Why do we camp?

Why do we camp?

Why do we regularly, voluntarily, drive six hours and sometimes days to a distant location so that we can live as basic as possible without any of the comforts home has to offer. Why would we want to escape from our reliance on infrastructure and daily devices and technology that makes our lives easy.

Do we camp to escape the boredom and routine of everyday life or do we camp because something deep inside of us yearn for that simple life. Or do we camp because nature have a powerful effect on the human spirit. Camping is pure. It’s an opportunity to strip away the pressure of the normal day and it forces you to focus on more important things. It gives you time to reflect on what is really important.

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On a campsite you are not a director of a big company, doctor, lawyer, welder or street sweeper. You are just another camper. A campsite has a way to strip us all of all our titles and entitlement, it makes us all equal and on par with each other. I remember the days when you pitched your tent next to a complete stranger and left as best of best friends. It provides life changing opportunities and builds life-long bonds.

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Camping fills our personal memory reservoir. Camping is a wonderful mixture of authentic challenges,  lessons and unparalleled fun.  Come to think of it, many of my best life stories starts with “once when we were camping”…… The smell of the campfire, the magic of a sunset over the African Savannah, the call of a Jackal or Fish Eagle: all these things that reminds us of some of the best times of our lives is what makes camping so irresistible. All these wonderful camp memories also become the memories of your kids and it will stay with them for the rest of their lives, leaving them so much richer in experience and life lessons.

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Camping is a bonding exercise, it allows us to talk to each other and to connect without the disturbance of social media, television, internet or computers. Sitting around a camp fire talking to each other is one way to reconnect with friends and family. Good conversation is easily pushed aside by social media and devices in today’s society, yet we need it so desperately.

I don’t think there is one single reason why we camp but rather a combination of a lot of special reasons. We camp because its medicine for our inner beings, emotionally it takes us back to primal times when life was simple and easy. We camp because we love it……..

Camping and overland travel tips

Travel Tips to ensure your overland tour is what you dreamed it to be….

Know your equipment

Solar chargers, water filters, satellite modems, GPS systems, power invertors: these are just some of the unfamiliar items you’ll be packing. Make sure you not only know how they all work but double check they are in full functioning order before you go.

Make sure all your paper work is in order

Pack little, Wash often

How much simpler it is to pack light.  This is something that I’ve finally learned after a 12 day trans Botswana trip. I must admit, to begin with I was a little panic stricken. 12 days, different temperatures and minimal washing facilities. Not possible I thought.

However, after only a few days on the road I began to understand how little we actually do need on a daily basis and yes, it really does fit into one small stuff bag.

Obviously it depends on you and where you’re going, but a couple of shorts or boardies, a couple of t-shirts, a decent sweatshirt, a comfy long pair of pants, thin rain jacket, swimmers, strong underpants that won’t split and tear if washed frequently, walking shoes and reef sandals is probably all you need.

It’s amazing what you find you don’t need, and after a while you tend not to mind. It really doesn’t matter if you look a bit dusty and travel worn, because probably everyone else on a camping trip will be in the same boat, so to speak.

No make up – No worries!

You will get used to the easy maintenance routine pretty quickly and ironically on your return to ‘real life’ you will find it hard to find time for beautifying. Sunscreen is all makeup you will need.

Despite my hideous vanity, which took some beating down when I realized there would be no mirrors or hairdryers. I found it was really freeing not to have to worry about make-up, or how my hair looked, or if my clothes were dirty (they were) and I began to relax to the fact that what you haven’t got, you can’t worry about.

 Mosquitoes

The little fiends seem to be everywhere these days, so keep mosquito repellent and anti itch cream handy at all times.

If you’re sleeping in a tent or a swag and you’re woken by a mossie buzzing gleefully right by your ear, you need to find that spray quickly.

Out of the comfort zone (Loo antics)

Africa will quickly teach you how to find a private spot in the bush to have a pee:

  • A) Where nobody else can see you (or view you in the rear view mirror of the truck
  • B) Where you won’t get attacked by Lions, Ellies or Red ants.

Be helpful !!!

What we need to learn is how to be helpful, because there may be camp chores that everyone needs to pitch in with.  Don’t ask what you can do, find out what needs to be done and jump in and help.

You also need to be packed up and ready to leave on time each day.

So smile and relish the uncertainty.

