Camping in the Summertime
By David Rutter
It is warm. The summer air smoothed by the afternoon breeze scuttles across the ocean, down the breakers and the beach, over the dunes and into the campground. The eucalyptus trees roar as the breeze squeezes through their canopy, swaying the branches at alarming angles.
This breeze greets us as we fling open the doors of our car. The children – released from their feelings of motion-induced nausea, drowsiness and general boredom and frustration – launch forth onto our campsite and the campground. Their mission, as they see it, is to acquaint, explore and amuse. Adults may take minutes, even hours to adjust to an environment without brick walls, carpet and tiled roofs. For children it is only a momentary transition.
Our tent is our home for the next few days, and within minutes it is setup. Moments later the children are bouncing of its walls, and sand and dirt and leaves have found their way inside. Our small comforts – an esky with ice, camping chairs with cup holders, and perhaps a table are erected in the little shade we can find.
The beach, with its promises of sandcastles, swimming and sunburn beckons. Hats and sunscreen materialise, as do water bottles and sand toys. There is serious work to be done – sand to be moved and seashells to be discovered. Beaches can contain all manner of detritus, and much of it may be physically useless, yet mentally it contains a wealth in inspiration. The single shoe or thong begs the question of where the other might be. Where is the owner, right now at this point in time?
Our evening meal in the fading light is most relaxing, regardless of the incessant need to slap and swat at the flies and mosquitos. The heat wanes, the breeze softens, and the allure of slumber appears in the back of our minds. Despite all due care the distinct crunch of sand between our teeth accompanies our meals. Purposefully simple, the setting and circumstances enhance the flavours of this ad-hoc meal.
Sleep is not always easy, as sounds seem to be amplified when you are waiting on a little one to drop off in their new little dwelling. There is nothing but a thin layer of between us and the ambient sounds outside. Our neighbours, close and distant, share with the other campers the same sounds – food preparation, the imploring of children to eat, to wash, to brush teeth, laughter, the telling of jokes, the opening and closing of zippers of all manner. Later, the sounds give way to the occasional shuffling and shifting of sleepy campers, murmurs of couples exchanging their thoughts before sleep. The night animals come out, and the munching of leaves, the foraging of possums, and calling of the night birds sooth a sleepy head.
Before the first rays of sunlight, and the cacophony of cicadas fills the air, birds stir us all too early. Their calls start tentatively, and build into a glorious chorus – the hour though restraining us from acknowledging its true beauty. This call is a blessing, for during our daily lives it is missed, absent or muted at best. This early awakening means we have more hours to play. Breakfast is soon found, and the serious business of exploration and enjoyment is commenced. It is a day when only hunger and sleep marks the time.
This is camping. There may be bumps and scrapes that bring a few momentary tears. These are soon forgotten in the joy and excitement of a new birdcall, the gangly gate of an insect, collections of seashells, and the success of a regal sandcastle. These are the things we carry with the sand in our hair as we pack up and make our way back.