The Gamble

My husband is one of the most optimistic people I know. Optimistic to the point (in my mind) of sometimes being a bit unrealistic. I, on the other hand, like to think I’m realistic and try to put a positive spin on things, but in his mind I foresee too many problems. Problems that will likely, according to him, never occur. Well, put it this way: I like to be prepared.

We went bush camping again the other day and, same as last year, we had the weather debate. According to the forecast there was a 50% chance of showers in that area. The thing is, a weather forecast is a relative thing. 50% in one area might not be the same as 50% somewhere else. In this particular area our past experience has been that if there is rain being forecast (no matter how small the chance), it will rain there. Well, that’s my assessment but my husband kept saying: “There’s only a 50% chance. That means there’s a 50% chance that it won’t rain.” And so we debated this point as we were driving along.

When we left Perth the skies were blue with not a cloud in sight. After about an hour and a half of driving it started clouding over and not long after that I was taking photos on my phone of the rain on the windscreen as we were driving. I went quiet (not wanting to be “too realistic”) and my husband glanced at me sideways, nervously. “It will clear up” he said.

It went on like this for a little while, with no sign of the rain abating. Ironman asked me if I regretted coming. Looking at the heavy, grey clouds I said: “No, but I did come against my better judgement” (teen my beterwete, in Afrikaans). (He latched onto that saying and used it over and over the entire weekend, teen my beterwete.)

The realist in me didn’t like camping in the rain when the kids were little, because there’s only so much you can do with toddlers couped up inside a tent when it’s pouring with rain outside. As the kids got older it wasn’t an issue anymore and I find it quite cosy when we’re inside our tent-house while it’s raining. As long as there are no tent malfunctions. Camping with swags in the rain is a bit of a different story though. (A swag is like a bedroll and a mini one man tent all in one. It’s set up like a tent, only much faster, and you get in and out at the top.) I absolutely love sleeping in a swag, when it’s not raining. You can sleep with the top zipped open under the stars. It always reminds me of a TV show I used to watch as a child. Afrikaans readers who grew up in the ‘70’s will remember Liewe Heksie (Dear Kind Little Witch) and her sterretjieskombuis (starry kitchen).


Our swags

Anyway, we arrived at our camp site and it was still raining. We walked around looking for a spot to set up our swags and saw evidence of flooding all around us. I was doing my best to swallow my beterwete at this stage, hoping the weather would be better the following day. We’d come all that way, after all. We waited for a break in the rain and set up the swags. When we were just about done (that is after five minutes) it started raining again so we headed back to the campers’ kitchen, Ironman went mountain biking and I read my book. It pretty much rained the most of the day. I would call that a 50% chance of showers in the event there are clouds. And there were plenty of clouds.


Lichen on the rocks at our camp site (evidence of much rain in the area)

It rained through the night, thankfully not very heavily, and we stayed dry inside our swags. By the following morning there were a few fleeting glimpses of blue sky and we decided to go for a hike. We know this hike quite well and the path is clearly marked so even if it’s overcast it wouldn’t be dangerous. Driving up to the car park we were lucky enough to see a full rainbow over the valley. I got out the car to take a photo and the howling wind made me want to change my mind about the hike, but my ever optimistic husband said: “Let’s go, it will be better once we’re closer to the mountain”. Against my better judgement again, we set off. Clouds came billowing down the mountain at great speed as the wind pushed them along, and then dispersed slightly but we were never able to see the summit. It wasn’t raining until later and we were treated to a beautiful hike in conditions we would normally stay indoors for. The path was wet and there were tiny rivulets of water running everywhere. Droplets were hanging off leaves and flowers and we were surprised by the number of people who were out there. In the end the clouds succumbed and the little drizzle that had started turned into full-on rain that wouldn’t stop. My husband didn’t have a rain jacket with him (there was only a 50% chance of showers) and was getting wet through so we decided to call it a day and turned back. We both enjoyed that hike so much, even though the conditions were less than perfect. We saw and experienced things we wouldn’t see in bright sunlight, and there’s something almost therapeutic about walking in the rain like that.


Rainbow at Bluff Knoll carpark


Bluff Knoll amongst the clouds


More rainbows (a double one this time) on our way down Bluff Knoll

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Droplets of water everywhere

Late in the afternoon the rain cleared up  and I got spoilt with a clear night and stars abundant when I got in my swag. Magical. It’s a sight I’ll never tire of. As we neared Perth the next day the skies were blue again and my husband piped up: “So are you happy you went then, against your better judgement?” with a teasing look in his eye. I knew where he was going with this and replied: ”Yes, but you’re lucky the weather didn’t get worse”. “I knew it wouldn’t”, he said, “there was only ever a 50% chance of showers”. “It was a gamble”, I replied with a smile, “and you’re lucky that it paid off”. “No it wasn’t a gamble” and so it went on and gets retold every time we’re asked about the weekend.


Bluff Knoll the following day

I suppose the same can be said for most things in life. Some of us are more realistic and others are very optimistic but sometimes it’s worth taking that gamble. You never know what surprises might lie in wait if you do.

