Where have I been? Well dear internets I, lover of high heels, imported cheese and lip gloss, was camping. I cannot remember the last time I slept in a tent but I think it was the 80s. Last week I slept in a tent for two nights, and to be perfectly honest with you I found it a trifle claustrophobic. If and when I decide to buy a tent it will be a 6 man tent and I shall be very happy in it all alone, or perhaps with just one another. I found the whole plastic, hot, sleeping bag, not being able to stand thing very stifling. However I should not dwell on the negative but instead turn my head towards the new skills I have learnt.
I am a city slicker. I have never pitched a tent (this one was actually pitched for me by the previous camper), I have never planted nor grown anything, I don’t know the difference between a spider bite and a mosquito bite, I have no clue how to build a camp fire (although I can toast a mean marshmallow), I am lost with practicalities concerned with the wilderness. I never went to camp.
These gaping holes in my knowledge are slowly being revealed here in Africa where every second person knows how to pitch a tent, and live the life of Crusoe. I have heard that there is nothing quite like sleeping in a tent on safari when you can feel the hippos push against the ropes of the tent as they are grazing and it is becoming clear that I will have to attune myself to tent life if I am to properly enjoy the full safari experience. I have few skills that would make me very popular on a camping trip. Yet there I was, leading a team of 18 11 year olds onto a sailing and camping adventure. And I survived! These are some of the skills that I picked up:
- When cooking scrambled eggs for 23 people, 46 eggs are needed. It is not advisable to cook this as one large batch, but rather scramble 6 eggs at a time.
- Never be shy to rely on a child for help. When it came time to take down the tent I hadn’t a clue how to fit that large plastic green thing into that tiny green bag. Multiple girls, far more experienced than I, came running to my rescue. It was a wonderful case of “teach the teacher.”
- Wet wood will never light a fire. Neither will damp wood. However, with many tiny broken pieces of wood you may have a chance.
- Carry plenty of Band-Aids. There are all sorts of unimaginable ways of cutting one’s self on a camping trip.
- Luckily we had a club house with kitchen so no cooking over a Bunsen burner was needed. What I realized very quickly is that there is no reason for bad food or bad coffee on a camping trip. A French Press is indeed portable.
- When leaving a sleeping bag to air out during the day, it is advisable to bring that sleeping bag into the tent before it gets dark. I was bemused as to why my pillow and bag were damp when it hadn’t rained and then I learnt about Dew. It is not just for mornings.
- Upon arriving from a camping trip with 18 children it is a fabulous idea to take off the very next morning for a deserted island on Lake Victoria with a good friend and plenty of wine.
Recovery was quite splendid.