camping disasters – an epic – part two

Continued on from here.

It was about 1.30pm when Bean left. Given that we had no mobile phone reception that far out of town I didn’t bother getting my phone out of the car when he left and I don’t wear a watch these days so I wasn’t able to keep track of time. I knew it’d take him about 45 minutes to get back into town and then at least half an hour to get a car trailer organised, another 45 minutes back out to the car and yet another 45 minutes back out the camp site, so I wasn’t expecting him back for a while anyway, no point clock watching.

A while later the sprogs were getting cold after swimming for so long and they were asking for food so I took them back to the camp site with the intention of cooking an early dinner. At the camp site I was met with several food related problems…

The ice in the esky had melted already and the food was begining to get warm.

The esky had become a temporary ant’s nest (I thought eskies were well sealed too!?).

The frypan, bowls, plates, mugs and cutlery were all still unwashed from the previous night’s and that morning’s meals, and to top it all off the dishwashing detergent was in the kombi on the side of the highway several kilometres away!

By this stage the overtired, disappointed sprogs were complaining loudly about their empty tummies so I gave them a banana each. The camp site was in the belting sun, no shade at all, so we hid out in the hot tent and ate bananas until the whole 2kgs of bananas that we’d brought with us were gone. Dinner could wait until Bean got back with the dishwashing liquid and some ice for the esky. Until then, the esky would stay closed to conserve whatever chill was left in the water that half filled it.

Sprout asked me when her bed would be made up, and I told her it couldn’t happen until her Dad got back with the air mattress pump and the bedding.

Moe asked me for more food.

I asked a passerby what the time was. Twenty to six.

Wow. I had expected that Bean would be back by then. I had asked him if he thought it’d be best if we all went, just in case he needed some help, or something came up and he couldn’t let me know about it. He didn’t think it was fair to expect the sprogs to sit in the for hours all over again, not after the previous 24 hours. I had to agree, and hope that things went smoothly for him.

At twenty to six I began to curse him. Why was he not back yet? Why was I having to fend for myself at a camp site with two cranky, hungry kids and some vital camping stuff missing from the equation?

After eating some nuts the sprogs and I went for a walk. We asked someone at a neighbouring camp site what the time was. It was 6.30pm. The man asked me if I was ok and it was then that the dam broke and a floor of tears poured forth.

No, I most certainly was not ok. My partner left 5 hours ago to deal with our broken down car, it shouldn’t take so long, he wouldn’t leave us for that long without bedding at the very least. He would have been eager to get back to us. I was very worried something had happened and I had no way of contacting him. The men and woman at my neighbouring camp site were very kind, and well set up. They assured me that sometimes things like moving cars take longer than we anticipate and they lent me their satellite phone to call Bean, but the call went straight through to message bank. He was probably out of range. It’d be ok, but oh how it felt like it wouldn’t be. I was so worried about him. My camp site neighbours called their adult daughter who lived in town and asked her to go around to our house and see if he was there, or if the kombi had made it back at the very least, then to call the police and see if there had been any accidents reported.

Finally, just after 7pm, Bean pulled into our camp site in his parent’s car. I felt so relieved, and so furious. I thanked my neighbours and went and cried and swore at Bean.

We got the air beds inflated and begged some dishwashing liquid from another neighbouring camp site. Washed up what we could, salvaged what we could from the ant infested esky, filled it with a new bag of ice that Bean had grabbed in town and put it inside the tent, safe from further ant attacks. For dinner we had more sausages and some hashbrowns. By this stage I had given up feeling stressed about the complete lack of nutrient value in the dinners we’d provided our children for two nights in a row. We warmed up some water for face, hand and feet washing then got the sprogs into bed at around 9.30pm.

Bean and I then sat down to drink a mug of hot chocolate each and take a breather and catch up on the incredibly stressful afternoons we’d both had. I cried. Oh how I cried. This is not what camping is supposed to be like! I love camping. I’m supposed to be having a nice time. I thought you were dead. I want to go home. Please can we give up now and go home tomorrow morning… Oh how miserable I was.

