A little while back, we were headed up the east coast for some quality time with mates. As often happens, the first phase of the trip involved covering some klicks on the bitumen.
Tracking near Newcastle in the late afternoon, the options for an overnighter were to detour through ‘the Big Smoke’, find an overnight parking bay on the highway, or take a short detour into one of the numerous National Parks and State Forests west of the main road. The choice was easy – any night under stars is better than a night under lights.
Now, I have to say that the campground we found won’t make it into my annals of ‘all time great campsites’. Indeed, I reckon the place is likely to achieve its greatest notoriety for having one of the worst maintained toilets I’d ever had to deal with. But, since visiting, I most often remember this camp as the place I witnessed one of the best (worst?) examples of clueless camp behaviour that I’d seen in a long, long time.
It started at around 10pm when two rigs rolled into camp about 100m from our site. The first indicator that these roosters had no idea about camp etiquette was when the rigs stopped and the doors opened.
Immediately, the pounding rhythms of AC/DC were echoing around the rocky outcrop that backed the designated camping area. Shortly after, LED bullbar lights strobed through the darkness as one of the drivers crunched his 4WD through the vegetation to re-settle a little closer to the neighbouring rig. As he reversed smartly into a tree stump, I might have been offended by this hapless chump’s cursing – except that I couldn’t help chuckling.
Then, for the next 30 minutes, our usual quiet night-time reverie gave way to the noise of crashing tent poles, adults hurling directions at one another, and kids yelling and yelping as they crashed through the undergrowth, tumbling among the various creepy-crawlies and crevices they encountered along the way.
Then, just as we thought the stupidity might be coming to an end, these campers had still more ignorance to demonstrate. With all the machismo and courtesy that I’d expect of a caveman, the lead male decided it was time to take his axe out into the scrub and to generate some firewood.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
In the morning, what struck me most about the previous night’s shenanigans was the fact that – for all appearances – these travellers were a couple of family groups that I’d expect to include within our camping fraternity. These weren’t simply yobbos. I could see a pair of rigs that were well-maintained with a reasonable array of after-market accessories. There were decent tents and the group looked as though they were packed to be away from home for a while. While the kids woke noisily – as kids tend to do – the parents started the day quietly and the whole group packed up and rolled out of camp in a relatively orderly way.
Reflecting back on that camping experience, I’ve never understood how these two families thought that their behaviour was OK. Being as charitable as I can, I hope I simply witnessed a group in transition from self-absorbed city slickers to something more civilised.
So, I hope the camp party arrived late on Friday because the adults simply couldn’t wait to get out of the Big City. I hope they’d left Sydney after a stressful day in the office with their nerves on edge, made worse by spending several hours in the car with kids who, at home, would have amused themselves in another room. I hope that the mid-80s music was the adults’ effort to unwind by reminiscing about the era BC (Before Children) when Friday nights were spent down at the pub – playing pool and with the hits of the day blaring through the jukebox.
I also hope that the bright lights and noisy camp setup are explicable on the basis that, having arrived late, this group hadn’t yet fully realised that they were now in the bush – not on their home turf (this might also help explain the driver’s failure to avoid driving into a tree!). I hope that the kids were excited by their sudden freedom to explore. And I hope that the effort to get firewood at 11pm reflected just how much the adults wanted to start the ritual of the evening campfire to help bring the whole group back to earth. I really hope so.
None of these explanations excuse the discourtesy displayed by these campers. Even if true, it reveals a staggering degree of self-absorption among a group of people who could scarcely have failed to notice the presence of other campers at the site. But it may mean that there is scope for their redemption. And it may mean that I’d be happy to sit under the stars with them one day, in another place.
But not until they’ve been on the road for at least a week. Not until they’ve left their city-generated discourtesies at least 1000km behind them.
This recipe feature and much more appeared in Camper Trailer Australia #128. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!