To all in tents and purposes
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.
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