First time camping without Duncan
I'm pretty good at organising. Duncan was amazing at it. I only come in at pretty good compared to him. This past weekend however, not so good.
First camping trip without Duncan was always going to be an emotional one. Though confident I could do it, I had anticipated a few hiccups along the way. I was worried about the emotional state of the kids. I was worried I wouldn't be able to set up the tent. I was worried we'd be cold (though secretly loving the idea that we would be). The only thing I didn't worry about was the company I was in.
Duncan is my best friend. Just putting that out there so when I refer to my best friends in this blog, I'm loyally reserving the permanent place for Duncan, but these girls/ladies/powerhouses come second only to him, and are too good for the terms "friend", "good friends", "dear friends". They're my best GIRL friends. Three of them.
Two of my best friends ditched their husbands for the weekend so the kids and I could feel comfortable with moms only. One day I'll get to the stage where we can do the whole families thing, but for now, its all a bit raw. Anyway, these two amazing women did the whole mom thing with me because that's just who they are. They brought their daughters and I had my kids and the eldest brought a friend. My other best friend babysat our cat for the weekend. You may not camp, Petra, but Maeby loves you.
ONE PARENT CAMPING
Lots of space - heaps of room for bikes and the footy
Big beautiful creek to play in
Not too far for a weekend trip from Brisbane
Close to amenities (very important this weekend) - about 1/2hr drive to Warwick
No designated campsites, just rock up and chose your spot - you do need to book in advance though
The campground manager and his border collie were SO LOVELY!
Toilets are few and far between - this is problematic if you don't have anyone to stay with the kids at your campsite when you take one or more to the toilets. Its all or none with little kids. Squatting became our #1 form of exercise this weekend
If it rains, it is MUDDY - to the point that we saw many vehicles getting towed out by the campground tractor
I'll first put out the disclaimer that despite being a near disaster, this weekend was wonderful. Imperfectly perfect.
In one car, we had myself, my boys, and our dog. Carol's car had herself, her daughter, my daughter and my daughter's friend. Brooke came later with her daughter, firewood, BBQ gas bottle, and gin. She was clearly the most important vehicle.
We got to the campground after a cruisy but high traffic drive. Covid restrictions had QLDers staying in QLD and a lot of people needing to get out of the city over the (no)Ekka long weekend. Upon arrival there was a huge line up for Covid information recording and check-in, though it was managed well and we were through in about 5-10 mins. Lovely people at the registration desks. A small cafe, toilets, and the opportunity to buy local beef for the barbie.
Carol and I drove around for about 20 minutes trying to find the perfect spot. We finally did. It was great. We did contemplate and consider that Brooke might have a difficult time finding us, but after a couple of gins and soda (yes we brought some too!) we stopped worrying.
I bought a new tent for the four of us. Our other tent was bought for Duncan as a birthday present. It is big, hard to set up alone, and holds far more memories than I'm able to cope with. So to start this new stage of our lives, I bought a new one. Max (son #1, middle child) helped me pick this one out. It was fast set up, has two separate rooms either for extra gear or to get away from a sibling. Has a triangular canopy so water rolls off. And a great price.
Set up was easy as promised. Except there were no guy ropes. Or tent pegs. I hadn't left them at home, as it was the first time the new tent had been opened. Nowhere to be found. I cursed poor Freddy of Freddy's Sports, I cursed Oztrail for poor packaging and I cursed myself for not checking before I left Brisbane (something I'm known for and have been criticised for many times in the past). Lesson learned. I will check first from now on.
Luckily Carol had her husband's Land Cruiser, and luckily Will has great foresight, as he had extra tent pegs in the boot of the car. Day saved, we can sleep peacefully (or so we thought) and not fear the tent falling apart overnight.
The tent rocked, by the way. Slept 5 (us and Alex's friend) with extra space for luggage and a puppy.
We borrowed a king single swag from a friend so the girls could be on their own. Nearly 12 years old, hormonal and hating younger siblings, I thought they'd love the freedom, but still have the comfort of knowing mom was nearby, if needed.
Now, the lovely mom who lent us the swag is another amazing friend (and that's an understatement) who is friends with the three of us. You'll meet her in the next camping blog. She did admit to not knowing how to use the swag before dropping it off at our place the night before. And I have already admitted that I'm known for not checking things in advance. This proved problematic when Alex (only daughter, eldest) and her friend tried to set the swag up and there were no poles.
Its winter in Australia. I know, for anyone outside this great Southern Land that doesn't mean much, especially when it hits 27C in Queensland on a winter's day, and we're out in shorts complaining about the heat. Well, this weekend wasn't so weather-friendly.
There's a big beautiful creek running through Gordon Country, and despite cold overnight temps in a tent, no kid can resist playing in water. Within minutes, gumboots were filled, clothes were soaking wet, and kids were freezing and in need of a change. Since I was still unpacking the Prado at this stage, I went to the boot to find the boys' packed bag. Only it wasn't there. Not in the boot, not in the middle seats, not at the front with my bag on the passenger seat. No. It was at home, sitting packed nice and neatly on Max's bed, waiting to be put into the boot.
So there are the boys, dripping wet and shivering, with only the clothes on their backs, and one extra pair of trackies and a jumper. Between the two of them. Right about now is where I grabbed my second gin and soda and one for Carol. She laughed at the news, remembering how I held on to forgetting the butane cans at Anaconda on our last camping trip together, knowing I'd be holding on to this one for a lot longer.
We got through the day on what we had, meaning Alex gave up one of her tshirts, Max slept in one of my jumpers and Oscar (son #2, third child) used his dry jumper overnight.
I went into Warwick on Saturday to buy more clothing. See "close to amenities" reference above.
We almost didn't survive. OK we did, and we were never at threat, but Max believed we were!
Thunder and lightning and gale-force winds hit at about 11pm. Max and I were awake, so was Goose (puppy, female cattledog, age 4 months). How the others slept through it is beyond me. I was pretty sure the tent would hold, however since it was our first night EVER in it, there was a bit of doubt in my mind. I couldn't express this to my 2nd child who was convinced we'd suffocate and die if the tent collapsed on us. It didn't, but I'm sure its because I held the wind-struck wall of the tent for about 10 mins, just in case.
Max didn't sleep much that night, Goose barked at the thunder, water soaked into the tent (though not as much as poor Carol and Brooke experienced with their tents!) and Oscar woke up angry that he missed it all. The girls woke up glad there had been no poles for the swag and that they were in our tent for the night, and not blown into the creek.
The Next Day - Saturday
Wet, rainy, and cold. I couldn't do a thing until I had coffee. At least I had butane for the burner and a back up BBQ if I needed it.
I decided I really needed clothes for the boys. There was too much mud and an overflowing creek for them to stay even relatively clean or dry. By 9am Oscar was already in the creek, sitting on a rock, in his boardies and no undies. All class in this family.
Max drove into town with me while the other three stayed with Brooke, Carol, and their respective kids. It was an easy drive and lots of option for cheap clothes. And a bottle shop to grab Carol another bottle of well-deserved Sav Blanc. Turns out getting clothes was a good idea, because when we got back, we were one gazebo less and one soaking wet Oscar. While we were gone, there was a flash hail storm that lifted Carol's gazebo into the creek. Why wasn't it pegged to the ground? Ummm, because I was using all her pegs for my tent. (Sorry Carol). Why was Oscar so wet? Because he heroically saved Carol from getting wet by going into the creek for her to fetch the submerged gazebo and bring it within arms reach of her. Champion kid. Made me happy I went out of my way to buy him a fuzzy jumper and Fortnite shorts that ended up being the highlight of his camping trip!
Shout out to Kathmandu - one of Carol's lanterns flew into the creek with the gazebo but it wasn't until the next morning the water was running clearly enough to find it. Under water for 24 hours, and it still turned on. Very impressed.
The Rest of the Trip
Happy to say the rest of the trip was near flawless. It was sunny and clear as of Saturday afternoon, the kids had a blast all weekend, no fights or arguments from the kids, the dog was awesome, and we had more than enough alcohol to keep the moms going.
And, we found the new tent's pegs and guy ropes when we were packing up. They were under the tent. Guess we know what that lumpy spot was now.
This weekend was brilliant. The campground was all we had hoped it to be and we are already talking about going back in the summer.
We missed Duncan, and hate that he wasn't there to share the experience with us, but know he'd have been proud of our effort. And proud that I'm doing everything I can to keep his legacy going.