EOTWQ – The Outdoor Type

I meant to post these questions back in early summer, but, you know, stuff came up. So here, unseasonably, they are now.

And here’s some music to get you in the mood (or possibly not).

See that picture? That’s where we camped back in July. St Agnes, Isles of Scily – last landfall this side of Newfoundland. It looks idyllic – but we were pleased to have my dad’s house to retreat to when the sou’westerly gale came in. Some unlucky souls ended up sleeping in the church hall. So my question:

1. Camping?
a) Yay! Bring out the billy can.
b) Not on your life.
c) Only at festivals.

And what’s been your most memorable camping experience, for good or ill?

2. Have you ever had to spend a night in the great outdoors due to unforseen circumstances? (e.g. the motor on the boat you’ve taken over to an uninhabited island conks out, and it’s the days before everyone has a mobile, and despite your desperate waving of a luminous orange rucksack from the highest ground, nobody sees you, and then it starts to get dark, and you haven’t got any food, and your brother’s beginning to suffer mild hypothermia having got soaked in seawater trying to get the boat started… actually, we got rescued by the lifeboat at around 11pm, so maybe this doesn’t count).

3. Not far from where the above happened, my dad recently saw a pod of more than 100 dolphins. I am unspeakably envious. We had a question some months back about scary animal encounters, but what’s your best experience of seeing an animal in the wild?

4. What natural wonder or landscape have you found most awe-inspiring? We’ll allow some human influence, but it should be about the setting – so, say, Machu Pichu counts, but the Taj Mahal probably doesn’t.

5. Where do you go when you need to escape? Or if you can’t get there, where would you like to go?

32 thoughts on “EOTWQ – The Outdoor Type

  1. 1. Well, I have enjoyed camping in my time, most notably various DofE expeditions on Dartmoor in assorted varieties of appalling weather, but suspect that I’m now too old to enjoy it unless it’s dry. Mrs Abahachi won’t be seen dead in a tent under any circumstances, so haven’t had the opportunity to test this assumption. Most memorable has to be one of the aforementioned Dartmoor trips; blazing sunshine and several cases of sunstroke, and we seemed to spend most of the day avoiding stepping on adders.

    2. Nope, been very lucky in that respect.

    3. Newly hatched clutch of adders – once I’d stopped shaking from having nearly stepped right in the middle of them. Followed, I think, by dolphins in the Gulf of Naples and the first time I ever saw a kingfisher, while cycling through a wood in Germany (“Fuck, it’s a fucking kingfisher!”, I opined sagely, and cycled into a tree).

    4. Delphi; yes, it’s got a load of historic ruins but they’re not up to much really; what is staggering, and completely persuades you that this is indeed the omphalos of the world (centre, or more literally belly-button), is the setting, a deep valley with woods and rocks. Okay, that doesn’t sound much…

    5. Short-term local escapes: the cemetery, which has a rather good view across towards the Somerset Levels and Glastonbury Tor. Longer term, the small town in the Bavarian Forest that we visit regularly.

  2. I like these questions a lot!

    1. Used to be a) but creaky bones and so on are taking me more and more towards b), I’m afraid!

    I camped a lot as a teenager and I think my most enduring memory was at age 10 or 11 canoeing along Ullswater and bivouacking at the water’s edge and cooking dinner on a primus stove. I scalded my arm with boiling water meant for a some pasta I was trying to cook but I didn’t care. I was hooked on Swallows and Amazons at the time so that probably explains it.

    Worst experiences have more to do with noisy fellow campers on organised campsites and are boring to recount but they are what has put me off the whole idea more recently. I think when camping just means a cheap alternative to staying in a hotel and that you are surrounded by “campers” who feel that way then it loses all of its magic.

    2. Loads of times. Spent a few nights on the North Yorkshire Moors after missing the last bus home when practicing the art of underage drinking! Also slept rough a few years running during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Don’t think I’d be up to it any more, though!

    3. Not really in the wild but I remember sitting in a park in Guayaquil, Ecuador, sharing my lunch with a bunch of very friendly iguanas.

    4. The North Yorkshire Moors never fail to take my breath away. Machu Picchu was worth the trip, too!

    5. There’s a little hotel in the middle of the Sierra Pela about two hours’ drive north of Madrid. It’s in the middle of nowhere, the food’s great, the countryside is wide open, my mobile has no signal there. It’s bliss. Oh and a codicil to number three – there are fifty or maore pairs of vultures that are just fascinating to observe. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a creature of greater contrasts – so graceful and even agile in the air and so damned ugly and downright clumsy looking on the ground!

  3. 1. Yes… but I’m a fair weather camper. Actually, I don’t particularly mind rain (as long as the tent doesn’t leak – oops, our ‘new’ vintage 70s frame number does), but it has to be warm. And I have to have a seriously thick sleeping bag. My 3 season bag wasn’t good enough in June (hubby thinks it might be getting old). His 4 season bag that I borrowed in August was only just warm enough.

    I think they ought to market extra warm sleeping bags for us female folk. They can be pink, if you insist, but don’t make them any shorter!

    My most memorable camping experience? Probably the week we spent in Dorset about 15 years ago. If you discount a single night on a childhood pony trekking holiday, ’twas my first real camping trip. The weather was glorious (and warm), the scenery was stunning, we were in love… and my sleeping bag was significantly newer.

    2. No, thank heavens.

    3. To be honest, I find most sightings of wild animals impressive. I once saw a mink on the river Kennett. I thought it was an otter at the time (went home, looked it up, felt slightly disappointed).

    4. Again, I’m easily impressed. The sea in winter, perhaps? (When there’s a bit of a hooly blowing – not enough to sweep you of your feet, obviously, but maybe enough to literally take your breath away.) Whether viewed from Brighton (student days) or the coast of Cornwall (visiting the in-laws at Christmas), the sea is still itself – wild and elemental. And I’m usually pretty glad I’m on solid ground.

    5. Watership Down. Seriously. It’s down the road, and it ticks the boxes for me: countryside, hill, view, trees, a bit breezey at times… There are some rabbits. I’ve seen them.

  4. I should probably point out that this year’s camping trips, alluded to above, were both in the local temperate zone – New Forest and Normandy respectively.

  5. My feelings are MIXED:

    1 I’ve enjoyed several camping holidays in the Lake District in the past, but I think I’m a bit old for sleeping on the ground these days. However, when I get back to MK and if I find my old mates are still up for going to Towersey festival in a gang, then maybe…

    Most memorable and WORST was when two otherwise fairly sensible people with 3 children under 4 decided to save money by going camping in North Wales. Well. I found myself doing all the work I would have done at home, only under incredibly adverse conditions. John went off to the pub every evening and when I complained, said he’d be happy to “babysit” (AAARGH! They were HIS children!!!) so that I could go to the pub myself. I said he had misunderstood my complaint, and yadayada. We never went camping together again.

    (Oh yes, and on the way home while we were still in wild Wales the car broke down; it was pouring with rain and when John got out to fix it he was wearing one of those blue canvas sailor caps. The dye started to run down his face in streams and soon I was laughing too hard to tell him. When we got home and he looked in the mirror he was really cross.)

    2 No. Or, I’ve blanked it out.

    3 Well, otters…but also (thanks, Abahachi) I’ve had two mystical kingfisher encounters. I moved into my beloved house in Stony Stratford just before Christmas 1991. (The Stony Mummers came and did the Christmas play in my house – I was so honoured!) I put a wreath on my front door, which I’d never done before, to show I was really at home now and felt I belonged in the community. On New Years Day I opened the front door and found the wreath had gone. I was incredibly distressed. I walked up the road (my house was right on the edge of town) and looked out over the fields and saw that everything was covered with hoarfrost; the sun was out and it was all sparkling white and very beautiful. My wreath was lying in the field where some drunken reveller had thrown it the night before. I climbed over the gate and picked it up and went on to the bridge where I looked down over the Great Ouse, and I saw a kingfisher fly out from under the bridge and down along the river – the turquoise feathers shone out brightly against the white landscape. I felt blessed, though I don’t know by whom – by Nature, I suppose.

    Nine years on, and I’d decided I would have to sell my house (which I thought I never would) and move away. I was on my way to the estate agents and I thought I’d walk along by the river instead of along the road, to calm myself a bit since I was so upset. When I got to the bridge I looked down and once again I saw the kingfisher fly out along the river. I interpreted this as a sign that I was doing the right thing. Maybe I was wrong. Anyway, I shall be returning to MK next year – but I won’t be living in Stony Stratford. For one thing, it’s far too expensive.

    4 I was much impressed by the topography of Madeira, which is very mountainous for such a small island. On the north side, there is lots of rain and also it is windy and cold. On the south side the climate is warm and pleasant the year round but there’s no water. The early Portuguese colonists (with help from an Arab engineer) solved the problem by building a series of canals (called levadas) which bring the water from the north side to the south and irrigate the enormously productive and intensive horticultural industries there. In addition nowadays the levadas are a popular tourist attraction as they’re nearly level and so provide excellent walking opportunities with amazing scenery thrown in!

    5 Now that I don’t have the Great Ouse to look at I manage pretty well with Kirkcudbright Bay, which I can see from my windows if the weather is bad or I’m feeling lazy.

  6. Lifetime camper.
    1. For much of the 70’s-80’s I owned a VW Westphalia camper that got lots of use throughout the western states plus Mexico and Guatemala. In 1982 I took it to Jamaica for three months, it was the most wonderful camping experience of my life, each day I travelled to unknown parts of the island and stopped and found a place to stay overnight. One day I was in the vicinity of Montego Bay, a popular tourist resort and I wanted to find a spot as far away from them as possible. The airport runway there is on a sand-spit jutting out into the Caribbean, I drove out and found a spot beyond the end of the runway within a few feet of the sea, totally isolated.
    At about 2am there was a loud banging on the door of the van, I grabbed my flashlight and pulled back the curtains, there were two very tough looking guys there each waving a very used looking Colt 45. They demanded that I open the door. I had no choice. They were very rough looking blokes dressed in scruffy T shirts and shorts, they said that they were police officers though neither reminded me of either Morse or Sgt Lewis. They told me that I MUST move, that this spot was exceedingly dangerous and they weren’t talking about aircraft landings, they were talking about gangsters. So move I did, I drove into town and at about 2.30am found a spot in a far corner of the Montego Bay police station. That was the only time in three months that I ever felt at all insecure.

    2. There was a scheme during that period offered by VW whereby you could order a car in the US and pick it up in Europe, when you were done with it VW would ship it to your hometown; I ordered a blue VW 1600 Variant, the Squareback. My wife, my sister and her husband and my mother took it on a camping trip to Ireland. The deal weas that my wife and I would sleep in the VW and the others would sleep in a tent on airmatresses. One day somewhere in the far west it was getting dark, we were frantic to find somewhere to eat and sleep but there was nothing but open country and it got darker and darker. I was driving and I finally said ‘We’re not going to find anything so the next likely spot I see is where we’ll spend the night’, a short time later in the cars headlights I saw what looked like a field on the left, I pulled off the road and said ‘This is it’. We pitched the tent and made the bed up in the VW and all adjourned to sleep.
    When dawn broke I staggered out of the back of the VW to see a queue of about 30 people standing at a bus stop which was less than 10 feet away! What I’d thought was a field was a triangle of grass about 30 ft by 50 ft put there for the benefit of the bus stop.

    3. Once I went in the VW van with my Guyanese friend Jennifer to a favorite camping spot about 100 miles below the Mexican border, we camped on a low cliff about 20 ft above the Pacific ocean. One morning we awoke at dawn, made some coffee and sat in folding chairs watching the ocean, Bob Marley was on the stereo. The surf was breaking about 100ft from us and suddenly a school of dolphin came to play, they swam up and down the surf right in front of us leaping out of the water. And then just as suddenly a huge whale joined them, he and they proceeded to swim right at the surface backwards and forwards along about 200 yards of beach, it was a spectacle put on just for our benefit, unbelievably spectacular.

    4. Grand canyon obviously, everyone says that. I’ve seen it quite a few times in different seasons but the highlight was from the north rim in the middle of winter when everything was covered in snow. But I might prefer the canyons of Utah, Bryce and Kings, spectacular natural beauty.

    5. Don’t do it any more, my fantasy would be to drive my current van from Algeria to Nairobi via Cape Town, a trip I planned long ago.

    • Camping in van sounds like a completely different order of camping to that done in a tent.

      We have a part-converted former Royal Mail van (yup, we were going to have a red camper van!) in our garden, a Project of my husband’s that seems to have fallen by the wayside (he lost momentum when the children were born and now mutters something about having changed his mind about the suitability of the van’s engine).

  7. 1. Used to camp a lot when I was a kid. We lived in a suburb of Montreal and my parents would take the whole family camping, usually in New York State near Lake Placid. Fond memories.
    My wife does not enjoy camping at all. She likes her creature comforts. But we did camp on a trip to California before we got married (1980 – Yosemite Park). And when the kids were young we rented a motorhome one summer and visited Yellowstone Park among other places. Both enjoyable trips.
    2. No.
    3. We live in a rural area and we still see deer and the occasional bear every year. But is still exciting to see them. Once saw a moose in the wild while driving to Calgary. And camping with extended family in Jasper, Alberta, we had a herd of elk wander through the camp ground.
    4. The afore-mentioned Yosemite Park was impressive for its waterfalls. We hiked to the top of one of them – quite a climb but a fantastic view. And at Yellowstone Park, the geysers were very impressive.
    5. We like to take day trips to Harrison Hot Springs – where Tincanman maintains his tin can. It’s a beautiful place to just walk around and enjoy the scenery.

  8. Should add a big PS: When we went to Toronto for my brother’s wedding about ten years ago, we took a side trip to Niagara Falls. Awesome!!!! Would love to go see it again some time.

  9. For at least 3 years running in the mid 60’s, me and up to 4 others spent our summer hols camping in the Lake District.
    We were all in our teens and my mate Eric’s dad was the only one in our street to own a car. He would pile us all in and drive us up to Grassmere, drop us off and come back a week later.
    We stayed on a farm owned, (if memory serves), by a guy called Ernie Towers. He had a large field at the front of the farm leading directly off the main road. The last time we went the main field was full. He took us to a very small field at the back of some barns. The ground was on a slope and close to a small steam. As is often the case with the Lake District, it was raining when we arrived. Once the tent was up we dug a small trench around from the back and towards the stream. The rain continued and got worse. The following morning we awoke a bit damp but all in one piece. The large flat main field was flooded. The whole field looked like a pond. Many had spent the night in the barn. Some people were packing up and going home.

    When I met the future mrs.bp, she was living at home in South London. I moved into a flat in Finchley, North London. The number 2 bus took me to the top of her road. I stayed a little late one night and missed the last one home. I walked as far as Euston station to await the first tube. I slept on a park bench. Never again!.

    Like many, I love the sight of a kingfisher. A few years ago I went on a fishing holiday with a couple of mates. One of the venues we fished was the river Avon just outside Evesham. It was a lovely quiet spot. And then there it was, the electric blue flash of a kingfisher. To my astonishment when it returned it perched itself near the end of my fishing pole. It sat for a while looking about and then stared at the flowing water. He dived straight in. He was back in a flash but had missed his target. He shook himself down, looked around and flew off. Magic.

    Can we have ruins ? I was never interested in history at school – or for a long time after that. Then one year we went on holiday to Sorrento. And from there we went on a trip to Pompeii. Walking down the old worn out streets among some of the ruins, the place came alive to me. This was a living place. I could almost hear the hustle and bustle of a town going about it’s daily life. I have been back twice since and love the place.

    There is only one place I escape to and that’s with a large set of headphones and some of my favorite music. I can be gone for hours and feel a whole lot better afterwards.

  10. Good questions!

    1) Definitely B. Went with school once – hated it.
    2) Does sleeping in the front seat of your car count? Basically, I was too knackered to drive any further so we kipped in the car at a Motorway services. This was in the days before they put up signs threatening you with castration if you stay for more than 2 hours.
    3) Two occasions- One in Scotland in the Highlands. My wife and I were out walking and, turning a corner in a forest we heard a flapping and kefruffle. We had arrived just as a bird of prey had swooped on a hare. Our appearance had so shocked the bird it dropped the hare who scooted off. I’m sure I heard him shout “Cheers” as he ran.
    The other was near where we used to live at Ide Hill in Kent. We were taking a short cut home across a field full of cows. They were naturally curious and a few came over to us. My wife then felt hot breath on her back, and a cow’s tongue raised her T-shirt and licked her back. (They could probably recognise vegetarians!)
    4. Without doubt, the beaches of the Assynt region of Scotland. They are mainly coral and look like the beaches which used to be shown on the Bounty chocolate bar ads.
    5. Anywhere north of Fort William or, indeed, the Isle Of Skye.

    • In addition to 5 above, I still get a buzz from sitting by the Thames under the Millennium Bridge (when the tide is low enough) and watching the boats go by.

  11. 1. No. My mate & I hitched down to Newquay when we were 17 (I think). The trip was so easy (even down the A30) and the weather so gorgeous that the first week made it seem like the best way to have a holiday on the cheap. We were even treated to the sight of two girls mooning out of their tent at some nearby boys (not us!)… and then one night it started to rain. When the tent proved its inadequate waterproofing we scuttled off to the toilet block and decided to cut our losses when daylight came. Trying to hitch a lift out of Cornwall in the rain carrying a soaking tent etc was neither quick nor easy. We scraped into Plymouth eventually and caught a train. Yes, I know it was our own fault but it put me off the idea completely.
    And the only time I camped at a festival, I had my shoes nicked as I slept.
    2. Fortunately not.
    3. Two spring to mind. Suddenly seeing a camel, a goat and a monkey together at the side of a road near Jaipur. And watching a hummingbird in Peru.
    4. I have a composite panorama on the wall behind me, made from photos I took above Machu Picchu. The city is on a small plateau almost surrounded by a deep gorge, at the bottom of which flows the Urubamba River. On the other side of the gorge is a semi-circle of mountain peaks that rise up and disappear into the clouds. That is/was a magical sight.
    The Grand Canyon is pretty gobsmacking, too.
    But, as a general rule, it’s difficult to beat a good sunset.
    5. The almost deserted beach and dunes at Formby are less than an hour away from here; the Lake District just a little more distant. But I can get to the (now) very pleasant Mersey riverbank for a walk in less than five minutes.

    • Suddenly seeing a camel, a goat and a monkey together at the side of a road near Jaipur

      Are you sure they weren’t filming a Bollywood remake of The Incredible Journey?

  12. 1 So far, apart from one night in the New Forest in 1971, only at festivals. However, modern technolgy (memory foam self- inflating airbed weighing 16oz, easily erectable tent, warm sleepingbag with built-in pillow) makes it likelier that I might consider camping elsewhere.

    2. Another one for sleeping in a car, aged 16, with first serious boyfriend. Car broke down at midnight half way to a party. I waited until daybreak before hitching home and climbing into bed fully dressed, blankets up to the chin, mere seconds before my father got up to make the early morning tea.

    3. Moose in the Swedish forest

    4. The Sahara

    5. Anywhere I can sit and listen to the sea.

  13. 1. Definitely a). I love camping, especially since admitting that camp beds are not for wimps only. Have been doing it since a very young age, and remember ‘don’t touch the tent wall when it’s raining’, ‘keep the sod-cloth tucked firmly under the edge of the (separate!) groundsheet’ and ‘slacken the (hemp) guy ropes before bed in case it rains in the night’.
    In fact, one of my memorable camps (oo-er missus!) was as a young teenager in the back garden of some family friends, and it resulted in me getting a rollocking from my dad for not doing the guy rope thing. In fact, I had been out twice during the night madly slackening and getting soaked in the torrential rain, but I don’t think he believed me.
    We were staying in Essex with an ex-school friend of my mum; there wasn’t enough room inside her house for both families, so Big- and Littlebrobach, myself and the son of the house were under canvas in the garden. What made the whole thing memorable, apart from the rain keeping us awake nearly all night, was the action on the portable radio we had with us. The date was 16th-17th August 1977, and the airplay was all Elvis, as the news of his death filtered through.

    2. Nearly, when I missed my stop on the last train home after a long day watching rugby at the pub. Ended up two stops down the line in Noiraigue, a small town with nowhere open and no cab rank. Drunko-stubbornly, I decided to sleep out until the milk train the next morning, so found a picnic table and settled down. Unfortunately for me, the rugby I’d been watching was Six Nations, meaning that it was February. When the cold woke me about 40 minutes later, there was a clear, star-filled sky, and ice was forming on the parked cars. I swallowed my pride and called someone to fetch me….

    3. Australia. One of three – on the way out to a fishing trip off the Gold Coast (near Brisbane), stopping the boat’s motor when we realized we were in the middle of a huge pod of dolphins. About 10 mins show, completely surrounded. Magic.
    Same trip (2000) humpback whalewatching off Hervey Bay, N Queensland. We were on the smallest boat in the Hervey Bay fleet, a catamaran. The captain warned us that the bigger boats were faster, so we might have to wait our turn (to limit disturbance, a maximum of only 3 boats are permitted near an active pod of whales), but that we would get closer. He was as good as his word; one pod swam around and under our boat, and one ‘spy-hopped’ (popped its head out of the water – curiosity?) close enough that I could have touched it with a cricket bat or a hockey stick, had one been handy. We also did something that no other HB whale boat could do in returning to port under sail power.
    First view of a wild koala, in a tree behind the Darling Downs Hotel inland from Brisbane. He really didn’t care wheher we took his picture or not.

    4. Tough one. Possibly sitting at the Stieregg hut (where you can eat and drink, as long as the supply helicopter has delivered) after a two-and-a-half hour walk up the side of the Unter Grindelwald Gletscher (Glacier). Looking up at the east face of the Eiger, we calculated (from the map) that the summit was almost a mile and a half vertically higher than our 5,500-foot position.
    Alternatively, watching now, this minute from my window 100k away as the same mountain and its neighbours (Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn, Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Ebneflüh) turn pink in the sunset.

    5. Llyn Ebyr, the ‘bottomless lake’ near Trefeglwys, Powys.

  14. As a yoof was a member of The Woodcraft Folk, which was/is like a socialist version of the Scouts/Guides. The worst thing about it was the name. The best was that is was co-ed. Earliest sexual adolescent romances & clumsy fumblings took place on various camping trips. Better not say more, but at times it was intents.

    Anyway, apart from that, came in handy later for camping at festies & being able to think nothing of walking for miles to gigs & parties before driving days.

    These days, not much outdoor activities, apart from the occasional kyak.

    Carribean can’t be beat as a getaway. Similar weather to here but the island atmosphere & culture is priceless.

  15. 1. I love the idea of camping when you’re hiking somewhere, not so keen on the “drive-somewhere-and-pitch-a-tent” version, as I recently discovered. I think I need the feeling that I have to crawl into the tent or I’ll die of hypothermia or have my blood sucked dry by night creatures, as kind of an incentive to enjoy it.
    2. No, my nights in the outdoors have been foreseeable.
    3. I’ve seen big dolphin pods quite regularly crossing Cook Strait on the ferry, and was lucky enough to get quite close to some in Doubtful Sound, truly magical. Otherwise it’s the birdlife you cherish down under- Keas, Kakas, Yellow eyed penguins, Tuis would be the highlights. Here in Stuttgart in the hot summer of 2003 we were delighted by hummingbird hawk-moths on our balcony.
    4. I have to cheat here and mention 3 places from my homeland..
    a. The extinct volcanic cone of Mt. Tongariro, looking north to Lake Taupo, which was the site of a super-volcanic explosion.
    b. Cascade saddle above the Dart river valley, the view across to Mt. Aspiring.
    c. Descent into Doubtful Sound, feels like you’re entering the Cambrian era.
    5. I don’t need to “escape” exactly, but I do find a visit to the mountains or the ocean about once a year helps me retain my equilibrium.

  16. 1. I haven’t done very much camping but intend to do more really soon!

    2. Not unless you count a night spent in manchester station after a gig – now that was wild and scary.

    3. I’ve loved seeing the scottish wildlife since I’ve lived here: Pine Martin, Wildcat, Stags, Seals, Sea Eagles, billions of bloody red squirrels.

    4. I find seals awww inspiring. (coat please…..)

    5. In the bath with the NME.

  17. 1) Well, I was going to say I’d never really been camping; but when I actually gave it some thought I did the Girl Guide thing, the Gap Year thing (working on a campsite in France), the Festival thing (but only once) and the Young Love thing (you want me to go camping in your sister’s woodland garden, beloved, then of course I’ll come along)… It was all an awfully long time ago, though.
    I remain intrigued by Mnemonic’s self-inflating from memory airbed (did I get all those words in the right order?)

    2) Nope.

    3) Do rabbits count?

    4) Hornby Island, B.C.

    5) Just about anywhere there’s absolutely NO traffic noise

    Really liked the song, barbryn. And just thinking about this topic helped warm me up a bit – I’ve never ever turned the heating on this early in the year before, but it tried snowing here this morning, brrrr!

