Back to Basics - caravanners experience 6 nights in a tent.

Thursday, Oct 04, 2012 at 05:10

Member-Heather MG NSW

The morning of our departure has arrived.
Day 1.
When we decided to put our van up for sale, there was always a chance that it would sell before our booked two week trip to Mallacoota. A decision to cancel the trip was made if that occurred however when it actually happened last weekend we changed our minds and made a few adjustments so that it was still doable!
It has been ten years since we last camped in a tent but we used to enjoy it very much. The big tent was pulled out of the nether regions of the garage and with some difficulty we worked out what all the bits were for and how they went together. It was erected in the front yard to test for leaks with hardly an argument. Air beds were inflated to test for leaks as well. If both passed the test then we would go. All good so far.

Because we are staying for two weeks, our waterfront unpowered site was changed to one in the powered part of the park..still waterfront though....
I need to run my laptop to keep in touch, charge phone and numerous other small things but could have managed unpowered otherwise. What a tragic situation! We would much prefer to be up the unpowered end which is so much quieter but can do that next time when we return in our new caravan to test it our on the maiden voyage!

Friends have lent us a car fridge which will make life easier although the noisy motor running is already annoying us and reminding us of another reason why we got rid of the big 12v fridge in our van after its first trip!

I have packed a big power board, my Nespresso espresso maker, light, induction cooking plate, fan heater...so we are really doing it tough! In fact because we are taking the tinny and all the gear required for fishing...motor, fuel tank and safety gear, buckets and fishing rods ...we have the box trailer full. In case one of the air beds leaks, we have a camp stretcher, and we have our 'Little Wombat' portable BBQ/fireplace and a tub of wood for cooking fish and our beloved camp oven meals.

We are already giggling about what the reaction of the campers in the surrounding sites will be as we pull in and set up camp...I am also a bit concerned that my 'supposed' snoring will be a problem to others as apparently tents are not soundproof!
We are leaving early as we think it could take a few hours to get it all organised but hopefully there won't be too many arguments and tears.
I am thinking it may be a meal at the local pub tonight...although a mention has been made that 'maybe there will be fresh flathead for dinner'. We will wait and see!

Day 2.


Setting up the camp went without too many glitches...lucky we had a practice run through. It took us a while and due to unseasonally warm temperatures we found it tiring. It was quite a bit more work than pulling up in a van and setting up! We have been very spoilt and it is good for us to be out of our comfort zone.
I learnt a valuable lesson last night. Left a fully stocked toiletries bag, which included a very expensive re chargeable electric toothbrush, in the amenities. I had also just bought a Sea to Summit Light Hanging Toiletry bag and a 3 pack each of Go toobs and go tubs from the EO Shop and filled them with my favourite stuff...didn't get to enjoy them for more than one shower! I only realised it was missing this morning but by then unfortunately too late to find it waiting for me. Sad to think someone else decided to take what wasn't theirs but I guess it is my mistake! And it won't happen again.

We were pretty tired but found sleep elusive partly due to surrounding campers enjoying their evening...all happy sounds and not annoying. Its still school holidays so the place will probably quieten down a bit over the weekend. After they settled down, the air beds took a while to get used to but we did manage to get some sleep. Hopefully tonight will be a better one.

Our site has lovely views just as the unpowered ones have we usually stay in but it is the busy part of the park.

After getting the basics of the camp site set up, John launched the boat and went out to try for a fish, getting back just before dark. He decided not to keep the one flathead caught, although it was legal size, as it wasn't enough for a meal for the two of us.
The boat mooring ($4 per day) is just in front of the campsite.

Dinner was cooked on the induction cooking plate by electric light...coconut curry chicken and veg with rice. Hoping tonight will be a campfire meal although with rain forecast that may be a pipe dream! Our 'little wombat' portable fireplace/BBQ is set up in readiness and will be used any night which weather permits.

