Something everyone should try is camping. It doesn’t matter if you sleep under a tarp, in the car, a tent, camper trailer, caravan or cabin.
It doesn’t matter if its free or $90 a night. Or bush, national park, beach, dam or river.
But what matters for me is my sanity of having a tranquil weekend. I tell my kids to take a toy each, board game each and a good book. Because where we are going there will be no tablets, phones or DS’s. We will be socializing and connecting without the distraction of electronics.
When I go camping we swim, fish, walk and play games. We have to drive to the nearest toilets unless we make our own. We have shelter for shade and mesh for the floor. We have blow up mattresses everywhere, clothes thrown through the tent and wet towels scrunched on the ground in rocks, sand and dirt.
Our chairs set up in the water, a portable stereo blasting tunes and the relaxation of watching turtles surface barely a metre away as all the kids paddle the kayaks down stream to be unseen and unheard till their stomachs growl.
Whereas the younger kids who can’t swim stay in the inflatable boat tied to the bullbar of the cars under the shade, their faces multiple colors of white, red, green and blue from sunscreen and zinc as us adults sit back with our preferred drinks of beer, coke or coffee.
With babies on our laps in such a relaxed position they fall asleep with the tide drifting past. The quietness of fishing and dragging to shore your catch, not caring if it is a turtle, catfish or bass, holding it carefully and showing the little tots what it is as they pat it and help you release it back.
The kids laughing as they have their buckets, catching baby fish as we light up the gas camping stoves prepping lunch. Teaching the kids the fundemantal basics of sewing to repair the drag nets after they drag out fresh water catfish. And constantly reminding each child like you are a broken record telling them to top up in sunscreen and drink plenty of water. Adjusting our chairs, following the shade.
Preparing the aeroguard for mosquito’s as the sun starts to set, making sure the torches aren’t flat and getting beds ready. Cooking snags and onions on the frying pan and changing the gas cylinders. Dinner at 4 or 5 pm so there is no cooking in the dark and letting the kids snack on junk till they pass out from exhaustion after complaining how hot the tent is and they can’t sleep from us adults talking.
The fire crackling that everyone wanted but no one used, as we laugh over little inside jokes. Changing into dry clothes to sit in a wet chair. And in between these slither thin pieces of heaven, there is always one child crying from being sunburnt, one whinging they are bored, another saying no one is playing with them, and the occasional argument over the kayaks, fishing rods and the last pancake from breakfast six hours ago and the chime of “not me” when we ask for the dishes to be done.
I’ve encounter more snakes in a day trip then this weekend, but I expected snakes because of the bush and the weather. But I have a huge fear of spiders. Its something I have slowly been dealing with. Start small with the redbacks and small house spiders. But I am now able to get small huntsman spiders. I may still squeal like a bitch but I get the job done. Unless its bigger then my hand. Then the house, kids and bills are his.
But this weekend I have come across not one or two but so far three bush huntsman’s and one was in my tent!
Now they are harmless. Yes I am aware of this. But it is unnatural in my opinion to have eight eyes, eight legs and be that hairy as well. And they are fast things too. Just when you line up your slapper (Australian term for thong- the footwear not underwear), the little bugger runs.
As the huge moon rises, and peace flows with the river, all you can hear are the occasional mullet jump, the turtles run into water, crickets and night birds. Owls hooting, small finches feeding their young, the occasional duck and her brood. The quiet voices from other sites and the fire crackling. And fingernails to skin. From mosquito’s.
I know I will go home with sore feet, stone bruises, scratch marks from scratching in my sleep and one hell of a messy car. And the constant shudders of that bush huntsman. But when I do go home, I am looking forward to MY toilet.
The night carries ominous splashes as the adults grab their soap and head for the water under the moonlight. Chairs line the shore line with towels at the ready with squeals of women shouting something touched their legs and the occasional swear words as turtles accidently get stepped on in the darkness. And one bit back. That was a hoot. Not a peep is heard from any child except their little snores.
I have to admit set up, pack up, meal times are stressful. Kids nipping at your heels for food, attention, random questions that have you questioning your DNA offsprings.
There are the occasional fights and spits. And tantrums, mainly from babies and toddlers. But a warm milk at night and a long cuddle fixes most problems with tired children. Its next to nature to pick up a random child on our campsite not caring if the child is yours or not, stuffing a biscuit in their mouth, a large cup of water, whipping their wet clothes off, fixing up a nappy and within minutes they were asleep on your lap as you continue to chat, smoothly rubbing their belly or patting their back.
And to wake up and repeat the day again tomorrow, kids dragging plastic chairs to the tree swing to reach the rope, fighting over the first kayak paddle, checking crab pots. The flicking of lighters to light the stoves to boil the kettles. Teaspoons tapping coffee cups and eskies opening for the milk as the younger children rub their sleepy eyes and howling for breakfast.
But this is relaxation for me. When I am with my family, my extended family and friends. With laughing and cuddles of little arms. Its like a small family reunion that lasts all weekend.
It was needed for me to get out of the house for the weekend. A nice break from a hectic month. Its exhausted me, its stretched me, but it was needed for me.