I am, at this very moment, basking in the glory of a victory.
Daddyken, for some weird primal reason, bought a tent a few years ago, presumably with the hope that I would eventually want to camp anytime soon. My requirements for a camping trip includes running water – both hot and cold for a shower and an actual flushing toilet – all within the confines of my own tent, decent cooking facilities, comfortable beds and not having to carry my own accommodation with me… requirements which funnily enough weren’t conducive to the type of camping trip he had in mind.
He and the Cherubs happily camped in the backyard for a few summers, while I communicated with them from within the comfortable confines of our house via a walkie-talkie. I thought it a most satisfactory state of affairs until I accidentally organised a day trip to Cockatoo Island in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Unfortunately it had camping facilities which I was impressed with, and then Daddyken played his For my birthday I would like to go camping card.
On Daddyken’s birthday, the day started out lovely – warm and sunny, with blue skies and serene fluffy white clouds above us. We drove 10 minutes to the ferry wharf, lugged our 4 sleeping bags, 1 camp chair, tent, snacks, dinner, 2 air mattresses, 1 mallet, air pump, clothes and other paraphernalia onto the ferry and in 5 minutes we were at Cockatoo Island. I know, I know – it’s not a bona-fide camping trip out in the bush where we’re communing and roughing it with nature – but that pull-along suitcase weighed a tonne ok?
We pitched our tent close to five women who had opted for the glamping option (tent, bed and chairs are already set up for you) and had just started a bottle of wine.
By the time we finished pitching our tent into the hard dry earth in the windy afternoon, the women were onto their second bottle of wine. At least.
The afternoon was idyllic. The Cherubs climbed down the rocks that surrounded the island and played in the water. We explored the island’s buildings which were mostly built by convicts, sandstone tunnels built during WWII, discarded ship yards (ships used to be built here for the war) and made seagulls furious by peering into their nests.
The evening sent the day-trippers home, and in the half-light of dusk, the island transformed into an amazing communal world where there were no fences to keep people from traipsing right across the front, back or side of your tent. Kids played handball and soccer in the open spaces, music wafted in from the wedding across the other side of the water, the women campers were still into the wine (we only ever saw them drinking by their tents, walking to the cafe to buy liquor or walking back from the cafe with liquor), kids scootered around, seagulls squawked, families cooked dinner on the BBQs, we ate our sushi (who wants to fuss with sausages when you can eat sushi purchased earlier that morning?), we admired the tents adorned with Christmas lights, toasted marshmallows in the bonfire and the Cherubs did not once ask to play on our phones.
And then night came.
A camper tripped over one of our pegs and confiscated it. With horrifying images of being executed in the dark of night by vengeful campers, I apologised profusely, retrieved our offending peg and hammered every peg in until they bent. The change in temperature from day to night caused the Cherubs’ asthma to join the camp-out, so they coughed, wheezed and their noses ran. For fear of being eaten alive by mozzies (and also execution by revenging campers) I zipped the tent up securely so we could slumber uncomfortably in an extremely small, hot and stuffy space not designed for unseasoned campers. Memo to Seagulls: There is absolutely no need to SQUAWK all night. I get it that your rookery is close by and you’re trying to protect your chicks and eggs – but ALL night? Really? Don’t you need a rest so you can squawk even louder during the day since you’ve built your nests right next to the walkways of this island where at least a hundred people tramp through every day? The volume of the dance music from across the water competed with the rhythmic coughs from the Cherubs. Now I know why those 5 women drank all afternoon. Did you know that not all campers sleep at a reasonable time and walk around discussing in high volume how the contract hasn’t been signed and so they won’t be able to go in extremely close proximity to the sound absorbing walls of your tent ? We should have brought pillows because that would have helped Soccer Boy with his blocked nose and he wouldn’t have had a sore neck and woken me up each hour to reacquaint me with his woes. For your information, Cockatoo Island is very well lit, so when you get up at 1 am to take your Cherubs to the toilet because they can’t sleep because it’s hot and stuffy and loud and they’ve got a runny nose and they’re not comfortable and you were just on that magical cusp of sleep – you won’t stumble around in the dark and trip over a tent peg (which should have been hammered into the ground properly in the first place). The patter of rain on the roof of one’s own home is comforting, but the patter of rain on the tent roof IS NOT. Also for your information, the first ferry of the day from Cockatoo Island back to your car which will take you back to your home where it’s quiet, you don’t have to rock on an air mattress with 2 wiggly boney kids, there’s pillows and no seagulls scream at you, DOES NOT start at 4 am. So when your Cherub tells you he wants to go home NOW, you can let him know that you’ve already made it very clear that even though you would also dearly love to get off this wonderful adventure that THEY all so excitedly embarked on – We. Can. Not.
And then morning arrived at 6:30 am courtesy of the violent rock of the air mattress as the Cherubs sat up and chatted like they slept like, well, angels all night.
Daddyken said Let’s never do this again.
I would have video taped that statement, but based on the night we had, I knew I didn’t even need to bat an eyelid. I couldn’t anyway, my eyes were so tired each time I blinked I ended up having a snooze.
We performed our toilette, ate breakfast, packed up and joined the throng of bleary eyed campers at the ferry wharf.