Reflections on a short camping trip

Interior of the author’s tent.

I went camping on the weekend with my daughter. We weren’t alone. Seventy other dads and daughters were there too. Anyhow, I’ve never pitched a tent before and have zero knowledge of camping or roughing it. So, this, I thought, was gonna be interesting. However, because there was well serviced amenities in the vicinity – onsite parking, running water, power, showers, toilets, security and a decent café nearby – this was very much a glamping experience. To put things in perspective, the nearest Woolies was 1 km away.

I could tell you about some of the cool dads that I met, and some not as cool, stand-offish ones I didn’t meet, but I want to focus this short writing excursion on my first experience of camping.

I don’t own a car so I hired one for the weekend. I also don’t own any out-doors stuff, so I purchased cheap and nasty flammable crap from stores that sell that kind of stuff. I bought a 3-person dome tent, but when my daughter put it together – honestly I had no idea how to – I laughed out loud. It was commodious enough for a single adult torso: I’m not tall but couldn’t fully extend my legs without pressing my feet against the side of the tent. You get what you pay for, right?

My daughter slept in a communal tent with her friends. So to all intents and purposes I was alone at night, which I didn’t mind too much. The only thing that felt like I was camping was sleeping in a tent, and to be honest it was kinda fun.

I was able to inflate a double mattress in the tent which pushed out all four sides of the structure. I had a battery powered lantern on low-light mode to see what I was doing (but I could have easily plugged in an electric one). On the first night I only had the spring/summer sleeping bag to insulate me against the unpredictably windy and cool air (it was a scorcher during the day). The next morning, while some of the dads ferried their daughters off to sport around Sydney, I quietly slipped away back to the city to pick up a few comfort items such as my pillow and woollen blanket. That night I had a cosier sleep – though my legs were cramping from sleeping in a confined space.

Between gulps of pale ale, one of the fathers confided in me and another dad, that although I was a really nice guy, I snore. Something in the way he said it, made snoring sound like the worst thing you could ever do to someone, even if you never meant it. I felt quite offended by the remark, but he was pretty tipsy and I was in a congenial mood, so it cancelled out any desire to retaliate. When we called it a night and repaired to our sleeping quarters, I studiously paid attention to the symphony of snores and farts which seemed to envelop all four corners of my humble dome tent. I couldn’t repress my mirth, and burst out laughing. In case I needed a come-back the following morning, I decided to make a short recording of the orchestra of bodily emissions. Not necessary, as the other dad who witnessed the offending chatter reassured me that he didn’t hear a peep from my tent. So nice of him to say that.

For a city slicker like me, it’s a strange sensation stirring to the sound of ducks and parrots wandering around the tiny perimeter of my tent. But even more peculiar, is the sensation of waking up, unzipping a fly screen and meeting the morning dew head on. The immediacy of nature, the absence of a physical doorway between bed and world, something I am so utterly used to, is probably what defined my first adult experience of camping.

Well that and the arabica beans brewing a hundred metres away.

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