not. We negotiated Elephant Pass with about 30 vehicles behind us unable to pass until we reached the summit, where we could pull off the road. On the way down we gathered behind us another convoy of irritated motorists.
We also discovered that travelling over bumpy roads extinguished the flame in our gas-fired refrigerator. Two steaks we had bought at Cradle Mountain became so high, we had to throw them out in the bush. Then a gang of Tasmanian devils kept us awake as they squabbled over the meat.
Since then I have carefully avoided all camping. Thank goodness for B&B establishments.