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Things that go bump in the night

by Marc on April 18, 2011

During the night I had to get up to go to the loo. Top tip for novice campers – ‘Petzel’ headtorches (available at Cotswold Outdoor for our U.K. readers!) are a wonderful device, enabling the bumbling amateur to get up and go without getting up and falling over things. LEDs and the batteries¬† last well- the device is adjustable for angle so you can see what you’re doing when er, your hands are full.

I tried to just settle down when I got back to the tent. I failed badly. I was in a lot of pain and very stiff, so that didn’t help. But the main thing was a simple feeling of being enclosed and smothered in the tent. All in my head – I know, but difficult to combat and simply impossible to ignore. I stripped off to my boxers even though it was a cold night and sat at the ‘doorway’.¬† Tents are suprisingly warm. The sleeping bag was amazingly warm – big Thanks to my family for getting me my camping essentials and getting the right stuff. I appreciated them very very much. My luxury item was a memory foam travelling pillow, brilliant yoke! My bits and pieces were arranged around me in the tent. Providing a little haven of familiarity wherever I was during the trip. Book, mobile phone (mostly defunct – but a good alarm clock), head torch and washbag -up beside my head. Bike jacket to the windward side of the tent, so if it rained and was windy, my jacket got wet first, not me. Also helped stop the damn tent from coming in upon me if it got very windy. Boots at the doorway along with a bottle of water and all the bags – sleeping bag cover, tent bag etc. I’d hesitate to say home from home, but cosy and you need some things to have continuity, habit and regularity on a trip with so much change every day. Or maybe that’s just me.

The UNhappy camper

Before I settled back down, sitting at the tent entrance, I looked around me and up at the sky. The campsite had seen better days, looked a little rundown, in need of a lick of paint and a garden makeover, ‘faded glory’ came to mind. When we arrived, the guy running the place had pointed out all its features including the empty and hazardous swimming pool. Obviously there was haggling to be done and he wanted to get off on the right foot by showing us what a wonderful place we were staying in. That pool had no good features apart from perhaps the virulent and odd coloured mildew that had taken over the bottom among the broken tiles. Other than that, the features of this place were many and varied concrete (well, it had to be didn’t it?) ornamental ‘yokes’ at the end of every walkway and tacked onto the various fittings and fixtures.

One thing I noticed later in the trip was that all campsites featured some animal, wild or tame that was unique to the location. Here it was a trio of dogs that freaked and howled in the night at any odd sound. Like the sound of a tent zip being opened… in a campsite?! Get over it lads.

I came to love looking out my ‘door’ at night, whenever we camped. Apart from the champion snorers and windbreakers that I was travelling with, it was always peaceful. It could be a windy night – meteorologically, I mean, but still peaceful – as in, very little in the way of human noise. Living in a capital city you forget how much background noise is created by humans. Out here, even tame camping in a campsite in a small town man goes to bed early and leaves the night to mother nature. Sure, you get the odd noise of some odd animal. But that was not something I was going to think too deeply about. We either camped among hills and mountains or later on, on plains that were sheltered only by clumps of dunes. Both create their own peculiar accoustics. The wind fading in and out like a deep sigh.

If you go far enough away from big human settlements -you can hear the world breathe.

Best of all was the big skies. On a clear night – and there were never any really dark nights -there was always enough moonlight once your eyes adjusted. Look up and around and you see the light picking out the hills, the dunes, the sea – all have their own tones, their own colour. The sheer size of the sky night or day was something I will never forget. No obstacles to your view, just enhancements. You’ll see what I mean in later photos, but now, this night must end and a new day begin.


From → On the Road

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