TAKE the kids camping, they said. They’ll have memories they will treasure forever, they said. They were not wrong.
Without making a conscious choice, we have become one of those families that takes all the kids on adventures to places less known. We pack up the camper with copious amounts of pot noodles and bacon, drop the dog at the kennel and head off into the sunset, ever in search of that illusive secluded camping ground with good toilets.
December’s adventure led us to Lake Liddell near Muswellbrook, some 400km north of Goulburn. There we stopped for a rest next to the lake that is used for cooling the large nearby power stations. The view promised to be beautiful at night.
As we drove in we noticed there was nobody camped close to the water. Fantastic, we thought! We will have a great view all to ourselves! In hindsight, this was a big red flag and we missed it, probably due to having driven for five or six hours already.
We choose our camping spot by the water and started setting up. Did I mention it was around a thousand degrees in the shade? Eager to get out of the heat, we popped up the camper within minutes of stopping and, after we had it all unpacked, up blew the wind.
We now had 50km/h winds with a temperature of a zillion degrees and knew why everyone was huddled in the middle of the camping grounds, almost like pioneers with the wagons in a circle.
We needed to move camp and quickly. After a hasty and extremely difficult pack up, we moved and hid out behind some trees where the wind speed was cut down a little and reassembled our now slightly ripped camp site with mild concussion and six rowdy, amped up kids ‘helping’.
After dinner we sought out the water only to discover it was a mud bath with an algae problem. We looked to the horizon and saw a mist rolling in over that beautiful view. A storm was coming and it was a large one. It was at that point we realised our camper hadn’t had a wet weather test. Turns out it leaks and that leak was right above me. An interesting side note about power stations: they need lots and lots of coal, delivered by trains that are nearly a kilometre long. All night.
At dawn the storm abated enough for us to get breakfast sorted. Fresh from my evening of water torture, I decided a shower was not necessary. It was time to hit the road. Just as we folded up all forms of shelter, the heavens opened again, filling our camper with water and ensuring us wet pants for the rest of our day’s driving.
A few kilometres down the road we learned a very valuable (and expensive) lesson about not rushing to pack up when the camper popped off the tow ball and broke things. It was at this point the universe realised it had taken things too far and decided to stop raining. I channelled MacGyver and patched things up to get us another 400km north.
On reaching our destination of Tingha in far northern NSW, we were able to set up our camper under shelter and spend Christmas in the bush drying ourselves out. After all that, the kids had a fantastic time and, in the end, that is why we do these things to ourselves. Right?