29 November, 2015

Back home from camping

We've been back 24 hours from our camping trip.

Good news: It wasn't anywhere near as cold as was predicted (one prediction was max -1 on Friday and -6 minimum). The coldest we saw was -.04˚C at about 8am on Friday. We were up at 2am fixing the annex that night at it was above zero even then.

Bad news: The swing that the boys remembered so fondly had been "removed for safety reasons". Probably, the high pine-tree branch it had been attached to had begun to break. The flying fox had also been removed. This news was taken fairly stoically, but has meant that we may or may not return to this campsite. We'll be looking around for another with more appeal.

Good news: 

  • The boys kept themselves busy anyway and had lots of fun. 
  • Attitudes were great 90% of the time, which is probably a higher percentage than we get at home. 
  • My dream of everyone "pitching in and helping without being forced" pretty much came true for set-up and take-down.
  • The view was a spectacular as ever. Worth getting out of bed for even when the temperatures are very low.
  • Temperatures on Thursday while we set-up and ate dinner were very mild (10˚C dropping to 7˚C during dinner).
  • My modified simple menu was worthwhile (I pre-cooked some food, making me busier earlier in the week).
I couldn't stop exclaiming at the view. To the point where I'm 
being mildly teased about it by one son. The location is
basically surrounded by spectacular views. From this 
location, if you turn around and walk about 300m, 
you get a view of Mt Fuji.
Sunset on the first night. We were the only
overnight campers this night.

A bit of a weird panorama, but it gives you a little bit of perspective.

Getting out of the wind into the tent was a good way to pass 
the evening. We played card games. The silver insulation sheets
were marvellous. You can see it, but I'm sitting on an electric
carpet (about 40cm x 40cm). It was fantastic too, but too little to
share. A larger one would have been super.

The only time we saw the thermometer under zero.

Loved the skies!
One activity that still existed was the Park Golf course. It's a
game from Hokkaido, a bit like putt-putt or mini golf, except
that it is played on much more "natural" courses. This course
was more "natural" than most as instead of "sand traps" we
had "leaf traps". At one point my orange ball disappeared 
into a drift about 15cm of leaves.

Many Japanese campsites have their own camp kitchens.
This is one of the best equipped we're seen. Usually 
camp kitchens are merely sinks with cold water taps under a shelter
This kitchen had gas burners and hot running water. Not
to mention a view. One of our camp traditions is that all the boys take turns to help
parents (who also take turns) wash or dry after each meal. 

This is another camp tradition: bananas, chocolate, and marshmallow in foil cooked in the fire. Amazing. I know you can do this at home, but I've kept it a camp-only dessert so it's really special.
My view on the last morning before I got out of my toasty warm bed. Wondering how we coped with such low temperatures? Each boy had two or three sleeping bags (they are all second-hand and not super quality). David and I slept on the queen-sized air bed I bought at Thrift Shop for 500 yen. We had a thin blanket under us, each were in our own sleeping bags, and then we had two queen-sized blankets (and our jackets) on top. It was toasty.
I wore two layers on my feet legs and three on my torso, in addition to a scarf and beanie.
Just to prove that our dining room did indeed include an amazing view. This is the guys sitting around the breakfast fire.
We're occasionally asked whether Japanese people camp. They do. Probably a lower percentage of them than Australians, but we're rarely alone in a campsite. We were the only overnight campers on Thursday night, by Friday night there were a handful of other campers. But by the time we left just before lunch on Saturday there were nearly a dozen other campers. We saw a couple of these tepees yesterday, they look cosy.
A bit of self-generated fun while we waited for the bottom of the tent to dry off before we
packed it away for another winter. The three boys (can you see them all?) each stood on a campsite-marker.
On the way out of the campsite we stopped to take in Mt Fuji's beauty.
One of our traditions has become stopping at this local road-side farmers stall to buy apples. We bought 20kg of "seconds" for 100 yen a kilo (about AU$1.13). When apples usually start at 100 yen per apple in this country, that is a huge bargain.

One big reason the boys love camping at this time of year is because there are hardly any creepy crawlies. No putting sunscreen and mozzie repellent on whenever you're outside!

But I've come home tired and headachy (latter probably muscle tension, cold does that to you). I didn't sleep super well on Friday night because the wind was loud in the trees surrounding the campsite and periodically it whipped down and teased our tarp-annex. I found myself tense, just waiting for the moment when we'd have to get out of our cosy bed and fix it up. After a while I had to distract myself with other thoughts. Thankfully it stayed up all of Friday night, but I did lose sleep.

But it was mentally refreshing to get out of the city, as usual, and I can't wait until next spring when we can go camping again.

Camping at this time of year also always functions as an awareness exercise. My prayers for the homeless of this world take on a new dimension. As I think about the Syrian refugees in Europe at the moment my heart goes out to them. Not only have they lost almost everything they know, they are facing a cold winter. I've also heard that the Christians among them still fear for their lives and are often staying away from the "comfort" of the crowded refugee camps.

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