First, Craig backed out: he's taking a free course on gardening. He had to apply to get in; no way was he missing the first class.
Then, Benedict backed out: he got invited to a hot shit party. It was important that he go.
Benedict and Monika had invited us camping with some friends. Considering my last attempt at camping didn't go quite as planned – I came home two days early after waking up to rain on my face inside my tent – I wasn't that keen to try again. Especially since I'd be there with a whole group of people, only one of whom I actually knew.
So I did what any nerd in my situation would do: research.
I researched camping etiquette, worried I would unintentionally offend them and because they don't know what a truly lovely person I am yet, they'd just be annoyed by me. I offered to bring sandwiches. When an email came through saying we should all bring scroggin', I looked it up and made the best damn scroggin' I could think of.
Now, let's be honest. We weren't going serious camping. Monika has a serious condition called "preggars," and she's not doing any serious camping. We only had to carry enough stuff for one night and the hike into the campsite was just about 2k. The site even had an EnviroLoo composting toilet, so it didn't even stink...or at least not that much.
My camping resume has two previous entries:
1. Spent a night on a farmer's front yard in a tent. Pretty unsuccessful, as Craig and I put our tent up on a slope which meant I was basically just sleeping on top of Craig and we're just lucky the tent didn't roll over.
2. Spent two nights at Newcastle, right next to a parked car in which we drove all our stuff directly to the camp site. Again, my tent revealed itself to be a little stormy inside. Decidedly unsuccessful.
So this trip, though not very serious, was more than I've ever done. Vix and Ruby kindly lent me a hiking pack, and off we went, to Heathcote National Park, next to Royal.
Jaqui and Liz are Australian friends of Monika's. Laura is French-Canadian and Marc is French. Monika's on the end there, in the hat that's shadowing her face.
Our campsite was lovely: broad flat rocks warm from the sun, a cool waterhole with small rolling waterfalls.
It's springtime here; a lovely time to walk in the Australian bush. It's cool and breezy. All the plants are blooming tiny, unassuming flowers. It's a spectacle of colour, but only if you're looking for it. The blue-green eucalypt canopy is punctuated with bursts of red and yellow leaves.
We set up our tents, and Monika demonstrated shaking the dust out of your temporary house. Watch out-- pregnant lady wields tent with ferocity!
The six of us spent a gorgeous day by the water, reading and napping. And of course, eating. It's a slogan I learned on this trip, and it was repeated often: Everything tastes better in the bush! Tea, smoky miso tofu sandwiches, veggie curry with potatoes and rice, canned gulab jamun. You name it. It tastes better.
We saw a bird's nest hanging from a stone enclave-- close up, we could see little birds' mouths poking out, cheeping for food.
We stayed up fairly late, by candlelight and head torch, full of good food and Arnott's Scotch Fingers. We made hot chocolate and we turned in. Every time I turned over, I worried the rustling of my sleeping bag was waking Monika up-- camping equipment is mostly so well thought-out. Lightweight sleeping bags fit into sacks smaller than a bag of crisps; cooking burners about the size of a bocce ball, and much lighter. Everything is beautifully designed to be lightweight and compact. But they have yet to make a quiet sleeping bag.
The next morning was gray and cool; a little damp. Beautiful graywash skies, bringing out the greens in the trees.
After breakfast on the rocks, a quiet steady drizzle started; Monika loaned me a raincoat and we all went on a morning rainhike in search of caves. But not before I pull my intrepid adventurer pose and look like a fool!
See? The hiking pack wasn't even that big, but my legs ached and ached the whole next day.
The caves were more like rock overhangs, but still nice. We sat under the rock and watched the rain and ate some scroggin'. What the hell kind of word is scroggin', anyway??
Easily my most successful camping experience yet. No storming rain in the tent, lovely new people, an actual hike. Brilliant. I might even try it again someday. Especially if I get to see such cool plants and lizards again.