I know I've said it before, but I love my footy moms (for the record, this is rugby union, not league, AFL, soccer, futsal, or anything else). Not just my Harleys moms, but the ones I've known since Max was U7s at our old club and all our boys played together. When we moved to our new club a couple of years ago, leaving these moms was the hardest part. Of course we do the hard yards for our kids, but I knew I'd miss these ladies. My heart almost jumped out of my chest with joy when after our year at the new club, they all said they were moving over as well.
Let me tell you a bit about them, in alphabetical order.
Bonnie is a school mom and a footy mom. Her son Dexter is in the same grade as Alex (and they've been in the same class on and off over the course of their primary school years) but in the same rugby level as Max (the school age cut off date is different than the rugby age group cut off date). So I've known Bonnie well, and for a long time. She's an amazing friend. Over the years she's been my confidante and sounding board, and has helped me through so many things. Her and I became particularly close after she started working for the P&C at school when I was president. I adore Bonnie, and she's been there for me when I've needed her more times than I could ever count.
Keryn is one of the funniest people I have ever known. I don't know anyone that doesn't like her or anyone that she can't have pissing themselves laughing. Her son Dom is the coolest kid, clearly taking after his mom. Keryn was one of the main reasons I was disappointed to leave our old club - as we didn't have any associations outside of rugby, I was worried we'd lose touch with each other. So I was extra excited when I knew her and Dom were coming to Wests.
Nat and I are doubly (or triply) lucky, in that both of her boys were on the same teams as both of my boys. Her eldest, Josh, is similar to Dexter, as he is in the same grade as Alex, but same rugby age group as Max. Her younger son, Oscar, is on the same team as my Oscar. I call him K-Osc, which usually ends up being "Chaos" and suits our two Oscars perfectly. Not only that, but her husband Strak is one of the best men I have ever known, and he was good friends with Duncan and has become a great friend to me as well. This family means the world to my family and I feel so lucky to consider them our friends.
Two noteworthy things.
One. They all aren't just my friends, and their kids my kids' friends, but they were all Duncan's friends, too. They were all at the funeral, they all brought food when Duncan was sick, they drank with me, Strak whipper-snipped my yard and they are all just amazing. My heart hurts with love for them when I think about how much they mean to us.
Two. Bonnie and Keryn had never camped before this trip.
SPRING GULLY STAYS
ONE PARENT CAMPING
There are different parts to the campground - glamping cabins, camping with shower and toilet access, and bush camping - with porta-potties
Dogs are allowed!
Nice long stream to walk/play/swim/kayak in, and a big billabong at the end for jumping off rocks into
Not too far from Brisbane
There's a cafe and vineyard not too far from the campground if you feel like heading out for a few hours
There's also a llama farm nearby, who knew?!
Nice and spacious, but not overcrowded
Little to no mobile coverage (yes I see this as a pro!)
Porta-potties - bring extra toilet paper, just in case
If you don't get there early, you don't get a site near the water, but I guess that's the case with most campgrounds. If you have kids, you want near the water, so you can drink while they swim
Email/telephone booking, pay in cash on arrival. (I never carry cash and I like online booking)
I was a bit reluctant to head to Spring Gully this weekend. Not because I don't love it, but because the last time we camped here was with Duncan. We had a weekend here with the Pecheys (mentioned in previous posts) and it was one of the best weekends I'd ever had. It was hard to come back and know I'd be experiencing those memories.
So why did I choose it?
As I mentioned above, Bonnie and Keryn hadn't camped before, and though Nat is a seasoned camper, I had to make sure I picked a place that I knew, and that had a toilet. Toilets are a must for me anyway, but I needed to "provide" one that was adequate. Spring Gully is amazing, and I knew my kids loved it too. It made sense to choose it for this trip.
Sure enough, as soon as I got there, a flood of memories. The kids playing and swimming, me driving down with the kids and Duncan joining us after work, calling him to bring capsicum (bell peppers) because I forgot mine and I was on Drive Fitness 10 week challenge and couldn't get by without them, Brian and Alison helping me set up the tent because I had tennis-elbow and couldn't hammer in the pegs. Half of me loved the memories, the other half made me wish I'd chosen somewhere else. Luckily, there's gin for that other half of me.
