Hall’s Gap hides in the Grampians, a craggy range of mountains 3 hours west of Melbourne. They are a smaller and less imposing version of the Drakensberg, but nonetheless a great place to spend a weekend or a week communing with nature. There is much to see, much to do and different types of accommodation to suit every taste. For us we chose to camp. The campsites were cheap, the views (and firewood), priceless.
And then some things are universal truths
My two boys, then aged 18 and 3, and myself have gone there to escape weekend life in Melbourne suburbia; to be in the fresh air, to be washed with sunshine unfiltered by the smog, to be together, to bond… My expectations were high…All was going well & according to plan until…well, picture the scene:
The tent is up; the precious firewood is crackling and dancing as it sheds it’s warmth on the 3 of us huddled around as the day gives way to sensory delights of a bushveld night. The peaceful environs that only the bush can balm on my soul.
We have eaten the main meal (chops and steak, what else?), and for dessert, each of us is toasting and eating marshmallows around the crackling fire. I glance across at my boys and my heart feels nothing but love for them. I smile to myself, ooooh yes! Life is good…I am connecting with them at a deep level. Perfect!
It is at this stage that Benny my youngest, turns to me, looks deeply into my eyes and with the smallest of voices says, with meaning, “Daddee, I need to poo“ My reaction is instinctive. Like a loaded spring I am on my feet, knowing in an instant that his statement is not a comment aimed at some time in the future, but rather focused on the now, the immediate, the very present. I am now working with seconds … “Biggles”, (my eldest son’s nickname, long story), I ask, with the feigned calmness, “where did you put the key to the ablution block…?” Unaware of the looming threat he answers, without looking away from the dancing flames, “it is in the pocket on the tent flap”
As he is speaking I am already moving quickly to the tent flap with Benny on tow…..can’t find it. within seconds I emerge from the tent. Benny is now doing an impersonation of a Secretary bird killing a snake!
Sensing the imminent doom, I raise my voice slightly: “Biggs, I can’t find it.” His glance is one of irritation, and enunciates as only teenagers can,” I… said…it…is…in…the…tent…on…the… left…hand…side…as...you…” Benny’s interrupts loudly: “DDDAAAAAADDDDEEEE I need to poo NOW! At this point I am no longer the Adult, the Alpha Male, the One in Control, I am working on instinct. I am back in the SADF reacting without thinking. Visions of our small tent overflowing with an audible smell that could attract every fly within a 2 kilometer radius, flashes before me …
RYAN!! (his birth name, which I only use when he is in deep trouble) WHERE…IS… THE…KEY!!? The penny drops as he looks up at me, sees his brothers’ desperation. In one leap he is in the tent, emerging a second later holding the key up to me like a light to his salvation. He starts to protest weakly, “It was where …” I grab the key, tossing Benny onto my shoulder like a ‘squealing balsak’, and run down a grassed area passed startled fellow campers…I have one focus, one goal, one objective; there is, after all, no honorable second place… How I managed to put the ablution block key in the keyhole, open the door, turn on the light and get him onto a toilet all within seconds is testimony to the effectiveness of my SADF Basics training.
And so as summer starts to show itself in a palette of breathtaking colors, simmering light and wonderful fragrances, I get to thinking that maybe we should go camping again,- now that Benny is older.