Lucky are the people, who work beneath an azure canopy, with a modest tent as their desk, and a pair of Woodlands as their tool.
On the eve of 2019, my wife and I went camping with an ensemble crew, on the shores of a tiny lake nestled between Mumbai and Pune. This post is part of a series that will seek to describe that experience, as well as answer one question – Why do I love camping?
Who are we kidding? The question obviously was as an afterthought. The story is just plain funny!
Right off the bat, let me tell you something about my wife and me. We are as domesticated as a couple of poodles who have seen only the inside of a house, a mall, or a nice hotel room. Well, my wife can still pass as a poodle, but that’s definitely a stretch for me!
Then, let’s say that we are as domesticated as a poodle and a bull mastiff who’ve seen only the inside of a house, a mall or a nice hotel room. So when a friend proposed that we spend our first new year’s eve as a married couple, shacked up in a tent, we were obviously super-thrilled! Who wouldn’t want a break from the incessant gourmet dining, craft brewery experience, and comfortable beds that we enjoyed in our regular city life! Couldn’t wait for it!
Even though I’ve not ventured outdoors recently, I HAVE done my share of camping as a kid, almost until college. So, I KNOW the necessary equipment required to pull off a successful camping trip in a truly deserted area. Suffice to say that I had none of those pieces of equipment unless Bluetooth speakers had suddenly made it onto the ‘Essential Camping Equipment List’ for 2018!
But, turns out that the entire trip experience had been ‘arranged’ by two chaps from Treks and Trails! An avid nature enthusiast by the name of Sarfaraz Baghdadi, who is also the founder and head of that group, and Rahul Mistry – a talented artist, designer, and photographer, who fills in as their official chronicler whenever he treks with them, which is pretty much all the time!
Did I mention that one of them is a friend of a friend, and the other is the brother of the same friend? Guess not. And you thought I was about to shell out money for a camping trip out of the blue!
Since the two of them usually camp for a living, they were kind enough to lend us a tent from their stockpile of camping junk (courtesy – Decathlon and its vast collection of accessible and inexpensive sporting equipment), and that sort of sealed the ‘plan’ itself.
Well, you do need other necessities such as a sleeping bag, flashlights, utensils, emergency burner, water storage units, first-aid, lighter fuel, camping chairs, and a hammock. But didn’t I tell you? These guys can give Indiana Jones a run for his money while camping in the Western Ghats!
On the 31st of December, seven of us crammed ourselves into two mini-SUVs and headed to the nearest mart to stock for food and ‘juice’. I am using juice as a very wide term for anything that’s extracted from a fruit or a plant, and consumed either instantly or post intricate treatments such as malting, mashing, boiling and fermenting. After all, the juice is great for health!
Deciding to put ourselves to some use, my wife and I spearheaded the shopping effort. What we did not realize, was that a life with ‘bi-weekly supermarket visits’ had turned us into natural hoarders. So when we pushed two full trolleys filled with food towards Surf for inspection and validation, he burst into spontaneous laughter!
“You guys wanna camp or establish a settlement by the lake?” “Is it a bit too much?” “Anything more than a few skewers of meat is too much. THIS is a Sunday brunch on steroids.”
Dejected, we watched as Surf pulled up an additional cart and started transferring unwanted stuff into it.
“Don’t need this… who eats this?… When are you going to find time to make popcorn?… No biscuits and chips… they dry up your throat… Why are you taking fruits… we’ll just grab some from a nearby village or forage around the lake… Not this… nope… nada… done.”
The final cart looked like the mangled remains of a carcass after a pack of hyenas had been through it. Then he shifted his attention to the cart that housed the ‘juice’. I dreaded the fate that awaited this innocent cart. Surf glanced at the cart once, and then looked at us –
“Yeah, this looks fine. Just don’t forget to grab some chocolates! You’d need the sugar.” “What for?” “You just need it.”
I didn’t want to argue with Surf anyway. Part of me had just relaxed with the knowledge that the juice cart hadn’t undergone the same mutilation as the food cart had! So, we quickly wrapped up and stowed the motherload into one of the SUVs. The other SUV was already packed to the brim with camping gear, so neatly arranged that only an Olympic qualifying cockroach could have manoeuvred its way through the mess to find a spot for itself.
Satisfied with our minor achievement so far, we strapped our seat belts on and embarked on the journey towards the lake.
Which brings me to the first reason that I love camping for –
The excitement associated with planning for anything and everything!
Preparation for camping is all about the fine balance between travelling light and still managing to have the perfect experience. Every trip teaches us a better and efficient way to enjoy the outdoors!
True, it’s nothing compared to an all-you-can-eat buffet! But a buffet does not share the same rustic feel, as does a lakeside bonfire with home-marinated kebabs!
True, that an NYE party at a fine brewery would probably be a hoot! But it does not compare to the unabashed celebrations under a starlit sky!
And hence, this is where I leave the story, with the promise of a scenic location, the aroma of wood-fired kebabs wafting through the winter breeze, and a star-studded carpet of ink awaiting us in the next part of ‘Why do I love camping?’