Roughing it

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Conor, almost three, has started expressing his dislike for things. He’ll point to something, such as a piece of cauliflower, and say: “What’s this?” And then when told, he’ll promptly respond with, “I don’t like it.” Much to our annoyance, it seems to be his default setting at the moment.
So we weren’t sure if he would be too enamoured with a weekend away, spent sleeping in a tent with not an iPad or Thomas the Train DVD in sight.
Erin was easier to win over. She loves trying new things – as long as it involves chocolate somewhere along the way.
I’ve only camped once with my husband – back in the day when we were still in the early blush of our relationship. Carefree and spontaneous, we somehow managed to pack all the food and clothing we needed for our camping trip into two panniers attached to our motorbike. Today we could do with a moving van to get all the gear to the campsite. And that’s just for the children’s stuff! Erin packed four blankets, three dolls and insisted on bringing her gumboots – just in case. Conor refused to get into the car unless he had a couple of train carriages and a few random pieces of railway track in his hands.
With all these “essential” items loaded, we managed to set off for our first family weekend away from the comforts of home.
Conor still sleeps in our bed, so we weren’t sure if he would share a mattress with Erin during the trip.
But after several hours spent exploring the campsite and riding their bikes with new friends, both children were exhausted. In fact, they were so knackered that they put themselves to sleep on their mattress without so much as a peep.
We were not so lucky with our sleep setup. Our blow-up mattress, bought circa the bike trip of several years ago, had developed a few punctures. Of course, we only discovered this at about 2am when I woke up to find my face mashed against a tent pole as I lay flat on the cold ground.
The following night, we put two mattresses on top of each other in the hope that the second one would provide some buoyancy when the damaged mattress deflated. But it ended up operating like a waterbed, and at some stage in the early hours of the morning, I found myself rolling around like a rubber dinghy in Hout Bay harbour during a southeaster every time Craig turned over.
Finally, on the third night, tortured by the cacophony of Craig and Conor’s combined snoring, I relocated to the car where I slept like a baby.
Mattress problems aside, the experience was magical for the children. They swam in the river, played with new friends and spent the evenings riding their bicycles under the stars. And as we packed up the car to head back home, where Thomas was waiting and firm mattresses beckoned, we heard Conor say loudly to Erin: “Camping. I like it.”
Anél Lewis is recovering from her camping experience with some long baths and extra pillows on the bed. She’s also trawling the Classifieds for an extra-strong blow-up mattress – and repair kit – before she will consider setting up tent again.

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