Camping adventures

What’s not to love about a great camping adventure?

I love camping adventures! When I was a kid they were the preferred holiday style on my mother’s side. While my own nuclear family had very little in the way of camping gear, we would join the canvas city set up at places like Green Patch for weekends and extended holidays. My happy memories of the camping adventures are strong, but the recall of actual details is low. (Perhaps my Chief Editor will add a comment below to correct my poor recollections?)

My Hundt family camping adventures were the real deal. By that I mean, they were not in fancy caravan parks with amenities but in camp grounds where you needed to look after your own wastes and shower from a canvas bag hung from a tree. Translation: The kids didn’t have a wash other than swimming in the ocean/lake and there was a wee “Wee tent” or a designated latrine area in the bushes. The tents belonged to my Grandma and Papa and other aunts and uncles. There was a communal cooking area and various sleeping tents. The cars were parked Wild-West-Wagon style to set up a perimeter.

Selecting a flat spot, large enough to accommodate the tents, was left up to the camp master, Papa. As a Scout Leader, he knew his stuff. Once the survey was complete, the heavy bundles of neatly folded white and green canvas were hauled out from cars and taken to their assigned spots. Everyone had a part to play in getting them set up. The unfurling was left to the older kids and adults and the delivery of the various wooden tent poles, guy ropes, tent pegs assigned to children of appropriate size. (The photos above are scans of old slides)

Come back at meal time!

The troupe of seven cousins (ranging from 5 – 15) were set free during the day and reported back to camp for lunch and dinner. The rest of the time we played in sandhills, in the water and on the shoreline looking for treasure. I’d like to think there was an adult somewhere watching from a distance but there probably wasn’t! Cousin Susan, at 15 was likely charged with this responsibility. We would get outrageously sunburned. We would be covered in insect bites. We ate a LOT of cheese and spaghetti jaffles cooked over a campfire. But we were safe and happy. 

Lake Tabourie

As a teenager, my Aunty Colleen and Uncle Graeme continued the camping adventures but had moved to a more or less permanent camp in Lake Tabourie Caravan and Campground. They’d set up with a group of friends at the beginning of the school holidays and stay put for the duration. People would come and go. My brother and I would go down for a few weeks in the long summer break. 

Our activities here were a little more structured although still more or less unsupervised. We had the option of joining in on the Christian Holiday Groups that occupied these places in the ‘70s. They would run activities like craft groups, liberally sprinkled with Scripture of course. There was a shuttle bus that would go into the nearby town of Burrill Lake in the evenings and here we would watch movies in the open-air theatre, sitting in chairs made from a strip of canvas strung on two metal poles. I remember watching all the (original) Planet of the Apes series here. 

Pre-Schoolies – Schoolies

When I graduated high school, the Ex and I went on a camping adventure to Ballina, with two of our school buddies. (These days this post-school graduation trip is called Schoolies). We told our parents that Trish and I would be sharing one tent and Mark and the Ex would be in the other.  (Yeah right!)   It rained a lot and we spent a lot of time in pubs playing cards. But still, I recall it as a happy time.

As we got older and richer, The Ex morphed into a 5-star hotel man. Ready access to fine food and wine was the priority. Our 1980’s style Wolf-of-Wall Street jobs meant we didn’t go on many holidays anyway. Most of our downtime was spent renovating houses or with my parents who had moved to Bellingen. Sitting on their verandah looking out over cow paddocks was as close as we came to the great outdoors.

The last extended tent camping adventure I had was 14 years ago when I was teaching my daughter how to drive. To get her logbook hours up,  we went on a road trip through western NSW and alternated between camping and rural pubs. 

Glamping

In 2013, I flew to Adelaide and hired a camper van to do a circuit through North-West Victoria, Broken Hill and back to Adelaide. Now, THIS became my favourite holiday – glamping! Accommodation, transport and dining all wrapped up in the one package! The ability to pull over and make a cup of tea wherever you felt like was so appealing! Pulling into the caravan park with nothing to do beyond plugging in the electricity! Bliss! 

Bliss!

Such simple healthy pleasures! Camping has been shown to be really good for your physical and mental health. You can read those benefits here in a post by Sports Fitness Advisor, it’s a US site but just as relevant to us here in Aus. Waking up with the dawn light and enjoying the dark night resets your body clock among other things. I am not sure if these benefits extend to glamping! I have not yet tried hardcore camping which requires you to carry EVERYTHING in a backpack to a remote wilderness, but I will soon!

My own (new) tent!

Why this trip down memory lane? I have bought a tent for my upcoming Great Southern Road Trip. My plan is to camp most of the time interspersed with forays into cabins and hotels. My return to camping  is motivated by my memories and as a way of saving some money (see my Year of Zero series). I investigated a camper van but since I’m switching States and doing a walking tour and going to Flinders Island, it would not be economical to have it sitting parked for 12 days. On top of that, it is almost impossible to hire one! With Australians confined to the continent due to ongoing concerns for COVID overseas, EVERYONE is road-tripping!

The tent is EASY to erect. The main support poles are attached and it goes up a bit like an umbrella. It’s big enough to stand in and while nominally a four person tent it will be plenty big enough for me and my gear. I still have to get a few things like a camp bed.

I’ll be doing a practice weekend camp with my grandson in a few weeks in a place not too far from home, to check I have all the gear I need. I have already set it up in my garage to test the “instant-up” claim and yes it is easy, but do you think I can fold it up neatly and get it back into that little bag it came in?? Not easy! 🙂

I can’t wait!

