Melbourne Age story today by Catherine Duncan

Submitted: Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 12:00
ThreadID: 13267 Views:3075 Replies:6 FollowUps:5
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(I could not help posting this from todays Melbourne Age which has a bit of stuff on the Outback. It is a story by Susan Duncan about her discovery of herself and her love of camping. It is long and while Willem is away I thought I would post it. It is a beautiful thing that someone could discover joy in the simplicity of camping! Andrew)

Camping is not for the faint-hearted. Only idiots would do this for fun, I thought, as I plunged into crocodile-infested country with my new husband on our honeymoon.
That was two years ago, and it was a nightmare experience after a lifetime of expense-account travelling and room service. But here I am doing it again.
On this trip, I left behind the camp stretchers, the down-filled pillows (with white pillowcases), the white sheets, three of the four camp ovens, the extra wine glasses (for unexpected guests), the white table linen and candlesticks. I am no longer a delusional bride. I know now not to take anything I value and wish to keep.
Bob and I fall into a common category of campers. We are middle-aged, semi-retired and reasonably fit.
Bob has been camping all his life. For him, it flows naturally; I suspect it will always be a learning curve for me. I suspect too that is one of the many reasons why I've learnt to love it. Nothing is easy, and that is the charm.
Not for us the giant Winnebagos complete with fridges, sofas and ensuite. Campfire chats reveal these people are often former managing directors of large national companies (caravan with bathroom, new four-wheel drive); stockmarket gurus (huge Winnebago towing a four-wheel drive on a trailer); or successful, self-made businessmen (4WD with trailer opening into palatial tent and kitchen).
Bob and I take a basic tent, a four-wheel drive, and choose wherever possible bush camping in isolated spots without amenities. I quickly learn to revel in the illicit freedom of being able to pee wherever and whenever I want. We set off in Bessie, Bob's 10-year-old, burgundy-coloured, much dented (mostly by me) 4WD. Our goal is Broome via Darwin.
By the end of our last trip, my old gardening shoes had cracked in the dry desert heat, and the wine glasses didn't survive the old telegraph line . road, the adventurer's 4WD ! route to Cape York, where the [corrugations shake your teeth :loose and the creek crossings (are better suited to boats than ;'cars.
I'll never forget the woman at Palm Creek, one of the last crossings south on the road, watching as we made a second attempt to get Bessie up a muddy, rutted, almost sheer creek bank.
"Tell me," she pleaded after we finally made it with only minimal damage to the running board, "that the scenery at Cape York is worth all this horror?"
"Well," I said, "it's really not that spectacular."
"I knew it! I knew it!" she screamed, rushing off to her husband, who was waiting his turn to ford the creek. She reached into the car and punched him. "I hate this! I just hate all this!"
But her husband's eyes were alight with joy at the challenge ahead, and he simply told her to walk while he drove. Then he closed the window and roared off. He made it first go and probably for a moment felt immortal. She sank into the mud, crying with frustration and anger, her designer safari clothes no longer recognisable.
In situations like this, you either learn to replace fear with caution or you don't get out of the car. On one camp at the Nicholson River, just outside Burketown, far north Queensland, Bob went fishing on an incoming tide. I stood beside him with my "croc" stick (useless, I know, but it gave me comfort) and miner's torch, scouring the shore for unwanted company.
As Bob whooped happily at a large bite on his line, I casually asked him what the two shiny lights were further down the bank.
"I think," he told me, casually dropping his rod, "it's a f---ing croc!"
We both high-tailed it to higher ground and sank into a reviving glass of wine, grins on our faces and feeling invincible.
After six weeks of being with your partner 24 hours a day, with virtually no privacy, no outside entertainment and no relief, I suspect only committed relationships survive intact. We are each revealed, time and again, at our weakest in situations where there is nothing to hide behind, no door to slam shut, nowhere to run.
On that first trip, my breaking point came as we set up camp on the banks of the Jardine River. We'd winched a fallen trunk that was blocking the track, and churned through deep drifts of sand, slipping and sliding, almost crashing into
trees. As I set up those silly camp stretchers I had insisted on taking, I jammed a finger in a hinge. I started to cry and could not stop.
I was covered in sandfly bites and was filthy, hot and frightened of the crocodiles that cruised by within view of our tent, and was just plain exhausted.
"This isn't working for you, is it?" Bob asked, dabbing antiseptic on my bleeding finger. I looked down at my filthy feet, black from walking through old campfire dust, and could not respond.
"We'll get you on a plane from Cape York," he said. "We'll leave tomorrow."
Every fibre of me wanted nothing more than to get on that plane. But it meant Bob would have to drive 4000 kilometres along tough and dangerous roads. Hard with two of you, depressing by yourself.
It was a turning point for me. I couldn't let him go on alone. We were partners, through good and bad. With that decision I found myself letting go of worries about danger, dirt, heat and discomfort. All that mattered was Bob's safety. At that moment, my commitment to him shifted from starry-eyed to steadfast.
At home, routines are safe and fixed and designed for easy comfort: come home, turn on a light, a tap, a stove, flop on a couch.
With each new camp, though, home is built from scratch. There is no such thing as too tired. If you are "too tired" to pitch camp at the end of a long day's driving along rainbow-coloured dirt tracks, there is nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat.
It is exhausting at first, when physical boundaries are pushed
to the limit, but fitness improves each day. The aches and pains of unfamiliar exercise diminish, new muscles appear in arms, stomachs feel flatter.
As your body changes, so too do the frames of everyday He. It's bedtime not long after the sun goes down. There is no electric light to read by, no television to invade your life.
The birds wake you in the dove-grey light of pre-dawn. What would seem like punishment at home becomes privilege in the bush. Every sunrise is a brilliant daily performance, every new campsite a home with a strikingly different view, hills the colour of wild salmon, silver deserts with soils that range from ochre to black, turquoise oceans, creeks the colour of beaten gold.
This kind of travel, I understand quickly, is not about ticking the boxes (been there, done that). It's what you learn about yourself and your partner that's the gift.
What is most extraordinary of all is the shock you feel when you look in the mirror for the first time in weeks. Who is that middle-aged woman staring back at you? Because, of course, you feel young again. And adventurous. And capable. And physically challenged. How you feel becomes, for once, the true measure of age.
What seems spartan at first soon feels liberating. One wash a day from a bucket of water, standing naked in an isolated camp, is more than clean enough. A single hotplate over a fire is ample for creating the most sumptuous meals.
By the time we reach Broome, I am ready for the luxury of our apartment ($300 a day) with views across Roebuck Bay. But at night, when we draw the curtains against the eyes of other guests, the bedroom seems tight and confined. And when I wake in the hours before dawn, there is nothing but blackness.
"I miss the stars," I tell Bob one morning. When I thoughtlessly tip my tea dregs over the balcony, camping style, and douse a passing young couple, Bob smiles.
"Why don't we move on?" he suggests. His five-star wife, he knows, has changed irrevocably.
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Reply By: Lone Wolf - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 14:24

