I must admit to indulging in a bit of hyperbole, literary inflation if you will. We did not actually have the smallest tent at the campground. I saw one that was even smaller, and I may not have suffered from the worst sniffles ever, but our little abode was dwarfed by most of those around us. I must say Australians have this car camping (caravan) thing down to an art form; Americans are amateurs by comparison.

When the pros hit the campground, out comes a tent that could easily provide shelter for six in the Antarctic, followed by cots, sleeping bags, chairs and tables, a barbecue and four-burner cook top, a rug (no, I’m not making this up) and an Eskie, of course. (That’s a cooler for you yanks and Canadians.)

Port Fairy is a tiny town about three hours from Melbourne that is host, once a year, to a huge folk festival on Victoria’s Labour Day weekend. The town swells from some 2,700 peaceable souls to about ten thousand festival goers and another twenty or thirty who swing into town for free bands and buskers. Needless to say, this taxes the available accommodation to the breaking point. So, most people camp.

Those with flexible schedules show up early. I arrived on Thursday afternoon when the town still looked very sleepy. I latched on to a couple of people I knew and enjoyed a nice, relaxed dinner and breakfast in one of the more popular cafes in town. By Friday night the hordes had arrived. The music began at 6 pm and carried on until early afternoon on Monday. I knew I was in trouble Friday night when my throat got sore.

I’m sure there are people who handle colds with aplomb, with the same sort of equanimity that enables them to set up a tent, drive a golf ball or do taxes. I am not one of the chosen few. I get all snotty and miserable and go through entire forests of paper tissues. I sneeze and make everyone around me shrink away. I can’t imagine how performers cope in such situations.

After investing in the tickets and the campground and luring my wife down on the train, I could hardly pull up stakes without hearing the music. So we went, Friday night and Saturday until mid afternoon. By that point I knew I didn’t have the stamina to carry on, despite a musical lineup to die for– the Duhks, Peggy Seeger, Ron Sexsmith, Loudon Wainwright III, and Faerd, a trio from Scandanavia.

We had heard some wonderful music performed by Mamadou Diabate, an amazing musician from Mali, a threesome from Quebec called Genticorum, a lovely Scottish diva named Eddi Reader, Trouble in the Kitchen and more. We soaked up the flavour of the festival, the food, and learned how to carry beach chairs from tent to tent and set them up right quick.

Maybe next year we’ll do it up right, with a bigger tent, a camping stove, morning coffee, servants, perhaps. And absolutely no cold. Stay tuned. You never know what’s in store for your reporter down under.

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