The process of camping on D-day is usually a predictable chain of events. Someone inadvertently oversleeps, and we commence our journey an hour late. There are several unplanned stops along the way that further delay the schedule. We meander from our path a couple of times, thanks to choppy GPS and Google’s questionable cartography in rural regions.
Yes, everything is Google’s fault these days. Devoid of basic skills, I am sure that a few generations ahead, people may even need Google’s assistance to find their bathrooms!
We did all of the above.
Departed late. Spent a LOT of time at the supermarket, shopping for the food and ‘juice’. Made two pit-stops along the way – once for a round of coffee and hash browns, and the second time to snack on some delectable Maharashtrian snacks comprised of vada-pav, misal-pav, kanda-bhajji-pav, and sabudana khichdi!
Damn, we Mumbaikars love our ‘pav’!
We had planned to pitch our tents by late afternoon. Clearly, the sun had received no such memo! By the time we had finished setting up the tents, the sun was about thirty minutes away from taking a dip in the lake. But there was time enough, to admire the beautiful lake, the desolate landscape around it, and our picture-perfect camp of six perfectly erect tents, and one crooked mess – my tent. That had to be redone of course, because Sarfaraz came running at me like a charged Rottweiler who had just seem some other dog poop all over his favourite toy!
Finally, with the accommodation set up, we split into smaller units and kicked off the essential grind – get a basic fire going, forage for reserve fire-wood, get to know the fellow campers, and toast some s’mores!
Just kidding! Indians don’t carry s’mores… we’ve got a rich lineage of travel snacks passed on from one generation to another in almost every culture – chivda, bhadang, farsaan, bhel, and chaat are just some variations of the same family of snacks!
The fire raged a mellow-yellow, we finally popped some cans, and the night began to settle in. While some of us made acquaintances, others debated on the kind of music that should’ve set the tone for that evening. (For some reason contemporary jazz and Vedic trance were at the forefront of this contest!) I went around the camp, shaking some hands and dishing out smiles while trying to commit everyone’s name and face to my memory.
Surprisingly, barring Surf, our ringleader from Treks and Trails, the entire party comprised of neatly segregated couples and a family of three! My wife and I represented the novice campers. Then, we had a duo of thirty-year-olds who practically lived life for adventure (in fact they had joined us about thirty minutes late, after a gliding session over a nearby hill!). The ‘family’ had a toddler, who like his parents, had the makings of a world-class explorer. One of my closest friends, let’s call him Jugal, was accompanied by his on-and-off girlfriend. The two remaining couples sealed off the age spectrum right down to the early twenties!
Apparently, diversity is quite abundant in the wilderness!
While the conversations carried on in parallel, unbeknownst to us, the moon and the stars had also shifted their axes, casting a soft shimmering glow onto our modest campsite. We had already ploughed through half our stock of ‘juice’, and the handful of snacks that we had managed to smuggle in under Surf’s sharp nose!
Part of the reason why the snacks vanished like Thanos’ finger-snap victims was the ineptitude of our rookie barbeque team! They had managed to produce the first batch of kebabs after an hour of their best collaborative efforts! How big was the batch? Six kebabs! I could eat six kebabs on a bad stomach day, and still have space leftover for desserts!
But eventually, the volume of kebabs did climb at an alarming rate, and soon we had more kebabs on our hands than there were mouths to feed! That IS a peculiar thing about cooking with fire right? It takes ages to reach a decent temperature, but when it does get there, you have absolutely no time to savour the fruits of your labour! It’s like a race from the ambers to the stomach!
This fire’s taking too long…. damn… the sun has already set… the moon is up… my kid’s in school now… there we go! Fire at last! Am grilling… am grilling… done. Let me put another one on while I wait… Shit, that one’s burning. Take it off… take it off…. need to watch the fire now Damn, the first batch went cold! Okay, new plan! … Grill and eat… grill and eat… You’ve got it, soldier! No excuses!
But that grind is what sets the evening up for success right? So we continued this cycle for the next few hours until the clock struck ten. Well, not literally! I mean who owns clocks anymore? I just happened to glance at my phone to check for messages, and was amazed to see that we were still just two hours away from 2019!
And that’s when the fun began!
Which brings me to the second reason why I love camping so much –
Losing yourself in the journey, the setup, and the build-up to the final moment of reward!
When you camp, you aren’t thinking of what you’d be doing at 11 pm in the night. You’re just getting there one experience at a time. The roads, the rest-stops, the ground, the tents, the wood, the sweat, and the breeze are all a part of the act!
You only party, when you suddenly realize that your feet are moving! You only relax, when you suddenly realize that you are flat on the ground!
So let’s leave it at that then – A day well spent on the journey to the new year, reflected upon just a couple of hours before the midnight chime.