Camping's not a row of tents

Written by  Alex Allen

I have heard from friends and relatives of countless mornings spent analysing cloud-cover, trying to determine the outcome of the days’ weather, of insects scuttling mindlessly like tourists round the inside of tents, of incinerated suppers and soggy underwear and I admit I have been warned. But there is something instilled in me, something forged out of perversion, relentless as gravity that still draws me to the camping experience.

I like the idea of being able to move house 4 times in a week, I embrace the quest for the greener grass on the other side of the fence, and the satisfaction of discovering it. For me, camping is like most things in the sense that it becomes what you make of it. When it rains I stick the kettle on the burner and get into a book, or try for the umpteenth time to write one. If ever it is nice, I might go walking and collect some wood for a fire, get some food in or just lie around in some grass and enjoy a cigarette.

Camping is often interpreted as a primitive experience, but the definitions of it can stretch right out to the borders of luxury. There is a campsite in India, on the edge of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve that is rated as a 5 star resort. Bespoke “tents” are more like luxury suites situated in immaculate, private walled gardens; this is camping by definition. For those looking for a more archaic experience, the camp sites at Arbudir in Iceland are pretty basic, as are the facilities at Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana, where the possibility of an elephant thundering into the shower block with you is a daily concern. For something in between, Angel Island in San Francisco Bay offers scraggly, unprivileged camping conditions coupled with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the city’s Marina District. It gives you the feeling of living at an arms length from civilisation, without being irretrievably isolated.

Camping certainly requires an open mind and a level of patience with nature, though with these basic mental tools it is possible to have an unforgettable experience somewhere slightly less than extraordinary.

more places to pitch

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