Cruising to nowhere

I can see the twinkling lights on the land. A cluster of  brightness surrounded by black. The wake being cast aside is fluorescent; although on closer inspection it could just be the lights from the ship reflecting off the white water.  A delicate, cold breeze ruffles my hair as I lean over the balcony and breath in the salted air.

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Perhaps the lights are Gosford? My smart phone, which still has a good signal, says we are somewhere north of Manly. We have been sailing for just on two hours and we are going nowhere. Well, nowhere in particular. This cruise; a 3-night comedy cruise; sails out the Sydney Heads on Friday afternoon around 3pm and turns left to head up the coast and then does a u-ey around Coffs Harbour and creeps home in time for work on a Monday morning.

They call it a Sea Break; I call it a rest. This is the sort of cruise I like. Some luxury. Some hedonism. Too much food. Too much drinking. Grand fun and it’s only three nights. Not long enough to get bored on board and no so long that all your New Year’s resolutions are thrown out the porthole. Long enough to let your hair down but not long enough to let yourself down.  You can even still go to the gym if you want!

The 3 or 4-day cruise to nowhere is a relatively new option in the cruise offerings. With port fees being too expensive for ships to stay in dock, they go out for short trips in between their longer voyages.

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Wine tasting

This is my fourth short cruise in three years. I have learnt not to bring my ‘big’ camera. There are no real photo opportunities that the phone can’t handle. Nothing beyond friends doing silly things, playing trivia; corny stage shows and maybe the occasional dolphin. I have learnt to pack a series of nice frocks, so you can get dressed-up for dinner and forget the diet for a little while.

Cruising has come back in vogue and it’s a huge business. According to Statistica[1] the global cruise industry was worth $US39.6 billion in 2015. This was a $US15 billion increase from the previous 5 years. Why is cruising so popular? I think it boils down to a few basic elements

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  1. 1. You don’t have to plan much. Book your cruise and away you go. No itinerary to work out. No deciding where you are going to eat other than choosing from the options on the ship. You don’t need to worry about connecting flights, hiring a car, booking hotels etc etc.

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  1. It’s good value for money. Cruising is an all-inclusive ticket. I am no millionaire so the cruises I have been on have been very reasonably priced. The ticket includes food, entertainment and accommodation. If you are canny, you can avoid paying for anything else, provided you drink water, coffee and tea and stick to the included food options. On P&O and Royal Caribbean the included food options are very acceptable. The alcoholic beverages are about the same as in a suburban pub. If you are planning on partying hard you can buy drinks packages at various levels. There is enough free entertainment to keep you amused but you’ll have to opt out of the spa treatments.

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  1. You can do as much or as little as you like. Go to the gym, attend all the trivia sessions, origami, dance lessons, play board games on deck, swim, sun bake, sleep, drink and eat. It’s up to you. You don’t even have to get off for the shore tours when you get to port if you don’t want to. You can spend your whole time in the spa, get botox, attend lectures on nutrition. On themed cruises you can try your hand at stand-up comedy, go to cooking lessons, or photography lessons among many other activities.

You can find a cruise to suit your budget. On the Cruiseaway website the cheapest cruise leaving Sydney is $190 but you needed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice for the 4-day comedy cruise to New Zealand. On the other end of the spectrum, you can spend a cool $40,000 on a 62 night round the world cruise.

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  1. Cruises are great for families. You can book your little nippers in to the kids’ clubs and be free to spend the day as you wish. You’ll know they’ll be entertained and they can’t get up to too much mischief.

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Sydney Harbour puts on a show

Cruising is not for everyone. If you are a serious adventurer, I would say that you’d find them a TAD boring. Some liken cruises to a floating RSL’s[2] on a Friday night with the roast meat buffet and jelly cups. Lots of kitschy glitz, rusty tinsel, feather boas and bingo. Cruise companies have tried to appeal to the adventure market with on-board rock climbing walls, zip lines and water slides. At the end of the day though, you are stuck in the one place, for a few days at least.

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You can even do your laundry!

For those who suffer sea sickness the thought of getting on a big white ship is terrifying. With all those decks towering above the water you might also worry about the risk of tipping over in big waves. Modern technology has it covered – to some extent. Stabilizers, which act like big under water wings, reduce the side to side rocking of the ship. They can reduce movement by up to 90%[3]. The forward and back rocking can be reduced by sailing parallel to the waves. There is less movement in the core of the ship so you will do better in an inside cabin on a lower deck. Another benefit of inside cabins is that they are a cheaper. On the downside, they don’t get any natural light. This is great for sleeping in, but it will mess with your body clock. The view can get monotonous especially after several “at sea” days.

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P&O Pacific Eden

I would recommend cruising with a group of friends. Around 6 – 10 would be ideal. Decide from the start that you won’t get precious if you want to do different things and not spend every minute of the day with each other and only go for a few days. Be prepared to relax and party. Pack your dancing shoes and your slippers!

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The Pacific Eden moored off the town of Eden in NSW, Australia.

[1] https://www.statista.com/topics/1004/cruise-industry/

[2] RSL clubs or Returned Services League Clubs are usually large, brightly lit clubs with cheap drinks, cheap food and lots of poker machines. The entertainment is often provided by 1970’s has-beens or rip offs of has-beens. Some are very nice, but they can be bland.

[3] https://cruisedeals.expert/how-cruise-ship-stabilisers-work/