Sunday, May 29, 2016

Camping in the Third Circle of Hell

On a bleak, sullen day I set forth from hearth and home.  I laughed at the grey skies, sneered at the flecks of rain and generally turned my collar to the cold and damp as someone much more talented that I might put it.  Stopping only to collect a wheelbarrow full of cheese I made my way to Glebe.  On arrival I found Tony fast asleep and Jasmyn hiding behind a couch talking to someone in Thailand.  I was having none of this and swiftly whipped them both into loading up the car and heading out to Glenworth Valley for our camping experience.

After spending most of the morning searching for gas (my suggestion about simply running a hose from the exhaust pipe into the car being not well received) we finally turned up in the land of frozen horse manure pretty much simultaneously with the rain.  It was grey and chilly as I helped Tony set up his tent.  When I say "helped Tony set up his tent" I mean got in his way and listened to him rave on about my incompetence at tasks I rarely attempt and have no interest in.  By the way Tony, I'm crap at brain surgery too.

Has anybody read the book "The Farthest Shore" by Ursula K LeGuin?  In it she describes a battered and broken dragon's body on the shore of an island.  Imagine that in olive green and you have a rough idea of what Tony's tent looked like.  Alternatively, imagine a landing craft driven onto the shore to disgorge its cargo of troops and tanks.  This should also give you an idea of what Tony's tent looks like.  Into this combined landing craft/dragon's corpse we would toss five disparate children simultaneously hoping that they would be protected from the weather and wouldn't kill each other. 

When Jason deigned to turn up he would produce another large tent (it had wings.  My home doesn't have wings) into which we would throw three disparate adults etc etc.  One of the disparate adults would not be me.  Neither would either of the other two.  It was gently pointed out to me that I snore like crazy and generally nobody wanted to be that close to me.  So I was exiled to a very small tent which I had to myself.  I helped Jason set up his tent (see previous comments about Tony's tent) and then Jason very kindly helped me set up my collapsible hovel nearby.

Having stowed my belongings I took stock of my surroundings.  They were cold.  They were very cold.  They were so incredibly cold that I think I would have difficulty explaining to you how cold they really were.  Obviously other places are colder.  Antarctica for example would no doubt make our frozen little patch of misery seem quite temperate by comparison.  So would the top of Mt Everest.  This misses the point;firstly those places are meant to be cold and secondly I was not currently camping out in either of them!!!

We built a fire.  By this, of course, I mean "they built a fire".  "They" being the three semi competent adults on this mission implausible.  Between them Tony, Jason and David set fire to various bits of tree corpse eagerly fetched by the five children they had collectively delivered into this semi arctic wilderness.  At dinnertime Jason hacked a frozen chunk of spaghetti bolognese into manageable lumps and used a gas stove to defrost it sufficiently for human consumption.  Then, as tradition demands, we stuck marshmallows on sticks, set fire to them and basically ate carbonated sugar.  Except for Tony who lavished the same amount of attention and care on his marshmallow and its cooking that one normally reserves for one's first born child.  He took great pleasure afterwards in telling us how magnificently he had cooked it.  I think it's fair to say nobody else cared in the slightest.

Eventually when it looked like the wood on the fire might give out we slunk off to our tents.  I had brought clothing to sleep in.  I put them on over the clothes I was currently wearing and crawled into my sleeping bag.  And shivered.  I kept on shivering all through the night.  At one point Jason stuck his head out of the big tent long enough to see if I was all right.  This was until somebody pointed out that the pitiful whimpering was probably one of his children.  I lost interest at this point and resumed my fitful, icy slumber.  I was informed later that I snored.  I know somebody did but I'm pretty sure I was awake at the time.

One good thing about the cold was that getting out of one's sleeping bag didn't actually make you appreciably colder.  Come next morning we emerged blinking from our tents, crunched across the frost covered ground, sat down in front of the freshly revived fire and didn't move for the next several hours.  At first we locked the children in one of the cars but after fuel for the fire ran low we let them out to "play" which essentially meant "fetch wood".  This they did with such enthusiasm that I started fearing for the well being of some of the trees dotting the landscape.  In between fetching wood they attempted to drown each other in the creek.  This is known as quality time with the children.  In fact I suspect the children's quality time was enhanced by the fact that none of the adults were prepared to move more than two feet away from the fire.

There is horse riding at Glenworth Valley, there is quad biking, there is, apparently, laser tag.  However all of those things meant moving away from the fire so we didn't.  Devoid of options and utterly desperate we started talking to each other.  In the course of this conversation conducted over the smell of burning flesh as we hugged hot coals to our respective breasts we discussed gender inequality (and decided on balance that it was bad) and the merits of censorship of children's books (ABSOLUTELY NONE WHATSOEVER, PUT YOUR LIGHTER AWAY TONY!!!).  I suggested (not for the first time) that we all eat a bucket load of cheese.  We didn't.

The entire of Sunday was really a preliminary.  Having put the tents up on Saturday the only reason why we were still there on Sunday was because we had to wait until the condensation on the tents evaporated so we could take them down again.  This took until about two in the afternoon by which time the children's inventiveness in sourcing (supposedly) dead wood was beginning to flag.  In desperate snatches we broke down our camp, returning to the fire to defrost occasionally, packed everything up, fished the children out of creeks, mudholes, sand pits and whatever else they had managed to get into and fled for warmer climes as fast as we could travel.  I don't think we left any children behind.

Tony is thinking about going back there in August.  I wish him well with that.


  1. A weekend well spent, I wish I was there...oh wait, I was. An eloquent and explicit summary of the coldest camping experience I have ever had the pleasure to endure. By the way, your cheese was too fancy and intimidating to consume.