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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monday Memories

Campers: Nature's way of feeding mosquitoes. ~Author Unknown
When I was growing up I camped ~ a lot. In these things ~ the big, old fashioned bell tents. Heavy duty canvas. Heavy wooden centre pole. Rough rope guys. Man, anything you need to know about camping you learn dealing with one of these things & then one day you realise the thing doesn't frighten you any more. It point of fact you are so super confident that in the dead of night you manage to walk the leaders tent 10 feet away from where they are sleeping the sleep of the truly worn out. Girl Guides of a certain age & inclination never wear out.

Anyway when I was about 15 I think the Guiding movement held one of it's big Musters. Orange was inundated with girls between the ages of 12 & 16 from all over the country & Orange is, well it's a parochial country town. Nothing much there really but space. Space is good when you have thousands of teenage girls on the loose.

I think every company in the country was told they could send maybe one or two girls & because the Guiding movement believed in shaking things up you knew jolly well you'd be sharing a tent with a bunch of strangers. I went from our company. I was probably the only one who even wanted to go.

All this information arrived in the mail that had to be filled out because there were only so many spaces for each of the activities & they needed time to try & give everyone at least one first preference. What a logistical nightmare! But exciting if you were doing the choosing.

So thousands of girls converged on Orange, which is sheep country & cold in winter & landed in this enormous field laid out like a military camp with kitchens & latrines & hundreds of these big bell tents sprouting like strange & bellicose mushrooms all over the paddock.

Well, we were Guides, & prepared for anything. My tent made it's bag rack, inflated our air mattresses & eyed each other off like unsociable cats but we made it through the evening without anyone showing their claws & at some point crawled in to our sleeping bags to shake & shiver because it was absolutely freezing.

We woke to rain. It was bucketing down like nothing on earth. No~one seemed terribly inclined to move though it did register in my foggy little brain that I was rather more comfortable than I usually was. The reason for our unexpected comfort became apparent when the first of us decided her bladder would have to brave the elements. She stepped into two inches of water ! All the air mattresses were floating!

At this point there was a flurry of activity as we all sought to rescue as much of our bedding as possible before sticking our heads out to survey the camp. The bell tents were still standing. I have known a really sodden one to simply slide down its centre pole & envelop the inhabitants but they were a pretty hardy tent as a rule & survived all sorts of abuse. What was no longer standing, as we discovered, were the shower & latrine tents. The paddock was a sheet of water several inches deep. As we meandered towards the central marquee the girl in front simply disappeared. She'd gone down a latrine pit. Yummy.

Be Prepared might have been the Guiding motto but it was organised chaos & the forecast was for even more rain. Our first day in camp & thousands of girls had no dry bedding. Some, not having made a bag rack to keep their gear of the ground, had no dry anything. The leaders were frantic. I'm so glad I wasn't a leader. Thinking back the leaders must have been horrified. Anyway they rounded up all the bedding & took it into town to be dry~cleaned then packed us all into a disused chicken coop for our second night. I think everyone got 1/2 an air mattress. It was a tight squeeze.

Much later on Dearest & I camped at Garie in Sydney. Now Garie is in the National Park at the bottom of the sea cliffs but only about a 20 minute hike in ~ which is quite long enough if you are humping all your gear. Twenty pounds just gets heavier & heavier for every minute of walking. It was mizzling, but not enough to be anything more than a vague annoyance & after Orange it took more than a bitsy shower to rattle my camping composure.

We chose our spot & put our tent up ~ Japara, really lightweight but rainproof & not needing a fly. We then collected a bunch of firewood, no mean feat because it had been drizzling steadily for days & everything was pretty sodden. We'd just got back to our tent when the rain decided to get serious. It hooted down in a massive deluge for about twenty minutes while we played cards then the sun came out.

We stuck our heads out to see if the sun was going to stay because we'd walked in & were absolutely ravenous & what we wanted to do more than anything was eat. The valley was dotted with nylon tents that had acted just like a sieve; the rain had gone straight through. Sodden campers were poking about for dinner but no~one had a fire going. I got a fire going in about 5 minutes & it was usable for cooking in 20. Dearest was carefully drying out wood for the morning & thankfully put a good store of it in the tent because during the night everything left out got nicked. Then to add insult to injury, while everyone else ate cold baked beans straight from the tin we cooked. Sauteed chicken in onion & tomato. The aroma wafted all over the camping ground. If looks could kill...!

So yeah, I taught my kids to camp young. They camped so much 1/2 the island thought we didn't have enough space in the house for the number of kids we had & the tents were their permanent bedrooms. Yeah, right.


Allison said...

Your version of camping makes my version look like an evening at a 5 star hotel.

The HoJo's said...

hee hee great memory


Mrs. C said...

You make camping sound horrible LOL... and then you teach the kids to like it!

seekingmyLord said...

I used to camp out every other weekend when I was in my young twenties. I have a few interesting stories, but I think yours tops them all.

I don't think I will be forgetting that latrine pit part for some time.

Britwife said...

Still laughing (and gagging) at the thought of the girl disappearing down the latrine! :)
Want to know another coincidence? I just returned from a weekend camping trip too! Although mine was in a camper (not a tent) and we had lovely, albeit cold, weather - no rain.

Homeschoolmum4Christ said...

My idea of camping is a five-star hotel.LOL

Honestly though, I can't imagine anything worse than sleeping in a tent, on the ground, with all the bugs and the rain pouring in.

Jan Lyn said...

Oh, this had me laughing. I have my camping memories as a child which can be summed up quickly: terrential downpours and a brother with croup and asthma. My father finally announced enough was enough and he bought the family a swimming pool for the back yard. THAT was it, we honestly never went camping again!
If I was well, I would have definately tried it with my own family. I love the outdoors!