Carpet rolled out but no happy campers
The modern-day camper — if he wants to hold his head high — has to turn up with a truck. Or at the very least, a trailer full of stuff.
And I say “he” because this bold style of camping requires a fair dinkum alpha-male to take the bush by the scruff of the neck and, well, tame it. Bring it to heel. Subdue it.
I adopt this approach to life myself.
For the second year in a row I’ve seen one of them show up with a rider mower, not to mention the oversized chainsaw, whippersnipper, the four-wheeler dune buggy, trail bikes for the kids and, of course, the pallets and the carpets.
Carpets were a big hit last year when my patch of river was taken over by escapees from lockdown, who liked the idea of ample reams of carpet around the campfire plus a carpeted walk from the caravan to the loo.
They thoughtfully left all the carpets behind, too, to make the next visitors feel immediately at home.
This seemed to work until the carpets became soggy and mouldy from the rain: when the smell became disagreeable, the next lot turfed the pile of carpets over the river bank where they didn’t have to look at them.
Maybe they hoped the river would just wash them away.
The Boss tires of cleaning this stuff up but it brings out the scavenger/opportunist in me — you never know what little food scraps might be holed up in the folds of a putrid carpet.
Anyway, the stage is set for it again. This feller with the big mower subdued a couple of acres of bushland last weekend, mowed alongside the track, mowed a wide entry track right up to a big old red gum treefall and left it all looking rather neat — I reckon he must have felt quite pleased with himself.
Then he set about cutting up large lumps of red gum, apparently so thrilled with his sawing skills he cut up enough for a month — then stacked it all on the obligatory pallet for the next happy campers.
I would have thought The Boss would have complimented him for making the bush look like a park but he wasn’t impressed. He reminded me that it all looks lovely in spring but the short grass dries out quickly and dies, so that by Christmas the whole thing is a dust bowl — like it was last year.
And because it is open ground people drive all over it, making multiple tracks instead of one access track. And no grass and understorey means no cover for the lizards and crickets and bugs and insects that the birds eat, so they have to forage further and further out. By the new year it’s a powdery patch of barren ground.
“No wrens or finches bobbing around your camp chair here, General,” he says, shaking his head. “I like the shrike-thrush and rufous whistler around my camp too — why would you want to push the birds away and have your campsite looking like your back yard?”
The Boss said it reminded him of the battle of Ben Tre during the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong were ejected but the village lay in ruins. Missing the bitter irony of it, a US officer was heard to say “it became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it’’.
He leans down to scratch my ears. “If you could quell your addiction to food scraps, General, you’d be living out Chief Seattle’s rather more noble plea to people in the bush to leave nothing but footprints, and take nothing but memories.”