Who decides to go camping when it’s predicted to be 1°C overnight? Three idiots, that’s who. Me, Balders and Flashie finally co-ordinated a long weekend to go camping together and it turned out to be the coldest Autumn weekend in living history (well, ours). The Anzac Day long weekend (it wasn’t one, but we made it one by taking the Friday off work) saw us pack a tonne of stuff into two cars and fang off to Mount Alexander Regional Park near Castlemaine.
We arrived just after lunch on Anzac Day to find an almost deserted free camp site (yay!) and set up under a brilliant blue sky. Being the responsible adults we are, we shunned getting on the beers until all the work was done, including driving off in search of firewood, because no camping experience is complete without fire. It had been 3°C overnight the night before we arrived, but we weren’t there then so we didn’t care. It was supposed to be around 10°C for our first night, perfect for getting a fire on for warming up one's toes.
We spent the afternoon yapping, playing Championship Scrabble, drinking beers, eating yummy things and generally chilling out. Some clouds rolled in later in the day and hung around keeping the heat in, so we knew we weren’t going to be freezing our bits off overnight. But the weather forecast for Friday and Saturday was cool, with scattered showers, so we’d come prepared with all the appropriate shelter and clothing items. Girl Guides Be Prepared Kit item No 8: bring all the shit you might need.
Friday dawned overcast and chilly so we sparked up the campfire and lounged around in our PJs for ages, drinking coffee, scoffing breakfast and making no decisions beyond that, because that’s allowed when camping.
We eventually got our shit together and headed into Castlemaine for a meander around the Botanical Gardens. It’s obligingly compact and flat so the old knees had no reason to panic, and there were plenty of opportunities to stop for a photo op (aka ‘a rest’). There’s loads of native and non-native trees, Lake Johanna (with ducks!), picnic facilities and toilets, a kiddies playground and a massive oak tree, allegedly planted in 1863 to commemorate some or other royal wedding.
We had a nice cruisy evening (with fire, of course) and then noticed that all the clouds had nicked off and it was getting decidedly cool. You know the temperature has dropped considerably when your red wine has taken on a heavy but distinctly chilled rose vibe. By 10.30pm, the fire was only warming us in small bursts as the temperature continued to plummet, and we deemed it was time for bed.
At this point, Flash revealed her secret weapon: a portable tent heater!! No, I didn't know such things existed either but I can tell you that 10 minutes of that thing blasting inside the tent meant the danger of freezing off any extremities whilst getting out of clothes and into PJs/sleeping bag was eradicated!