30 March 2008

The "joys" of camping

When it comes to camping I am a real wet blanket. Sue loves it and to my shame I can count the number of times that we have gone camping on one hand. And it all goes back to being "traumatised" by childhood experiences of camping and caravaning.

Pa's idea of camping was to rough it. Accommodation was usually a bucksail spread on the ground and folded in half, and everyone would stretch out under it, like sardines in a can, on the hard ground enduring a miserable night. The "lucky" ones got to sleep on the car seats.

One day he came home with an old army surplus canvas bell tent, which was used on family camping trips for many years, until it eventually rotted away. That was the only luxuary - we still all slept on the ground, or as kids in the back of the old Bedford van. Lighting came from an old tilly lamp, so when it got dark there was nothing to do, but go to bed

He was a real "do it yourselfer". The old 1948 Bedford was dragged home, one day minus an engine. No problem for him. He removed the engine from his Vanguard and hey presto we had a bigger vehicle. Did I say no problem. Servicing cars was never high on his agenda, so we never went on a holiday, without a breakdown. Somehow he always got it going, with a lot of swearing and cursing and sometimes with the help of some wire, removed from a farmers fence.

Then came the caravaning phase. He decided to build his own. The six berth caravan was a labour of love - it was not a thing of beauty, but on the inside it was luxurious and comfortable. The stove fridge and lights were all powered by gas. We each had our own drawer - every last detail was attended to. Or so we thought. He even bought a new car, a Rover 105R, to tow it - a nice car but not exactly ideal for a family of six..

I will never forget that first holiday in 1965.

We had not travelled more than 25 kilometres, when I saw the car being overtaken by wheel. It was quite spectacular, it suddenly veered off at an angle, shot up the stay wire of a telephone pole, flew off and disappeared in the bush. It was the left side wheel of the caravan. When the wheel was eventually found, replacement wheel nuts were taken from the car and the other caravan wheel. And off we went.

Not long after that we had the first of about 10 flat tyres on the trip. The tyres were old retreads that had seen better days and would have been more at home in a scrapyard. Mother became quite adept at repairing roadside punctures.

Then night fell. Pa never got round to painting the bright silver aluminiun skin of the caravan. For oncoming motorists it was probably like driving towards a big mirror. Of course when they flashed their lights or turned on their brights, it became worse for them. Oh what "fun".

On our first day we reached Parys in the Freestate, where we set up camp. What excitement our first night in the caravan. Then the rain came down. Pa had not sealed the windows, so it was not long before all our beds were soaked - the tent seemed like a much better prospect then. The result was that the fabric got mouldy and the inside plywood walls warped.

On the bright side that was the first holiday without a car breakdown. But, it did get stuck in the mud. On the way home pa decided he was too tired to drive, so he pulled off onto the shoulder of the road. And as luck would have it, the rains came down and the next morning we were bogged down in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately a fellow in a Land Rover came to our assistance and pulled us out, much to pa's embarrassment.

That was our first and last camping caravanning trip - after that it became a spare room. If that does not put you off camping, then nothing will.

I am not totally negative - we have camped twice in the past three years. Our tent is big enough to hold Boswell's Circus and I am still wondering what possessed us to buy it. It is a mission to erect, but we have found that campers are a helpful bunch and whenever they see us struggling to put it up, someone will give us a hand.

And we have lot's of good camping equipment. The only problem now is that whenever I want to buy more Sue says, "For goodnes sake, let go camping first before you buy any more equipment".

Watch this space for more camping adventures.


dot said...

Great old pictures and really enjoyed the post!
Some years ago I decided I liked the comforts of home much more.

Katney said...

We have camped with the whole crew of six kids, and now do a camping with the grands trip every year. We took up camping again after several years had gone by and we got the brainstorm to take a weekend outing just the two of us. As it had been so long, we had no idea where our tent was, but we were storing our sons while he was out of the country. We grabbed the tent bag and stuff and were off. I was pondering how well I would handle the hard ground. Little did we know that the tent bag also included a queen sized mattress and the pump to inflate it. We haven't stopped camping since.

Your tale of camping woes is one good instance illustrating why I have chosen you for a blogging award. Stop by Katney's Kaboodle to see the details.

Andrea said...

When our girls were younger we bought a tent and decided to try camping. We tried roughing it but that did not work too good so we camped a few times in campgrounds as long as they had a sign that said....HOT SHOWERS.

camping tents said...

Great pics and post! My family did not go camping for some reason when I was a kid, now that I am an adult with kids of my own we go all the time.
It is something you either love or hate! Thanks for sharing your great story!

Old Wom Tigley said...

I did enjoy reading this.. and I admit to laughing out loyd.
Peter still as his tent pitched somewhere and will just go off and stay in it for a while... He lived rough in that tent for nearly 3 years.. all through the cold winter months.. keep warm in a double sleeping bad with his dog Defor by his side. He used to paint by candle light at times... He always smelt damp..
Some like camping but I'm not one of them I must say.. the excitement is to 'INTENTS' for me... ;o)

Max-e said...

Dot, I also like my comforts, but like collecting "boys toys". When we do go camping we should be quite comfortable. I just need a compressor for the inflatable mattresses :)

Max-e said...

Katney, you ar brave. We took our three and a half year old grandson to our pad at Cape St Francis. That was an adventure in itself. I think I'll wait a few years before I try camping - he is a human dynamo.
We opted for two single mattresses, because we felt that it would be more comfortable that way - less displacemment.
Thanks for the award, I will stop at your blog to check it out.

Max-e said...

Andrea you are wise. We have tried roughing it twice, but had to cut our trips short, because of bad weather. I am what you would call a fair weather camper

Max-e said...

Camping tents, I loved roughing it as a kid but after a year of roughing it in the army I was all camped out.
As I have got older I have become more receptive to the idea. We are planning a trip for around May

Max-e said...

Tom, camping is something I will probably go back to time and again, even though there are nice comfortable lodges. Sue is planning a camping trip to the Drakensburg Mountains in Lesotho at the end of April/ beginning of May. It has been known to snow there at that time of the year. Just my luck it wil :(
Oh well, nothing like adding a bit of excitement to life.

RuneE said...

Interesting story, and well documented! We used to go camping some years in the 80s (usually in Denmark) when our two eldest girls where quite small. We had what was called a "house tent" of about 20 square meters with two sleeping tents inside - pure luxury...

LiD said...

This is a greatpost. So funny and the photos are wonderful. It all looks like such an adventure.

I haven't been camping since I was a child. I am not that happy about being away from my comforts. I think the last camping trip I went on was for 3 weeks when I was a kid - travelling from Melbourne to Perth which is a distance of approx. 2723 kilometres.

So when you talk about being put off camping I can relate. It doesn't take a lot of sleeping in a tent on a thin mattress night after night to put you off for a really long time.

sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sue said...

hehe don't tell Max, but I have a surprise in store for him, I have booked a weeks camping trip in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho at the end of April (apparently there is a very good chance of snow then..heheheheheh... (picture evil smirk!)

Anna said...

Max-e I can count on my first hand how many times I went camping - 2x, lol, in my life. My husband is not up to it either, but I wouldn't mind, now with all this nice equipment you can be very much sealed, but not sealed before wild animals, lol. Thanks for sharing, really cool old photos. I like looking at those, just to see how people lived in the old days. Anna :)