This morning we have been for a walk across to Bastion Point as well as a shopping excursion to try to replace some of the toiletries which I gave to some lucky camper last night!
The ifsherman has just left on another fishing excursion despite windy conditions and says he will be gone all afternoon. Its what we come here for...well what HE comes here for, I come because of all the lovely walks.


We do miss our van and we realise why we decided to buy one....when staying in a tent, there is no ensuite to visit in the middle of the night although a bucket (with lid) will suffice, the bedding is not as comfortable but its ok, the tent is not soundproof...might have to buy some earplugs, the site is not secure so valuables have to be locked somewhere! But its good to be so close to the earth and i would love it if we were out alone in the outback for short periods. We may travel with a small tent and gear to do the roads and journeys which our caravan simply cannot go. May...not will!
John returned with one flathead which was filleted and placed in the fridge for tomorrow nights dinner. It is not quite enough for a meal for the two of us.
The weather stayed kind to us and I lit the fire around 4pm so we sat around it, cooked a meal in the camp oven, and enjoyed the wonderful views and occasional company of neighbours who pulled in beside us this afternoon in a huge bus. Coincidentally they also have the same names as we do and (of course) are very nice people!


Day 2.

We had a much improved sleep last night and were surprised at just how warm it was inside this morning, compared to the outside temperature. The air beds have already required a top up and the tent a major clean and reorganise. We are both feeling far more at home in our tent than when we first set up and it's really very comfortable.

It was a cloudy start today with 10 to 20 ml rain predicted, although only light winds. We woke well after dawn broke to the screeching calls of parrots and other birds....wonderful to be so conscious of those sounds.
After breakfast, we managed to do a loop walk of around 2 hours across to the coast then along the beach and around Bastion Point before returning to the township. We only just beat the tide and as it was had to clamber over some rocks but at least the rain held off and we got some exercise. Mallacoota has a great network of walks so there is no excuse not to get out there and try to stave off the aging process!
We called by the local Markets held in the mud brick community hall then to the supermarket to collect a few items of food and picked up a weekend paper on our way home.

John set off in the boat as soon as we returned with packed lunch and instructions not to expect him back until 4 to 5 pm...and if strong winds occur to not worry unduly as, if necessary, he will go somewhere safe and wait it out. It is a very big waterway and with such a small tinny the waves can get quite big and treacherous to negotiate safely, especially with only one person in it. He has used a 20 litre bucket filled with water (and occasionally me) for ballast!
Since he left, the weather has deteriorated and I have the dropped the front of the tent to stop the rain and wind entering. Its cozy enough, but just in case..I have a very small fan heater sitting in the car which we carry usually in the van.

Day 3
As yesterday wore on, the temperature dropped and rain increased. Our tent began to show signs of age and by dark, there were a few small leaks. It was impossible to cook inside with the front dropped so we ate dinner at the Hotel and hoped when we left it would be fine.
How wrong we were...by now there was not only steady rain but also strong wind gusts and we beat a hasty retreat from car to tent. Insidde we found drips, leaks and small rivulets of water pooling in all the most inconvenient places...over the bedding and along walls. The entrance part was worse..we did what we could ensure the power board, cords and fridge parts were covered..but much was already damp.

It was a long and stressful night, with occasional drips of water landing on us, but we survived and the rain had eased by daylight thankfully. If it hadnt we may well have packed up and gone home! John visited the local camping supplies shop and paid a whopping $50 for a very poor quality huge blue plastic tarp which we eventually folded in half and secured over the top of most of the tent, all the while fighting strong gusts of wind which tried to turn it into a parachute. By the time we had finished this job and done a clean up of the inside, it was almost lunch time.

This afternoon John took the boat around to a sheltered place close to the campground to fish and I set off on a short walk past the golf club to Tip Beach and return...about 1 1/2 hours in all. Then it was an early shower and a relaxing sit with coffee and kindle, and time to enjoy the views.
Our plastic tarp made awful noises as the wind caught underneath and did its best to rip and tear it from us but thankfully as the afternoon wore on, the conditions calmed and tonight we were able to cook our meal...fresh flathead, then a damper, over the campfire. Its cool and clear but rain is forecast every day for the next week...however, so long as the tarp holds up, we should not have too many problems with that.

