COL­UMN

When it comes to pick­ing a camp­site, he’d rather take the risk of a bad de­ci­sion, than the angst of in­de­ci­sion, says Schalk Jonker.

Go! Camp & Drive - - CONTENTS -

Afriendly woman at re­cep­tion pushes my proof of pay­ment across the counter to­wards me, along with a pho­to­copied map of the grounds. “You’re here,” she says, in­di­cat­ing “here” with an or­ange high­lighter. “Drive through the gate and fol­low the road to the swim­ming pools,” she ex­plains, drag­ging the broad or­ange line up and along the road on the map. “Here you’ll turn left, and drive over the lit­tle bridge and past the putt-putt course and kiosk un­til you get to the camp­site. Be­cause it’s so quiet at the mo­ment, only the top bath­rooms are open.”

“Which stand are we on?” I ask, as my mis­giv­ings grow. But I al­ready know what her an­swer will be. “Sir, you’re wel­come to choose any spot,” she says – and my stom­ach turns, and drops into my shoes.

FIRST, LET ME take a mo­ment to ex­plain some­thing about my wife: you’d have to look far and wide to find a more or­gan­ised per­son. Ev­ery lit­tle thing is planned, down to the finest de­tail. She flour­ishes on or­der, and is a chronic list-maker. (I re­cently caught her cre­at­ing a list of all the lists she needs to make!)

Whether it’s our house­hold bud­get, a gro­cery list or camp­ing es­sen­tials, she will sit in front of the com­puter, or with a piece of pa­per and at least two pens (dif­fer­ent colours) to care­fully com­pose and or­gan­ise the mat­ter at hand. In our house, ab­so­lutely noth­ing is left to chance.

She takes a sim­i­lar ap­proach to any de­ci­sion she has to make. The pros and cons are care­fully thought through be­fore she con­sid­ers the pos­si­ble out­comes.

All good and well, when – for ex­am­ple – you’re de­cid­ing to buy a new cof­fee ma­chine; but this sort of in­de­ci­sion can be de­bil­i­tat­ing at a camp­site.

THE AMER­I­CAN WRITER Napoleon Hill once de­scribed in­de­ci­sion, doubt and fear as three closely re­lated mem­bers of an un­holy trin­ity. If you en­counter one of them in a sit­u­a­tion, the other two can’t be far be­hind.

While I’m stand­ing here at re­cep­tion, con­sid­er­ing my op­tions, my wife, daugh­ter and niece are wait­ing in the car, and I know that I’m about to turn that tri­an­gle into a square – be­cause I re­alise that in this sit­u­a­tion, con­fronta­tion is un­avoid­able. The next hour or so is go­ing to put our mar­riage to the test.

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, it’s good news when you can pick your own camp­ing spot, es­pe­cially dur­ing the off­sea­son. But not with us. Not if my wife has any­thing to say about it.

“We can pick our own stand,” I say as I climb back into the car. “That’s good news,” she says. I bite my lip, and re­sist the urge to mut­ter “No, it isn’t”.

We drive through the gate and fol­low the road to the swim­ming pools, just like the or­ange stripe on the map com­mands. We turn left, cross over the lit­tle bridge and go past the putt-putt course and the kiosk ahead of us to reach the camp­ing grounds.

“Only the top ablu­tion block is open – so we should prob­a­bly park some­where near here.” I fire the first vol­ley in the un­avoid­able skir­mish that threat­ens to break out be­tween us.

“Why would you want to camp here,” she asks in­dig­nantly, “when all those spots near the river are still avail­able?”

We drive at a snail’s pace, and nod our heads in greet­ing to those peo­ple al­ready set­tled un­der their tent awnings. “Yay, there are tram­po­lines!” the lit­tle ones alert us. “Can we climb out so long?”

I stop to let the in­no­cents out and aim for a camp­site with a fairly large tree, next to the river. “No, the wind is go­ing to blow us away here. And this tree will give us hardly any shade in the af­ter­noon,” she says. I com­pletely agree with her: I’ve spot­ted the storm ties that other river­side-campers are al­ready us­ing against the strong late-af­ter­noon breeze that’s blow­ing off the sea. But she wants to take a look; and so, we take a look.

“How about that one?” I ask. “It has grass, shade, and pro­tec­tion from the wind.” She looks at me, shak­ing her head. “You’re not se­ri­ous?! That’s way too far from the ablu­tions and the play­ground. We have to keep an eye on the kids, and I don’t want to have to walk for miles when I need to go to the loo in the mid­dle of the night.”

So I sug­gest the stands closer to the ablu­tion block and play area; but these don’t have a lawn, and are too “cold” (I’m still not sure what this means). And she re­ally doesn’t want to camp right here where the chil­dren will drive us crazy.

“Great,” I sigh. “We’ve been stand­ing around here for half an hour al­ready. That spot in the cor­ner is now our last op­tion.” She looks side­ways at the in­di­cated site – you’d swear it had in­sulted her mother. Then she shakes her head, and says: nope, not that one.

“What’s wrong with it?” I ask, ex­as­per­ated. It’s pretty much be­tween the ablu­tion block and the play­ground, and there’s shade for to­mor­row’s all-im­por­tant mid­day nap; and while there’s lit­tle grass, I re­mem­bered to bring a ground cover, thanks to her com­pre­hen­sive camp­ing list. “I don’t know...” she says, “...it just doesn’t feel right.”

I WISH I COULD say we even­tu­ally reached a com­pro­mise based on care­fully con­sid­ered fac­tors with a mu­tual ac­cep­tance of each other’s per­spec­tives. But then I’d be ly­ing. The stand we even­tu­ally chose ba­si­cally came down to which of us first threat­ened to “turn around right now and drive home”.

So, I un­pack the car – ta­bles, chairs, crates, gazebo – and then I start pitch­ing the dome tent. As I’m busy bang­ing in the pegs (that firm breeze has since trans­formed into a south easter), she non­cha­lantly si­dles over and asks why we don’t rather camp at one of those stands be­tween the play­ground and the ablu­tion block. And with her fin­ger, she points out the ex­act spot that I sug­gested forty-five min­utes ago.

That’s when you wish that the camp­ground of­fi­cials would al­ways just as­sign you a stand, and be done with it. Though in the end, that’s not so easy ei­ther. Be­cause in truth, there’ve been times when we’ve ar­rived at our des­ig­nated spot

(in De­cem­ber, in the bush, in a jam-packed camp­ground), and there’s not a shady tree in sight. Then she stomps around the area dis­ap­prov­ingly, look­ing at ev­ery pos­si­ble gap be­fore she says, “Go and tell them we’d rather camp there.”

BUT TONIGHT, WHEN the fire burns hot and we’re en­joy­ing its cheer­ful flick­er­ing, lis­ten­ing to the chil­dren play on the tram­po­lines or splash in the pool, it won’t mat­ter where we’re camped. Be­cause any spot out here is bet­ter than be­ing at home; and de­spite the in­de­ci­sion, life is still more peace­ful here than in the city.

Un­til to­mor­row af­ter­noon, when the bak­ing sun spoils her af­ter­noon nap.

In­de­ci­sion, doubt and fear are three closely re­lated mem­bers of an un­holy trin­ity. If you en­counter one of them, the other two can’t be far be­hind.

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