In late January, after five months of backpacking through Asia, I had finally returned to Western civilization: Australia. The land down under. Things were good. Modern. Comfortable. I was constantly amazed by the little conveniences of life that I had forgotten about -In my ardor, I even wrote a rather awkward manifesto about my love of toilet paper.
I assumed the adventures were over. Enter Camp Treachery.
I really only went to Australia on a long layover between Indonesia and New Zealand. I was there for four days with two main objectives: to visit Herb, a friend of mine from college, and to see Sydney (And by Sydney, I mean a giant yellow rubber duck that was currently residing in Darling Harbor).
When I told my friend Herb of my plans, he suggested we go camping at a location outside of Sydney with some friend’s of a friend. It all sounded fine, the one drawback being that of course I wasn’t carrying any camping equipment…. but, Herb assured me that the group we were meeting up with would provide everything we needed – all we needed to do was show up.
As (my) luck would have it, on the day we set out for our camping adventure, temperatures soared to a withering 115 F – in fact it was the hottest day EVER recorded in Sydney. Joy. Even better – in some horrible combination of coincidences the car we planed to take on the four hour drive to the camp had no AC and had windows that didn’t roll down.
So to summarize – four people crammed in a car without AC or moveable windows setting off on a four hour drive on the hottest day in recorded history. Fun.
After only half an hour of driving we stopped for gas and I made a point of stocking up on several liters of water – I’ve read enough Bill Bryson to know how these stories usually ended up and I was dang sure I wouldn’t be the one contemplating a glass of my own urine when this thing started going down hill (some might argue we were already headed down hill).
The water bottles, fresh from the fridge, also helped cool me down for the rest of the drive and somehow, after four hours of driving and at least one (I assume unironic) playing of “Men at Work’s Land down Under” we finally reached our destaintion.
I wish I could say I made that name up – but the fact of the matter is that someone decided that of all the names, in all the world, “Treachery” was the imagery he wanted for his middle of nowhere, rural Australian camp site. And as we rounded the last curve of a pitch black, narrow windy, gravel road and the headlights illuminated the old wooden sign – “Camp Treachery” seemed horribly appropriate.
(Rest assured, I’m not about to go all Deliverance on you – this story is more Wally World and less psychopathic hillbillies.)
I think in all of our heads, we had imagined this camp site as one or two tents located in a well lit field. Of course, as you probably might have assumed, the camp was actually acres and acres of land filled with hundreds of people in tents, cabins, and cars. It was pitch black and we had no idea where the others were. But, we had driven over four hours, the last thirty minutes spent twisting our way from civilization on a country road – we decided to try to find them.
Oh, we also had no flashlights and not a single one of our cell phones had service. Did I mention this was a well though out plan?
We hadn’t brought any food but we had stopped for a six back of canned gin and tonics (which I am pretty sure you can’t buy pre mixed in the US?), so we grabbed those and a few other items for the night and set out into Treacherous Territory.
The only directions we had was that the group was camped “near the Billabong” (Seriously, how Australian is that?) Naturally, no one we encountered had any knowledge that there was or ever had been a billabong anywhere near this campsite. As it turns out, Billabong means a large landlocked body of water and as we were near the beach the presence of a billabong would have been strange.
I had luckily been carrying one small pink flashlight that served as our only source of light as we wandered somewhat aimlessly through the endless campsite. It was nearing midnight and there was no sign that we were any closer to locating our destination. Between the four of us, we had one, one-person tent and one sleeping bag. We had no food, no other shelter and only one very sad light source.
There was only one obvious solution and that was to sit down, on the dirt, in the pitch black and start drinking. After a few minutes of sipping on luke warm G and Ts we were approached by several helpful but drunk Aussies who joined the cause of locating our lost camping group. However, despite this somewhat un-lucid gathering of helpers we were not any closer – and even worse the only description we could provide was that we were searching for a group of Frog Researchers (I roll only with the coolest people).
I was all prepared to finish my drink and hunker down for a night on the ground (heck I’ve done worse) when it became clear that mother nature had other plans – with very little warning, the clouds opened up and it began to pour.
So, again, to summarize – the four of us are sitting on the ground, at midnight, a twenty minute walk from the car with no shelter, bedding or light source in the pouring rain. Things were going extremely well.
Fortunately for us, a nearby cooking shelter offered some relief from the storm and shockingly enough, after 15 minutes of watching the rain and contemplating making a dash for a motel, our drunk minions had actually returned from their quest to locate our frog researching friends successfully.
Now it was time to camp.