Camping is not meant to be complicated, just plenty of eating and drinking broken up with walking, napping, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, reading – whatever floats your boat really.
What can get complicated are the inter-personal relations between people who have gone camping to “get away from it all”, only to find themselves parked up next to complete strangers with only thin walls of canvas separating them.
After just returning from 10 days of camping where we were stuck between a weird couple with three terriers (henceforth known as Three Dogs) and a family with two terror children (Ogre Beasts) I wonder if other campers have similar stories, or if it’s “just us” that have the problem.
Pakawau Beach Park, in Golden Bay is pretty cool. You’re metres from the beach, and allowed campfires and dogs, two pretty rare occurrences at camping grounds these days. New Years Eve was beautiful, an evening of complete calm on the water. We were watching little fishes streaking along the surface of the water, fleeing from prey, signalling the start of some big game fish coming into the Bay to spawn.
“Three Dogs” were walking their terriers along the beach, and our black lab, Bonnie, wanders up to say hi and have a sniff. Next thing there’s a heck of a commotion; yapping and snapping and growling. Then Mrs Three Dogs is confronting us by the fire. “What’s going on?” says she. “Is there one rule for us and one rule for you?” “What do you mean, what rules?” asks Mikey. “All dogs are to be on leashes in the campground,” says Mrs Three Dogs. “First we’ve heard of it,” Mikey replies. “Besides we’re not in the camp ground, we’re on the beach.” Half an hour later the camp manager comes down. Bonnie has been described as being “territorial” and “picking fights”.
“I can see she’d be pretty intimidating,” he says with a wink as Bonnie lies stretched out by the fire with her big pink tongue lolling out. He’s so right. The two most commonly-used adjectives used by people describing Bonnie are “good-natured” and “beautiful”. And yes, I get that not everyone agrees, and I respect that not everyone is into dogs. But Dog people are different. Dog people understand not all dogs are going to get along, just like humans. A bit of sniffing and tail wagging to show they like each other, or teeth baring and growling to convey their disapproval is their way of communicating. Needless to say, it was pretty awkward around Three Dogs after that.
The Ogre Beast incident also happened on New Years Eve. Everyone had been collecting driftwood and building bonfires in preparation for night fall. Up come a group of young lads of no more than five years old, who started helping themselves to our stack of firewood. We indulged them with a couple of bits each, thinking it was pretty cool they were getting into the spirit of it all.
Next thing they’re back. “Our bonfire’s bigger than yours/better than yours/yours is dumb/you’re an idiot blah, blah, blah” one of them is saying. Completely flabbergasted, we ignored them hoping they would go away, until they went to grab more wood, and I’m like, “no way buddy, you can get your own.” (Read: You little shit.) They returned several times, having a go, and we just wanted to rub there smart little faces in the sand and watch them cry big lumps of snotty, gritty tears. The little brats just kept on going, until I made to go and tell their Dads and they ran off.
After midnight their Dads ended up coming over to our campfire to party on, and I hit one of them him up about their smart-alec kids. “I know,” he cried “I can’t control them.” And they are only five! Fucking hell, I hope I don’t meet them in the future. Fortunately, I don’t think Daddy Ogre Beast remembered that conversation the next day.
It wasn’t all bad though, here’s my pick of some of the best moments.
Best meal: Fresh Green-lip mussels three ways. 1. Steamed ‘a la naturale’. 2. Smothered in a salty, creamy green curry sauce. 3. Smoked in a sweet & salty marinade. Beautiful.
Best adventure: Mountain biking and caving in the rain and mud in the Aorere Valley. Choice!
Best fun: Jet skiing for the first time – if you haven’t done it before and you ever get the opportunity, don’t shy away. It’s dead easy. Don a life jacket, push a button, press the throttle, and enjoy the wind in your hair and the salt on your lips.
Best song: Gold Canary by Cloud Control: