28 January 2022 · Mazda Muse
It’s Okay To Cheat At Camping
BY IAIN CURRY
Glamping is camping done right, and that’s why we’ve pointed our Mazda cx-9 Azami le towards sanctuary by Sirromet, a winery with attached luxury glamp site at mount cotton, only 30 minutes from Brisbane.
Ask any old person and they’ll tell you, in droning detail, that hardship and discomfort build resilience. They’ll also undoubtedly use the phrase “in my day” and heavily suggest that “kids these days” are soft.
That desire to force-feed resilience into innocent young people could go some way to explaining why many parents force their children to go on camping holidays.
Ah yes, the joy of getting lost and attempting to pitch a tent in the dark, then realising too late that there’s what seems to be a rock quarry, or an ant colony, under your chosen site.
And my personal favourite; that moment, usually around 3am, when the tent canvas turns out to be as water resistant as tissue paper.
Then there’s the lack of toilets (ask that old person, if there are amenities you’re not really camping), the crushing blow of failing to light a fire, mosquitos with zero mercy and creepy animal sounds in the night that merely add to the joy. Frankly, I think the animals are probably sniggering about the fact that you’re choosing to sleep on the ground, like, well, animals.
Fortunately, as well as being resilient, humans are clever and imaginative and someone, somewhere, who’d obviously been camping and hated it, invented ‘glamping’, a pert portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping”.
Glamping is camping done right, and that’s why we’ve pointed our Mazda CX-9 Azami LE towards Sanctuary by Sirromet, a winery with attached luxury glamp site at Mount Cotton, only 30 minutes from Brisbane.
You still score the positives of the camping idyll – family bonding, the at-one-with-nature stuff – but without the suffering. It won’t build an enormous amount of resilience for your kids - or not unless you bravely ban all screens - but Mum and Dad get to enjoy cellar door wine tasting and all of you have access to a hot shower, proper toilets and furnishings that are so fine, in Sirromet’s case, that they trump our own home’s.
It’s cheating, in other words.
But don’t look at me as a bad/lazy parent - blame the car. The CX-9 Azami LE, with its gutsy 2.5-litre turbo engine, has carried us on a two-hour road trip from our home in Noosa, and for parents and kids alike it’s been Business Class all the way.
This is the range-topping, flagship, uber-luxe Mazda large SUV, with limousine-like goodness for middle-row occupants. Who’d want to travel on heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats and then trade that for sleeping bags on a hard, insect-riddled floor?
Unique to this Azami LE is a second-row Captain’s Seat layout. Instead of the traditional three-seater bench, two individual seats with a giant central console offer space and opulence behind driver and passenger.
It makes this all-wheel-drive SUV a dedicated six-seater rather than the seven seats found in other CX-9s. Choose the one that best suits your needs: for a family of four like us, the Azami LE is ideal.
Serious middle-row room for the kids – siblings find it so much harder to hit each other when they’re out of arm’s reach – and still space for two of their friends behind. With the third-row seats stowed, there’s a massive 810L of boot space for all our camping – sorry, glamping – kit.
“Shotgun!” our nine-year-old son cries after the first bathroom stop en route to Sirromet. My wife shrugs, smiles and hops into her Captain’s Seat behind the driver. No complaints at all, from anyone. A rare treat.
The seats are electric, too, with a good amount of recline. I think back to the camping trips I had as a child. My three brothers and I across an early ’80s sedan’s bench seat. Not a seatbelt to be found, let alone a little button to warm your backside as you lay back in your reclined leather chair. No wonder I’m so resilient.
I can’t let our offspring get too accustomed to such grandeur. With their transport and accommodation on the palatial side, I’ll make them earn it with another great Australian family tradition: the bush walk.
Only 10 minutes from our winery glamping is Venman Bushland National Park, an open forest of eucalypt and melaleuca trees and the headwaters of Tingalpa Creek. To have a protected, unspoilt 415ha park on Brisbane’s fringes is a true blessing.
A quick history lesson is called for, so I gather round my groaning kids. Some 50 years ago, bushman Jack Venman was determined to preserve his private land for future generations to enjoy, rejecting an offer from a company planning to subdivide it. After selling it to the local Council for one dollar he helped turn it into an environmental reserve, creating walking tracks, stone barbecues and wooden chairs and tables. A real local legend.
Access to this tranquil bush site is along an unsealed road, giving a brief opportunity to be thankful for the Azami LE’s 220mm of ground clearance, all-wheel drive and smart off-road traction assist.
With rain threatening and an evil little wind blowing (textbook camping conditions) it’s not easy convincing the kids to leave their tri-zone climate-controlled Mazda. The lure of koala and red-necked wallaby spotting awaken their adventurous sides, and before long they have sticks in hand, jumping off fallen logs and building makeshift tepee frames. Simple pleasures.
We explore the paperbark-lined creek on the 2.5km Tingalpa Creek Circuit, but leave the 7.5km Venman Circuit and its melaleuca swamp for a kid-free day.
But enough of this hardship. Legs fully stretched, we’re back at the CX-9 and a foot swipe under the rear bumper has the automatic tailgate up.
Our daughter insists on trying a third-row seat. I pull one up, rearrange our bags and stop her jumping through the boot with muddy shoes on. A powered middle seat moves forward at the touch of a button and she climbs into her own haven, plugs her iPad into the USB point (you’ll find them in every row of seating) and puts on her regal, contented face.
This is ideal preparation for the glamping to come. Heated seats and heated steering wheel on, rear window sunshades up and leather chairs to full recline, all passengers look ready for sleep. It’s Mazda’s quietest cabin, and as I set radar cruise control and remember the comprehensive safety and driver assist systems throughout, there’s strong peace of mind to match the serenity.
It makes the luxury Sirromet ‘tent’ feel perfectly in keeping with our drive. Up the driveway, past the vineyards and grazing wallabies, is our family pavilion. Our kids let us know they’re not too keen on wine tasting (give them time), so we settle on an old family camping tradition: a biscuit selection pack dunked in cups of hot tea.
But not sat on an ant’s nest while getting rained on. This whole glamping thing might be cheating, but I find I’m easily won over.
White waffled bedding. Soft mattresses. Vaulted ceiling. Complimentary sparkling wine from the vines outside. A selection of Colombian coffee pods for the coffee machine. Quilted toilet roll. Subway tiles and heat lights in the ensuite.
I used to be happy if there was a toilet block at a campsite. Now I see we can’t live without cedarwood, juniper berry and patchouli body wash and a platinum gold hairdryer.
The first light of morning kicks off with a kookaburra leading numerous bird calls; a pretty unbeatable alarm clock. The kids open the zipped canvas windows from their separate beds to enjoy the sun-up colours over a lake fringed with bouncing wallabies. The really good parts of camping happily remain. Oh, and the breakfast hamper delivered direct to the door helps.
It’s tough leaving such a place, but the kids have few complaints as they trade the tent’s reverse cycle air con for their heated Mazda seats. We may not have built their resilience on this trip, but if a part of parenting is exposing them to the finer things in life, it’s a job well done.
Just don’t tell my Dad.