This one time at Gay Camp

January 4, 2012 in General

Hot showers and proper beds are an important part of my life, and I don’t survive very well without them.  I also fail miserably at preparing meals anywhere outside of my own kitchen and am attached to the internet in an almost unhealthy way.  Sometimes, however, it is important to leave these things behind for a few days to remind ourselves just how important they are to our lives.  In inflicting pain upon ourselves we are reminded how pleasant the absence of pain is.

Camping is a great way to do this.  And if you’re going to go camping then it may as well be “Gay Camp” at Vinegar Hill.  About five kilometres north of Hunterville on State Highway One, the isolated campsite at Vinegar Hill has been a popular New Year’s destination for the rainbow community for several decades.  It started with a small group of people trying to escape the oppression of a society which had not yet decriminalised homosexuality and over the ensuing years has become a popular destination for the holiday festivities.

This New Year is not the first I have celebrated at Vinegar Hill.  I was also there two years ago when they had gale force winds.  My tent blew over that year and I ended up having to share a tent with a friend.  The next night someone vomited in one of the other tents and we ended up with a very crowded tent indeed.  We found solace in alcohol, and it wasn’t until the drink ran out and we spent our first night sober that I realised I’d been sleeping on bare rock for three nights.  I had bruises for days.

The wind was not repeated this year.  It rained instead.   It rained and rained and rained some more.  We’d been optimistic about the weather despite the predicted downpours, and our hopes were buoyed by the lack of rain between Auckland and the Desert Road, but the closer we got to Vinegar Hill the more ominous the clouds looked.  By the time we finally arrived the skies were about to open.  We had just enough time to pitch our tents before it bucketed down.  It continued to bucket down for three days.  We sat under gazebos playing cards, and had idle conversations about whether it was too early in the day to start drinking.  I gave up looking for clean clothes.

In a stroke of luck the rain held off just long enough for the New Year’s Eve party to be a huge success.  People emerged from tents for the first time in days and swayed to the beat of music as the New Year approached.  The bonfire was lit in what seemed to be nothing short of a miracle considering the pile had been rained on for several days.  Then, just when it seemed we were going to miss the countdown, a drag queen ran onto the stage shouting “FIVE-FOUR-THREE-TWO-ONE-HAPPY NEW YEAR!” and it was 2012.  Everyone screamed, and found someone to kiss.  It was just like Family Bar only it was outside.

I’d recommend Vinegar Hill to anyone who hasn’t been.  No matter how badly the weather sucks, the people who are there definitely make the experience worth it.  There’s a sense of camaraderie and togetherness that is very rarely experienced anywhere else and it’s a great way to meet new people that you wouldn’t come across in your normal social circles.  We sometimes get a bit stuck in our ways, and camping is a great way to get outside your comfort zone and make some new friends.  Nothing cements a new friendship faster than hopping up and down together outside someone’s tent in the rain first thing in the morning asking if you can borrow some toilet paper.

Happy New Year!

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