Natalia (and the boys, Josh and Oscar, respectively known as Joshy and K-Osc) arrived at the gate the same time as we did, so we were able to pick our site together. We picked a spot down the creek a bit, under shade of a tree (which most campers say "NO" to but proved to be a clever choice in the end). Nat had a tent (biggest tent I've ever seen and probably twice her weight) and had a nice flat spot for it. The kids and I set up the camper on a spot that was slightly inclined but shaded. For future reference, choose flat over cover.
We all got set up without much fuss, whipped open a few drinks, and relaxed while waiting for Keryn and Dom to rock up.
We waited for a while. And then started wondering where they were. And then started wondering if they were coming. And we didn't have mobile reception. And Nat and I both realised we didn't know what kind of car Keryn drove so we couldn't even wave her down if and when we saw her.
I will note here that I am very organised with camping when it comes to other people. I'm fine forgetting my kids' clothes, missing tent pegs, misplacing keys, etc, but when it comes to others relying on my thoroughness, I really am, and I step up. So when Keryn and Dom were late, I started worrying that I'd misled them with directions to the campground. I gave the website, address, Google Maps reference, everything, so I was sure it wasn't because of me they could possibly be lost. And thankfully it wasn't. I'm actually not sure what happened, and I'm pretty sure Keryn isn't sure either, but at one stage she ended up at O'Reilly's, and realised that was not where they were meant to be. By the time they rocked up, she was more in need of a drink than anyone! Keryn and Dom were bunking with Nat and the boys (like I said, massive tent), so no need set anything up. Bonnie and Dex were bunking with all of them as well, but they weren't coming until the next night.
Because this was a footy weekend, aside from the moms, it was all boys. I didn't think it was fair to make Alex suffer for the weekend - she wouldn't want to be around obnoxious pre-teen boys, and the moms wanted to be able to swear and drink (well, I wanted to swear and drink, I can't speak for the rest of them) and I didn't want to have to censor my eloquent self with her hanging around, so I suggested she bring a friend. She brought her beautiful friend Giselle, whose parents are Sarah-Kate and Cameron, who I've discussed in previous posts. Alex and Giselle slept in their own tent, which was great for the boys and me with so much extra space in the camper. And, best of all, Giselle made me look like a total champ when she went home - her dad made a casual reference to the types of words I like to use in general conversation and completely astonished she said to him "Chantal doesn't swear, Dad!".
He knows better though.
I did warn ahead of time that there was a resident goanna at the campground. Usually it would walk one way along the creek in the morning, and then back again the other way in the evening. Leave it alone and it will leave you alone.
Apparently things change over a couple of years.
You wouldn't believe it, but goannas like dog food! And the last time we camped at Spring Gully, we didn't have a dog. Well, we couldn't get the fucking goanna away from our campsite! It was like a bad smell, just hung around the whole weekend. Goose was off her knocker with excitement and I'm pretty sure just wanted to play the whole time. It took all I had to keep her from running and licking it most of the time. Especially when it was eating her food. Even when we though it had left our site permanently, it would return, and sneak around our site, most likely to torment poor Keryn, who despite her South African upbringing, isn't a big fan of undomesticated animals.
I'm not sure why there were so many cane toads at this particular campground, but there were shitloads of them. Normally I would think because we were near a creek, but we always camp near some sort of body of water and we've never had them like this. Must just be Queensland. Anyway, the cane toads were heaps of fun for the kids and the dog (ewwww) and there were many casualties in the evening games of spotlight.
The cane toads really made their presence known one night though when K-Osc went to bed early, and the rest of us stayed up. Dom went in to change an hour or so later and came out shouting that there was a cane toad in the tent! Well poor Keryn just about shat herself wondering how in hell she was going to sleep in there that night, I was pissing myself laughing but secretly hoping that my kids had thought to zip our screen door, and Natalia was in the tent trying to get the toad out before K-Osc woke up and realised it was in there. Needless to say, that screen on the tent stayed securely fastened for the rest of the weekend!
