IT’S one week before summer officially strikes in Australia and I am sitting in my air-conditioned office, ruminating on the impending warmer weather and the sticky issue of camping. Apparently, people like to camp (and if you look at any Brisbane dating site, they not only like to camp, but 4WD, fish and go piggin’ as well). Me, not so much, but given the right circumstances, I’ll give it a red, hot shot. (The camping, not the piggin’). And by right circumstances, I mean a glamping tent with air-conditioning, bar fridge and, easy access to a toilet (preferably an ensuite). All of which I enjoyed a few weeks ago when I previewed Australia’s newest glamping product Hideaway at Cabarita Beach in northern New South Wales. Ensconced in my gorgeous, generous bell tent under a plump, crisp, linen doona, it felt like I was born for this camping caper. Until I remembered I am not.
It’s tricky to pick my worst camping adventure. There’s been quite a few. So let’s narrow it done to the coldest and the hottest. A few years back I was invited to cover the Mount Isa Rodeo, where, among other things, I interviewed the female boxer Beaver whose reputation for beating up blokes in the ring was legendary. Despite her size and status, Beaver turned out to be a gentle giant and she even made me a cup of tea. As much as I like to suffer for my art, I declined the offer to fight her later that night in the ring, as I value keeping my ribs intact. Had I actually fought Beaver, I may have spent the night in the cosy comfort of the Mount Isa Hospital, as opposed to the glamping in which I was staying.
Mount Isa in winter, like much of the Queensland Outback, is a curious beast. It’s hot during the day, and then plummets to freezing once the sun sets. But I came prepared, packing my hot water bottle Kevin 07 (who I named after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2007 campaign). Or so I thought. The glamping was set up within a mining camp, those hot, horny miners happily tucked away in heated dongas. My tent, was, inexplicably, down by the creek, where the temperature dropped to one degree. I’d come home from my rodeo reporting, covered in dust, hand Kevin 07 to the camp’s toothless security guard with instructions to boil a kettle to fill Kevin’s guts, while I limped to the showers. The fact the showers had no doors, and the hot, horny miners were in the cubicle next to me, should not be lost on this story. And had I known just how cold it was going to get at night in my tent, I would have worked that fact a little harder. But alas, I rubbed and scrubbed only myself and then returned to collect Kevin.
It was so cold in that tent, that the cheap polyester blankets they’d given me would shoot off green sparks in the dark. But worse was when I realised that all of the water I had drunk throughout the hot day to stay hydrated, decided it was time to work its way through my kidneys at night. Years later, while travelling through Morocco with an Australian doctor, I learned that while our other organs slow down significantly at night to rest and repair, it’s when we go to sleep that our kidneys go into overdrive. Hence the reason you may need to pee during the night. Who knew?
It was way too cold, and too far, to drag myself to the toilet block, so I decided to improvise. With a tiny Tupperware container in which I had been carrying some sultanas for snacks. There I was, congratulating myself on my genital genius until I felt something wet and cold, on the only socks I had to keep me warm. I looked down in horror and realised I had peed on my foot. I tossed my warm urine and my wet sock outside the tent, and went to bed miserable. By this time Kevin was cold, I was cranky and even worse, I knew I had to repeat this camping caper all over again the next night.
My hottest camping episode, and I mean this in several senses of the word, was a few years back, when I went to the summer Woodford Festival on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. This time I was in Tent City, in a media tent, which was just like every other tent, and again, there was no ensuite. On this occasion it was as hot as hell. And I did what any journalist covering this event would do, and drank as much beer as possible to keep all jolly and hydrated. I was even congratulating myself on how well I had done not going to the bathroom all day when again, I lay down later that night to go to sleep, when my kidneys went into overdrive.
Luckily, I remembered I had again packed a small Tupperware container with sultanas in the car, which I promptly emptied and carried back to my tent as my makeshift toilet. Which I proceeded to use over and over and over again as my kidneys decided to process the equivalent of a carton of beer on this hot evening. Again, I missed as I pissed, but there were no socks involved this time, it was too warm. So warm, in fact, I slept with the tent flaps open. Which would have been fine, had I not awoken the next morning to a tent which reeked of stale pee and a curious line of festival goers walking past my tent, gaping as they went. I looked down, only to discover that during my wild night, my left breast had escaped my singlet and there I was, arms akimbo, my bosom on display for the entire festival to see.