The tent flapped in the wind all night long, and coupled with the mosquitos that had made it into our tent, made for a sleepless night for me.

At 5am Sprout woke up crying. She was hungry and really wanted food.

Bean tried to keep her quiet but she woke Moe anyway. After much coaxing and some cursing they were both asleep again and we got another hour of sleep before the day had to begin.

Bean took Sprout and Moe to the water’s edge for some fishing while I stayed at the camp and did some journalling. They were back soon after, having given up because stress levels were already high and Bean had become sick of explaining to Sprout that fishing wasn’t as simple as casting out and reeling back in immediately to find a fish fillet at the end of the line!

Bean agreed with me that it was time to go home. Only, by that time I wanted to try to salvage the weekend. Our helpful neighbours had left and they had a much better camp site than ours, with a path right down the hill to the water’s edge and some shade too. We decided to move our camp once more, but just 100 metres this time, not 20kms! Down came the tent, and back up again.

The ice in our crappy esky had melted again so we needed to head back to the general store for more. We went for a quick swim, had a snack and all hopped in the car, hoping that the sproggets would sleep on the way there. Thankfully the sprogs slept, which was about the only useful thing to come out of that drive. The general store was out of ice. The closest place to get more was a further 25km away, turning a 40km round trip into a 70km round trip.

It was then that I proposed we admit defeat. That we go back to the camp and have some avocado and tinned tuna sandwiches for lunch, sacrifice the food in the esky to the warm-esky Gods and spend the afternoon by the water’s edge until the day cooled down a bit when we could then pack up our camp (yet again) and go home. Bean agreed. It was definitely time to give up.

Back at the camp we had our lunch, paddled for a while in the shallow, clear water of the beautiful Waychinicup inlet and then began our final pack up. We packed some, then we swam some, then we packed some more. We had the car packed and ready to go by 3pm so we went down to the water for one last swim before bidding good riddance to that particular camping adventure.

This camping trip cost us a lot financially. A couple of tanks full of fuel, with all the running about. A whole lot of good food wasted. Money spent rather unnecessarily on camping equipment that wasn’t quite right but was just a bit of a compromise because we needed something like it to go camping with and we wanted to go camping NOW. It’s put us in a pretty terrible position for the week ahead with several hundred dollars worth of unexpected costs and an unknown amount of damage done to my kombi. We don’t know if we can get away with simply having the carbies cleaned and/or replaced or whether she’ll need a full engine rebuild. Obviously we’ll begin with rebuilding the carbies and see how she goes.

Still, we’ve learned a lot and won’t make this disaster our last camping trip.

In future we’ll make sure we’re well set up with camping gear relevant to where we’re camping and what we want out of our camping experience. We’ll most definitely never take the word of other people who tell us that a camp site is “great”, and we’ll choose to camp only at sites we’ve seen for ourselves before we arrive with a car load of camping gear and heads full of expectations of a fabulously relaxing weekend. We live close enough to heaps of gorgeous places that we can make day trips to scope out the suitability of camp sites for future trips. We’ll also never take my poor kombi on a gravel road again, and we’ll never rely on duct tape to keep the air filter on either! I have to say, I’m rather fond of the idea of owning a satellite phone too. That would be very useful given that so many of these places don’t have mobile reception.

As far as the kombi goes, this is probably the nudge I needed to learn about the engine. I know enough about kombi bodies, but up until now I’ve shied away from learning about the mechanics, figuring that I’d learn when the time to pull the kombi off the road and restore her came*. May as well start with a carbie rebuild eh?

Photos from the nice parts of our weekend to follow in (yet) another post.


*The time to take my kombi off the road for restoration is getting very close by the way… Van Halen (Bean’s kombi) is probably a couple of months worth of weekend body work away from a respray and new interior then it’ll be Brigit’s turn.

posted by wildecrafted in journal,volkswagen and have Comments (7)

camping disasters – an epic – part one

This week Bean had Thursday and Friday off work so we decided to make the most of the four day weekend and go camping.  I should be sleeping in a tent again tonight yet here I am, at home, Saturday night recovering from the trauma of our prematurely aborted camping adventure.We really shouldn’t have even let it go on as long as we did, in hindsight the wisest move would have been to give up the first night.

