Full House was in its sixth season. Bill Clinton was in his first term as President. Kurt Cobain was still alive.
That’s what was going on in my world the last time I went camping.
So when I was recently invited to suss out two Sundowner Tourist Parks on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales to show how you can spend less than $500 for a weekend away, the 10-year-old, giggly Girl Scout in me cheered while the 30-year-old, comfort-loving woman in me cringed.
Me – in a tent? I just couldn’t picture it.
I’m not a particularly girly girl. I like the outdoors. I’m not even that clean. In fact, sometimes I downright smell. But I don’t like discomfort. And I am what my friend Tom once coined a “diva sleeper.” Since the age of 8, I’ve required a fan going at all times when I sleep. As I’ve gotten older, an eye mask has become necessary every night and I sometimes wear earplugs because the littlest noise can wake me up (except, of course, the fan). And I get spooked kind of easily. Woods scare me. Not being behind a locked door scares me.
So sleeping on the ground behind frail flaps of fabric, many metres from a bathroom with “hygiene lite” as my only bathing option for days seemed both uncomfortable and a bit frightening.
So how did I fair going on my first camping trip in 20 years? Surprisingly, amazingly well.
Camping doesn’t just involve the woods
This is the picture that greeted us when we arrived at Sundowner Tiona Tourist Park. And this spot is exactly where we set up camp.
During my handful of times camping as a kid, it was in the straight-up woods — the kind where Leatherface springs from the trees and chases you with a chainsaw. No pretty, peaceful lake. Just serial-killer-harboring woods.
I learned that this was Wallis Lake, part of Booti Booti National Park. This area is just northeast of Myall Lakes, which I discovered last winter. Many people I know — born Sydneysiders included — don’t know this kind of secluded serenity is waiting for them four hours up the coast.
And if the glistening lake isn’t enough, right across the road is Seven-Mile Beach. Relatively secluded, it’s a prime spot for fishing and surfing — you can even get the Sundowner Tiona team to cook up a beachside barbecue lunch for you. And to punctuate that perfect picture, there’s a chance you’ll spot whales breaching quite close to the shore. Our group spotted a trio of them roughly 100 metres out to sea, certainly the closest I’ve ever seen them.
Tents have come a long way…in my world
The last time I camped, it was in a standard tent held up with poles and held down with pegs. That’s the only way I thought it possible to do the camping thing. It didn’t occur to me that there are different types of tents and that they aren’t always flimsy and exposed.
Then I was introduced to the OzTent. Funnily enough, this tent hit the market the year after my last camping trip, so it’s not necessarily a new thing. Rectangular in shape rather than dome or ridge and made of a poly-cotton canvas with double-stitched seams, these tents popped up in just a few steps without the need to insert poles — they have an internal frame that stretches out to keep the tent erect.
The OzTent makers claim the average Joe or Jane should be able to set up their tents in 30 seconds. It wasn’t quite so quick for me and the two others young ladies I asked to help me, but the end result was sturdy and roomy.
You don’t even have to sleep on the ground!
Our tents came with a stretcher bed that looked bit suspect until I actually curled up in sleeping bag on top of it. It felt like a real bed. I could even toss and turn without feeling like I was going to break it or fall out. I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d slept at home. OK, so I did wear my customary eye mask and earplugs to stop the sounds of the rustling leaves from freaking me out that a serial killer or dingo was about to rip into my tent and kill me.
So there you have it — a successful night camping for the first time since 1992. Did I do as well the second night? Stay tuned to find out.
Camping — do you love it or loathe it?
I was a guest of both Sundowner Tiona and Sundowner Port Macquarie, however, all opinions on the tourist parks, camping gear and activities are my own.