No, there were no llamas at the campground. But there is a llama farm just down the road. Natalia and Keryn took Dom, Oscar, and K-Osc for a few hours on the Saturday, while the older kids had a chance to play around on their own (ie truth or dare down at the billabong where the grownups couldn't see) (fortunately we have amazing kids who were completely innocent and respectful of eachother) (not actually sure I told Cameron and Sarah-Kate about Giselle playing truth or dare...ooops).
They all had fun at the llama farm - I actually had the first 20 minutes to myself that I've ever had camping - with the odd check on the older kids downstream - so I had a gin and looked through a book that ended up being the wrong choice, so I just sat and enjoyed the quiet. Camping with kids, quiet doesn't happen often.
I'm not sure why but it seems to rain at least one day EVERY time I go camping. That may be a slight exaggeration. But it SEEMS like it.
It rained this trip. Lots. Earlier when I said you should never be on uneven ground in a camper trailer, rain is why. We got wet, the roof didn't cave in but probably should have considering the amount of water that pooled on top of it. The other reason to not set up on a slope is that while being on the ground, slightly slanted is ok, being on a mattress slightly slanted a few feet above ground is not ok. I had the worst sleeps, not only because I felt like I could roll off if I fell asleep (I couldn't actually roll off), Oscar kept sliding into me and was pretty much a koala both nights.
When we woke up and assessed the damage, which fortunately there was minimal of (no wind-torn tents or gazebos) both my camper and Nat's tent were covered in caterpillars. Fuzzy little fuckers that came out of nowhere. And while we thought there were heaps, when the campground owner was doing his daily rounds, he commented on how few we had, and that being under the tree was the smartest place to be. Other tents apparently were practically black.
Worth noting, I'm still two months later finding caterpillar cocoons that have been stuck and suffocated in the folds of the camper trailer that I missed when sweeping the walls and roof after the storm. Yuck.
Saturday and Sunday
Bon and Dex joined up with us later on Saturday.
We all had a fabulous evening and night - lots of food and alcohol and the kids ran around with glow sticks until they were too tired to move. As usual, I was in bed by about 830pm with the kids in bed as well but chatting away while I was trying to secure myself to the inclined camper mattress.
The next day was pack up. We all got going relatively early, none of us are really big sleepers-in.
I was pretty stoked I was able to help Natalia with the ratchet straps on the Navara. I also felt pretty guilty that I spent so many years letting Duncan fuss with them for our own things and never taking the time to learn them myself. So many things I should've done with and for him, but didn't. Now I have no choice.
Everyone stayed until our camper trailer was packed up. We did come face to face with a huntsman that had made itself quite at home in the jockey wheel of the trailer, and a green tree frog that had sought refuge underneath during the storm and just stayed the rest of the time. Keryn proved herself to be a quick study, going from never having camped before to helping position the kayaks on the camper trailer with ease and efficiency. That being said, she hasn't agreed to come camping again. Yet.
When I asked Cameron if Giselle enjoyed her camping trip (slightly worried that I was cranky and overtired for most of it) he said that she asked 4 times that Sunday afternoon when they were going to go camping with the Cutlers, so I figured that was the mark of a successful camping trip.
This camping trip was early December. I had intended on writing the weekend after like I usually do but with Christmas and school holidays, I was a total mess. I thought the kids home from school and me having a couple of weeks off for Christmas would totally refresh and rejuvenate, but it ended up knocking me down until only recently. We had this camping trip, Christmas, camping at Grafton and visiting Duncan's grave, another camping trip when we got back (which I still have to blog), water polo state championships, first week of school, second week of school, and another camping trip last weekend (which I still have to blog).
Rugby starts next week, and water polo is finished in a few weeks, and our next camping trip isn't until school holidays over Easter. That should give me some time to catch up the next two blogs.