What self-respecting adventurer (adventuress just sounds wrong) can call themselves as such if they have never been camping? Being an adventure seeker as a child, I had always wanted to be a boy scout for exactly that reason. They got to go out into the wild with pocket knives. They built fires rubbing sticks together. They cooked, ate, and slept under the stars. Joining the girl scouts was just not an option for me. Besides, all my friends were boys.
It took a while, but my first camping opportunity finally arrived while visiting my mother when she lived in Puerto Rico. She had just spent a week-end camping with friends in a small cottage-like tent resort and highly recommended it. Ron refused, his eagle scout badge still relatively fresh in mind. After days of relentless taunting – How boring can you be? Where’s your sense of adventure? he did finally succumb to the pressure and we (well, maybe it was only me) joyfully headed off to the tiny idyllic island of St. John. One flight, two bus and one ferry ride later, an adventure in and of itself, we arrived at our destination, hot, sweaty, and covered in mosquito bites the size of quarters. The Maho Bay of today looked quite different then, but at eighteen dollars a night, you couldn’t go wrong – or so I thought. After arriving in our, let’s just say, ill-kept, mosquito infested, canvas clad abode, and in less time than it takes for a spider to exhale, I turned to Ron, forced a smile, and said, Let’s just go!
His eagle scout eyes said, I told you so, but his fiancée lips spoke – So, is it the humongous, obscenely long-tongued iguana sitting on the table snatching at flys?
Or the dead bugs on the mattress and the burned beyond recognition food scraps encrusted on the hot plate that did it?
So much for camping. We high-tailed it as fast as our Nike clad feet could carry our sweat drenched bodies to a neighboring resort where we gladly forked over three weeks salary on a three-day stay. A hot shower and a cold beer made getting over the sting of still being a camping virgin very easy.
I did however, have to wait almost thirty years for the opportunity to go camping to present itself again. A part of a student related trip to Tanzania included a three-day camping safari. Armed with a mosquito net, a can of insect repellant, and malaria pills, I felt very ready and up to the adventure until we came upon a Masai village.
She didn’t have an answer for me. It was a rhetorical question, anyway.
It wasn’t a pretty sight!
Oh My God, I prayed, please just keep us safe. In my rush though, I had forgotten about His sense of humor. I should have been more specific, because His answer swooped down from the heavens an hour later in the form of a frigid, raging windstorm. The wailing gale would have out-cried a chorus of shrieking banshees. It certainly kept the animals away, but I lay awake in my sleeping bag most of the night, fully dressed – jacket, hat, gloves, 3 pair of socks – zipped up to my eyeballs, convinced that hell is cold.
Even though I was relieved that my remains wouldn’t need to be picked free from between some giant animal’s toes in the morning,
I was concerned that our tent would come loose and Margaret and I would be swept over the rim and into the Ngorongoro Crater before seeing the light of day ever again. Margaret, by the way, slept through the entire night, like a bear in hibernation.
So, in answer to my question, To camp? Or not to Camp? HECK, YES!
Have you ever been camping? Hate it? Love it? What’s your experience?