We three have just returned from a long-weekend at the 'Gateway to the Flinders Ranges', aka Mambray Creek.
It's a Claytons* kind of camping which is designed to ease in Four-Star-Stuck-in-the-Muds like myself who can pretty well put up with all sorts of outdoorsy grot and misadventure as long as there is a hot shower, flushing toilet and warm bed at the end of it.
Well Mambray Creek offers one out of the three. Unlike last year where we stayed at the long-drop toilet site, this year we opted for the flushing toilets and showers. We should have left our soap at home because the single shower available was cold water only - not particularly attractive in zero winter temperatures that could freeze the cuddle nuts off a koala. It also meant that any issues I had about BO or personal hygiene were also willingly thrown out of the tent window as I vowed not to remove the first two layers of clothing from my body for the next four days.
So, a flushing toilet, but no (hot) showers and no soft bed or warmly-lit five star BnB accommodation either. Instead, we had our rather grand 'Taj Mahal' tent which has separate wings for Sapphire, our gear, and Love Chunks'n'me. Any thoughts of nocturnal nookies with LC had long since vanished - who'd want to get hot and sweaty with someone who hadn't washed for four days and who smelled like burned wood and wino grease?
We spent our time 'out in the wild' with three other couples and their kids. Love Chunks and I sometimes took a second out from the group to smile smugly at each other and mutter, "Oh, isn't it great that we only have one child and she's eight years old," before walking back to the central camp area and being assailed with squeals, poo-filled nappy pongs and anxious parents herding their toddlers away from the flames like osteoporosis-inflicted goal keepers.
As the oldest child, Sapphire reigned supreme. The second oldest child, cousin Matt, remained enthralled with her instructional lectures on the virtues of collecting Beanie Kids and for a kid who likes to "be a battler who kills things and wins all the time", he displayed formidable commitment to sitting around a pretend gum-leaf fire singing songs to stuffed animals.
Little brother Jack was then free to play with Hamish, who normally flocked to Matt. Hamish was most certainly NOT going to hang around a boy - no matter how much he idolised him - who held hands with his girly cousin and did the limbo with 'Beanie kid Priscilla and Princess' under his arm. Even way past his bedtime when his mother had to unzip the tent and tell him to go to sleep for the tenth time, I could still him chattering on:
"Mu-u-u-u-m Sapphire said that there's a Viking beanie kid who's really strong and a super Beanie Boy who wears a cape and.....Muuuum? Do you think the Tooth Fairy will find my tooth tonight even though I'm not at home?"
By 8:30pm every night, each child was entombed in their sleeping bags and us parents were ready to party. Or, at the very least, drag out some dark chocolate and port and risk using a few swear words in our conversations.
As for nature, she did her best. Cold nights and clear mornings with just the right sprinkling of wildlife to make it interesting but safe. A couple of emus would regularly stroll through the camp on the lookout for stray toast crusts and squashed marshmallows and would stoically endure a growing gang of excited brats following them around yelling and brandishing tree branches. A few kangaroos sproinged around in the distance and plenty of kookaburras were on hand to laugh maniacally at my unfolded, uncleansed morning face and beanie hair. By 'beanie' I do not mean the infernal toys that Sapphire loves, but the woolly hat jammed on my head. From the morning of Day two it was obviously from the hairs greasily slicked against my skull that it was mandatory to adhere to the 'beanie time, all the time' rule to avoid offending the other innocent campers around me.
Love Chunks maintained his usual high standards of culinary creations - from a gas stove and a rickety card table he produced pan-grilled scotch fillets, green chicken curry, spaghetti bolognese, home-made smoked beans, pancakes and bacon'n'eggs. Oh and not to mention mastering the cafe tierre and producing coffee so fragrant and pungent that it took the enamel of our teeth and made us more alert than a Hilton Ho in the cell block showers.
As for me and camping - we'll always be content to remain nodding acquaintances but I grudgingly did enjoy myself. So much so that I bought an ourdoor gazebo tent thingy for our camp kitchen instead of LC's rather patchy tarp and four poles effort - does that mean I might actually want to do it again, and soon?
*Claytons was an alternative to alcohol, heavily promoted by John 'Bewdy Newk' Newcombe in the 1970s. Since then, anything described as a 'Claytons' in Oz means a safer alternative. For example: Bert Newton is our Claytons Michelen Man because he's more recognised in Australia'