Great New Zealand Camping Trip

I’m not sure what happened to the Great New Zealand Camping Trip but like saveloys and the perm and set it seems to have been binned in favour of more exotic cultural pastimes.

The New New Zealander (my research for this is limited to friends in Auckland) goes to Vanuatu or New Caledonia and gets someone else to watch the kids. Excellent plan but where is all the group bonding and imminent divorce proceedings over the pitching of a tent that I remember from my childhood? They are very early memories of camping, as Dad decided to give full rein to his house building instincts and constructed ‘the bach’ as an unlicensed, architect free zoned structure that still stands resplendent in its black tattoo parlour wallpaper interior which he picked up off K Road in the 70’s. There was the joy of meeting the local flora and fauna too. The moreporks, which my brother had convinced himself were Haast Eagle sized raptors ready to carry him off every time he went out to the long drop. The frolicking of Te Kuti and Love Joy. The joys of camping on the Coromandel in the ‘70’s meant sharing the love with the hippies and their idiotically named goats. The old canvas tent that leaked and the smell of sleeping over cut grass can never be replicated in some club med never never land. The delicate balance one had to effect to get in and out of the camp beds that could snap you up like an Aussie side show crocodile if you got it wrong. The insect repellent that could kill humans if left in confined spaces and the fact that a slice of watermelon was a huge treat worthy of a commemoration photo. Holiday movies were not an option because the nearest cinema was 300kms away and fast food – was kahawai steamed in newspaper.

In the days before Kathmandu shops made the whole camping thing into an urban chic fantasy – camping was a design and entertainment free zone.

In an effort to restore cultural heritage (namely mine) I’m inclined to get in touch with my inner pakeha and make the entire family go camping. I am sure, that like any Latins repressed under authoritarian regimes –it will only be a matter of time before they rebel. I know, deep in my Anglo heart where we believe all punishment has a purpose that I will lose my army of unhappy campers at day one. As I gather pipis and wash out towels in a single bucket insisting on how much fun we’re all having being at one with nature, they will disappear and I will have to hunt them down in all my camping-hair, bucket-washed glory. I will find them holed up in some hideous bunker with supercilious room service and cable TV, eating chips and taking it in turns to watch Scooby Doo and every soccer game being played on the planet. They will be happy. I will not. x

The mad Latin insists that the only people who go camping are lunatics and terrorists – when I point out that Che Guevara spent a good part of his life camping out in the jungle – he replies that this was exactly his point. Camping is to him a perverse embracing of homelessness engaged in by deluded wealthy people. He has the same opinion of adobe houses.

I have already had the Latin camping experience once – when I insisted that the extended family’s kids fore-go the tv set and engage in something thrilling like building a nikau palm teepee I got looks of resigned yet slightly appalled despair. I was going to mention that we had only kerosene lamps that screamed like a banshee and attracted huhu grubs onto your books but thought better of it. I was delighted that they all decided en masse to go and sleep in the tent for the night and congratulated myself on introducing them to the great outdoors.

It was only in the morning that I noticed the missing TV set and the 20 metres of cord extension stretching over the dew covered grass.

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