Sydney’s gay camping group almost didn’t make it past their second bush trip.
“We turned up to Newnes in winter expecting a peaceful weekend away with few other campers. However, also at the site were dozens of bikers. We didn’t quite know how they’d react if we unfurled the gay flag,” group founder Alec Beckett said.
“We ventured over and they appreciated us making the first move. Both had a great weekend.”
Since those early days, Gay Camping NSW has grown from 12 people attending the first trip to Kangaroo Valley in October 2007 to 60 people at the recent Southern Highlands expedition.
The group now goes on around one camping trip a month, as well as day trips for activities like kayaking and bushwalking.
Beckett believes the success of the group lies in the friendships made.
“Because you really get to know people properly over a few days, they become friends faster than a clubbing situation. People come to camp in a safe social environment. We also go to fantastic locations,” he said.
“There are no barriers to conversation and no expectation that you’re talking to someone to pick them up. Being a camping group means everyone is already down-to-earth and genuine, so that bodes well for many good quality connections,” he said.
“Speaking to members, a common comment I hear is that they’re sick of the clubbing scene and want to get away from the ‘gay scene’. I used to agree with them but now I’m saying we are also part of the scene, we are just an alternative to the gay clubbing scene.”
Beckett’s initiative has spawned similar groups around Australia.
“Gay Camping Queensland, Victoria and Northern NSW started directly as a result of the NSW group,” Beckett told Sydney Star Observer.
There is one question prospective campers regularly ask Beckett: ‘Is this an orgy group?’
“I respond by saying it’s absolutely not. People meet people and as a by-product people might meet their partner but it’s not a group where 30 people have sex in the bush. It is just a group where anyone can come and enjoy our native bushland.”