It was truly awful. I don’t know if we could have had a more terrible time if we’d been trying!

I had been so looking forward to camping. I love camping.

We spent all of Thursday morning preparing our camping gear (most of it borrowed from Bean’s parents, some of it we already owned and the rest of it bought new) and packing the kombi before we set off around 2pm. On recommendation from Bean’s workmate we first went to Cape Riche, arriving at around 3.30pm.

Cape Riche is 18km down a corrugated gravel road, not the greatest of fun to drive down, so I’d hoped it would be great. Obviously hoping was futile because it was horrid. Black dirt everywhere, no shade, certainly no privacy and already completely full of Commodores, Falcons and four wheel drives emblazoned with Australian flags in celebration of Australia Day, a day we don’t recognise as being cause for celebration. Definitely not our scene. So, it was back down the 18km of gravel with a bump, bump, bump…

We stopped in at a general store in Wellstead and asked for advice on where to camp. We were told to try Boat Harbour 7km up the (sealed) highway and then 17km down another gravel road. A horrendously corrugated gravel road.

At Boat Harbour there was more black dirt, softer than at Cape Riche, and the poor kombi got bogged when Bean tried to turn around. Some generous folks towed us out and we discussed whether we’d stay there. Black dirt, deep water all together too close to the camp sites and very little privacy didn’t particular inspire either myself or Bean so we agreed not to camp there either. The people who pulled us out suggested another camp site but I was beginning to feel rather sceptical about taking other people’s word when they told us a camp site was “great”. It would appear that some people have differing opinions of what equates to a “great” camp site. Who’d have thought? People have different tastes! 

Back down that horrible gravel track, narrowly missing a collision with two rogue sheep, and we talked about whether we’d try somewhere else or just go home. Remembering Waychinicup, a camp site some friends had said was their favourite, we looked it up using the GPS on Bean’s phone. Brilliant! It was between home and where we were, with a short detour down yet another gravel road, so we thought we may as well check it out on the off chance it was awesome. When we got to Waychinicup and had a quick look around we realised it was indeed very nice, and also very full.

Disappointed, we drove away arguing about our next move. I was ready to go home and admit defeat, vowing never to attempt camping east of Albany again. I mean, why would I? With beautiful Denmark and Walpole lying west of Albany. Tall trees, nearby beaches, rivers… why would I choose scrubby coastal bush surrounded by brown paddocks and tree farms?!

Anyway, Bean wanted to check out the camp site suggested to us by the generous towing folks at Boat Harbour. They’d suggested Betty’s Beach, which was on the way home from Waychinicup.

Down another gravel road, we reached a point where we could turn left for Norman’s Beach or continue slightly right for Betty’s Beach. Norman’s beach was closer and by this stage it was getting late and we were a bit sick of gravel roads so we chose to turn left. Arriving at the camp site we noted some more black dirt (do we detect a theme here?), although it was in the shade so not hot under foot, and suitably private camping spots on the banks of a very shallow river.Feeling relieved that we’d at least found somewhere to pitch a tent for the night we decided to stay at least one night.

When we opened the tail gate of the kombi (one of the few doors with a brand new seal) we discovered that everything was covered in a thick layer of fine red dust from all the gravel roads. We brushed or shook off as much of the red dust as much as we could and hastily set up camp, racing against the setting sun and the ever increasing whines of tired, hungry children who’d been stuck in car seats for the past 4 hours! We hoped desperately to have food, shelter and bedding sorted before the fractious whinging became full blown meltdowns.

They coped so well really, stuck in the car with uncertainty hanging over their heads… Would we camp out? Would we go home and disappoint everyone? I was at the point of full blown meltdown and I am neither a 4 year old or a 2 year old.

Hope as we might, meltdowns did start before we had the camp properly set up so we settled for the quick dinner option of sausages with tomato sauce. No, vegetables not included. Eeep, the (rather dominant) health freak part of me wasn’t too impressed.

