Couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend bushwalking with a friend. Full stop. Now slap yourself upside the head if you mentally segued to the steamy tent-scene in Brokeback Mountain, because there was no ‘camp’ in this camping. That said, my heartfelt qualifier (to borrow from Seinfeld) is, “not that there’s anything wrong with that” unquote. Go your hardest, as we say here in Oz. Hammer your tent peg anywhere you like: one up the bum, no harm done, sort of thing.
Now, for the purists and pedants alike it’s called bushwalking, not hiking (US) or tramping (NZ) or rambling (UK), because that’s what it is. Prices hike, hookers tramp, and politicians ramble; we walk through the bush, the antipodean bush, where everything wants to bite, sting or scratch you to death. I say to death because we do pretty well in “Top 10” lists for the most poisonous, venomous, toxic, or generally killy things you are likely to encounter in the wilderness. Frankly it wouldn’t be a bushwalk if I didn’t step over at least one eastern brown (3rd deadliests snake in the world), or shake a funnelweb spider out of my boot (2nd deadliest), or choke down at least one serve of Wei Li’s Instant Noodles With Artificial Beef-Flavoured Soup Stock (deadliest noodles in the whole wide world). But that said, it wasn’t that kind of bushwalk either.
Everything went perfectly, notwithstanding an offsider who couldn’t differentiate a square knot from a granny, a dakota fire pit from a swedish torch, nor an amanita phalloides from those yummy Asian mushrooms you buy in the supermarket. Every time I let him take the lead he veered off the path and began blazing his own. Terrified of ticks, leeches, scorpions, spiders, wasps, bees, centipedes, mosquitoes and whatever that was creeping around in the dark just beyond the glow of our campfire, he didn’t sleep much. I don’t think my snoring helped. He said it sounded like a pair of angry wombats in a fight to the death.
No, this time it was just classic camping. There is something totally Zen about fetching your water from a tiny spring dripping out of the mountainside, gathering dry faggots for a fire, cooking chilli beans and eating then straight out of the can. Lying in a strictly one-person hammock with no phone reception, no television, no internet; a test to see if homo sapiens sapiens can survive without Netflix. Admittedly, I caught myself wondering what Frank Underwood was doing right now but then I spotted the Southern Cross through the mosquito netting and forest canopy, and it suddenly didn’t matter. The worst thing about it was work the next day. When my red blooded Aussie workmates asked me what I did on the weekend, “spent a fabulous night in a hammock under the stars with a male friend” we’re not the words that sprung to my lips.