(*is there any other kind?)
A vein in my temple was throbbing. The kids were screaming and thrashing around in the back seat. The Pixies were blaring from the car stereo which the hubby had turned up to drown out the kids – and the kids were screaming even louder to drown out the Pixies. Deep breaths – count to 5 – muttering “serenity now – serenity now – serenity NOW!” A shriek and a high pitched wail pierced my soothing mantra “Shut UUUUP everyone!!!”- oh oops that was me. Clearly channeling Frank Constanza was not having the desired effect. How much would it hurt to just open the door, hurl myself from the car and let this chaos machine hurtle up the Pacific Highway without me?
Hour 3 into our week trial run and the wheels were already coming off. WTF had we gotten ourselves in for? Did we seriously want a whole year of this? We regrouped in Bulahdelah and let the kids run themselves ragged. A game of eye spy, many, many snacks to keep their gobs otherwise occupied and a change of music and volume had us chugging down a rough dirt track a few hours later singing Mustang Sally. While laughing about our friend – let’s call him Sally – with a mustang which would never, ever be able to drive down this track. Much 4WD smugness. With serenity temporarily restored we arrived at the campground without any major incident, or dropping and rolling by a cranky mum. New rule – driver does not get to pick music – whoever is dealing with ratty kids gets to distract them with easy FM and Taylor Swift.
The plan was to camp with some of our friends for a week and test out all our gear before we set out to hit the road properly a few weeks later. Not that we needed it. We so had this. We were going to be naturals at this camping gig. So, time to show off our whiz bang new camper trailer – “The Shack”. (After heated discussion about how much I suck at directing hubby while reversing. I predict this may be a frequent source of tension, because I do suck at this – knowing your left and right being a requisite for this job). Once in place (no thanks to me) our new home was unveiled spectacularly – the remote controlled hardtop / floor opened quickly and we were set up in about half an hour. Nailed it. And then the battery died. No power. Fridge full of food. Oh shit.
All the gear and no idea
We got onto the customer care number quick smart asking why this super duper and fancy piece of equipment had failed on the first go – wasn’t the battery meant to last for weeks? Hadn’t they told us the solar panels would keep us going as long as there was sunshine? It was baking hot, oh so sunny and solar-y— why not oh so powerful? Why? Turns out we had let the battery drain almost completely while it was in storage over Christmas. Had we read the manual? What, that book that was still in storage? Ah, no. We’re naturals remember? The kind folk at Complete Campsite patiently and diplomatically explained that this did not appear to be super duper and fancy piece of equipment’s fault – but perhaps was “user error”. What, we were the idiots? I see – alrighty then. Glad we got that sorted. Back to our warming freezer of rapidly thawing meat.
On day 2 we ran out of drinking water. In a campground with no drinking water. And in 40 degree heat. Another lesson – don’t use massive tank of drinking water for showers, dishes, rinsing boogie boards, water fights – pretty much for anything other than, yep – drinking. Luckily our friend Sally with a mustang, valiantly accepted the dirt track challenge, filled his boot with kegs of water, and came to the rescue of thirsty fools.
For the rest of the week, us boofheads managed to get the 4WD bogged on the beach (how amazing – and vital – are maxtrax?!), catch not one single fish but get stranded after dark with a bunch of raw sausages and without anything to start a fire with (really, why doesn’t anyone smoke anymore? Who has a lighter? No-one!), and get so violently sick (possibly from the extremely defrosted meat?) that I couldn’t drink for Five. Whole. Days. And no-one wants that – I am so much more delightful with wine.
Naturals? Not so much.
Reality – not so romantic
Our romantic notions of hitting the road were brought crashing down with the practical realities. Our warm up was very much needed. Our heads were yanked out of the clouds in a crowded campground which was really just like shacking up in a car park for a week – surrounded by city folk, city comforts (showers, toilets, ice, pre-chopped firewood) and a knight in a shining (now dusty) mustang. When we go bush for real we’re not going to have these safety nets (but hopefully will also be a bit less car-parky – and Sally please come and visit!).
We hit the road yesterday. The few weeks after our camping crash course were spent in frantic preparation, stocking up, charging the battery, filling the tanks, reading the manuals (until the minute we left, the hubby was watching youtube clips of starting fires with jumper leads). Perhaps we’re not naturals – but hopefully we’re quick learners and suck slightly less at this now.