Camping on a rural property doesn’t have to mean that we’re alone. We have neighbours camping upstream from us, and that means days full of fun, games and lots of chai for us and our children.

Camping at Glendon Brook, December 2011
Tom, Erin and Luke have set their tents up a couple hundred metres away from us, on the other side of Glendon Brook.

We first met Tom at the Rainbow Gathering on this property last month. After travelling briefly to Queensland, he has come back to establish small vegetable patches for Lloyd and himself. Tom met Luke and Erin at the Rainbow Temple in northern NSW, and they decided to come and grow vegies too.

Dog on a rocky path, December 2011
To get to our friends' camp-site, we clamber down and up a steep section of bank, in between huge granite boulders as Tom's dog Cedar does. David has cleared away all the long grass and lantana bushes so it's no longer a prickly path.

Because we’ve been staying up so late as a family — waiting until it’s well and truly dark before we start to wind down and go to bed — everyone is sleeping in. The girls wake up sometime between eight and nine, and breakfast is usually cereal with soy drink.

Aisha cuddling Elijah, December 2011
In the morning, before Aisha runs off to play in the water, she asks to hold Elijah.

Aisha in gumboots, December 2011
Then it's time to go down to the water.

Brioni with the canoe, December 2011
Brioni's first adventure of the day was a marathon canoe ride upstream with Luke. (She spent most of the time *in* the canoe, not alongside it!)

Luke and David, December 2011
Luke says that he and Brioni only tipped the canoe over once. It's ironic that Luke is from the same small town on the southern coast of NSW where we first collected the canoe from David's brother.

We’ve had our fibreglass canoe since 2007, and it travels in our trailer with us. On many trips, it never comes out, but when it does, it provides us with many good adventures — collecting firewood, examining local wildlife and riding the surf!

Aisha and Luke in the canoe, December 2011
After hearing of Brioni's fun, Aisha decides that she wants to ride in the canoe the next time Luke takes it out.

Luke playing with Aisha and Brioni in the water, December 2011
Luke says he's forgotten how much fun it is to play with children. The girls have responded instinctively to his playful nature.

Glendon Brook, December 2011
Trees overhang the water, providing shade for our girls who are playing within the cool water.

Erin, December 2011
Our girls have had lots of fun playing with Erin in the water. She has been teaching Aisha how to do breaststroke, and now Aisha can swim underwater for the length of a breath.

Glendon Brook, December 2011
Our swimming pool is a particularly beautiful section of the creek.

Tom clearing rocks, December 2011
Tom clears the area in front of our camp-fire so that it's free of stones and padded with soft sand.

Tom, December 2011
We've had a wonderful time getting to know Tom (and the others) over the past couple of days.

Fireplace at Glendon Brook, December 2011
The finished camp set-up features a circle with big, flat rocks for sitting, spare firewood for burning, and water on the boil for more chai.

Alessi kettle on the campfire, December 2011
I love our special camping kettle. Although it's an Alessi model, I paid only $10 for it in an op shop last year.

Elijah Rainbow, 4 weeks old, December 2011
Today, Elijah joined us at the water's edge so we could stay together as a family.

Delaney Renee, almost 2yo, December 2011
Delaney has been learning how to carefully navigate the stony creek-bank.

Calista and Delaney playing at the creek, December 2011
Unconcerned that she's making it wet and sandy, Dell takes Fishy Rug into the water with her and sucks her thumb while lying with her belly on the sand.

David playing with Calista, December 2011
As the day cools, we return to our truck's camp-site and lounge on a mattress in the shade. With so many small children hanging around, often this isn't a relaxing time, but a boisterous one where circus tricks are tested.

Erin, December 2011
And back at her own tent, Erin relaxes after a fun day at the water's edge.

I wish I’d had Erin’s confidence ten years ago. She is proud to be an individual and knows what she is passionate about. When I noticed that Erin’s legs were hairy and offered to let her use my epilator, she gave an insightful reply. “No,” she declined, “I find some people’s response to my body hair a helpful gauge of whether they are worth getting to know or are focused on superficial matters.” There’s something to think about — a natural flag that separates the worldly from the spiritually-minded.

Getting ready for a 4WD adventure, December 2011
The last activity before sunset is a 4WD ride in the Landcruiser. Only Calista opts to stay behind with me and Elijah.

Calista on the computer, December 2011
With her sisters away, Calista can play on the computer at her own pace — a special treat for our third daughter!

This evening is like time-off for me — with most of our kids off riding in the 4WD with David and Luke. As the cicadas serenade the setting sun and Venus winks at me, I drink another cup of chai and squint at the horizon to work out whether the silhouette I see is a kangaroo or a bush.

This peaceful day has restored me fully — it’s good to be camping with friends.