We survived the camping! I was a little disappointed that the camp site was so far from the Naivasha Lake, but this was largely because the water has receded so far over the past few years. We were warned that hippos may wander around our tents at night and indeed we did hear them but that just goes to show how far they venture to graze at night. I must admit that walking over the flood plains for twenty minutes to the water’s edge was stunning as there was so much game grazing all around. We strolled between giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, bush buck, impala and the odd herd of cows. The birds were also spectacular. The owner of the camp site told us that ten wildebeest were introduced to Naivasha in the 1980s by a film crew who were shooting: ‘Zena, Queen of the Jungle’ (or something like that), and now there are four hundred of them milling around.
The family that accompanied us had supreme camping equipment with flat packed, pop up ‘in tent’ shelving, large camping utensil kits and a hundred matching Tupperware with tasty, exotic treats inside. They were faultlessly organised (but they did forget loo roll, so we managed to save the day on that one) and they were generous is sharing out their Italian buffalo mozzarella and delicious dried fruit and nut mix. We were camping under acacia trees and in a ‘coup de grace’ my husband strung up a hammock which was squabbled over quite a lot but provided hours of children’s entertainment – that is until my husband came along and claimed full time ownership of it with his binoculars and bird book in hand. Overall, the kids managed well with all the excitement and took camping in their stride. The only exception amongst the six children was my eldest daughter, who, increasingly buoyed with confidence through being with her school friend 24/7, switched to obnoxious showing off overdrive, demanding of the grown ups: ‘Where’s my egg and bacon?’ as us parents slaved over the stove and searched through numerous cool boxes. ‘Where’s MY chair?’ ‘I want to sit here!’ ‘Where’s my plate?’ ‘where’s my fork?’ ‘I want the sweets!’ as she started burrowing in the car ‘Let me have them!’ when I said, ‘No, not now’ the response was, ‘Why not, I’m going to get them anyway?’ My eldest was behaving liker Veruca Salt from Charlie and Chocolate Factory and I was appalled that a whole other family was witnessing this.
I notice that everyone gets territorial over their possessions while camping (ie my husband and his hammock) and I had become territorial over the sweets (among other things). In fact I regretted bringing so many but my kids had rumbled me as I was packing so there was no way out. Before leaving home, I had thought that sweets would be a welcome reward/distraction while camping but I had underestimated the tendency to over cater especially when two families of five are pooling resources and we really didn’t need them. The other family had healthy snacks and I had brought all the bad stuff.
On our return to Nairobi I looked back despairing at my eight year old’s loud demanding and diva-ish behaviour over the weekend not least because she had quite obviously been driving everyone in the camp mad. I wanted her to quickly morph into a more socially acceptable quietly spoken, polite and helpful child in the few precious days that we have left before she gets back to school. I had watched with admiration the kind eleven year old girl in our party who took care of the little ones, pushed them on the hammock and actually offered to wash up every day and wondered where I was going fundamentally wrong.
As a knee jerk reaction and as soon as we got out of the car on our return, my husband and I came up with the idea of compiling a list of ‘rules’ to be stuck to the fridge and my eldest daughter contritely offered to write them out. There are about eight and they consist of ‘do not try to be first all the time’, and ‘do not push and shove’, ‘do not interrupt’. Writing this has reminded me I must add, ‘do offer to help!’ Now that the dust has settled, I think that much of the fault can be blamed crazy amounts of excess sugar (that I provided) and sleep deprivation because now we’re home she is calm again.
Having accused my daughter of bad behaviour, I must admit that I also had a camping tantrum about wanting to go out onto the lake in a boat. No body else was interested and it was going to be expensive so they tried to talk me out of it but I was belligerent. They said, ‘Look, it’s raining; we will be cold and miserable in a boat’ I said, ‘But look, over the lake is clear sky, it’s going to be a beautiful evening, Lets go!’
We didn’t go on a boat in the end and instead of accepting that I was outnumbered I got quietly madder, but then perhaps camping brings out the worst in some people (especially my eldest daughter and I). After all, we were coping with smelly long drop loos, spidery, spluttery showers that ran dry on the second day of our stay and two utterly sleepless nights of kids needing wees but being scared to go out because of grunting wildlife and a pack of farm dogs chasing impala around our tents all night and barking. As my friend put it: ‘You sort of have your eyes closed pretending to sleep, but in fact you are completely awake and listening hard to all the noises the whole night.’
I should think it will be another six months before we decide to load up the car again for our next camping trip. Before hand I will remember to do the ‘everyone must help with chores’ pep talk and perhaps not pack bags of sweets and hundreds of chocolate brownies to prevent a repeat performance of kids on a sugar rush children getting boisterous and embarrassingly out of hand. On the upside, going camping is as dirt cheap as a holiday can get so as an option it cannot be ignored. Next time we go to Naivasha with our tents, I might first try and join the Sailing Club so that we can camp there. On one of our long walks not only did I see that the Club House is situated right on the lake with fantastic views over the water, but I noticed that they had flushing loos, better showers and a kitchen with a fridge and microwave too. Now that’s my kind of camping!