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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hardship Holiday

Now that I have recovered from the New Zealand trip, I hereby promise myself that I will never go camping again. Gee... what was I thinking when I signed myself up for that?!

Budget Style Travel in Europe
As young parents, The Husband and I devised a perfect way to travel in Europe, USA and Australia without breaking the bank. We would rent a car and a cottage at every stop. See HERE. Maybe 5 days in one cottage before we move on to the next stop, next cottage. So, a fifteen day holiday would need 3 different cottages plus perhaps 2 nights in a city hotel near the airport - one night when we arrived, and another night before we flew home.

The cottage would be the base from which we would make day trips to tour the sights within an an hour's drive. It allowed us to discover corners not found on the internet. It allowed us to flexibly plan our visits in active discussion with the kids. We made sure we did something for everyone.

Cottage rental worked out to be about the same as hotel room rental. Cottages had kitchens. If I planned properly, I could cook for every meal. Lunches would be packed. Dinners would be pre-prepared and heated up in the microwave no matter how late we got back. Ovens would be pre-set to start at a certain time so that we would get back home to a hot roast or seafood en papillottes. If I was resourceful, we could have rare specialty cheeses, an informed selection of fresh oysters, deli delights that would cost 5 times the price in Singapore or in the restaurants there.

Eating out in restaurants can easily make up half of the cost of a holiday in Europe, Australia or USA because labour costs in such countries are high. Travelling this way, I effectively halved our travel costs whilst ensuring that the children ate well. Little kids have peculiar food habits which restaurants don't cater to. For a long while, before she became more adventurous with food, The Daughter only ate fried rice. Little Boy had to have spaghetti bolognaise. If I cooked as we travelled, the children ate more and we had less fights about eating.

It was a formula that worked.

Me No Gypsy
Then I had to go and mess with it because I had this romanticised notion of a gypsy's life. It was a hardship holiday I tell you. We were all very very tired at the end of 14 days. It ain't fun trying to sprint across the camp grounds to the communal toilet in the morning chill, only to realise that I had left my toothbrush back at the RV. Then I had to run back. It ain't fun trotting back and forth from the communal kitchen to the RV with pots and bowls and such.

The Husband knocked his head on the ceiling a few times. Little Boy closed the RV door on his own head a couple of times. My bed was used as the repository for bags and shopping. Little grains of I-dunno-what collected on it and irritated my skin at night, before The Daughter figured out how to carry out the quilt and shake it down before bedtime.

At first, nobody thought it necessary to clean out the excrement tank daily. Nobody liked that job, you see. It made perfect sense to collect enough to make the dirty task worthwhile. The thing though is that all that excrement decomposes into rather pungent gaseous byproducts. When the toilet bowl's toilet hatch is opened to receive the errrr.... newer droppings, putrescent fumes (the like of which would delight Milo) arise from below. Since my bed was right next to the toilet, the olfactory centre of my brain was given a fair bit of stimulation. We soon devised a way of pouring bleach into the hatch after every ummm... exercise of relief. I was very enthusiastic about that. I poured in lots and lots of bleach. The result was an updraft of another type of gas which corroded our ummm... delicate parts, and made us cough. In the end, we learnt to use the bleach sparingly to good effect. We also learnt to clean out the excrement tank everyday.

Conjunctivitis and Sinusitis
Then, The Husband's nose went on strike. Mud from the thermal mud pools had got into his eye. The tear duct was blocked up and then his nose decided to deny entry through its passages to the little specks of mud. His eye became infected with bacteria because with blocked tear duct and nose, the eye could not clean itself. The poor man couldn't breathe. Both nasal passages were so stuck that no amount of trying could get air to pass. They were hermetically sealed.

Then I came across a signboard outside a thermal pool that warned people against putting their heads inside the water of a thermal pool in order not to catch Amoebic Meningitis. Curious, I went to google the condition and scared myself SILLY. It was documented on the internet that the amoeba (which lives in hot springs) first colonises the nose and through the nose, it colonises the brain... and travels to the brain stem and there it begins to EAT the brain. Apparently, it's fatal. The amoeba liquefies your brain. It literally turns your brain to mush. We had visited 2 thermal springs. I stood there with the Sword of Damocles over my head, wondering if there were amoebae in The Husband's nose.

I didn't tell anyone my fears for 2 days. Then, the stress was too much to bear. I told everyone and freaked them all out. Poor Little Boy was VERY insistent that his father go and see a proper doctor. A little bit of Google is a scary thing.

Since The Husband couldn't breathe, he couldn't sleep. He lay next to me and emitted all sorts of hissing, puffing, gurgling and bubbling sounds. He sounded like a noisy toilet bowl trying to clear its own choke. I too woke up. Over two nights, I spent 3 hours administering pine essential oil and tea tree oil. I did it with great gusto (believing the enemy to be a species of brain eating amoeba). The Daughter called a helpline which advised that we call an ambulance and admit him to Emergency. However, the nearest hospital was 1 hour away... so we decided to wait till dawn before we drove that 1 hour to the hospital. By that time, the pine essential oil and the tea tree oil had done their job.

We went to see a doctor anyway because Little Boy was most insistent.

The worst thing was that we didn't SAVE money. We spent MORE than we had thought we would. Now THAT makes me really sore. We got the most expensive RV available for 4 people because we had intended to do freedom camping. However, I was just so grossed out by the dirty toilets in the freedom camps that The Husband decided to let us camp quite often at Full Service Campsites with showers, toilets and kitchens. It's like paying for accommodation twice.

I'm so going back to cottage style travelling.

Nonetheless, out of the ashes of this experience rose a resplendent phoenix of joy and hope. Our little family really bonded. The experience allowed us to see the mettle of both our children. Both Little Boy and The Daughter were strong under pressure. I have good kids.

No... I have GREAT kids!


Blur Ting said...

Aw, such drama. It sounded like a nightmare but the way you wrote it is so entertaining, it almost sounded charming.

Petunia Lee said...

Yup... it's good to laugh at life sometimes. Else, very depressing!

Sharon said...

For some time I was a little worried my kids will get to read the wonderful camping holiday you had. This is because I would never do it. And thank you; after this blog I am more than sure I wouldn't never do it! Thank you for sharing :))

My Sinfonia said...

totally understand....I am too much of a gu niang too. No camping or bush walking for me thank you very much. Glad you are still of good cheer!

Petunia Lee said...

Sinfonia - I wasn't cheerful DURING I can tell you that. But on hindsight... Laughing is better than crying. 2 out of 4 people thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Petunia Lee said...

Sharon - Yes... NEVER!