The perfect campsite?
  |  First Published: May 2003

How many times have you thought that you had found the perfect camp site, only to be disappointed by things beyond your control? This can happen at any time and usually takes you completely unawares.

Recently on a trip to Chaffey Dam, near Tamworth, after much deliberation and walking we settled on a nice, level site with the water only a few metres away. This, we thought, would allow us to launch the boat and leave it at the water’s edge close to camp.

After unpacking the tent and laying out the groundsheet, we proceeded to try to knock the pegs into the ground. This was folly No 1. After more than our fair share of choice words and bending one too many pegs, we decided that this ‘perfect’ site was not so. Chaffey Dam campground has hectares of self-choice camping sites, so we were not restricted to where we had to camp. We set about to find perfect campsite No 2.

We found another excellent site, this time on higher ground away from the compacted foreshore. This new site had a bench-type table and stools concreted in and a barbecue – just enough comforts to mean a great campsite. There were also a few largish trees to provide some shade but, alas, when we tried to knock in the pegs, the ground was just as unforgiving. Fortunately we tried the pegs before getting out our tent.

So we were on the trail to find ‘perfect’ site No 3. By this time, the sun was high above and it was six hours since breakfast, so the new site was christened by a picnic lunch before we even tried the tent pegs into the ground. Success at last! So we set to erecting the tent and all the paraphernalia that we take with us.

At last!

This site was perfect. The large pine trees gave us a shelter from prevailing winds as well as ample shade during the hotter parts of the day. By playing musical chairs in the late afternoon as the sun sank, we had shade until dusk.

Because the Chaffey Dam campground is so vast, there was quite a distance to the toilet and shower block, so we decided to erect our own facilities. We set up our new shower tent a short distance from the main tent, just under the outer edge of the trees. This gave us a nice shady area for the shower tent and because we had set it up far enough away from our main tent, there were no water run-off problems from the shower.

At the time of this trip, NSW was in the full grip of drought and the grassed area around our camp was looking far the worse for wear, so the run-off from the shower provided some relief for our camp site. The pine trees were host to several families of galahs, and the baby birds were just venturing out of the nests and exploring their environment. They were fully fledged and just about to start flying lessons.

The high branches of the pines gave the galahs a perfect take-off and landing point. Now birds will be birds, so you know what happened to the roof of our shower tent! A small plastic tarp was soon covering the top of our personal convenience after we had given it a good scrub.

One of the first rules of camping in the great unknown is to always keep the zips on the tent closed –you never know just what could be lurking about. One does tend to get a bit complacent over the years and as we get older we do tend to forget some of the rules.

One afternoon while enjoying happy hour with some fellow campers we were distracted by a commotion in the trees above. Suddenly there were bits of bark and leaves going everywhere and a small four-legged animal took off down the trunk of the tree and straight across to our tent. Murphy’s Law states that if it can go wrong it will, so we now had an animal of some sort in our tent because I had left the zipper open. I just forgot to do it up after getting the beers.

Although the animal was sighted scurrying around under our new elevated bed, we could not find it. We left the tent open and went back to the shade of the trees. We decided that it would probably leave when it was ready and I was not going to turn the whole tent upside down for one small creature. I had decided that it was probably only a baby possum, so no harm would be done.

Ten minutes later, a very large rat scampered out of our tent and proceeded to climb up the tree next to us. It appeared to almost be laughing at us as it made its way back up the tree. I hastily zipped up the tent before it could invite the whole family of rats in for a feast from our larder.

You would think that enough had happened on this trip, but alas, the following night the wind was so strong that it blew several large spiders out of the trees. Some of these took shelter in, you guessed, our tent. They must have got in while we were cooking dinner because as that was the only time we left the zipper undone. As I have said before I really don’t like to share my space with critters.

On this camping trip, Murphy seemed to take over. We have never had so many incidents, but it did remind us that even on a simple fishing trip there are still some basics one should never forget. At least there were no snakes, as that would probably have been the last straw.

Don’t get the wrong idea, though, I really do enjoy camping and the tent will always accompany us on our travels.



A late afternoon view of our camp. The shade covered our outdoor dining area till about 2pm each day. Not only did the trees provide shade, but they were spaced well enough for a clothes line to be strung between them.


The new shower/toilet tent was great. The tent has a removable floor, however we found that by releasing the floor on the downhill side the shower water ran out and the dry ground soaked it up. This allowed us to keep the floor in place, so that we did not need to use a mat.


The views from our site were quite spectacular. When the wind blew the water got really muddy, but on a still day it was crystal clear.

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