By Vilde Sørnes Solbakken
When I first arrived Australia from Norway, I was introduced to a new camping “world” with swags and driving all the way to the surf. This is foremost a letter to my Australian camping friends, but can also be related to any camping form wherever you are. Welcome to the Australian camping.
The car is fully loaded and we are ready to go. No light camping, we’re off to the beach. We are jumping up and down in the old Land Rover while we are driving through the passing to the beach. It is quite busy on beautiful days like this. We get to the beach, and then it‘s like driving on the highway. Though it’s a thousand times better scenery. Eagles flying high and low over the tree tops on the left, and on the right it is blue as far as you can see. It is amazing to feel the ocean breeze messing up my hair as we are driving aside the surf further up on the beach.
We park up, right next to the surf break.
A few years back, on a field trip in coastal ecology on Fraser Island, we suddenly met some small, moving creatures crossing the beach highway right in front of us. It was baby turtles. About one hundred of them. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Hatching in the dunes, as the sea turtles do, crossing traffic driving in 80 km/h is one of the first challenges they are facing in this world. These little ones, moving as fast as they possibly can, following light sources of the ocean and the horizon, to find their home. This day cars and tour buses kept coming, and some of them had to be told to stop. These turtles didn’t get run over, didn’t get caught by predators or crabs, and we walked with them and watched their first step into the ocean. We watched them swim into their new world, knowing it is the riskiest time of the day for turtles to hatch, as the daylight will make them highly visible and tempting bait for predators.
We wouldn’t been able to stop for the baby turtles if we didn’t have the eyes on the road. If we were not aware of the possibility that we might have to stop. Or if we didn’t have time for nature, like for example tour buses passing at high speed to stay on schedule.
I grew up walking miles in hiking boots for camping beautiful places in the mountains: go wherever you want, but respect the nature and “leave no traces” is the main rule. Living on the coast of Australia, I got to learn that 4×4 driving is a part of the camping culture and the most common way to camp among my friends. I experience beach camping as an enjoyable recreational activity, but dilemmas arise when we do what we want without caring about our surroundings and environment. We are visitors on the beach, but do we respect the house rules?
If you respect the host, don’t leave any traces. If you don’t respect the host, don’t go. If you want to come back, don’t kill anything. If you want to be a good guest, pick up some extra marine litter while you’re there. Bring more rubbish from the beach than what you brought yourself. Look around, be aware about the life around you and respect it. Make it fair for our coastal friends to share the beach with us. They are small but important.
I am asking you, as a camper, to change your attitude, not your culture.
“Don’t destroy what you’ve come to enjoy” is one of the main sayings I’ve picked up in Australia. As a visitor, always remember to respect the host. In return you will get clean surf and beach, in addition to a healthier environment – A better place for all of us.
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