We came back from 10 days camping at Mystery Bay: a ‘primitive camping ground’ on the coast near Narooma.
We could’ve got my dream spot to put our tent: nice big mostly flat spot with 180 degrees ocean and beach views and right next to the track down to the main beach! But Ella decided otherwise. When she heard that someone we knew was already there, she insisted on setting up camp near them. And it was that decision that made it an ideal holiday for her. For 10 days we were part of a little community that consisted of 4 families with kids of various ages and some great grown-up friends.
The lack of privacy got to me a bit at times, but didn’t bother Ella in the least. For 10 days she was a feral child, walking around barefoot (even I couldn’t do that with all the twigs and leaf litter there!), unwashed (way too cold for cold showers) and sometimes only half dressed. She was very independent: made her own breakfast a few times, went to visit her friends’ camps, got stuff from the tent or the car by herself, even did the dishes once. She temporarily lost her fear of the dark even: I watched in amazement as she walked around in the dark without a torch.
Apart from occasionally wiping the food off her face and getting her to wash her hands or wipe them with anti-bacterial gel after visiting the pit toilets, I did not wash her at all. I made 2 plaits in her hair the day after we arrived and didn’t touch it after that. In sharp contrast with other families who went through great lengths to keep their kids squeaky clean at all times. An effort not to be underestimated when you are camping in the bush.
The weather wasn’t too bad. There were some lovely beach days and enough sun for me to get sun burnt. Ella was more cautious in the waves than I would’ve liked her to be, but she had some fun in the water nevertheless. The body board was wasted on her though. Maybe next year.
Christmas day was quiet. The present – a car garage that I spend an hour in the middle of the night putting together by the light of a torch – got a genuinely surprised “Santa got me what I asked for!” reaction. We ended up having lunch by ourselves and then went down to the beach.
New Year’s Eve got spoiled by a group of obnoxious teenagers who came just to throw a loud party. I felt obliged to spend the night in the tent sitting next to a sleeping Ella just in case she got woken by the racket.
We got home with a tan, sand in our hair and all our clothes smelling of the campfire. And feeling pretty tired. Not checking the time even ones while we were there, we probably did not get as much sleep as we should’ve. It was absolutely divine to forget about time though. To never rush, to take out time for everything.
So it is a bit of a shock to be back home and me back at work. The clock rules our lives again and it makes us both a bit sad. I quite enjoy having my privacy back and warm running water and a clean toilet. But Ella misses being part of a close-knit community. And she’s of course taking it out on me. So we had following conversation last night while I was washing something at the kitchen sink:
Ella – I’m not going to wash anything.
Me – I didn’t ask you to wash anything. But some other day you can do the dishes.
Ella – Then I’m not going to.
Me – You are old enough now to do the dishes now and then.
Ella – But I’m not going to do it!
Me – We live together in this house and we are a team, Ella. And we have to work together like a team.
Ella – I’m not in your team anymore. I moved you to the “caves” team.
Me – Oh. Ok. So what is YOUR team having for dinner then?
Ella – The same as you.
Me – Oh no, I’m only cooking food for MY team.
Ella – I’m going to cook food here. On the ground. That’s where my fire is.
Me – So YOUR team are having pretend food. Well MY team is having salmon and sausages and potatoes on the bbq.
I could’ve saved my breath really…
A bit later Ella told me:
Ella – I saw a redback spider at daycare today. It’s going to bite you. I’m going to put your hand on it and then it’ll bite you…
Me – Right. If you continue to talk to me like that you can forget about me cooking you food and you can go to bed straight away!
We’ll both have to learn how to deal with all those rules and boundaries and time limitations again. Though one of my new years resolutions was to not watch the clock so often and not rush as often.