The Hummer hums. We head north to Cape Leveque, 200 kilometres up the Dampier Peninsular.
We’re novices in the 4WD business so we take it easy. Plumes of dust envelop us as we pass vehicles returning from this one way in and out red strip of road.
Beagle Bay community would have made a nice stop for lunch but we miss the turn off.
In just over three hours we’re checking in at the Cape. The lighthouse sits on top of a short rise overlooking the campground. We’re directed to tent site number six.
We need to know where the sun will rise so we can orient the tents for the next day. The Hummer has a compass readout on the rear vision mirror so we’ll always know approximately where we might be. It only does the compass points by quadrants so we do some guesswork and set out the tents to maximise where shade might be throughout the day. Then we unpack.
We’ve left one of the maxi six person tents behind preferring to use the bambino tent Denis and Pauline have brought along as our second. Time and space are our key criteria.
‘Time us will ya’ I call to Pauline. It’s 12:15pm.
It takes us until 1:15 to set up both tents, one of which we’ve never seen before. Renee’s magic ‘clickety click’ assurances are way off the mark. But we’re pleased with our first attempt.
The girls have dragged out the camping table and six green eco friendly bags of food lie scattered across the sandy site. They’ve made some sandwiches and a cup of tea on the gas stove. Denis and I are filthy. We have red dust in every orifice. We all sit around the table and survey our home for the next three nights. ‘Clickety click’ – we toast ourselves and Renee on completion of our first stage.
Thirty minutes later we set to work on putting the stretchers together. As we bang them into a bed shape I’m thinking ‘fuck they’re big’. Long and wide. You could sleep two in these comfortably. When we have four set up all I can see is an ocean of canvas. They take up the whole campsite.
Then the fun begins. It’s clear they’re not going to fit into the bambino. We’ll all have to sleep in the big house I muse. We’re all secretly trying to imagine how that might work.
We carry one of the giants into the tent and discover it fits. That’s a win. Unfortunately it’s so fucking big there’s no way a second can follow.
Unwilling to accept defeat Denis and I ignore the wailing in the background and assure the distraught wives that we’ll sort it out.
There are two compartments in the tent. First we try turning the said stretcher sideways across the tent. It fits. But it fails to resolve our problem. It blocks access to the rear compartment. We try straddling both sections from front to back but that means we’ve lost the use of the second compartment.
‘What if we try assembling the second stretcher in the back compartment’ suggests Denis. By this time we’ve removed the first stretcher and tried carrying the second stretcher in on its side, on its back, at a forty-five degree angle, shoving it, stretching the ten to its nylon limits, all to no avail.
We begin by dismantling the stretcher and carry the pieces (there are only three) into the tight rear space. We mange to assemble it, though both of us fear permanent damage to our backs as we adopt some advanced yoga positions in order to join up the pieces (of which there are still only three).
Ultimately we accept defeat when the best we can do is achieve three legs in contact with the ground and the fourth suspended six inches above terra firma. The only other option is to cut a hole in the brand new tent to allow the final leg to find the ground.
We’re tempted. The thought of having to explain this to Tim and Renee causes us to pause.
Denis and I look at each other. Resigned to our fate we emerge from the tent stretcher carried between us to face the music. I’m fuming.
‘I’m going to call Tim. This is fucking ridiculous.’
It’s not your fault’ Andrea offers reassuringly.
And I’m not sure it’s Tim’s either but I march off to the phone to abuse whoever answers my call.