I packed up rapidly that morning. Headed back to Brisbane and vowed I needed a new tactic should I ever tackle camping again. And should you ever feel the need to go camping with me, if I ever offer you a sultana in a Tupperware container, you’ve been sufficiently warned.
THIS journey begins like so many others. With me, frantically scouring Brisbane Airport for the man of my dreams who will not only be smart, funny and sexy, but will be on my flight, happen to be seated next to me, and will fall instantly in love with my jaunty wit and irrepressible beauty. Yes, because I am deluded.
Instead, I am stuck on a five hour flight across the Nullarbor from Brisbane to Perth with the Redlands Rhapsody Choir – who are testing their vocal chords and my patience. But not as much as grandma and grandpa in 66J and 66K right behind me, who use the back of my chair to lift themselves from their seats, thus ripping out tufts of my hair each time they go to use the toilet. Which appears to be urgent and often. I comfort myself with an eye mask and The Village People on my iPod. Boys, you were so right. You can’t stop the music. Nobody can stop the music.
And so I arrive in Perth where I meet my travelling companions, two of them recent brides who are still blushing profusely from their nuptial naughtiness. And so they should be. What’s not to adore about being in love? But I can’t help but wonder if this is some kind of joke the universe is playing on me. Why, God, why? Why me? Why here? Why now? And where are the horny miners for which this region is renowned?
We are bound for Margaret River and a journey which consists of boobs, brides and Bunker Bay. I console myself with the thought of the wine I’ll be drinking over the coming days in this remote region which has etched itself into the Australian psyche. Mention to any Aussie that you’re coming to Margaret River and they act like you’ve just won lotto. And really, you have. Boasting 150 wineries, 7 breweries, salt-kissed surfers and a stray miner or two, and what’s not to love? It’s a cussing booze hag’s paradise.
At the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay, delectably perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean, I indulge in a native Indigenous mud massage where my therapist Sarah applies a ring of mud to my lower back, and then gently massages warm oil into my muscles. It’s about as sensual an experience you can have without being arrested. If the horrible homophobes are right and “turning gay” is a “lifestyle choice”, it’s one I make many times during the next 80 minutes.
We visit Vasse Virgin, a haven of soap and other super smelling stuff, plus olives and olive oil products. There’s even a tasting room and, rumour has it, in the near future a
“sealed section” where they will be launching a raunchy range of soaps. Look out for the “V” and “P”. Dustin Fisher, whose title I miss while talking about vagina and penis shaped soap to the managers, tells me the secret to snaring a man is by wearing a lovely scent.
“I love aniseed. Or you could try spearmint green tea or lime and cassia which is nice and refreshing,” he says, before returning to his lip gloss-making. A glorious sticky pot made from Perth bees wax, olive and essential oils.
At Leeuwin Estate, Hospitality Manager Stepan Libricky talks about wine and food like the art of love making.
“Our award-winning chardonnay is aged in French oak. I find it a very sexy wine. I really find it very attractive. It is about letting the fruit speak for itself,” he says.
“There is nothing wrong with having a few glasses of wine with good friends and good food.
“Wine and food is very sensual today.”
And so, too, is the Margaret River. Someone hands me the Margaret River Wedding Guide which includes 330 pages of happy couples. But defeated, I am not. I’ve discovered nearby Yallingup means “the place of love”. As I leave this lovely region, I make a mental note to return. I arrive at the airport. The Redlands Rhapsody Choir is on the same flight back to Brisbane. And they are singing a love song.
Virgin Australia flies to Perth three flights per day from Brisbane and four flights per day from Sydney. Fares start from $199 one way from Sydney and $219 one way from Brisbane – http://www.virginaustralia.com.
Rates in a Studio Villa at the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay start from $239 per night – http://www.pullmanhotels.com or 08 9756 9100.