My earliest memory of camping was a family holiday to Dalmeny on the NSW South Coast, we were right on the headland and a ripper storm blew in. Mum cracked it and packed us three kids in the car (I would say I was 4 tops) while poor Dad struggled to pack everything away so we could go home in the middle of the night.
Suffice to say Mum LOVED camping not.. They did buy a lovely little Coromal Seka pop top off roader many years later and travelled the country for some 20 years, there isn’t much they haven’t seen, but I guess tents were outa the question for her (could’ve been having three under three also – that would’ve done my head in).
My love of the outdoors came from Dad, Dad was a bushman and an excellent one at that. I started in Brownies, went onto Guides, girls were allowed in Scouts from Ventures upwards (where I had more hours under canvas than anyone else in the ACT – For the record I still hate bell tents), and onto Rovers where I had a lot of fun and did loads of stupid harmless stuff.
Anyway back to camping, we went to Dalmeny a few more times (Dad used to go prawning at night – waking up was awesome, crawlies everywhere), and fresh prawns for dinner. There was a large group of us and the kids all played together. We kept going back until a few of us got caught in a rip after the sandbar collapsed. We were lucky that day, I think that was the straw however that broke my mothers back so to speak.
Camping we did not venture into again as a family. What my parents started to do was take us to Queensland every summer for 6 weeks. I am not complaining, what an awesome holiday to look forward to as a kid every year (they did take us to Adelaide one year, we stayed in a van and froze! Went back to QLD the next year). This is where my love of warmth comes from I am sure of it.
It’s a fair drive from Canberra to QLD (about 13 hours I think) and we used to leave at 2am in the morning (I also picked this habit up from Dad). Dad would drive and I would stay awake and chatter to him. Dad would impart his wisdom about who did what and where in what year as we travelled through various places – really cool until you get it say 15 years in a row.
Dad had rules in the car, don’t touch the windows, NEVER slam the doors and if you eat anything the rubbish goes into rubbish bags – we never broke these rules, the threat of consequences was enough to stop us.
The car we used to travel in was a HQ Station wagon – big noisy V8 Petrol, we affectionately called it “The Bomb”. The Bomb was a tough old car with plenty of room, and a distinctive sound, but by gosh it sucked down fuel. We stopped at a station on the outskirts of Sydney on one trip to refuel – this was also toilet opportunity (another rule hold it till we stop, and don’t muck around in the toilets or we leave without you – I also enforce this one), and to empty any rubbish out. Well my sister and I went to the toilet and as my sister was in there, Dad started the car to move it. Well she went into meltdown like a tazzie devil kicking the door to get out thinking that the parents had left without her, I still snigger at this now.
We took the inland route one year as the Coastal Route had flooded, all I remember from this trip is a mountain, a goat track and another car coming at us from the opposite direction (I sat on the passenger side) – Dad got us safely down and then admitted to Mum that the brakes had also over heated and stopped working at some point on this mountain. Suffice to say I hate mountains and am not fond of heights; I go mildly catatonic on them.
We retired The Bomb from the annual trips when Petrol started to climb past the 90 cents per litre and then did the trips in Mum’s Barina (Beep Beep). Packing takes on a WHOLE new meaning in a car that small with 5 people in it and luggage for 6 weeks.
The inner tubes were deflated (we didn’t have boogie boards, and inner tubes worked just as well), and we had a bag allocation of one each (they were the size of a Kangaroo’s pouch). Wasn’t so bad as we lived in swimmers and thongs (flip flops not bum floss), the rules about doors, windows etc still applied in the Beep Beep also.
Three growing children in the back seat of a car the size of a hamster was tricky, but we made it work. If we fought we ran the risk of losing our trips to Sea World and Dreamworld. We loved going to the theme parks so would behave for the entire 13 hours.
I’m sure that my siblings knew that Dad would give us the who what when where why lecture so this is why they slept for the majority of the journey – They cheated. One year we all got personalised boom boxes for Christmas, they came with speakers. I think my parents regretted that decision, three different types of music coming from the back seat….
I could go on for hours reminiscing about family holidays. I look back on that time and think how lucky we were that my parents would do that with us. I also look at the kids who are getting out bush these days and think I hope you look back with fondness at these times, and spending time with your family. It was awesome and I wouldn’t change it for the world.