It won’t rain, I promise

I’ve heard that before. The last time was when I was about to set off on a 30km bike ride around Rottnest Island a few years ago. I was ready to go, had my water, my camera in my backpack and then I suddenly doubted whether it was such a good idea after all because the weather was looking a bit dodgy so I checked the forecast which said it was going to rain, but I’d been looking forward to it so much because I love doing that ride, the peacefulness of having long stretches of road just to yourself, to go however fast or slow I wanted with no-one else to answer to or complain if I stopped for yet another photo opportunity and the magnificent views all around so I must have looked quite disappointed, all dressed up and nowhere to go and my husband piped up: “It won’t rain, you’ll be fine”. I looked at him very sceptically and doubtfully (the menacing clouds were there for all to see) and he repeated: “It won’t rain, I promise” with such conviction that I decided that I might as well risk it. I had a water resistant (note: not water proof) jacket and my backpack has a water proof cover so I knew that the camera would stay dry so off I went on my little adventure.

For the first 15 minutes or so it didn’t rain but I was watching the clouds becoming darker and darker, threatening to rain and then the heavens opened. Since the forecast wasn’t for persistent rain I thought the shower will be over quickly and I kept going but within a few minutes I was absolutely soaked, and then I decided I may as well finish the ride seeing that I was already drenched and couldn’t really get any wetter than that. At the western tip of the island the rain abated for a bit and I was able to take the camera out and get a few quick photos and then it was back on the bike and keep going because it was cold but all the while in my mind I could hear Ironman saying: “It won’t rain, I promise” and since this wasn’t the first time I got soaked to the skin while out cycling on his weather advice I decided not to listen to his predictions in future. The previous time was during our short visit to Perth in August 2004 and we’d hired two bikes to ride around the Swan river (just a short 10km ride) but the weather was not promising and about 10 minutes into that ride there was such a downpour that we were wet through within seconds. We finished the ride and it was all quite an adventure until we tried to walk back into the hotel unnoticed, through the lobby and to the elevator with shoes making a shloshing sound and leaving a puddle with each step, trying to look like it was entirely normal to walk into posh hotel lobbies with dripping wet clothes and hair and pretending to look a bit more dignified than the complete drowned rats that we were!

So when we planned our camping trip to Mount Trio Bush Camp in the Stirling Ranges and I noticed the weather forecast said that there was a 60% chance of a thunderstorm on the Saturday, I was naturally a bit apprehensive because we were going to sleep in swags. I love sleeping in a swag because you’re in a little cocoon and if it’s dry and not too cold you can unzip the top and sleep with it open under the stars, which is fabulous. We’ve been to this camp before and it’s rustic and quiet if you avoid popular weekends, which makes it all the more peaceful to wake up to the sound of birdsong and a view of the mountain. The thing is I’ve never slept in a swag in the rain and had had my fair share of getting wet while camping (It’s no use all of us getting wet), and since you climb in and out of the swag at the top everything would get wet if you got in and out in the rain, so I was worried about camping in wet weather, but my man reassured me: “It won’t rain on that side of the mountain” (I should have known there was no scientific analysis of detailed rain data in that area from which this was deducted, it was purely a gamble to get me to go, and it took me just one day there to prove the opposite), and when I didn’t look convinced, the trump card came out: “It won’t rain, I promise”. As if that promise of fair weather would weigh more than scientific rain data on that side of the mountain (and the promise of his weather predictions had proven itself wrong in the past) but I decided to risk the rain, which I was sure there was going to be some of.

Bush camping at Mount Trio on our previous (dry) visit with the swags in the foreground

Bush camping at Mount Trio on our previous (dry) visit with the swags in the foreground

Our swags in the rain

Our swags in the rain

Friday afternoon saw us driving through innumerable and large swarms of insects on our way there which – in hindsight – was the first sign of rain to come but it was a beautiful, wind still evening with not a cloud in sight. A strong wind came up during the evening but it was still clear as, we did some star gazing and a friendly fellow camper helped me take some photos of stars. When we went to bed I hoped that we’d dodged the rain bullet and kept the top flap of the swag unzipped and drifted off to sleep peacefully and the wind even died down overnight until I was woken up by drops of rain falling in my face around 4am. (And no, the mountain hadn’t moved since we went to bed, it just rained on that side of it.) Once I’d zipped it up I was snug and cosy inside the warm swag and I fell asleep once again, this time with the sound of rain softly falling on the swag and everything stayed dry inside so all was well with the world until I got to the campers’ kitchen on Saturday morning to discover that my jolly swagman had forgotten to pack the coffee. The first (and probably last) time I left the packing up to him and he forgot the one thing that could potentially make me lose my sense of humour, so we had a shower and drove to the nearest town (50km away) for a lovely coffee. Morning saved and sense of humour intact.

The rain persisted on and off throughout Saturday (exactly as the forecast predicted) and it was clear that it definitely rained quite a bit on that side of the mountain – which I duly pointed out. Saturday night was very stormy with strong wind gusts and hard rain which kept waking me up but I stayed warm and dry, rugged up underneath the duvet even though the inside of the cover of the swag was completely wet and I fully expected water to start dripping in my face at any given moment, and I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of it all. I have to admit that the fact that I knew I had an out – I planned to go and sleep in the car should it get wet inside the swag – meant that I was never too worried about the weather, but I knew it was going to be a rainy weekend despite Ironman’s best efforts to convince me otherwise. I’ve forgiven him his promise of no rain, I never believed it from the start anyway.

Sunset at Mount Trio Bush Camp

Sunset at Mount Trio Bush Camp