I don't camp. Spending a night under canvas just isn't my thing. I have been to a couple of charity dinners and wedding receptions in glamorous marquees though but I know that doesn't count. Going without essential services such as electricity and running water strikes me as situations to be endured in the aftermath of a disaster not conditions to be willingly embraced in the spirit of holidaying.
Another Kiwi holidaying tradition I can't get my head around is the penchant for overloading houses or bachs with visitors. Just because various bunkrooms, sleep-outs, sofas and tents on the lawn can accommodate a large number of guests doesn't mean it's a good idea.
I've witnessed up to sixteen people all staying in (or beside) a modest two-bedroom bach. Now this would have been fine accommodation for one family or a couple of couples but sixteen people using a single basic bathroom seemed not only excessive but logistically complicated. I'm not sure what my acceptable ratio of people to bathrooms is. Maybe it's four to one? Possibly six if you were really close friends or it was a really well appointed bathroom?
Overcrowded homes are usually associated with poverty and dire financial straits. Neglect of children and increased rates of colds, asthma, influenza and diarrhoea have been linked to overcrowding which has also been identified as a risk factor for tuberculosis. Having too many people living in cramped quarters with poor facilities is a well-documented hazard to both physical health and psychological wellbeing. Why people from perfectly adequate homes would choose to holiday in such conditions is a mystery to me.
My general rule of thumb is that vacation digs need to be on a par with your home accommodation which is probably why I've never been camping. But we're all different and many people see the appeal of campfires, communal ablution blocks and generally getting back to nature. For some of us camping is the most economical - perhaps the only - way of having a family holiday.
Thanks to the widespread and relentless rain over the New Year period, the plight of campers has been on our minds. Being tent-bound can't be much fun. While driving down to Hawke's Bay at the end of December I heard radio talkback host Pam Corkery, clearly no fan of camping, wonder why anyone would camp with people they could possibly barely tolerate in normal living conditions. The implication was that any tensions would be exacerbated. And that's without the inclement weather factored in.
Yet I can relate to the need to occasionally retreat from the rampant materialism and reliance on consumer goods that modern life entails. Paring down, going without and escaping the relentless commercialism can be good for the soul. In this spirit, we've chosen to simplify our accommodation this holiday season.
We're spending time in a small one-hundred-year-old cottage in rural Hawke's Bay. It has an outside bathroom and just two bedrooms. It also has air-conditioning, a Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer dishwasher and a well-stocked drinks cabinet. I said we were simplifying. I didn't say we're roughing it. Let's leave that to the campers.