 Don’t forget your sense of humor

Whether dealing with tricky border guards, police officers at roadblocks, it’s amazing how far a bit of humor and a winning smile can get you.  And however bad something might seem, wouldn’t you rather be changing a tyre in the Namib desert than stuck in traffic or just another day at the office? This might be one of your most important travel tips.

It’s a lifestyle

Slowly you’ll find yourself within yourself, and relax into a simpler life stripped down to basic requirements without all the, mostly unnecessary, modern conveniences of home.

This much I know is true:

Get into the simpler lifestyle and soon you’ll be feeling at one with the mother Africa, or the bush and you’ll probably never want to leave.

Africa taught me lots about myself (not all of it nice) and some good stuff about life on the road in general.

Travel Tips:

So here are some packing tips and suggestions that I hope you find useful to help you have a wonderful trip – wherever that may be.

  1. Keep life simple.
  2. Go with the flow.
  3. Expect the unexpected.
  4. Never put your camera on a rock near a gorge full of water 😦
  5. Mosquitoes are everywhere. Be prepared, especially at dusk and dawn. Spray yourself and your clothes. Wear long sleeve pants and shirt at night.
  6. Don’t worry about work – because it’s miles away and completely un-contactable.
  7. Stop fretting about checking for phone messages – there’s no signal for days on end.
  8. Travel insurance is a must.
  9. Understand how things work on a tour with a tour group and get into the swing of them.
  10. You’ll probably feel as if you know everyone on the tour really well after a short 24 hours.  Be the person you would like to travel with.
  11. Be nice to everyone and never gossip. NEVER!!
  12. Girls should definitely pack a sarong.  This can be used as a towel, a sheet, a light cover, a pillow, a picnic blanket or a shawl at night.
  13. Don’t take ‘maybe’ items – you won’t use them.
  14. Take a pack of wet-wipes, tissues and toilet roll.

The magic of sunsets

Sunset doesn’t mean your day is over, or the adventure has to stop. As the sun sinks below the horizon, burning the sky red, pink and orange, you will find yourself with a refreshing drink in your hand, parked on the edge of a pan, river or camp site. Be still and watch as a herd of elephants come down to drink, reflect on your day in the wild as the shadows lengthen and the fiery sky darkens to deep orange. The first stars appear and the sky seems bigger than it does in the rest of the world. In wild Africa, you can see one or a million sunsets and every time the show of shadows and light will leave you dazzled and in awe because you have just witnessed a miracle.

This is the time for you to shut down, get rid of those modern day distractions and get back to nature.  Experiencing the afternoon haze of an African sunset and feel the soothing effect it has on your inner being.  Sunsets in the bush is an attack on your senses – it’s the smell of the earth, the sound of a pod hippo’s grunting protectively in their pool or the sight of a pride of lions with the red yellow sun as a backdrop. All this will leave you in awe of the magic we call Africa……….

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The beauty of nothingness….

How does one begin to describe the beauty of nothingness…..? Only after sitting on a sand dune and staring into the sea of sand do you appreciate the true beauty of nothingness.

Questions like who am I comes to mind in this bigger picture of nothingness. You come to realise that you are part of the blank canvas upon which the entire universe is painted. You start to realise how small and insignificant you really are. Only then do you realise that life as you know it has no bearing upon who you are but you live because of others. Your existence on earth is to be part of the bigger scheme of things and you have two options. To make life better for those around you and or to do the opposite. Choose wisely because you will be judged for it.

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By birth we all have the same degree of beauty and purity and then life shapes and changes us into who and what we become. Be careful of the impacts you have on others, especially children Your actions can be the difference between good and evil.
Sometimes we need to travel and get away from life as we know it to get completely lost in the nothingness to find our true selfs.

Stories in the sand

Each morning brings a new episode in the ongoing series “Stories in the sand” – to the trained eye a whole new world of intriguing interactions and dramas from the previous night unfolds each morning. Battles big and small, visits from the biggest, baddest and meanest to those who crawl.

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Its like an open book – one that could be read as well as contributed to. Maybe you could call it “Wiki-Landscape”. Though I’d prefer to think of it as the encyclopedia of who did what last night: a book that absorbs you such that you are suddenly one of the characters of the very story you are reading in the sand. What we often underestimate is exactly how much information we can gather from the signs left behind by animals and it is once we start following and identifying the spoor, that we start building a “bigger picture” of exactly what the animal/s are doing. A jackal scratching fleas, a Toktokkie looking for a mate, to the king of beasts leisurely strolling through camp to all sorts of critters running to and fro, there are much to read and learn.

