This has been a week of discovering the joys and discomforts of camping. Having never spent a night under canvas since my teens, I suddenly had two consecutive bookings for a night out in nature.
The first was my son’s class camp, that I was inveigled along to, as a parent helper: a night away with 24 kids and only just enough tents at a campsite on the beach, with 30 loaves of bread and a ton of sausage to sustain us.
It was a beautiful campsite, literally on the beach, with flat grassy lots to pitch our tents and an ablution block with hot running water – luxury compared with the camping of my youth, which was more of the scout camp, roughing it variety.
All I had to do was keep an eye on the kids and make sure that none of them headed out to sea, help pitch tents, which are a whole lot easier to put up these days than I remembered, with their pop up poles and so on.; plus try my hand at lighting the fire and braaiing half the shed-load of sausage that fond parents had sent along to make sure their cherished offspring wouldn’t starve.
My husband is usually the one to braai in our house, as a good South African male - it is a gender thing! But I hadn’t watched in vain and managed to produce a decent fire and cook the sausage without charring it too much. One tent had been forgotten at home and another turned out not to have the right poles, so the boys were re-allocated six to a tent, fitting in like sardines in a tin.
With the beach right there at hand we hardly had to organise any activities at all - they went from collecting crabs and coralling them with seaweed, to making kelp horns, to fishing, to splashing in the chilly water, to playing cricket and finding starfish. The girls, on the verge of adolescence, seemed to dive into the showers at every opportunity and spend ages in their tents eating chips and trying on make-up, until chased back out onto the beach, turning back into children again as they splashed in the water and dug in the sand.
I had a foreshadowing of what it will be like in a couple of years when Middle Daughter reaches that age and wanted to stop the clock and make these childhood years last longer...
A day full of unremitting sun and salt exhausted them enough for them to sleep eventually, once scary stories had been told and screeched over, until their teacher patrolled the tents to quiet the chatter at 10 o’clock. I managed to find a reasonably comfortable sleeping position on my foam mattress and the sound of the waves on the shore lulled me to sleep too, though dawn broke far too soon.
I felt sorry for the young couple who had set up camp on a deserted site earlier that day only to have us arrive and shred the peace and quiet with girly screeches and boyish hollering, as the bunch of 10 and 11 year-olds took over the air waves. They were up at dawn packing up their tent and trying to get a recalcitrant bakkie started, and I watched them push start it with a slightly guilty feeling, while I endlessly stirred a pot of 30 eggs in an attempt to scramble them for breakfast without burning them into an inedible mess.
A sunburned lip was my souvenir of the trip – Botox for free – plus a fine collection of shells. Our son brought home about forty stones he’d collected on the beach, weighing down his rucksack until it could hardly be lifted, plus sunburnt feet and backs of legs that made him tired and cranky on the second morning. I was relieved that we were having one night at home in our own beds before setting off on out first ever family camping trip.
Part 2 tomorrow, when far less sleep was had by all!
Labels: Children, Living in South Africa, School