Oh, dear I am in trouble now. Mr L is reading the blog. I always thought I was safe, as he was above such things. It’s a good job I’m not (often) rude about him, isn’t it? 🙂
Feathers appear slightly ruffled because I said I was not sure about Brunhilde and this camping lark. What my dear beloved doesn’t realise is that he is ahead of you, dear reader on this particular conversation, as I was thinking it out with him on the road over the weekend. I just wanted to get it down here at some point – mainly because it is interesting to return to in the future and to see how much I and my ideas have changed.
Anyway, I now know there is at least one reader out there and I’m not just talking to myself as so often appears to be the case. Yes, don’t just hit and run, dear reader, leave a comment, say hello, let me know I’m not jabbering alone.
But I digress.
When I said that I wasn’t sure about Brunhilde, it may have been an incorrect or inaccurate form of words – I probably meant that I was ambivalent yet. There are aspects that I enjoy and others that I do not enjoy so much. One or two things about Brunhilde I really don’t like very much at all at the moment.
Not for one second in my life did I ever believe that I would be one of those middle-aged folk in a motorhome, playing at camping – or, worse still, going out for the day, making a brew and drinking it watching the sea from folding chairs, before going home again. I did not even really believe in it when we were talking it over in recent years. I did not expect it would ever really happen. Not my style and I’m not that old or staid yet.
Or am I? I do have a bus pass.
We all grow up.
I have never been proper camping – not the kind of under-canvas, gather-your-wood-and-light-a-fire, take-only-a-bedroll-with-you kind of camping. My first camping trip was as a teenager, when I went to Seamer near Scarborough, with a couple of male friends. It was well out of season and very chilly. One of my companions took his pyjamas with him, plus a folding bed, gas lantern, gas heater and a two-ring cooker and grill. I felt something was wrong, somewhere…
I’ve stayed in static caravans, sometimes memorably without clothes (but that’s a whole other story) and I’ve shared a tent with Mr L and the dogs and an inflatable mattress. Always on sites. The thing that characterised all these experiences was the level of discomfort and several inconveniences, despite the fact that it did not even approach the rigours of what my internal camper believes to be “true” camping.
You may imagine then that I had mixed feelings about the nature of wild camping in a motorhome. All the comforts of home, in the wild. One half of my brain says “Way too much comfort, it’s not proper camping” and the other half goes “Oh, yeah, middle of nowhere, back to nature stuff and no broken back!”
Brunhilde is relatively comfortable. The bed does not suit me and it can be difficult to get set right on the seats at the table but overall, taking into consideration the existence of said table, a water tank, three gas rings, two sinks, a shower and a toilet – it’s all very civilised. “Too comfortable” says Inner Camper – “Shut up!” say I.
Wild camping thus far has not taken the form that it had in my head. My vision was of a lone van, parked by a mountain stream and nobody else around for miles. The picture in my head is often of the Mennock Pass, not quite the mountains but it will do. We have parked in car parks, some with toilets and some without. When I say “car park” I’m not meaning giant pay-to-park council ones or supermarket car parks – think lonely beaches with a hard standing for four to a dozen vehicles. Toilets when available usually sport a single cubicle and a wash tap.
It feels like cheating to my inner wild camper, to be parked upon hard standing, but level ground makes for a better night’s sleep and also for ease of cooking. Also, Brunhilde does not care for a tilted pitch – she is fussy about her drainage and our stay is simplified if we can park on the flat – this much we have learned from our two trips away. I confess that although we carry our own toilet with us, I much prefer any unpleasantness to be locked safely away in the public WC. I don’t wish to be confined in a pongy van! And yes, I feel that too is duplicitous. All part of the fun, eh?
So, after five nights away in total, what have I learned about camping in a van:
- It requires a discipline that is entirely foreign to my nature. Everything has to have a place and be returned to it as soon as possible once it has been taken out. Washing-up has to be prompt and carried out after every meal.
- These tasks are really one-person tasks as the second person can do little other than sit at the table and keep out of the way. Companionable cooking does not appear to be on the agenda.
- Meals require forethought and planning not just in terms of pans but also in thinking through the amount of water needed for cooking and washing up afterwards.
