Carry on camping…without me by Emily Smart
Pack it in
The annual tent dust off took place last weekend. As an English person, I came rather late to camping. I say this because the only people I knew in the UK who spent any time under canvas were posh families who would hop on a ferry and drive to the Dordogne every summer for two weeks. We Brits are not a nation of outdoor sleepers. The nearest we get is caravan parks, which only feature on the news when a child has been abducted.
New Zealanders however, are made of hardier stuff. Practically every man and his sheep are into some sort of outdoor activity, camping is de rigueur and anyone with a rubber mallet participates. Kiwi campsites on the whole are flippin’ excellent with communal kitchens, toilet blocks and of course the obligatory barbeque or two. Granted, we have good weather here, unlike the UK where you can guarantee that at some point during your stay, rain will stop play.
Put down the plastic sheeting
We first went camping when our three kids were very young. This involved taking two high chairs, two travel cots, and two suitcases of nappies. Looking back, I think we must have been crazy, but on these vacations, we created some of our best family memories. Deciding early on that there’s safety in numbers, we would arrive at various campsites with lots of other families we knew so we could all (ahem) pitch in together.
As the kids got older, early evenings were spent drinking copious amounts of booze, while the children made loads of new friends and played happily in large gangs around the campsite. Over the years, we acquired bigger, better tents, more camping equipment, boogie boards and wetsuits (all essential items of a Kiwi kit).
For the last few years we have camped with two other families. One lot has every bit of camping gear going. They are professional campers, leading to much envy from the rest of us. They have a trailer, a two ring stove and a tent that could survive for years at Everest’s base camp. They even have a trolley to take the dirty dishes to the kitchen to be washed. I’m convinced we probably couldn’t go camping without all their accessories.
The other family has a blow up bed that is bigger and looks more comfortable than my bed at home. I’m always jealous when I wake up with my arse dragging on the groundsheet lying on a deflated cheap lilo, while their noses are practically touching the top of their tent, sleeping in luxury.
Last weekend saw a move to the next level of camping. One family brought their Nespresso coffee machine with an array of flavoured capsules. Gin and tonics were served rather than the usual crates of beer. Breakfasts became an event, with pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs cooked under the gazebo. One tent had fairy lights, another had a sound system that wouldn’t be out of place in a London club. And yet the biggest ‘hit’, was a $20 cricket set. Everyone (including other campers) joined in, and there was lots of friendly rivalry, banter and laughter.
Whilst I had a great time, I couldn’t help but miss my creature comforts. Needing to go to the toilet at four o’clock in the morning with a full bladder and a long walk in the pouring rain wasn’t fun. Being rained on as I lay in bed one night because I’d left the ‘window’ open was uncomfortable. Listening to every fart, snore and crying child when trying to get to sleep was tedious, and the idea of packing up the contents of my home to set it up again for a few days, then pack down again is a ball ache.
I started dreaming of a bach (holiday home) next year when I found myself trying to clean my teeth while a stranger was having a big poo two metres away from me in the ablution block.
I mentioned my four walls and a roof thoughts to the family, and unsurprisingly, they weren’t having a bar of it. They love every aspect of camping and I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that I can stay at home alone next year if I don’t want to come.
Sounds like a result to me! Sometimes every camping cloud really does have a silver lining.