To camp or not to camp

Camping is like marmite. You either love it or you hate it. But even if you love it, at some point you’re going to end up hating it.

Despite having dropped plastic boxes caked in grass in the garage, loaded a pile of damp clothes into the washing machine and kicked sleeping bags and airmats into odd corners of the house because I haven’t the energy to put them where they belong, I’m still feeling fairly positive about camping. The last load of washing is drying outside and when we packed up the tent it was bright sunshine, so we don’t have to wait for a windy day to air it on the lawn to stop it growing mold… such is the lot of a seasoned camper.

Last week we headed off for our umpteenth camping trip beside the sea in Devon. What could be more wonderful? Two days before ‘D’ day we decided we couldn’t fit everything in the car plus an extra passenger and would need to order roof bars so that we could take a top box. This wonderful invention allows tall people to store beach things and anything sandy high up out of reach where they will never be seen again, until you come to unpack at the end of the holiday and discover that’s where the badminton rackets, beach ball, windbreak and umbrella were after all. The roof bars arrived and were carefully assembled, but unfortunately didn’t fit the connection with the roof box. Problem one. No time to order new bars, so alternative bars had to be purchased locally, which also didn’t fit. Problem two. Third time lucky the bars were exchanged, fitted and the box was on top and the car was ready to be packed. Another problem was the fridge. Problem three. Tents don’t have fridges unlike their superior caravan cousins. So cool boxes/bags had to be bought (and returned due to unsuitability)… We began to wonder – is it really worth it? Why are we going camping? What about air B&B?


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7 reasons I love camping:

  1. No housework
  2. Minimal cooking – due to limited pans and burners
  3. Waking up to blue skies
  4. Sitting out under the stars drinking… wine mostly
  5. The perfect view from the tent of a curving sandy bay and rolling waves, with an island in the distance
  6. Smelling fresh grass and BBQs 24/7
  7. Not feeling guilty about fried egg and bacon for breakfast


5 reasons not to go camping:

  1. The possibility it may rain
  2. The long walk to the toilets in the middle of the night – or stinging yourself on nettles seeking alternative loo point by the hedge
  3. The beds – there aren’t any
  4. The cool box, that isn’t, and smells of cheese after 24 hours
  5. Filling the water bottle, carrying it up the hill back to the tent and then realizing you needed to go to the toilet
    Oh and also… leaving the Fairy Liquid beside the communal sink – returning half an hour later to find a half used Co-op bottle in its place!

On balance, I think camping is a good thing. Our children love it. We endure it and I expect we’ll be back again next year… after all there are 7 good reasons to go. And I forgot to mention the sunsets!



A walk on the wild side

I may not have been living on berries or catching crocodiles to cook over a fire, but I have been doing my own foray into the wilds of Cyprus.

It started with a couple of nights ‘wild camping’ in some sand dunes overlooking the sea. As the track proved impassable without a 4×4 we had to lug water, tent, food and cooking stuff some way up a sandy bank through dunes and then discovered our lack of wooden sand pegs, so scoured the area for rocks large enough to weigh down the sides of the tent. Camp set, I asked the inevitable question….”Do you know where the toilets are?” A line of trees and shrubs was pointed out, but there wasn’t a loo seat in sight.

I’ve never been a scout or a guide, or even done Duke of Edinburgh treks, so the idea of digging a hole for some serious toilet business was fairly alien… but needs must! As I squatted in the bushes I stared up at the hill beyond and noticed a little cave with a meshed off rail just above me – hang on, was that someone with binoculars peering down through the trees? No, probably just a goat or a donkey…

Later, after toasting ourselves on the beach and cooling off in the sea, it was time to put our cooking stove to the test and light the lanterns. After lighting the new gas lantern we admired its glow for a few minutes, only to watch it flicker and fizzle out. Oh dear, we hadn’t checked the bottle or bought a spare, let’s hope we fair better with the stove. Eating outside beneath the stars, enjoying a glass of wine or two ( yes we even took real glasses!) was magical and I forgot all about the trek through the dunes in the heat and the open air toilets.

About 3am in the morning I woke up in a tangle and stumbled from the tent – not even bothering to walk to the ‘toilets’. The sky was dark and there was no moon in sight – all around was shadows and the sand felt cool against my bare feet. Lying back in the tent a few minutes later I heard a rustle and imagined someone snooping around the food bag, possibly attempting to run off with our milk. More rustling. “Did you hear that?” I whispered to the sleeping form beside me. He hadn’t, but he was listening now. We both heard the loud braying of a donkey not far away. I wondered if someone might be out there, or perhaps it was a goat, in which case it would eat all the bags and towels as well as the food. Maybe it was a fox or a wild dog. The rustling started again and I lifted my head to the source, where someone’s feet were rustling against the entrance of the tent! Time to sleep!

Yesterday, not content with wild camping we ventured on a canyon walk up a spectacular gorge. Having parked the car in a restaurant car park called The Last Castle, we set off in the blazing heat of early afternoon against my better judgement. Wild living is all very well, I thought, glancing back reluctantly at the inviting chairs surrounding stone tables under a canopy of vines overlooking the sea, where the smell of barbecued meat was wafting towards us. But we were intrepid hikers intent on conquering the gorge. Some time later, after stops to re-tie boots and re-apply sun cream, the towering gorge began to close in on us and the path grew narrower. Menacing black birds were flapping their wings loudly as they flitted between nests in the cliffs high above. Water was splashing gently over the rocks and as we clambered over giant boulders, there were giant tree roots overhanging the path and water drenched moss on the damp stone walls beneath. The cliffs were lined with ridges in amazing curves and shades of sand, pink and even green in places. Around one corner a giant boulder was suspended over our heads bridging the gap between the sides of the narrowing gorge. Munching on an orange and sipping cold water beside a boulder in the dappled shade of some trees clinging to the cliff side, I knew why I like a taste of wilderness. We were all alone in a beautiful place. The only sounds were the gentle gurgle of the stream and the chirp of the birds overhead. I hope heaven is a wild place too.

But an hour or so later, after a hot slog back up the hill, sitting in The Last Castle, with a cool breeze on our faces, a cold beer on the table and the view of the sea spread out in front, I thought heaven might be a mixture of wild and wonderful. Because we all need a little luxury after a walk on the wild side.


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