Camping: the ultimate romantic adventure. Playing harmonica by the light of the campfire’s dying embers, watching shooting stars from the warm embrace of nature’s verdant bosom, just a couple of layers of nylon between yourself and the great outdoors, lulled to gentle slumber by the distant roar of rutting stags.
At least, that’s how it always is in my head – and we all know how acrimoniously divorced from reality that space is.
On Friday afternoon, Husband and I drove east and turned right onto Kauaeranga Valley Road about 2km south of Thames. There are numerous campsites, but we chose the one at the head of the road where The Pinnacles Trail starts.
Things started going wrong before we even parked. First, there was a bloody big sign stating that dogs were forbidden in the area. Naturally, I was offended on behalf of our imaginary pooch.
Then, in one awful moment, we realized we had forgotten the pump for inflating the airbed. Being blessed with a surfeit of hot air, I attempted to blow it up by hand (as it were). Unfortunately, the valve was positioned in such a way that, not being possessed of an ape-like protruding jaw, I could not wrap my gob around the valve.
Since Husband has a pair of amazing, rubbery, largely leech like lips, he took over airbed blowing duties while I wrestled with the tent. Unfortunately, although Husband could form a seal around the valve, he did not have enough puff for maximum inflation.
Around about the time Husband attempted to affix the airbed to the car’s exhaust pipe – which had little effect except to prove that he is mad – I was entangled cocoon style in the tent and realized our camping trip was Doomed.
Eventually a fellow camper, Ted – an old boy with a startling, white corkscrew beard – took pity and loaned us his car battery powered pump. Ted’s timing was unfortunate, since I had to ask Husband for the car keys. He was negotiating a tense situation at the long drop.
Airbed inflated, we decided to go for a swim. The river was really more of an extremely long puddle.
“Isn’t this nice?” said Husband, spread-eagled in about 2 inches of water.
Afterwards, unrolling the towel with a flourish, he accidentally flung my underwear into the river. There may not have been sufficient water for swimming, but there was enough to soak my spare underwear. Looking on the bright side, at least it wasn’t swept away in a roil of whitewater. No danger of that at all.
Back at camp, we settled in with a bottle of wine and citronella candle to watch the sun go down. Regrettably, the sun had departed two hours previously. For a while, we sat in the gloom slapping ourselves miserably, until at around 9:30pm Husband said, “Bed?”
I took him seriously since it was the first thing he had said in about an hour. It might even have been vaguely suggestive, had we not been fighting a losing retreat against battalions of mosquitoes on all sides. We made one last, desperate dash for the tent. Once inside, Husband unloaded a full barrel of Raid.
We lay in the dark listening to the death throes of various flies, insects and bugs.
“Look,” said Husband softly, pointing. “The stars.”
“Are they any different than normal? Because otherwise I’m not going hunting for my glasses, dude.”
Airbeds are great fun, there’s no question. Of course, fun is not completely conducive to sleep – especially when you share a bed with a Twitcher. Every time Husband rolls over, he launches himself off the mattress to execute a mid-air twirl. The effects of this are minimal in a king-size fully sprung mattress, where your dreams interpret it as a soothing rocking motion. On an airbed, you spend the night being periodically fired around like a pinball.
We did not sleep well