On the eve of our trip around Australia, calling the police was the last thing we expected to be doing. But at 1.30 in the morning our patience for the loud party going on up the street ran out. Our alarm was set for just a few hours time and we had a long drive ahead of us. We hated being party-poopers, but our guilt faded as quickly as the thumping bass once the police arrived. As I fell asleep, I took comfort from the knowledge that noisy nights would soon be a thing of the past. The sound of loud parties replaced with the peace and tranquillity of our campsites around Australia. Or so I thought.
Within weeks I was craving the familiar disturbances of home – hoons doing burnouts and barking dogs. I soon realized that the peace and quiet I sought was going to prove elusive. For new campers, here are a few things to look out for just when you think you are in for a quiet night’s sleep.
THE CAMP KITCHEN
At first, getting a site close to the camp kitchen seems like a win. If you are a camp kitchen user the convenience of having the fridge, BBQ and sinks nearby feels like a luxury. The only problem is, once the sun goes down, the lights of the camp kitchen can be a magnet for groups wanting to relax later into the evening. While the rules about the hours of camp kitchen use are generally honoured, there are exceptions. Of course, these exceptions always occur when you’re set up right next door.
I have nothing against overseas travellers – apart from the fact their friends and family live on the other side of the world. Inevitably the best time to call them is any time after midnight. Since they live in another time zone the best way to speak to them is as loudly as possible. And you guessed it, the best place to call them from is right beside your accommodation.
Whether it’s a sheet of canvas or inside a caravan, there’s no escaping the fact you’re very close to nature. So, get ready for a crash course in the nocturnal lives of birds and animals. This will include lessons on how possums use your camper as a playground and their own private pantry. You’ll learn how kangaroos thump their tails on the ground as they face off against foxes. You’ll discover that birds of the night are noisier than any day bird you ever come across. That said, the sounds of nature are part of the fun of travelling. The same does not apply to the next group.
Now, I’m not talking about homeless alcoholics that stray into the campground and onto your campsite. These drunks have homes – a tent or camper somewhere – they are just to ‘disoriented’ to find it. As a result, they end up stumbling on to your site late at night.
Nat was sure she could hear breathing under our annexe early one morning. I put her concerns down to a wheezy possum but after several elbows to the ribs I was forced to investigate. I peered through our mesh window and sure enough, there under the annexe, swayed a confused and weary looking visitor. Needless to say, it wasn’t a possum.
Appearing completely lost, I asked if he needed a hand. Assuming he was in the right caravan park, I suggested he walk up the path to see if he could spot his camp site. He politely thanked me and wandered off. Presumably he found his camper. However I wouldn’t rule out that he slept it off under the slippery dip in the playground.
This has nothing to do with the gastrointestinal habits of your partner. Instead, I’m talking about windy weather. Wind isn’t exclusive to camping – it’s windy when you are home too but the noises it creates there tend to be more familiar. A loose gate might creek or a branch scratches against the gutters.
Camping wind is different as it’s not just the noise that keeps you up. The thought of what the wind is doing to your accommodation and possessions keeps you up too. Awnings and canvas walls flap about like a torn spinnaker. Annexe poles clatter to the ground and unsecured equipment gets blown against your neighbour’s van.
You check the weather app at bedtime and see there’s a 10% chance of getting 1mm of rain. Great you think, nothing to worry about.
Later, usually around 2.00am, you’re woken by the first few drops. When you are in a tent or camper your ears are super sensitive to the sound. Hoping you just dreamt it, you stay in bed – but then it gets heavier.
You still don’t move. You’re too stunned that the app was wrong. You’re also pretending to be asleep in the hope your partner will get up first. Then the heavens open. Finally, you’re up, very awake, and rescuing all the gear you left out figuring it would be a fine evening.
The next morning, under sunny skies and through bleary eyes, you delete the app.
You arrive at your park, check in at the office and get directions to your site. At your site you discover there is a single sheet of neighbour-friendly fencing separating you from the main road. As a fencing solution, colour bond is great. As sound proofing material? Not so good.
You protest at the office in the hope of being moved to a site that isn’t on the nature strip of a main road (in our case the Princes Highway). Don’t be fooled by the argument that the road will be quieter at night. Sure, there will be fewer cars, but that’s when the trucks come out.