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 14:24
I so much want to marry her!!!!!
AnswerID: 60759

Follow Up By: Andrew & Jen (Melb) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 14:54

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 14:54
I fell in love...................

...........................................with the tale and the beauty of a simple appreciation of the outdoors. I said to Jen that when she 'transforms' I will probably shed a tear ......she gave me that ' as if....' look.

FollowupID: 322327

Reply By: Truckster (Vic) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:25

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:25
did any one read all that can give me a 20 words or less explaination, i couldnt be bothered readin it all
AnswerID: 60766

Follow Up By: Andrew & Jen (Melb) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:30

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:30
Yuppy girl meets bloke, goes camping, hates the whole thing, back to five star, misses million stars, converted to camping.

(20 words)
FollowupID: 322338

Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:33

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:33
see ya coulda said that in the first place LMAO!

mate tried to convert the 5 star wife to swag camper, they are now both happy as can be!!

they got divorced.
FollowupID: 322339

Follow Up By: Andrew & Jen (Melb) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 17:12

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 17:12
Jen said we might try it instead of camping. Ahhh! she means the d...

I thought that with all the crap that is posted here that a little bit of well written prose, and a love story to boot, would lift the who tenor of this forum. It is a touching tale for those that immerse themselves in the story!!

How is that for bullsh

FollowupID: 322344

Reply By: Member - Toonfish - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:29

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 16:29
is this the same susan duncan (not sure of name?) that posted a few months that 4wd people think they are top dog up high with size to intimidate others?

there was a link to the story in here somewhere but i dont have time to look now.
AnswerID: 60768

Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 18:20

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 18:20
no Toonie, different person, one might say lady
Time is an illusion produced by the passage of history

Lifetime Member
My Profile  My Blog  My Position  Send Message

FollowupID: 322352

Reply By: Des Lexic - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 21:33

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 21:33
Nice post Andrew. Not crap at all. Hope lots of yuppies read it think that was a great article but not for me and stay at the 5 star resorts and leave the back tracks to us. But I think the lady says what we may take for granted and she says it very well.
AnswerID: 60813

Reply By: Member - Rick (S.A.) - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 22:57

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 22:57
Thank you for the thoughts & efforts behind the post(ing).

Isn't it eloquent?

The reason why we all do this stuff is actually quite hard to define, and to attempt to explain it to a 'lay' person is quite difficult. I'm gunna copy it & get my own words around it.


AnswerID: 60828

Reply By: Nomad - Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 23:10

Saturday, May 29, 2004 at 23:10
Andrew & Jen

What can I say??????? Forget any of the ignoramus's who don't have the nouse to understand what you are saying and feeling.

My wife was sort of similar. Noy for the camping but for the 4WD'ing. She had never done it before, so when we headed down the Jim Jim track in Kakadu and then down the creek to the falls, she thought I had gone mad. But after a night camping in the swags near Twin Falls she started to understand.

Now when I open the truck door, she wants to take off at every opportunity. We are not that young anymore but look forward to official retirement so that we can hit the road for many years and experience the wonders of this great country of ours.

Keep it up.

Bill & Jan
AnswerID: 60832

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