7am, Boxing Day. Time to get up. Do I have everything? Put it all in the Land Cruiser. Just throw it in boot… Dad will rearrange everything five times anyway.
9am, should have been on the road by now, but Dad forgot to get the kayaks on the racks the day before and an ockie strap just flung wildly from the roof.
10:30am, Clifton Hill. Grilled cheese sanga and a bottle of Sars (or Creamy Soda, depending on my mood).
10:45am, roll back into the Landy, turn onto the freeway. “We’re cooken’ on googy eggs now!” A brilliant phrase coined by my old man for when we were through the stop-start 60km/h roads and onto the glorious arterial that would take us all the way to Halls Gap in the Grampians.
Some three or four hours later, depending on pit stops and the odd “Whoa! Ripper photo opportunity,” we would arrive in Halls Gap. We were normally the first, being the family with least amount of females, and therefore the least amount to pack. Luxurious comfort by way of a 3-man dome for my brother and I would be up in 10 minutes. The king of all tents, the mighty Terka for my parents, would take a little longer and a few more curse words to rise from its slumber.
Gradually my uncles, aunties and cousins would roll in, as would some family friends who were possibly the most important since they brought the Bocci set.
The ensuing week would involve all the annual events:
- Taking the kayaks out to Lake Bellfield
- Arguing about which walks we should do
- Rock hopping down the creek
- Listening to my dad and his two brothers “discuss” the exact happenings of the Lord of the Rings books
- Driving into Stawell on news years eve to get some supplies not easily found in Halls Gap
- Many, many games of Bocci which became increasingly difficult as the roos decided they no longer moved for large heavy objects coming their way.
A magical week which was repeated year after year for most of my childhood. By the end of it, when my brother and our cousins had grown up a bit, I think I had walked just about every walk there was to do up there.
Sometimes we would mix things up by taking easter holidays to Kangaroo Island, The Kimberleys, or Kakadu National Park. We would always come back to the Grampians on Boxing Day though.
Apart from the odd school camp, I didn’t do alot of camping or hiking throughout my teen years. However, I took it up again by hiking The Overland Track in Tasmania earlier this year. An unbelievable experience, but one for another time. However, if my family didn’t have the annual tradition of camping in Halls Gap from Boxing Day to January 1, I wouldn’t have been able to spontaneously say “I’m in” when asked if I wanted to go to go to Tassie. I probably would of second guessed myself and missed out on one the best experiences I have had in my 26 years. I certainly wouldn’t have hundreds of awesome memories from my childhood, like Dad imprinting his thumb on his hiking boot after drying it by the camp fire.
So what’s the point? There isn’t one really. I just like how a simple week of camping every year as a kid, gave me a hobby I now want to pursue as an adult. I like how, even though we no longer go, we still have stories to share at Christmas gatherings, like Dad losing his Akubra because he left it on the roof of the Landy one day. I like how, if I have kids, I have tradition I can resurrect.