To all in tents and pur­poses

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - EL­IZ­A­BETH McQUEEN

BAYSWA­TER, WA A FRIEND tells me she is go­ing camp­ing with her chil­dren and in a flash I am trans­ported to Shark Bay, Western Aus­tralia, circa 1979, on a fam­ily hol­i­day where my sis­ter and I spent seem­ingly end­less bare­foot, saltcrusted days with a mot­ley crew of camp­ground kids.

I can still re­call that Holden Sun­bird road trip, singing along to Cat Stevens and Teaser and the Fire­cat from Perth to Mon­key Mia, as though it were yes­ter­day. I would love to give my sons sim­i­lar mem­o­ries but my hus­band and I do not pos­sess the camp­ing gene.

And it is not for want of try­ing to tap into our in­ner campers. In the late 1990s, with the Aus­tralian dol­lar hov­er­ing around the (now unimag­in­able) US52c mark and a three-month road trip planned through France and Italy, we in­vested in a de­cent tent with the thought that we could wine and dine very well if we economised on our ac­com­mo­da­tion.

And so camp we did — but, heav­ens, was it a roll call of mis­ery. There was the camp­site perched at the edge of a cliff in Urbino (for the views, you un­der­stand), which be­came a howl­ing, shriek­ing wind tun­nel in the mid­dle of the night.

There was the camp­site in Di­jon where mag­nif­i­cent spring flow­ers brought on se­vere hay fever and, con­se­quently, the tor­tured pur­chase of an­ti­his­tamines us­ing high-school French. Plus the hill­side camp­site (yes, I know, clearly we are slow to learn) in Fiesole out­side Florence, the an­gle of which served as a per­fect di­ver­sion into our tent for the spring­time down­pours.

On re­turn­ing home, I was still de­ter­mined that we would be able to ex­pe­ri­ence the won­ders of camp­ing if only we per­se­vered. So we camped in Echuca in Vic­to­ria — the dawn cho­rus of shriek­ing corel­las is the last­ing mem­ory of that ex­pe­ri­ence. We camped in Queen­scliff, NSW, kept awake by a shriek­ing cho­rus of the teenage kind. On the Aus­tralia Day long weekend 2003, we camped in Mans­field, Vic­to­ria. With overnight temps in the mid-30s, this was to be our last camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

But there re­mains a flicker of hope that de­spite our un­for­tu­nate his­tory with tents, and now with two chil­dren in the mix, maybe camp­ing re­ally could be fun.

Couldn’t it? Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@ theaus­ Colum­nists re­ceive a Kathmandu Travel Se­cu­rity ID kit of a brightly coloured lug­gage strap, tough ABS lug­gage tag, se­ty­our-own com­bi­na­tion lock, money neck pouch and car­ry­bag ($79.98). More: 1800 333 484;

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