Day 6 (Tuesday)
This morning has dawned clear, sunny and calm...and things are looking good. We have had a couple of days of beautiful weather and when its like this, tent camping is wonderful. I feel so close to the earth and more conscious of bird calls and nature than when usually staying in a caravan park.
Last night as I walked down to the amenities well after dark, there were small groups of happy campers quietly enjoying the evening around various types of fireplaces.
We have been sleeping well so must have adjusted to air beds, and a good nights sleep always helps!

There is every imaginable typ of rig here...from tiny one man tents and rear entry caravans, to huge vans with every imaginable extra....awnings, annexes, boats......all in one small end of this huge park. Its nice here before peak season but I don't fancy being here at Christmas when the more than 700 sites are packed with large family groups, even if they are well behaved!

The fish continue to be elusive...one good bream and a (too) big flathead yesterday. John has just left to fish for the morning while the winds are low as bad weather is predicted to hit within the next 24 hrs; strong winds and rain!

Yesterday I did a two hour walk, also had a walk to buy groceries so had quite an active day. While on my walk, I was attacked by a small dog which wasn't restrained. It didn't actually bite me but came close a couple of times, baring teeth and growling, and I made a lot of noise trying to fend it off while the owner called it (in vain!). I eventually managed to grab a stick and if it had come back for a third attempt I feel sure that it would not have survived! Wish I had my walking poles with me but in future i will carry a strong stick and won't feel so vulnerable. Why can't dog owners be more responsible?

I am off to enjoy the day...after getting the campsite organised and tidy, which could take a while. it quickly seems to get messy, not like being in the van. And everything gets dirty...covered in dust or leaves...not really a problem so much... just different.

Thursday
I am updating my blog this morning from the comfort of my lounge room, having arrived home late yesterday afternoon. We had light rain overnight in th tent and this caused the front part to slump so not even I could stand straight to prepare meals or do any other chores. And the interior roof was still damp...which made us wonder what might happen in very heavy rain and strong wind!
John pulled the boat out of the water early and cleaned it before putting it on the roof of the car while I started to clean up...at this point neither of us having discussed when we would leave.

On his return, he visited the van park office and managed to book us into our favourite (unpowered) site for early April 2013 for a fortnight and they very kindly transferred our remaining 8 days site and mooring fees across to that time. We have always found the staff in this Council Owned Park to be very accommodating and once again, they did not disappoint.

So then it was a few hours of dedicated packing and finally, after a visit to the bakery for pies (across the road) for lunch, we pulled out around midday.

We were home by 4.30, and unpacked before dark thanks to daylight savings having startd last weekend. There is much to now sort through and wash however it all had to be done in readiness for the new caravan anyway, so its a job I am keen to get onto.

Many will probably view us as failures....but we did give it almost a week under trying conditions and the deciding factor was that the fish were not on the bite. So why stay when bad weather was coming (rain, hail, gale force winds, snow on higher peaks) and we could be better occupied doing jobs for the family close to home, and indeed at our own home. We want to prepare a flat area in the front yard and pave it so that our arrival witha van in tow is no longer a bit of a stressful event getting reversed up a slope and parked in a tight, angled spot.

Our camping experience was not all negative...I loved being outdoors so much, as it made the time more like our unpowered camping, and we do love the small township of Mallacoota with its friendly inhabitants some of whom now recognise us because of our repeated visits.
It has also made us really appreciate the comforts of travelling with a fully set up caravan and how fortunate we are to be able to afford it. I appreciate that each of us needs to decide what we need to enjoy our travels...and not everyone wants to do it the way we do but we still regard many of our sites as 'camping'...others may beg to differ.


Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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