We’re currently away on our annual camping trip so I thought I’d share with you a great guest post by the The Hairy Chef. We feel like were going a little more “back to nature” this year as we won’t have a powered site or access to a kid’s playground (but still access to an amenities block) but it seems we don’t rough it quite the same way as The Hairy Chef! And I suppose camping in Colombia is probably a bit different than the South Coast of NSW, Australia!
Living abroad is not as difficult as you may think – especially when you have the means to get away from getting away.
Having spent all our money on a pre-Christmas vacation to Bonaire, Jane and I were looking to…well…get away. Living in Bogota is not without its difficulties. First there’s the Spanish. Then there’s there unique perception of time that permeates the Latino mentality. And of course, being away from family at Christmas is always something that takes a little patience.
Before leaving Australia in 2011, we had never been camping, but it turns out, we’re well suited to it – we love 2-minute noodles, and we get on well enough to share a living space measuring 1.8 x 2 metres for 5 consecutive days (the mechanics of which I won’t go into here….). Our destination this time round: Laguna de Tota, Boyaca, Colombia.
Laguna de Tota lies at about 3000 metres above sea level to the north east of Bogota. Much like many areas of natural beauty in Colombia, the surroundings are occupied by villages and small hotels. Thus it’s not so much about the gorgeous hikes or being in an exotically isolated place…but more about not having to deal with 7,000,000 other people in a crowded developing city…and for the price of having to bathe naked in fresh water lake at altitude and getting caught hopelessly in the nuddy doing so….it was totally worth it. Guess that’s what you get for skinny dipping in daylight hours.
Since arriving in South America we have acquired bits and pieces of our camping kit: the two man tent, gas canisters (which we then purchased a camping stove for as a Christmas present to ourselves) and an all-in-one camping tool.
But you know, camping is not an affordably accessorised past time, so here’s my list of things you do need to get away. Whether it be to get away from the place you call home, a get away from your getaway or something you’ve always wanted to do. Maybe you’ve never felt the humbling satisfaction that comes from letting one rip atop a longdrop dunny…there’s never a better time to get yourself together and escape.
1) A head torch
Head torches might make you look funny, but they will sure come in handy…or our of handy, as I like to say. And honestly, you’ll never know how useful they are until it gets dark, you try to put your tent up and you can’t find that 8th tent peg. The LED lamps are especially bright and also serve a self-defense stun device in the event of a late night Drop Bear attack.
2) A sleeping mat
No, they’re not for comfort….and they won’t save you from bruised hips, but they will keep you warm by providing a layer of insulation from the ground. I actually use my yoga mat. Jane uses a camouflage patterned mat left behind by a previous house mate of ours which I feel is fittingly in line with her background in special forces covert snoring.
3) A camping stove
Obviously this depends on where you’re going…and also a little on where your personal tolerance of camping ends, and glamping starts. But let’s be honest…waking up with a stiff back, sleepy eyes, crisp morning sun and a cup of tea is the absolute shit.
4) Travel Scrabble
I would go as far as to say that this might be the most important item of our camping kit. After 6 weeks in a dusty, noisy bus through the south-western pocket of Africa with an older Aussie couple and the Queen’s paige, travel scrabble is our household nickname for the glue that holds our relationship together. Aside from now being undeniably fearsome force as a wordsmith, it also makes you look particularly cool and can, at times, provide opportune relief from talking to “that guy” on a long bus ride.
5) Alcohol gel
I honestly don’t know how the world functioned without this stuff….but it cleans everything, smells awesome and saves you having to tip soapy water into lakes and streams.
6) Plastic bags
Believe me, I don’t say this lightly, but plastic bags will save your camping trip. You can carry things in them, you can take snacks for day trips and hikes, they keep your dirty undies out of the your cooking equipment AND they stop your toilet paper getting wet. And let’s be honest…nobody really enjoys wiping their bums with anything that has the same consistency as porridge, do they?
The Hairy Chef is an Australian writer, a swimmer, a baker, home-brewer and EFL teacher currently living in Bogota, Colombia. There are many things that you might want to know about him, but really, the one thing you should know is that his passion in life is making people smile. Whether is be through food, stories, photos, language or a reckless disregard for that weird social rule about not taking the last piece of cake before offering it others, there’s always time investing in another person’s smile.