Monday, 26 December 2011

Survival of the fittest

The first camping experience of the summer is bound to be exciting in some way or other.  Everyone is high on the hype of going to be living outdoors, sleeping with just a thin sheet of canvas between them and the Wild.  For little ones, the excitement is so much more intense.  Mine had looked forward to this since before the Sweetpea went away, because it was a good way to keep them motivated throughout his absence: "When he gets home, then we are going camping."

The Christmas season was a real blessing in disguise - because everyone was probably lying around a Christmas table somewhere, groaning with a surfeit of turkey and fruit mince pudding (with heavy cream and custard), they were certainly not going to say "Let's go trekking into the wilderness to eat basic fire-charred fare and live in a canvas shelter for the next few days," and the result was that we had the campsite almost to ourselves.  We were able to pick a site that had not only great access to the loos (with three little ones all needing to go in the middle of the night, this is a serious consideration), but that was also equidistant to the kitchen (a serious consideration for me).

One disadvantage of having the place to ourselves, however, was something I would never have thought would be a disadvantage to me.  Being an animal-lover, I am inordinately fond of all creatures great and small, and so any trip without seeing at least a bunny is a severe disappointment to me.  However, on this trip, our tent became the focus of a prolonged and vicious warfare by all the local populace of animals within the radius of the camp.  Perhaps because we were the only ones there and so were upsetting the peace and balance of nature, we were inundated by creatures of all persuasions, from flies to somewhat bigger and furrier kinds of mammals.  Flies swarmed around the tent, buzzing so loudly it sounded like a swarm of bees had set up a hive (luckily our tent is well equipped with no-see-um).  At night, the animal life truly came into its own.  The night birds pulled out all the stops, making such a racket that we had trouble staying asleep.  The crickets chirped incessantly.  Bizarrely, small furry creatures hurled themselves out of the darkness into the sides of the tent at regular intervals with a thump, and then went scampering off into the dry leaves, chasing each other around in the rustling, whispering undergrowth.

But the final straw was the possum in our tent.   We were awoken, bleary-eyed and groggy with lack of sleep, by a wild hissing and the frantic scurry of paws backwards and forwards over the canvas in the front of our tent.  We peered fearfully out over the top of the dividing door, shining a torch down to see what the commotion was all about.  A fat possum had managed to get through into the front part of the tent, obviously looking for something to eat, and had got itself trapped in there by the mozzie netting.  Although it was doing a fine job of searching for the exit by scooting wildly about in different directions and bumping over chairs, shoes and even the potty, it was well and truly stuck.   To say nothing of what happened when the light of the torch illuminated it, caught red-handed, so to speak.  In our part of the world, a possum is not a sweet, rat-like creature that dangles by its tail from a tree branch.  It is a rather more menacing creature, one jump away from a Tasmanian Devil in reputation if you believe the locals.  It is furry, chunky and has beady little eyes, or at least, that is the impression I got from seeing it in the pitch of our tent.  Eventually, through luck more than forethought, it blundered its way out of an opening in the tent, trailing the toilet paper in its wake like a bridal train.

All in all, a most eventful trip!

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