I must say, hers beats our hands down, for quality & quantity of certain substances.
The horror factor in hers is probably higher than ours, but I still regard ours as the trip from Hell.
We had friends & indeed rellies, who regularly went off in caravans, taking their children & seemingly had wonderful trips. They would come back glowing with good health & tans, & tell of what a great time they had.
Gom (who was Happy Young Publican Husband aka HYPH) was not keen, when I suggested we should hire a caravan & take the kinder down to a riverside camping ground. We had visited this area for day trips & noted the lovely shallow gentle river flow, the nice, still water, ideal for children to swim. Lovely clean river stones, & sand on the banks, & beautiful native bush to explore. A truly idyllic spot for really relaxing & getting away from the hurly burly of Hotel life.
Our children got all excited at the prospect, & so Gom made some inquiries about getting a caravan. The friend of a friend who had one available for hire, was willing to deliver it to our door prior to the proposed day of departure. Of course we examined it's neatness, & marvelled at the compact layout. Children chose their berths, & all seemed very exciting
As it happened the night before our departure one of our Bar tenders, & her husband to be, had a party to celebrate the fact that they were leaving next day to go off & get married. We were the only ones who knew the reason for the party, everyone else thought it was the impending groom's birthday party.
Friday morning dawned befuddled & grumpy in some quarters. The about-to-be Happy Couple called in to give HYPH a hand to hook up the caravan. To this day I still cannot believe someone had not thought to check out the marriageability of the fittings on both car & van.
I sometimes think there are little signs which should be heeded when making plans. Little hints that the best idea might be to quit while you are ahead.
Our first inkling of any trouble
Then came the actual fitting of the new larger ball. Much swearing & sweating went into that little operation. Special tools had to borrowed, more tripping about to find said tools took place. Time was ticking by, children were champing to be off, to say nothing of the fact that the About-to-Be-Happy Couple, were distinctively Unhappy, & terse & tense snaps were all that were being exchanged between them. They had reached that stage where they dare not look at each other, things were so electrified. That was a little warning of things to come too, their whole marriage has been like that, but I guess the making up afterwards has kept them together.
Eventually we got the blasted ball fitted. We got the luggage stowed, heeding advice of conflicting ideas. One said stow it all at the rear of the caravan. Another suggested stowing it close to the tow bar end. Someone else said it needed to be scattered all about the caravan.
On the day in question there was a fierce & strong Nor Westerly wind blowing in Christchurch. People who live in Chch will know this wind. It is strong & hot, & powers across the plains to hit with a wallop. As be began to cross the Waimakariri River Bridge, which is a very wide span across the river, we were hit by the Nor Westers. We felt lucky to get across without being blown off the side of the bridge, & my fear level was at fever pitch.
We continued to be buffeted & tossed by the wind for the remainder of our trip to the Gorge Camping ground. When we arrived we were directed to 'our' site. We had a power hookup point & the ablution blocks were within
HYPH reversed the caravan into our site. A little crooked. I was directed to hold the end,- the ballcap end- while he maneuvered the van to sit straight. Since the van was quite large, & very heavy I decided the best way to get a good hold, was to straddle the towbar.
Somehow, I ended up almost being raped by this bar, & the pain was incredible. Far worse than childbirth & I was reduced to tears & could barely move, let alone walk, or even whimper. Swearing was impossible, due to lack of breath! Or even coherent thought, let alone formulate an oath. After half an hour or so, & some painkillers, we began the task of erecting the canvas awning onto the side of the van. Being total novices, we asked the man in the site next to ours, if we were doing this correctly. "Yes" he told us cheerily, "Looks fine to me!"
We had asked the owner of the van if there were any instructions, but he assured us we could not make a mistake & nothing could go wrong.
Famous last words. That night, the winds changed to Southerlies, the temperature plummet-ted to nigh on freezing & it poured with rain! The awning was on inside out! The rain flooded our little back yard area, under the awning, & turned it into a mud bath. Imagine our horror. We still should have heeded these signs & run for our lives.