We then heated some river water to wash the sprogs who had managed to get themselves covered in bubble mixture and black dirt in the short time since we’d been there. We finally tucked the sprogs, and ourselves, in bed at about 10pm. What a horribly stressful afternoon!

One brilliant thing I can say about that camp site is that despite being right on the river’s edge we didn’t notice a single mosquito, very unlike our home which is just riddled with mosquitos. What a blessing! Moe reacts quite badly to mosquito bites, worse than the rest of us, so it was lovely to be outdoors of an evening and have no irritating mozzie bites to deal with.

That night Moe slept 8 hours straight. A real blessing, and a first. His longest unbroken sleep before that would have been around 6 hours. I’m still amazed that he slept so soundly on the air mattress next to me as I tossed and turned all night long, making it move a lot. At 6am he woke and the first word to escape his lips was,


We’d been telling him for days that we’d go camping at the beach and so there he was at 6am, desperate to go to the beach.

We got out our box of “just because we’re camping” cardboard flakes breakfast cereal and had a quick breakfast before grabbing the fishing gear and heading to the beach.

We’d been lulled to sleep the night before by the rhythmic crashing of the waves on the shore so we knew there’d be waves, but we were certainly not prepared for just how rough it was. It was totally unsuitable for sprogget swimming.

The river mouth provided no better swimming option either, being too hard for the sprogs to get down to.

The sprogs both cried in disappointment at how far they’d walked up a steep sand dune to get to a beach that was all together too dangerous for them so we decided to go for a day trip to Waychinicup. If we couldn’t camp there we could at least spend a nice morning there before coming back to our own camp site for lunch and a siesta.

We piled into the kombi and headed back up one gravel track and onto another, arriving at Waychinicup at 8.30am. On arrival we learned that a couple who had camped there the night before were leaving so we asked them if they’d mind us pitching our (older, smaller) spare tent at their site to claim it while we went back to our camp site at Norman’s Beach to pack up and relocate. They were very obliging so we got to it.

The swim could wait! We were going to camp there and spend three glorious days by those calm waters. It was time to get moving!

Back down the gravel track and onto the highway, and the kombi backfired somewhere along the highway. The kombi doesn’t normally backfire, and I joked that it was her way of vocalising her distaste for all the gravel roads we’d taken her down over the last 24 hours. I joked too soon…

A short way down the highway she conked out good and proper, and there was no starting her again. She really had been protesting about the gravel roads, or more to the point, the amount of red dust she’d sucked in to her engine…

My poor, faithful, reliable kombi. Oh my dear. I wanted to cry for my sweet car, that I love just a little more than a person probably should love a 41 year old hunk of metal.

After not too long a man pulled over to see if we needed help. We had condluded there’d be no fixing the kombi on the side of the road and he offered us a lift to the general store a few kilometres down the road. I declined, not wanting to take the sprogs in a car with no children’s seats. I suggested Bean go and I stay at the kombi with the sprogs. The man then told me it’d be getting unbearably hot on the side of that highway, with no chance of breeze. He’d just retired after 40 years as a cop and felt confident he could talk his way out of a fine on the off chance a police car was on the highway in the next 5kms. Not caring about a fine, but about the safety of my children I realised that the chances of having a car accident were slimmer than the chances of heat stroke from being stuck in the car for the next couple of hours (at least!) that it would take to get help 50km out of town. We decided to risk it, and strapped the sprogs in with regular seat belts.

When we got to the general store we bought ice creams and used a pay phone to call for help. To join road side assistance was going to cost more money than we had to spare and we couldn’t get through to Bean’s parents so Bean decided to hitch a ride into town to sort out some help. I stayed with the sprogs at the general store, sitting in the shade of some trees outside singing songs and making little people out of sticks, honkey nuts and dried leaves, for just over two hours until Bean came back with one of his parent’s cars.

Bean’s parents had loaned the car for the weekend so we finally moved our camp from Norman’s Beach to Waychinicup. At Waychinicup we ate a banana each then set up the tent and left it at that. The air mattresses were still deflated and the bedding left in the car. We took the sprogs for a swim at about 12.30pm then Bean left us at the water’s edge to drive back into town to get a trailer to tow the kombi home.

To be continued…

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