Negotin – Serbia
We haven’t camped very much over the last while, what with the extensive flooding on the Black Sea coast and also the great hospitality in Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria that has kept us indoors with the locals rather than out in the elements. But now the snowdrops have appeared, the buds are slowly peeping out of the skeletal tree branches, and the heavy rains have abated enough to allow us to camp more frequently.
I’ve really been looking forward to camping again, I love the simple purity of it, being outdoors with lots of clean fresh air, having my own space to chill out and relax, and a familiar place to spend the night in. Hostel rooms, friend’s floors and bivvy spots all change daily, but the inside of my MSR tent is the only place that I can call my own. Being outdoors all the time, I find I really get in touch with nature, I study the trees, flowers, stars and become in touch with the moons cycle, anticipating it’s various stages as it, like us, travels around our planet.
The best campsites are quiet, sheltered from the wind, with soft, dry ground that is free from underlying rocks that can snap the tent pegs. A nearby river or lake and abundant dry wood for making a campfire is always a bonus, as is a having a great view. For safety, the site shouldn’t be visible from the road, so paradoxically, one shouldn’t be able to see it from the road while cycling along, searching for somewhere to camp. To counter this problem, I study the topography before it’s time to stop and build up a picture of the land in my head, so I have a good idea what hidden campsites may lie behind a wall, embankment or grove of trees. Once we’ve located a suitable site, we normally wait until after sunset, switch off our headtorches and make our way through the darkness, hopefully without being noticed by any passing cars.
Fearghal and I each carry a 2 man tent, giving us space from each other, as well as room to bring some of our kit inside the tent. Like at home, I have a particular place for everything, food and valuables go on either side of my head, and filthy clothes at the other end; well away from my nose! In the morning I dress swiftly and smoothly, the process being made easier by not having a wardrobe of clothes to choose from. After 16 months practice, I can pack up my home and all my belongings in around 10 minutes, if required, though normally I prefer to take my time.
Some of my favourite campsites have been in Kyrgyzstan, China, and Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. This one on the outskirts of Madrid has to be one of the worst, the ground was littered with huge holes and angular paving slabs, and sloped so much that I kept waking up during the night having slid to to the bottom of the tent.
But invariably I look forward to getting inside my tent, slipping into my warm sleeping bag and spending a night in my cosy mobile home.