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The stories in the red sand carried so many characters, events and action which we would have otherwise never seen, if we had not looked. The San (Bushman) are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa,  they have lived here for at least 20 000 years. They are the master readers when it comes to stories in the sand. They know each and every character by hart and they know exactly how to interpret what might look to us like ordinary marks in the sand.

Stories in the sand is any sign of a creature or trace by which the progress of something may be followed. A spoor may include tracks, scents, scat or broken foliage.

To read these stories in the sand you need to understand the basics.  

1. Who Made The Tracks?
What type of animal made these tracks? There are numerous pocket guides available for resources in identifying tracks. Signs of the Wild by Clive Barker is one of the most complete guides available.
2. What Was The Animal Doing When The Tracks Were Made?
Was the animal chasing another animal or hunting another animal? Was the animal walking or just grazing? Was the creature alone and if not – what was the interaction with the others?
3. When Were The Tracks Made?
By identifying when the tracks were made, you can get a better picture of the animals habits and or if its nocturnal or day living. How long ago did the animal past.
4. Where Did The Animal Go From Here?
Is it just passing through? Did it go to sleep near by? Sometimes, by following fresh tracks for a short distance, you will find the animal.
5. Why Did The Animal Go Though Here?
Why does the animal move at a specific time of day? Is this a pattern for this animal? Will it come by tomorrow and use this same path? Many animals have “roads” and “highways” that they constantly use.

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The forgotten pass

We stumbled upon this forgotten and now closed pass with a friend. It feels like time stood still and you are the only person on earth traveling here. Mother nature has begun here reclaiming of what was  hers once. The road is overgrown and partially lost to nature. This is one magical piece of road with as many photo opportunities as your mind can dream off.

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I try to live my life where I end up at a point where I have no regrets. Part of this philosophy made me find many forgotten dirt tracks and back roads. I just cant drive past an interesting looking turnoff with the thought of “I should have taken that road”. That would bug me endlessly thinking of what the experience should have been like.

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This pass winds through the Outeniekwa mountains and has many twists and turns and around every bend, a more beautiful sight awaits you. There are many mountain streams with deep rock pools and the most beautiful trees.

Its in these rock pools that you touch base with your inner child. For a fleeting moment you are 10 again without any fears and or worries.  Often the inner child holds information and feelings for the adult. Some of these feelings are painful; others are actually fun. The inner child holds the playfulness and innocence the adult has had to bury a long time ago.

Explore back roads, swim naked in isolated rock pools far away from civilization and let out your inner child to guide you to inner peace and happiness.

 To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience places like this and to see everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which you are left in awe with what mother nature has to offer. To just lie on your back on a road not being used anymore and to take in the smells, sounds and feelings in a place where time stands still. Our happiest moments in life seem to be when we discover a jewel like this in search of the mundane and normal stuff of daily life.

Bush coffee

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Camp coffee. There are a few things on tour that evokes the true spirit of camping and bush life like the smell and taste of freshly brewed coffee early in the morning. Sitting on a log or camp chair listening to mother nature and all the sounds greeting the new day with a nice hot coffee in the hand is what camping is all about for me. I am sure that we all have our own way and recipe for making the best cuppa.

I love the way coffee brings everyone together around the fire, listening to the early morning chatter. Coffee has a way of brightening the somber mood of the early rise and to make people happy. Coffee is the common man’s gold, and like gold, it brings to every person the feeling of luxury and nobility even in the most primitive of campsites deep in the wilderness.

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My own coffee preference is summed up perfectly by an old Turkish proverb – “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love.”

Coffee in the morning does to your soul what an ice cold beer do on a very hot afternoon. It soothes your inner being and it has a calming effect. Sometimes its the simple things in life like a few friends around a campfire with a cup of coffee in the hand that makes us the most happy.

My perfect morning is waking up somewhere in the bush with the left overs of last nights fire still glowing with red hot embers and the eagerness of getting the fire to go, so that the first coffee can be brewed. All these special memories get stored somewhere deep in our minds to remind us of these good times, once back in the concrete jungle. The nice thing about this is that sometimes when walking past a coffee shop, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee brings back a rush of these special memories in the bush.

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Travel and tour company guiding self drive adventures in Southern Africa

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