A small lamp is flickering its last breath of gas, the night chirps loudly in my ear and a bush pig is eyeing me for some leftover food.
I am camping, all by myself. Under a roof of stars and on a carpet of leaves my tent stands proudly tiny. No gadgets, nothing fancy, just the basics. The past few days have been all about spending time with big old trees, making fires and getting my feet dirty. The weather was perfect, Mother Nature gently forced me into a mini digital detox and the sights and sounds were serene…but the trip got off to a somewhat-almost literal rocky start.
It all started a few too many kilometers down the road when I realised that I’d forgotten my mattress. I grabbed the next best thing and threw a few borrowed sofa cushions in the car.
Everything about the trip screamed impromptu, nothing about the trip whispered planned. Years had passed since my last solo-alone-dinner-for-one camping trip and from my recollection it was a lot easier in my twenties. Somewhere along the non-solo-camping years I have lost my solo-camping-mojo. I’m pretty sure I had more hands, a better memory and a lot more comfort last time.
During this trip I needed a GPS for the logistical nightmare called unpacking; locating the toilet paper required a highly-trained search party and getting hold of a coffee mug asked for caffeine. I found pots without lids, salt without pepper and firelighters without matches. I walked to the scullery without dishes, charged batteries without switching on the power and aimlessly reached for the shampoo I left behind in the car. When nature called I packed up everything, from food to cameras, and locked it in the car out of the baboons’ reach. Pack up, lock, unpack, repeat. Every. Single. Time. Pack up, lock, unpack, pull-my-hair-out repeat. I flirted with the mosquito repellent and single-handedly killed an entire clan of mozzies. Angry long-lost brothers and sisters of the clan munched on my feet the next day; deceased members came back as Lazarus and religiously found a chewing grace in my blood.
Insects formed fossils in the butter, a home on my cracker and an exit strategy in my stomach. Every braai required a third hand to operate the flashlight and with every humble meal came the hungry protests of bush pigs ransacking the camping grounds with a grunt-grunt here and a grunt-grunt there.
I stumbled over the same tent pen hourly, dropped my pillow in the mud, walked into every possible spider web and unwillingly attached my hair to the sleeping bag’s zipper. The milk spilled inside the crate, ants found the leftovers and dishwashing liquid seeped into my coffee pot.
Somewhere along the non-solo-camping years I have lost my solo-camping-mojo but tonight, like every other night, it is all fires and laughter in the distance until the pensioner campers switch off their lights and call it a night. Under a roof of stars and on a carpet of leaves it is just me, limited signal, minimum light, a clock counting down the minutes to nine, the clan and a bush pig ready for a tug of war.
Tonight, like every other night I will puzzle the pieces of sofa cushions together and tomorrow morning, like every other morning I will wake up on the floor, on the somewhat-almost literal rocky start and plan the next trip with no gadgets, nothing fancy, just the basics and a mattress.
This article first appeared in Traveller24 on the 27th of February.