Wednesday, October 20, 2010

camping in the olden days

So who went camping as a kid?

We did -- nearly every holidays, it seems. My dad is a mad fisherman, so all the places we went involved rivers or beaches. Or both.
In north Queensland, that often means crocs, too, so we learned early to stay away from the water till Dad said it was OK. (But 'OK' didn't always mean we could swim. Because 3 little girls could easily scare away every fish within a 20 km radius.)

My own favourite camping spot was up towards Cooktown. Back in the day, the road was all dirt, and we used to pack up the Kingswood and quite often, pretty much blaze a trail in to the beach. If it had been raining a lot, Dad might have to renovate sections of the track. I remember him placing timber over one particular wash-out, which looked like the Grand Canyon to me, and then driving gingerly over it. In the Kingswood. Us Queenslanders, back in the 70s, we didn't need any fancy-schmancy four-wheel drives!

Arriving meant setting up camp (mum), scoping out the fishing possibilities (dad), and racing around examining everything while simultaneously keeping one eye peeled for marauding crocodiles or pigs or sharks (us girls).

Sleeping arrangements were simple. We had a sleeping bag on the ground (which was hopefully sand) and a big tarp roped overhead, that would flap all night. Combined with the constant wash of waves on the beach, and adult voices murmuring around the campfire, I can't think of a better lullaby.

We always got sunburnt. Usually hideously. Being white-skinned redheads, it only took about 15 seconds exposure to the tropical sun and we turned red. Back then, it was just one of those things. No-one wore sunscreen.
Night-times with sunburn were a torture in themselves, because it didn't matter how carefully you got into your sleeping bag, you ALWAYS got sand in there and spent the night feeling like you were being filed with a rasp.

And the BITES! Mozzies, sand flies, march flies -- they all itched like mad but if you were sunburnt of course you couldn't scratch them.

We ate toast that had been cooked over an open fire, and drank lumpy Sunshine milk. We dug in the sand, 'swam' in the first 2 feet of ocean, collected shells and coral, and amused ourselves without TV for days on end. (I don't remember EVER fishing though)
Occasionally, we might go shopping in a nearby town, like Port Douglas or Cooktown. Back then, Port Douglas had about 8 people living in it, and we camped on the beach. You couldn't see another light at night. Now, it's ugly. Full of resorts and people. Destroyed.

I don't know if there is a single place left where you can camp on the beach with a fire; these days you would probably be dragged away and arrested by GreenPeace. My kids might never know what it felt like to go to sleep under the stars on the beach, watching the firelight flicker and listening to the waves.

Progress, huh?


  1. It's weird that your family's breakdown of setting up camp duties is an EXACT mirror of mine!! Spooky, huh??

  2. I've never been camping in my life and have absolutely no intention of starting now. My idea of camping is a 5 star hotel with 24 hour room service. And a spa.

  3. Your camping sounds exactly the same as our camping... even the Kingswood! x

  4. Hubby and I used to love camping before the kids came I'm not quite game to go with the kids as I think it could be stressful...but now they are older it could be fun.....


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