Walking on SunsetI am in love. All over again. With camping.

Who knew that it is 160km from Auckland to Whangarei but only 156km from Whangarei to Auckland? Everybody should know that the apparent confusion of distance from metro to retro is because Northland is actually operating on a different dimension to Auckland. There is a refraction of the light as you pass the turn-off to Dargeville and keep migrating toward the Sun. It’s Northland time and space, Distance is immaterial. It’s a state of mind.

Who knew that living next to complete strangers with only a flimsy of canvas between you could lead to the creation of civilization all over again? That laughing children riding bareback horses into the estuary or people jumping off the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere to celebrate a birthday, puberty, courage – could be so sublime? That delaying the return of camping because the children were “too young” was such a ridiculous mistake? I knew all along but chose to ignore it.

Memories of brittle straw tips after the combine harvester, milk still warm from the cow, jumping concrete tank defence blocks onto the sand and maram grass the colour of sage and cream – my own memories. Christ I’m old. And I’m proud that those are my memories, I am proud of my age. Ageing is for the brave and the fierce, the ones who learn. In time. For the lucky and the simple and for the smokin’ hot-chili determined. I can be one of those. It’s for those that accept they can’t stay here forever.

Watching my children lose their inhibitions, fears and limits, while developing ships-that-pass-in-the-night-friends. Letting them go places alone learning to feel safe in their own company then finding out how good it is to be part of a random pack. Overdosing on dairy visits, or getting tumbled in the surf, all this is the stuff of life.

What was I afraid of? Not being able to handle a tent with skill, pride and respect? Looking like a dick? Afraid I would love the intensity of the rest of the Great Unwashed? That my children would embarrass me and there would be nowhere to hide? So many questions, and only one answer.

Mainly, looking like a dick. GO CAMPING.