my first camp experience in years
- Take a tiny motorbike from the U.K. To Gambia – I can do that
- Share this trip with a bunch of blokes I hardly know or have never met – I can do that
- Encounter unknowns and deal with potential ‘political hot spots’ – I can do that
- Endure arduous conditions…. hey whoa, define that please!
Camping?! I have to use a tent?! Aww No! I hate camping!
Not since I was a teen have I ventured into a tent, with two minor exceptions;
- A Moto Guzzi rally in West Cork a few years ago – and it was the only way I could attend it, so I bit my tongue and suffered it for one night.
- A holiday in Mosney (An Irish Butlins) when my Son was small and it was all we could afford, so I bit my tongue etc. for a week.
The reason I hate camping is that my only experience, was as a teen going to Bike Rallies, where you’d turn up, throw up a tent (badly), party til the early hours and stumble back to the tent, reliant on alcohol to insulate and anaesthetise the body and mind prior to suffering a night in a damp, cold, lumpy surfaced, claustrophobic kip.
For this reason alone I have never really been into Bike Rallies – unless there’s a B+B nearby.
So this was going to be… interesting, to say the least. But saying the least is not me now, really, is it?
The tents were budget jobbies, since referred to as “Festival specials”, which is apparently a euphemism for “Hah! thats not a real tent!” All joking aside I was pleasantly suprised. Well, mostly pleasantly. Tom our camera man, the Cecil B. DeMille of Adventure Biking DVDs supplied us the tents through his job at ‘Cotswold Outdoors’, a U.K. chain of stores for those into this outdoorsy thing. Me – I wouldn’t know a good tent from a bin liner.
So, what’s it like for one that was not even camp curious, never mind keen until I was forced to sleep in one?
Mostly pleasant is quite accurate. For tents that cost us very little, we got quite a lot out of them with only a few problems. My main problem was my sleep mat was the same length as the damn tent! So one slight move and the mat would push at the end of the tent and force the poxy weak zips open – turning my bastion of security into an open buffet for insects, and a channel for wind and rain. My other problem was specific to me and suprised me how much it bothered me and caused many rough nights; claustrophobia. Now I’ve not suffered badly or suffered much in many many years with this, but for some reason trying to relax, function and sleep in what felt like a cola can brought it back to me big time. There were many nights throughout the trip I had to sit up, unzip two zips, sit at the ‘door’ and deep breathe to bring my heart rate back to normal – I was that freaked by the closeness of a simple cloth wall between me and ‘freedom’. Dumb, yes? Feels even dumber writing this, but that’s the way it felt. I even had to use my ‘Glow Sticks’ as a night light – I’d set one up, tucked into the label of a bottle of water by my feet as I settled down – so I’d have a reference point to look at, should I need to see where the end of the tent and the exit was.
I just reread the above. I feel embarrassed. I’ve bungee jumped, walked over hot coals, couriered in London, been a bouncer in a pool hall, a minder for a milkman, (no – that’s not a joke. He had a rough route.) My point being that I’m no wimp… o.k. then – I am a complete wimp when it comes to enclosed spaces and tenting – I mean camping.
Other than the minor issues mentioned above – Me and camping got on as well as any other tenter on the trip. These tents were of the “unzip the bag, shake the contents out and stand clear – the effin thing erupts like a liferaft with a gas cannister inside” category. Damn handy actually – no skill required and an erection in a matter of seconds. Now (the tent – what did you think I meant?) was erected, a few pegs in the ground and a few little bits of string tensioned and even in a strong wind, it didn’t go anywhere. Actually, that’s not quite true – in windy conditions it would try to collapse in on itself. Normally as I was trying to settle down to sleep and the crushed cola can image would come back into my head and I’d have to escape. *sigh*. Packing it up in the mornings was a trial to begin with – you have to sort of fold, twist,turn and boogie the rods until it magically became hoop of fabric and roundyness. Then before it changed its mind and escaped – trap it back in its bag again. Took me about three weeks to master this – about the same length of time as we needed tents.
All this and I haven’t even got to my first night in the thing yet. I shall stop for now and post some pics.
Yours sincerely, the reluctant tentist.
Now, a teaser – the following pics show us as our journey began the next day. The foreground not so exciting – but look to the background, We got to play on roads in some of the most stunning mountainous beautiful places anywhere on earth.