duminică, noiembrie 28, 2021

Why Go Camping?

Recently I was walking the south west coast of Crete, a stunning and rocky wilderness populated by goats, insects and very occasionally other walkers. By day I walked up and down the mountains along the coastal path and at night I would search beaches, ruins or caves for somewhere suitable to sleep. I was travelling alone.

At one point I faced an impassable cliff and realised that I was blocked. Then I saw a tiny staircase carved into the rock, like Gollum’s staircase into Mordor in Lord of the Rings.  Every day I was seeing new landscapes, each one more beautiful than the last, and so many perfect beaches with no people on them. I don’t understand why 99% of tourists all go to the same crowded patches of sand. I get bored of sunbathing after 10 minutes.

When I got back to the Christos Taverna in the small town of Paleochora, an ideal base for a Cretan trekking break, I got online and shared my enthusiasm on Twitter. One of my online friends asked what it’s like sleeping outside and what do you need to take. I glibly told him that all that is needed is a sleeping bag, a mat and an empty rucksack, to fill up with local food and water.

But hiking and camping isn’t so simple. It has taken me a month of trial and (mostly) error to realize that I didn’t need to bring anything at all. I could have bought everything I needed in the camping shop by the bus station in Chanea, Crete’s main port, where I did in fact buy an excellent sleeping bag and mat. But, these new possessions just added to the ton of clothing I had brought (not to mention the books, shoes, electronics, souvenirs and useless tin crockery – even a small breadboard). I was lucky to find a friendly landlady in Paleochora who let me to leave my junk in her premises while I went trekking.

“But what if it rains?” another friend asked. It did rain a few times during my week of hiking and I was well prepared; I had a one-man-tent and a raincoat. But I soon realized that I had packed waterproofs mainly because I am from Scotland, where taking thick waterproofs is essential all the year round. In the Mediterranean mountains, on the other hand, summer storms are a rare and welcome break from the heat; so why not just enjoy the shower? For the second phase of my walk I dumped my waterproofs and tent, lightening my load by two kilogrammes.

But there’s more to it than this. If the south west coast of Crete is so stunning why is it not full of keen hikers from all over Europe sleeping in the ancient Greek ruins and on the empty beaches? The fact is that this type of camping takes more than just selecting the right equipment; a different kind of attitude is needed. The best way I can explain this is by describing what happened to me.

Like most people I appreciate the comforts of a hotel environment and, if given the choice, would find it almost impossible to go into the wilds. I’m not one of those people who can stay in a hotel and spend their days hiking. If I stay in a hotel I do as little as possible, maybe go for a swim, lie in the sun, eat too much and waste time on the internet.

But on the other hand I love sleeping under the stars, hearing the birds squabble nearby and feeling the wind on my face. Being by a real log fire in the pitch dark is my idea of heaven – and if you are comfortably ensconced in your warm sleeping bag, life can seem perfect. But I recognise how hard it is to get to that point where one is essentially living in nature. Even though it’s really simple – just a sleeping mat and mat are needed – years flash by when I don’t do any camping at all. The fact is that I’m too busy, family obligations take priority (and the logistics of family camping expeditions can be hideous), there aren’t too many places you can sleep out and work takes up far too much of my time.  To trump it all, the comfort of the hotel and my friends’ houses are just too tempting.

Spontaneity also played a role. I didn’t go to Crete for camping, but I did go there for a month off and didn’t want to pay 20 Euros a night (600 Euro a month!) for a bed in a taverna. The camping option started out as a cheap way to live, and for a couple of weeks I was a beach bum living under a tree. Eventualy I got bored and realized that I could start exploring Crete’s south west coast where there are no roads and the mountains drop into the sea. Now I want to come back every year until I have explored the entire island, a task that may take the rest of my life.

There is something else that draws me towards this kind of activity. I don’t believe that the vast tourist industry is a healthy or sustainable entity, and I don’t want to be part of it.  Tourism relies on a globalised economic system that we are starting to realize is perhaps not as stable as we once thought. One day it could all come crashing down and what will we do then? Where will we sleep? What will we eat if the fuel supply is interrupted? Where will we go? I don’t have any answers for these frightening questions but I do feel that by carrying everything I need to live on my back for a few days I am learning survival skills that may come in handy one day.

Rupert Wolfe Murray is the European Representative of Castle Craig rehab clinic (Scotland). He is based in Bucharest.

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  1. eu nu mi pun intrebari atit de grave;
    ma gindesc daca ash avea curajul sa dorm in romania asha pe coclauri ?m ar fura aia sigur!

    • I’d never heard that story about Cretans being liars. I did read a lot of history when I was there and their role in WW2 was honorable and heroic. They were occupied by the Nazis but actively defiant of them too.

      • cum ?aia n au intors armele !?
        amu sa nu mi spunetzi ca n au mincinoshi si ei !
        da oricum,pe noi ii greu sa ne intreaca;noi sintem asha buni hotzi ca ne am furat si rivolutzia

  2. As reader, I can honestly say that this essay fail to exemplify the majesty and the descriptive qualities of English language. Your text is a heavy read due to its simplistic structure, limited syntax and poor semantic, and not to mention that fail to make an emotional connection with the reader. I will not take for granted the complexity of English language, the surmountable effort required from a foreign born and bred and writer’s innate quality (not everybody can be Steinbeck) in giving you a lot of credit.
    Please don’t take it the wrong way; there is room for improvement, but practice always makes it perfect.

    • Darrell,

      You missed the whole point of this story. The author did not try to woo us with his mastery of language or explaining sophisticated concepts.

      Even though I actually never went camping, I found this story very powerful, to the level that I might in fact go camping some day just for the kick of the experience.

      Nevertheless I agree with other persons posting on this forum saying that camping in Romania might be a risky experience because of wildlife or ruffians coming along.

    • Speaking of which, „this essay failS” etc.
      Otherwise, Rupert, I’m deeply envious. SW Crete is precisely the part I’ve missed :-(

    • Dear Reader, I find your comment very interesting. Indeed the structure of this article is simple and you are right that it doesn’t express the beauty of the English language, but any attempt to do so in the written form is in danger of being instantly rejected by editors who know that their readers want material that is easily comprehensible (or simplistic) and considered pretentious. I certainly don’t take offence to your remark but I do wonder what you are doing reading a newspaper blog when, with your erudite taste for elevated prose, you should be, surely, reading nineteenth century classics or even Shakespeare.

  3. Lasa frate ca am facut si noi asta in jos pe Dunare si nu s-a mai stresat nimeni.
    Dupa doua ture am invatat ca tot ce am nevoie sunt papuci de plastic, un cort decent, un sac de dormit si mancare.
    Cred ca in ziua de azi cu mancarea ma descurc doar cu paini si cu unt de arahide.
    A si filtru de apa, ca e greu de gasit si pentru fitosi hartie de toaleta umeda pentru curatat.

    In rest vreme buna :)

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Rupert Wolfe Murrayhttp://www.wolfemurray.com
Rupert Wolfe Murray este consultant independent pe probleme de comunicare. Scotian cu resedinta la Bucuresti

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