It was the start of 2012. I’d just changed my job, my attitude and my goals. Triff & Steve (The Trailer) asked the question once more, only this time we said “Yes”. It was to be an overnight trip and, always filled with generosity, particularly when it comes to camping, Triff & Steve made it very easy on us. All we had to do was show up. The tent would be in place, dinner would be under way, a cheese plate on arrival, and fees would already be paid.
The place was Charlie Moreland, the temperature was right, no rain forecast and with no chores or prior engagements at home we set out on what was to be my first proper camping experience.
It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t nervous as we drove down the dirt and lantana lined entrance to the grounds. On immediate sight of lantana I think of snakes, horrible, disgusting, and completely terrifying snakes! When you grow up where we did, in the bush in Diddillibah on the Sunshine Coast, you should be used to snakes but not I, nor Triff, nor Kath, nor any member of the Soutter clan. Snakes were everywhere at home. They nested heavily in the ceiling; on quiet nights you could hear them slithering above you while you tried to sleep. On one occasion my eldest brother Rich, plucked some courage from who knows where, or perhaps he was temporarily possessed, either way, he found the nerve to shimmy up the fern tree and shine a torch up into the roof. He lost count at thirty-six when the beams from the torch could no longer push through to the full length of the ceiling. His face was pale and his body shuddered while his skin prickled into goose bumps when he told of the horrors he had seen that day. This is but one reason why snakes make the top of my list as CAMPING PHOBIA NUMBER 1
After the drive in and somewhat satisfied by no snake sightings, I was instantly uplifted by the sight of a village. A village of trailers, caravans and tents of all shapes, sizes and colors. CAMPING PHOBIA NUMBER 2, gone! Naive as this seems, I was under the impression that camping meant sneaking off into secluded locations with no other soul in sight. I’ve seen the Blair Witch Project, Wolf Creek and myriad movies where seclusion is the promise of certain death. But this, this was different, this was safety in numbers, surely if an axe murderer, bush monster or other deranged killer came into the camp site there would be some chance of survival, yes, this was good!
Triff & Steve – The Trailer, had set up camp under a shady tree and just returned from an icy dip in the creek when we arrived. Second to swapping “Hellos”, it is the ritual of the seasoned camper to drink beer before any other tasks are undertaken. With deep admiration for this camping ritual we sat, drank and listened intently to the explanation as to how this patch of grass became ours for the next twenty-four hours. I learnt that choosing a campsite was not as simple as plonking one’s bum down on any old piece of earth. There was lots to consider, it was more methodical, like choosing a seat at the cinema; not too close to the back, not so close to the front that you strain your neck, away from a draft, no-one in front of you to block your view, you need arm space and you certainly don’t plonk yourself next to twenty members of the Hells Angels.
Beer down, bed made, second beer down (another ritual of the seasoned camper – set up, drink more beer), it was time to face CAMPING PHOBIA NUMBER 3 – the toilet.
This phobia is a mix of phobias 1 and 2, snakes and serial killers. We- Triff and I- weaved our way down between ropes, fire pits, ditches and cars, with no trail of pop corn to find our way back. Navigating such obstacles in daylight with legs closed tight in a bid stop leakage was one thing, but this was easy street compared to the challenge tonight, when dark and slightly intoxicated.
Relief in the opportunity to empty my bladder was quickly over-shadowed as we came upon the toilet block nestled in close to the bush. The bush, the lair of all things dark, creepy, crawly and hidden from view, yuck.
Deep breathe, I entered, I looked up, I looked down, sideways and behind the toilet… the coast seemed clear… relief, sweet relief. There was paper, it flushed, a sink and soap to wash our hands, even a mirror to remind us we’re camping and that our usual grooming routines have been left at home. Done! Not so bad, not so scary, silly wandering mind, trying to tell me it would be a hole in the ground nestled above a pit of hissing snakes, with clawing undetermined creatures protecting the threshold, silly mind!
With three of my four camping phobias behind me I assumed it would only be a matter of time before CAMPING PHOBIA NUMBER 4 showed itself. Boredom! But it never came knocking, it never let itself in. Granted this particular excursion was only over night, pity on anyone who could be shrouded by boredom that quickly. But there have been camping trips since this one, the longest, five days and boredom never sat perched on my pillow waiting to take hold. The thing I’ve come to love about camping the most is how relaxing it is. At home, relaxation can lead to guilt. Guilt over the dishes waiting in the sink, the lawn beckoning to be mowed, the car shouting to be washed and so it goes. The only other place I seek solitude in guilt free relaxing is the hair salon. There’s nothing else you can do but sit quietly and patiently and catch up on gossip magazines while the hairdresser busily snips away.
Camping is by the far, the most relaxing thing one can do. Removing one’s self from usual routine, escaping to somewhere new, becoming one with nature, basking in the beauty of dancing fires and roaring coals, sitting under a star blazed sky, is truly blissful. It’s official then , phobias tackled, I’m addicted, I love camping too!
Rose and Jason – The Tent