WORDS Carrol Baker
With three generations in the one campsite, gramping offers the perfect opportunity for families to share quality time together in the great outdoors.
Whether it’s camping by a flowing river, beachside escapes, or getting back to basics in the bush, gramping is a fantastic way for kids, parents and grandparents to spend time together and make lasting memories, as they explore this beautiful country we’re lucky enough to call home!
Here, some Aussie grampers share what it is that makes gramping so special.
Sitting by a toasty campfire with the grandkids, telling stories about their adventures in the Aussie bush is what grampers Lynn and Laurie Foster love most about camping with their grandkids Jack, 21, Jamie, 18 and Julie, 15.
A love of exploring the great outdoors is something this family has enjoyed for generations. They started out camping at Dingo Beach, Qld, when their daughter Toni was just a small child. “It was so remote, there were no phones, shops or anything like that,” said Lynn. “I think that’s why we enjoyed it so much, it really was getting away from it all.”
These days, when they pack up the kids, grandkids, and any assorted pets and friends who are keen for a bit of relaxation, they’re likely to head to the beach where they can throw a line in, or to a national park, so Lynn and Laurie can go for a bike ride. But, according to Toni, their cycling and camping adventures together don’t always go to plan.
“Mum and dad are mad keen cyclists and while camping at Peachtree’s they managed to get lost in the bush!” Thankfully, the story had a happy ending with Laurie and Lynn arriving safe and sound after a nail-biting five hours.
“I remember when I was a child, I’d go off exploring when we were camping and get in trouble, now the tables are turned!” Toni said.
Their prized bus, a converted 21-seater 1977 Toyota Coaster that Lynn and Laurie bought in 1988, has taken them to some remote places – from outback Queensland to Cairns, through New South Wales and Victoria, and lots of places in between.
Of late though, their poor old bus has had a couple of mishaps. “We’ve managed to get bogged a few times and last time it broke down, our son-in-law Neil said we should take it to the scrapheap and put it out of its misery,” Lynn said.
So what’s Lynn’s advice for other grandparents who might be thinking about taking the extended family on a trip? “It’s a whole lot noisier but, you know what? The grandkids are growing up so fast, I really treasure the time we can spend with them, doing something we all enjoy.”
Grandmother of five and mother of three Vicki Heading reckons camping with the extended family is beaut.
Vicki and husband Ross have travelled pretty much all over this rugged, wide brown land, and have been fortunate to have their kids and grandkids along for some of their adventures.
The hands-down favourite family camping spot is a friend’s property at Riversleigh near Conondale, Qld, a picturesque 150 acres nestled by the Mary River. And, at times, their camping crew can extend to 30 or more.
“We love it – swimming in the river by day, cooking up big communal roast camp ovens at night and sitting by the fire playing cards with the grandkids,” Vicki said.
Ross said the part of the day these grampers really look forward to is happy hour. “At 4.30pm, we bring out the drinks and nibbles, and sit around the campfire and tell a few tall tales. Life’s so busy these days, we love having the time to just sit and chat with the kids.”
Nan and Poppo, as they are affectionately known, love rustic camping by the beach or the bush, but Vicki said, these days, she couldn’t be without her coffee machine.
“I do like my little comforts,” she said. It seems as though Vicki isn’t the only one either. After six-week-old granddaughter Mia’s teething kept the whole family up through the night, Vicki’s son Matthew knocked on their van door at sun up for a brew, then her bleary-eyed daughter Kylie, and before long more of the crew were all lining up for fresh coffee! “Then they all jumped into bed with us,” Vicki laughed.
Along the way, this enterprising family have devised some rather ingenious little camping extras. Instead of an open fire, they have a fire drum crafted from the internal silver washer barrel of a washing machine. “My brother Col welded some legs on it and put a steel plate on the bottom – it works really well,” Ross said.
Vicki and Ross reckon that sharing their camping adventures has brought their close-knit family even closer together. “We just feel really lucky that our kids and their kids want to be with us,” says Vicki.
“I think it works for us because everyone just pitches in, we not only share a few laughs, but the chores too, and the bigger kids look after the little ones, so their mums get a break too.”
Christine Ivey said camping with her grandkids has taught her one very important thing. “I’ve learned how to have fun again,” she said. “Even just doing simple little things like holding hands together with the grandkids, and skipping down to the shop at the caravan park to have an ice-block”.
Marnie (Christine) and Grump (Grandad Tony) have two daughters and four grandkids, aged from one to eight. Their favourite camping spot is at Woody Head on the New South Wales coast, where they’ve been regulars for nearly 30 years.
They’ve seen people come and go from the popular camping spot and have forged firm friendships with some of the regulars. “Over the years, you watch their kids grow up and then later see their kids come back with their own families. That’s pretty cool,” Christine said.
Christine and Tony’s daughter Maegan met her husband Chris, whose parents ran the Woody Head caravan park at the time, when she was 15. Maegan and Chris were married two years ago overlooking the beach, at the very same spot where they’d met 12 years before.
The family also camp at their bush block at Ewingar, a sprawling 110 acre rural retreat, where they spend their days kayaking and fossicking for crystals. When night time falls, they stroll around with the grandkids on the lookout for fireflies.
Some of the memories they’ve shared camping are priceless, Christine said. One day she and her daughters decided to do a bit of pampering and put on face masks. Eight-year-old granddaughter Denin joined in and then five-year-old grandson Lennox said he wanted to be part of the action too. “In the end we all lay there, face masks painted on, and all started giggling,” she said.
Grandad Tony also has his share of special camping memories with the grandkids. “I took Denin, who was four at the time, fishing for the first time at Woody Head. Baited up the hook, showed her how to cast and before long she was reeling in a nice little bream,” he recalled. “Then a seahawk swooped down and was trying to get the fish – and they had a big tug-of-war, with little Denin trying madly to reel it in, which she did in the end.”
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