Rob Rattenbury: Life lessons learned through camping experiences

Learning to live in the bush and on our rough coasts teaches kids self-reliance, risk assessment and versatility, writes Rob Rattenbury. Photo / 123rf


It’s delightful waking to the sound of the resident tui in the kowhai tree and the rain in recent mornings.

Soft gentle rain. This reminds me of being in the bush. Camping. Waking in
a tent, hut or bach wrapped in a sleeping bag, listening to the soft fall of rain on the corrugated iron or canvas.

Native birdsong filling the morning with the joy of a new day, new adventures, perhaps a challenge or two. Lying there not wanting to move, it’s cosy in the bag listening to the rain. Better get up, get the breakfast on, get water in. Wake the kids up. Get Herself a cup of tea.

We did the camping thing with our children for years. Both grew up comfortable sleeping in tents, on stretchers, in sleeping bags. Waking to birdsong, a beautiful sunny day or soft rain.

Camping in the 70s, 80s and early 90s was a cheap family holiday option. Throw the kids in the car, fill the boot with camping gear, and even use a roof rack or trailer to carry stuff. Off to the Wairarapa coast perhaps, or a road trip following campsites around the North Island.

The children enjoyed it when small, helping dad get the gas stove going in the tent annexe. Cooking brekkie out of the rain. Cooking dinner over an open fire, billy tea, using the thermette with slivers of dried totara kindling and a wee dose of methylated spirits to light it. Camp ovens, billies, fry pans. Plastic or metal plates and those awful metal eating utensils.

Being used to the stinky long drop, really high in summer. Cold and draughty in winter. The friendly buzz of bluebottles. You never quite knew where they all were, always an adventure.

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Long days in the bush or on the coast exploring. Sitting with mum and her friends while dad and his mates collected kaimoana. Eating paua steaks cooked on the fire, crayfish…


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