‘Camping Chat’ July 2010

This article appeared in the July issue of the ‘Caravan & Outdoor Life’ magazine:

Camping Styles

Have you ever noticed how differently people camp?   We had some good friends who liked to camp with the smallest crawl-into tent, no chairs, fire on the ground, bed at sunset  and up at sunrise. To me, this would be a nightmare! 

When we are staying in a camp-site with lots of campers, I love to check out (discreetly, from a distance, of course) the different styles.  You get those like my friends above – to them the best camping is truly roughing it.  The other extreme are those who have the large, double axle caravan, with wood finishes and every luxury! 

Others like to bring along everything, even the DSTV dish, parrot in a cage and the family dog.  I like watching the pensioners at the coast in winter – they set up home for months on end, until the grass is long under their vans.  You’ll see them washing their cars on Saturday and going off to church on Sunday – they make camping their home from home, and their routine continues.

Now, our camping style is sort of “Out of Africa”.  Think Meryl Streep and Robert Redford having candle-lit dinners with white table cloths and fine china in the middle of the African bush –  stylish, don’t you agree?  Or think of Arabs, travelling across the desert in past centuries, with vast tents hung with silk drapes and Persian carpets covering the sandy floor. I’d love that, though set-up would be no joke!

We like the comfort of a caravan, with a nice bed and good linen, but love rustic camps, without power.  We cook everything during our stay on a fire:  bread, bacon and eggs, stews, rice and of course wonderful braais.  We even cooked homemade soup with fresh-baked bread for a lunch on our last trip – all on the fire. 

Many campers feel that a five star camp is one with lots of entertainment, games rooms, communal afternoon teas, and a restaurant.  While those camps can be a lot of fun when you have kids, we prefer the peace and beauty of remote settings, the feeling of being alone in Africa.  The satisfaction of being able to live comfortably without any modern appliances, can’t be beaten.  Sitting in a patch of sunshine, watching the birdlife and game going about their business, is good for the soul.

To me, the best part of each camping day is when the sun starts going down, twilight deepens, and it’s time to light the paraffin lanterns and hang them from the trees around the camp.  Then we start the fire, and sit back with a sundowner, to enjoy the flames, before cooking a leisurely and delicious meal on the fire.  Absolute bliss!

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