Worse was to come!
We sorted out the awning, got the mud puddles dried & sat inside in the freezing cold. So much for our summer fun filled vacation. HYPH found a heater in the caravan, so we turned that on, & decided to try a little TV we had been given. ZAP! The power ceased to be! Feeling utterly foolish HYPH, who by now was resembling what he later would become, GOM, in fact, went sheepishly outside to see what the heck he could do to repair the damage. The cheery neighbour site man was out there fixing things.
"Sorry about that!" He grinned, "My fault for having too many heaters going!"
HYPH said nothing & slunk inside again.
Next disaster to strike, was our daughter got a very upset stomach. Vomited, then had to be taken every 10 minutes up the hill to the ablutions block for more horrible effects of her sickness. We blamed the food we had bought at the little shop, & vowed to steer clear of that in future.
Just as she was recovering from that, she got so badly bitten by the sandflies that inhabit the Gorge, that she swelled to thrice her normal size & no amount of calamine lotion seemed to help. Those sandflies would win some world's largest competion I suspect. They are the size of small helicopters & boy, are they hungry!! I think they snack on insect repellent, in preparation for the main course, which is human blood. Or animal's blood, as it happens.
We had a neighbour in a van whose wife made him take their little dog out each day, complete with poo scooper & the poor little animal was suffering so badly from sandfly bites they had to leave early. Not early enough, as it happened because our son & their son went off onto the river on an inflatable inner tube from a tractor tyre, that we had been given, therefore it was deemed to be our fault. The current caught them, & they were being swept rapidly down the river while Mister Dog Dropping Scooper jumped up & down &
In the meantime I was limping about with my suspected broken pubic bone, wondering if I could ever walk normally again. Not wishing to seem antisocial, I had joined in with other campers in a hill climb, & a bush walk, both of which made me wish I could be carried, on a stretcher. We sat around campfires, & played games, & pretended this was the fun of camping holidays. It later turned out we were all novices, as green as!
But of course, disaster was not finished with us by any means. The tractor tube was deflated, & the boys were forbidden to dip so much as a foot in the water without one of us on guard.
I think we had one more night, with the awning in situ. Then a whirlwind came howling down the Gorge, after dark of course. It struck with ferocity & a malignant glee, & tossed whole tents up in the air, ruining stereo gear, salting previously pristine food supplies, as well as the bedding & any other electrical or musical apparatus. It totally wrecked our awning. We sat terrified as the caravan was tossed, rocked, & buffeted by the insane whirling wind. We could hear destruction all around us. Suddenly all was quiet & still again. We huddled together, wide eyed & terrorised.
We decided to go outside to see the damage, & found we were totally locked in our caravan, trapped by twisted aluminium tubing which had been the brace for the awning. Eventually we managed to force the door open, & were greeted by shredded awning canvas, & buckled & badly bent framework. Our belongings which had been stored in the awning room, were scattered around the camp ground.
One untenanted caravan was totally splintered. Others had their awning wrecked like ours. The strange thing was the neighbour who had shorted out the power was totally unharmed! No damage at all. It was later determined the whirlwind or mini tornado had zig zagged down the gorge/valley selecting & dodging various tents & caravans.
We stayed another day or two. We decided we had better quit while we were still alive. We dreaded our trip home, having to tow the caravan.
As I recall it was the worst camping season the Gorge had ever ever experienced. We were offered a refund on our early departure, but we figured they needed it more than we did, after such a dreadful Season.
Of course, it was all my fault for insisting that a camping holiday in a caravan would be "FUN"! Hah!! Cured me for life!!
Gom occasionally looks at caravans, those new swish very large ones, & says he would love to travel off in one. Out of the question now, with his eyesight failing, & I have no desire to learn to tow one, nor live in such close confines with a GOM!
This Janis Ian song is from around that era, & I still love her music & words to this day.