- Water conservation is important. We seem to have a comfortable range of two nights but three is pushing things a little. On longer trips we shall need to visit a site on every third night to fill with fresh water and dispose of waste – so no long trip can ever approach fully wild.
- It’s going to be a lot easier when we have fewer than two dogs with us – but probably not as much fun.
- Taking the dogs camping re-sets their internal clocks. This is no bad thing.
- It is all a lot harder work and less carefree than I had imagined: packing and unpacking the van takes a lot of time and effort. Planning to go as wild as possible requires more thought and effort in order not to be short of any essential when we get to our destination.
- It is more tiring than I expected and bedtime comes earlier than I had thought – long evenings reading or playing games have yet to transpire… and all that knitting time? Pah!
- I prefer staying put to travelling around. This may be simply because I have yet to get used to Brunhilde’s breadth and left-hand drive: I become incredibly nervous on the road – really sick-to-the-stomach nerves and this may lie behind the extreme tiredness that I have been feeling. However, something inside tells me that it will always suit me better to go somewhere and stop rather than to move on every day. This may be due to the earlier point about having to put everything away – so much more important when about to drive off. All lockers need to be secured. All very time-consuming.
- I preferred our second trip to our first – planning/doing less, relaxing more, and spending little really appealed to my nature. I think I may be less of a sight-seeing traveller and more the view-absorber.
- I like being parked right by the sea and hearing the waves all night
- I don’t much like having neighbours
- Footwear gets wet, take spares.
- Trouser bottoms suffer the same fate and need the same planning
- Apart from that, take less clothes – nobody is going to care if I have spaghetti sauce down my front.
- We don’t eat as much as I think we do, so there’s no need to buy so many provisions when setting off! I’ll only have to unpack them and bring them in the house when we get home.
- Check we have maps and guides for the area we are going to before setting off
- Geocaching and Motorhomes make for a good fit
- One dog towel could never be enough, how silly was I?
- I still hate midges
So, yes, I remain ambivalent. I really don’t like the backache, stiff joints and tiredness – but we can replace the mattress. I’m terrified in the passenger seat for now – surely I’ll get used to that soon and eventually stop being so nervous. Once those niggles are sorted, and I become an automatic and non-resentful tidier-upper, I am sure all will be plain
sailing camping. I’m still excited by the ideas and the vision in my head of what our trips could be like and I’m even coming around to the idea of moving off Orkney for short periods. Wanting to see exciting photograph-able things and places is a great help with my enthusiasm levels when it comes to going farther afield.
The dogs are learning too. Nell was brilliant from the off and has now settled on seating herself at the table for travelling (and meal times!) and sleeping there at night. Suzie has found herself a place to lie behind my seat when we are on the move but tends to neglect her nice duvet bed in favour of inconveniently placing herself in front of the toilet at night. I am relaxing more and worrying less about the dogs when we are travelling.
Suzie’s age is showing and she appears confused as to who she is with some days – following any vaguely human shape on the move. I have bought a long retractable lead so that we don’t have to keep running off after her to bring her back – she’s too deaf to hear instructions nowadays. She has however learned not to fall out of the van now. This is a Good Thing.
Brunhilde still has a few bugs but Mr L is gradually ironing them out. As noted yesterday a new fanbelt is ready to be put on – she will soon be fully fit and we can think about ranging wider. Mr L has ordered levelling ramps so we can have a wider choice of pitches to stop at without slipping slowly out of our bed or being unable to drain the shower or boil a pan without accident. We are considering buying a new mattress and the special fitted bedding so that we have a better night’s sleep when we are away. Better insulation for the front window is also needed and we are thinking through the options for that.
Mr L would like to tackle the North of Scotland later this year. It’s a sensible move. We tested Brunhilde in a safe environment but we need to try her legs out now. We’ll also get some chance to try out her insulation and comfort levels in low temperatures and get an idea therefore of where we might plan to go elsewhere in Europe when we have more time, post-retirement. I just feel
slightly sick at the thought of covering 300 miles in the passenger seat. *wibble*
On the bright side, 300 miles should cure me – yes? Darker nights and shorter days may even afford me the reality of the expected languorous evenings with bottle of wine and cribbage board. I might even knit!