Why We Love To Camp Out Under The Stars
SHORT HISTORY OF CAMPING
By Jock Serong
Cover photo by Hunter Manuel
Illustration by Nanda Ormond
Surf to hammock to surf. Few things go together as well as surfing and camping.
Through some accident of history (there’s no way the establishment deliberately favoured surfers in this) Australia abounds with great camping adjacent to great surf. In fact the only land use more commonly found around Australia’s iconic waves is lawn bowls clubs: another mystery of town planning. But the glorious union of surfing and camping probably has more to do with surfers being tightarses than it does with any noble return to nature. Camping’s cheap. Sometimes it’s plain sneaky.
Fishing also goes very well with camping but there’s that awkward sequel if you do actually hook a fish. Does anyone feel like gutting a squid? No. No. No. Right then...countery again?
You can’t sleep in when you’re camping, so you know you’re good for the early. A hot tent in the morning, that rubbery smell – especially coupled with a campfire hangover and furry teeth – is no place for a sleep-in. Even if you overcame the canned tuna halitosis there’s no prospect of mornin’ lurve because Kevin and Beryl from Nubeena have parked the Grand Tourer five feet away.
Grommets are very good at camping. This is because grossness is their natural state, and camping is nothing if not a festival of grossness. Don’t tell me you slept in those clothes. Is that a ramen noodle in your hair?
The big box stores like BCF and Rays have commodified camping so that a lot of this stuff is virtually single-use. Tentpegs are getting thinner, and will now bend double under the pressure of a mere foot. You can even buy wildlife at Rays now: you pour water on this packet of powder and next thing you’ve got an actual furry wombat bumbling around your deckchair.
Some types of “camping” are not camping at all. Wicked vans are not camping (but the back of a stationwagon might be). If there’s a toilet block, it’s not camping. If you can’t have a fire – not camping. These places are forms of imprisonment. Nullarbor roadhouses. Anything more than 80 metres from the beach. Caravan parks with lists of rules. Fascist managers on mobility scooters. Signs that say PLEASE CONSIDER OTHER RESIDENTS. Considering other residents implies no exploding aerosols in the fire, so we’re back where we started: not camping.
Rabbit hiding out under the Kami Highway overpass, on the other hand: that was probably camping.
Beer and food taste infinitely better around a fire. And wine! A five dollar camp chair turns Oxford Landing into Grange. The effect can be spoiled, however, by knobs and posers who insist on producing guitars just when you’re getting settled. There’s a stereotype that says these pests are Christians who want to do How Great Thou Art, but in reality an atheist murdering Powderfinger is every bit as odious.
Bad weather is your friend when camping. Aside from getting slapped in the face by the wet walls of a slack tent, it carries multiple benefits: on the east coast it’s likely caused by a westerly low that will being offshores. The sound of rain on the underside of a resting surfboard in the bush is one of nature’s glories. And it’ll clear off the survivors of last night’s pyrotechnics and harmonic farting. If all else fails, there’s the drive to a pub for a countermeal and a session in their toilet.
A sleeping bag half-inserted in its little bag-cover looks like Ned Kelly. You have to do this to get the visual, but it’s the best dad gag ever. Your money or your life! But no sleeping bag or tent will ever, ever fit back in the same package it arrived in – this is an immutable rule of physics, like Newton’s Third Law of Camping. Would it kill these people to provide another cubic inch or so?
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