Friday, January 22, 2010

An Oasis Turned Mirage

As we drove back to camp I couldn't help but reflect on the sticky situation we had just been through.  I questioned why didn't we turn around when the trail became overgrown. It wasn't like we were at a point of no return.  As very experienced hikers we knew the trail wasn't going to miraculously get better. In fact, there was a good chance that the conditions would continue to go down hill.  However, we chose to persevere.  Deep in our hearts we knew what we were doing was a mistake, but we stubbornly carried on.  Why was that?  What is it that causes us to go against our instincts?  Neither Mark nor I are daredevils; in fact, we are both fairly reserved in our actions. Is it that when faced with situations similar to the one we had just encountered, we become thrill seekers?  Maybe it is our need to challenge and conquer mother nature.  More than likely it was just stupidity.  Whatever the case, the event was behind us and we were now safely heading back to our camp.
I was looking forward to ripping off my sweat and dirt stained clothes to take a warm sponge bath.  I knew that after cleaning up our wounds we would sit with a cold beer and reflect on our day--a way of decompressing from a very stressful situation.  A replenishing meal would be followed by a good night's sleep.  Even though, in my current condition I felt that there was no way I would be hitting the trail the next day, in my gut I knew that it would be a different story in the morning.
As we turned into the tree-lined archway that would take us to our camp, a sinking feeling spread over me.  Not 50 meters off the road was a wicked van, and this could only mean one thing.  Sure enough, as we pulled into camp we found that in the 8 hours we had been gone the camp had been overrun by the masses.  Well maybe masses is a bit extreme, but there were several new campsites, which in itself wouldn't be so bad, but there was a family that had actually moved into our area!!!!!  I quickly looked at the site of the couple from the night before.  I knew they were still out in the park, since we had just passed them on our drive.  Their site remained as they left it that morning.  No one had moved in to share their fire pit.   I groaned "Why us?"
Mark, asked "Now what?"  I told him that we had obviously left the campsite occupied and to park where we had the night before.  I was not in the mood to try to move.  I slowly crawled from the car so I could help Mark back in.  I was greeted by an unfriendly look from the man who had taken over, which was followed by his teenage daughter shrieking that the van was too close to the fire (it was at least 20 feet away).   I sluggishly directed Mark to our parking spot and flung open the camper doors.  I wanted to get the water boiling.  I pulled out the coleman and headed over to the table that was completely covered by the intruders' stuff.  I set the stove on the bench, hoping that they would get the idea and clear us a space.   To my frustration there was no response from the father and 2-daughter team, and to make matters worse another family was strolling over to the fire pit.  From the interaction between those around us, I gathered that Ashely had invited the neighbors over for a campfire (just outside our tent door).  After all, her father had told her that everything is for sharing when you are out in the bush. Hmm, it didn't look I was going to get much of a warm private wash up.  I closed the van curtains the best I could, filled a bowl with cold water, pulled out the soap, stripped down to a sports bra and shorts, and tried to scrub up the day's horrors.
Even though the father/ 2-daughter team had finished eating and had moved on to roasting marshmallows, the table remained full of their stuff.  We really wanted to to eat, so we set up the stove on the bench and started to boil some water so we could get the pasta on. The campfire was surrounded by 9 people.  I found it interesting that even though they were in our space not one of them had bothered to talk to us, not that it mattered since we really weren't in the mood for chit chat.  Rather than joining the group I went to the tent and pulled out our chairs and set them up in front of the stove.  Mark came over with a couple of coldies and we sat in an exhausted silence, waiting for the water to boil.
Just as we put the pasta on, the father of the second group came up and started to talk to us.  We found it a bit strange not only because he had ignored us up to this point, but also because we had so rudely seated ourselves away from the group.  Before we knew it the entire second family, who were from Melbourne, were seated around us.  I still didn't understand the change, and thought maybe it was due to the fact that Ashley was a bit difficult (very loud, demanding and a pyromanic) and/or her father lacked social skills.  Whatever the case, Mark and I tried to hold a conversation while we slurped down our spaghetti, and then we settled in to some yarn telling that went on to nearly midnight.
It wasn't until the next day when we returned from a hike--yes we woke up eager to hit the trails--that the Melbourne family came to explain about the night before.  Apparently, they thought that the campsite was the father/daughter team's (who had since left).  When they saw us drive up in the van they thought we had brusquely charged into an occupied area and tried to take over.  I can just imagine their thoughts and feelings--those damn yanks they think they can bust in and take over everything!  It wasn't until I pulled the chairs from the tent that they realized that the site was originally ours and had uncouthly been taken over when we were on the trail.  When we heard the story from their perspective we had to laugh. We informed them that they were more than welcome to use the fire pit that evening.  However, they would have to pick some wood since Ashely had managed to burn the entire pile we had previously collected.


  1. Hi Maya, it seems like your adventures contiued well into the evening. I'm glad everything worked out in the end with the Melbourne family the next day.

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Kathy, I think it was the latest I had stayed up in a long time. I didn't even make it up that late on NYE. I don't know how I managed since I was so exhausted! The Melbourne family was great and we hope to catch up with them in the future.