It started ominously when we stopped to pick up Lady G from an outskirts train station and found her on a bench, hunched and huddled from the wind. It was here that we saw what should have served as the first warning for the dark outlook ahead: an old lady fell over in the rain.
We all rushed to help her but the old trooper was alright, so after seeing her get patched up we continued on our way, spurred on by the excitement of arriving at our idyllic camp spot.
But it wasn’t long before the lashing wind and dark rain clouds started to dampen our spirits. By the time we arrived at the camp ground pretty much all hope of starry nights and summer sun was stamped out when an eerie and macabre looking woman came and hissed at us, “soooo, are you going to stay?”.
When we all shot her glares designed to imply, ‘what the fuck do you reckon, that we drove for five hours so we could just park our car here for a minute?’ She pulled out a white sheet of paper citing a severe weather warning for the area.
“Ranger told us to move”, she drawled, “storms a’comin. We’s gotta watch for falling trees”. She allowed for a meaningful pause, or possibly it just took that long for her thoughts to form words, before adding, “the three of us can’t agree on what ta do”, and as if on cue, what seemed to be two of her closely related cousins emerged from the depths of the tent behind her.
We backed away from the Macabre Clan as Lady G whispered that “the freaks are going to kill us”, and even though Lady G is prone to hysteria, being a total city slicker unaccustomed to the glacial pace of some Australians, we all knew we wanted to heed the rangers warning and move the hell away.
But as we cast our eyes skyward to the towering old gums all around us, the only question was, where, in a national park that was full of, you know, trees, would we be safe from falling timber when this storm rolled in?
After some protracted group deliberation we finally settled on a spot. Then no sooner had we told the other groups of friends we were meeting where we had moved to, did the Macabre Clan show up. Beneath the pent up growl of the brewing storm, you could almost hear the low, horror movie type score of pounding piano keys as the wierdos circled around us, and settled on a spot less than a hundred metres away.
When it came time to further explore our surroundings, we found that the storm coming in off the east coast had transformed our placid holiday bay into a squall revenged coast line. Our clothes bellowed out around us, our hair looked electrified, and our toddler became possessed. Upon seeing the ocean, he repeatedly ran headlong to its open claws with the kind of zeal to suggest he was part water creature urgently heeding the call to return to his maker, the Ocean God. Not allowing him in to play in the icy 8ft waves that were dumping right on shore seemed to him an unjust torture akin to denying a pilgrim entry to Mecca.
That night, after eating our dinner in the dank, dark shelter of the public barbeque area with sheets of rain pouring down the sides, we were only too happy to retire to our little camper tent. But it was only a matter of time before the sanctuary of this shelter would too become stained, in vomit.
The Yang and I were woken by the unmistakable hurls of our poor dear boy violently vomiting in his little travel bed. The rain was still bucketing down outside as we raced back and forth between the camper tent and the car desperately trying to clean him up and settle him back in to what was to remain a vomit clad bed (we just mopped up what we could then chucked a towel over it, believing its important to establish from an early age not to be expectant of comfort and luxury – some kids don’t even have beds, let along vomit filled ones).
The rest of the night was spent in a fitful and restless state of anxiety, punctuated by my regularly getting up to hold a finger under the boy’s nose to check if he was still breathing, because, as I reminded The Yang, “Bon Scott died choking on his own vomit”. This turned out to be just the kind of reassurance The Yang and I needed to make sure we didn’t sleep another wink.
When the cold clutch of the morning arrived and I sat miserably eying off the toilet block imaging having to scrub The Boy’s bedding in a cold grey sink with a bar of soap and some billy boiled water, The Yang, rather sensibly, suggested taking the dirty laundry into town and having it washed. The notion of simply driving into town rather destroyed our carefully crafted illusion of camping in the depths of the wilderness (we had positioned ourselves facing away from the toilets and barbeques), but it sounded bloody good.
The car was the only warm place to be on this bizarrely and unseasonably cruel, cold day, but still, our dear boy was not happy. The Yang popped into the local doctor with him, just to be on the safe side, and the poor little bugger turned out to have tonsillitis. But he was a real trooper, and rather than turn back home with him, we had a few beers, and he seemed as good as new.
After two days of bitter cold wind and rain, the sun finally came out. Despite The Boy being irritable and tetchy, and me coming down with a touch of ‘stress-stroke’, things were looking up, for us. The same can’t be said for our beloved friends, who had the all too typical camping experience of encountering some space invaders.
It was a weekday by this stage and the entire campground was completely empty save for ourselves and our friends (and we had deliberately set up with space between us). Yet when a young couple and their two children arrived they set up camp right next to our friends, with barely a metre separating their tents.
We all sat around exchanging eye popping, jaw dropping glares, but didn’t say anything on account of the fact that the newcomers would have heard every. fucking. word we uttered. Unlike us, this couple seemed perfectly delighted with the set up (I think they couldn’t believe their luck at being able to leave their kids in the care of Miss APlus, who was left holding her own baby in one arm, and separating biffing toddlers with the other, all the while sporting a tight lipped smile as she declared it was “fine” to the other mother who was kicking back in her mosquito net harem shelter).
But the actions of these close campers only got more odd, when New Neighbour Man came over to our fireplace and wordlessly placed a pile of his wood there like some kind of territorial pissing. Given we were sitting there, and had been using that fireplace all weekend, we were totally baffled that he didn’t decide to go and piss elsewhere, like on one of the other twenty or so EMPTY fireplaces.
But rather than challenge him to a fire walking duel to declare who would reign over this fire pit, or worse, risk encountering some ‘fire and marshmallow’ bonding with these far too friendly strangers, we just went back to the barbeques. No sooner had we done this when we hear a big shout from New Neighbour Man, asking if we have some spare room on our hotplate….
We figured the best way to get away from these friendless freaks was to pack up and leave the next day, mainly because this is what we planned to do all along. So we pilled in the car and then spent hours upon hours fruitlessly cajoling the boy into having a nap on the drive, which he finally succumbed to, minutes from our front door.
Once we finally got home, The Yang and I relaxed with some ice cold beers on the back porch. Within the hour, right after we had all sent a series of ‘safely home’ text messages complete with virtual air kisses, beaming smiley faces and promises to do it all again, we were hit with a bout of gastro….