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and another thing...
As you read this I am about to go on holiday to "the Outback"
(and I don't mean the 100sqm of our little patch in Yokine).
It's amazing the response this triggers in many people:
"Oh, you're going camping."
To which my reply is always along the lines of: ARE YOU
INSANE? I am a city boy through and through (born in the delightful
Industrial Revolution hub of Middlesbrough, Yorkshire).
Sure, there were leafy dales and farmland all around, but it's the factory
smokestacks and coalfire haze that's ingrained in my DNA.
I grew up, though, in a place where the most dangerous animal is a rugby
fan after the national team has lost (HINT: It's a bit east of Sydney) and even
there there was NO FREAKING WAY you would ever get me to grab a tent
and head bush for a holiday.
So, dear reader, what chance is there of doing the same thing in a land that
is home to more species of biting, crawling, snapping, smelling (you've never
heard of the lesser spotted stinky quoll?) and plain ol' nasty creatures than
should be legal.
(I have a theory that many of these animals were rounded up and put
on rafts and the like and shipped out to this country long before we had
"But camping is so great; you connect with nature," says the (pun
intended) YES camp. Rubbish.
We can connect with nature, thank you very much, without lugging
survival equipment out to some snake-infested plot of land.
It's called Discovery Channel, and it's on Foxtel. (Oh, and nature will look
even spiffier from your loungeroom in High Definition than the real thing).
There are some little known, true facts about camping. For instance, did
you know Latvian scientists have found (in a 25-year-long study in the Arctic
Circle) that hammering in tent pegs starts subsonic vibrations uniquely
attuned to attracting the following:
• Large, stinging, biting, ants
• Drunk, obnoxious campers who have wandered over to chat to someone of
Those boys at the Latvian Centre for the Prevention of Camping really
know their stuff.
I knew a "camper" who could have been declared legally insane anyway for
going camping south of Melbourne (the Mornington Peninsula: Memo reader
-- plenty of lovely four and five-star boutique digs down there) in mid-winter.
He seemed genuinely surprised at my lack of surprise when he got back to
civilisation (Melbourne's city limits) to relate (yawn, yawn I'd heard all before
from other bush loving idiots) about how he "just got to the campsite and
started pitching the tent when "omigodanincrediblefreezingstormcameinande-
If that wasn't enough, he spent the night in another tent and woke to find, dan-
gling above him, the silhouette of a large snake. Too petrified to move a muscle,
he shivered for hours only to discover, as the "pale sun rose" (a line often used on
Discovery Channel) that said snake was, in fact, a large camping sock hung over a
tent thingamig to dry. But God he had a great time.
I think the Americans have the best attitude when it comes to camping.
They call their non-urban sprawl "wilderness" and there's plenty of it.
Yes, it's beautiful. But it becomes even more beautiful when you load up
your 900m-long RV, complete with satellite dish, outdoor pizza oven, emer-
gency evac chopper on the roof, extra large van/trailbikes/yacht and Acme
Vibration-Free Cocktail Maker in tow and head out to Yosemite, Yellowstone
or the Bronx and join a trillion other RVs for a taste of nature.
Beamed in direct via satellite TV, of course.
Don't get me wrong, I love the country/wilderness/Outback/wastelands.
It's the best way I could think of to connect interesting, vibrant, huge urban
conurbations. And if ever the day comes when all that nature is, well, gone,
we'll always have the Discovery Channel. sm
text norman burns « illustration mike rigoll
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