  18. 1. Only went camping once, at Porlock Weir, with friends. I was assured that I would sleep soundly if I got very drunk, so I tried it – and it didn’t work. I was sharing a 2-man tent with a snorer, there was no groundsheet and when the dawn came up I gave up trying to sleep and walked out to the beach in the mist and tried to do something about my crashing hangover. It was very beautiful (the beach, not the hangover) – but I never felt compelled to do it again.

    2. I woke up on the bench outside the post office once, having somehow managed to get (nearly) home after a night out in town, 7 miles away. The dawn woke me and, like Mnemonic, I just made it home before my dad got up for work.

    3. We visited my cousin in South Africa 10 years ago, and she paid for us to have a weekend at a game reserve near the Botswana border. We saw lions, giraffes, a cheetah and many other animals but the best thing was coming across a herd of elephants in the early morning, having a dust bath in the middle of the track (we were watching from a jeep). And at night, I remember giant moths around the camp fire and the fantastic, warm animal smell that wafted across as we drove back to the camp.

    4. Castlerigg stone circle above Keswick, after a long walk in the rain, with the sun just peeping out and the light reflecting off the raindrops and the cobwebs. And the night sky in the game reserve (see above) – no light pollution, just thousands of stars.

    5. I like hills and quietude – but then I like the sea too, so you’ll find me somewhere between Penzance and the Highlands.

  19. 1. b) Not on your life.

    My most memorable camping experience was definitely a bad one.

    My parents decided to cut holiday costs one year and borrowed a tent. My memory is of getting to a campsite in Cornwall late one night, because our car had broken down en route and delayed us for hours, and having to put up this tent in the near dark in drizzle. It rained for a day or two non-stop and everyone was miserable until my Dad decided to see if we could rent a caravan instead.

    2. No, fortunately. I avoid situations where it could happen.

    3. When I was young, I used to go fishing with my Dad. I have never seen huge beasts, but I did see hares, foxes, hedgehogs, moles and other small mammals that we didn’t have in East London. That was really quite special to me.

    4. Mt Ventoux in Provence is amazing. The view from the top is incredible.

    5. Paris or the Midi.

  20. Enjoyed reading these stories a lot everyone…

    1. Somewhere between A and B. When I was a lad we were pretty poor (single mother with 4 kids doing menial jobs to make ends meet) but however little money we had, my mum was adamant about the importance of travelling abroad and going on holiday. Subsequently she always found the cheapest way to take us all somewhere. One memorable one was in Italy, we went there on the coach (!! the cheapest way of course; ferry to Belgium and coach all the way to Italy. it took about 2 days and of course we slept on the coach) and stayed at a campsite. It was pretty near the beach and not too bad, but there were torrential thunderstorms and the tent completely flooded. A good 6 inches of water inside the tent with everything floating around and the army camp beds barely keeping us above water – well, it was good for family bonding I suppose! (I’ve related a similar tale before of teenage camping in Paignton, the tent got completely destroyed by storms and we had to go home and miss out on the (still with Richey in them) Manics gig the next night, which was pretty much the main reason we had gone there!

    2. In Tokyo social control is maintained by having the last trains finish pretty early so that the salarymen can get up and go to work the next day! So it’s always a dilemma whether to go early of do an all-nighter. In the days when I didn’t live so centrally I spent a few nights slumped against the shutters of the station (along with the accountants/lawyers etc!) waiting for the first train.

    3. A huge crocodile inches from the boat/canoe we were in……I can’t for the life of me remember the country we were in though…..the Gambia???? ….possibly!

    4. The Grand Canyon was indeed impressive. It was so incredibly huge that it didn’t really look real, like I was looking at a massive painting.

    5. A record shop! Or, i’m another one who likes the sea – we are currently failing badly in out attempt to get the bank to give us a mortgage on a lovely house that would give us a view of the sea every day….looks like we may have to give up on it! ahh, well….

  21. 1) A+ v good, tick. The most comical was probably my first school ‘orienteering’ event, when a bunch of us lads from school found ourselves climbing through a thorny thicket (one which we didnt see coming), getting torn to shreddies in the process, only to find a herd of inexplicably annoyed Friesian cows on the other side who got so aggressive that we were effectively chased back through the same hedge – adding further pain to our humiliation. It seemed funny at the time..

    2) When drunk certainly, but cant remember the specifics apart from waking up in the open, getting up and going home. Never in the depths of winter mind.

    3) Two come to mind. Walking down a narrow path to a camping site in St Ives (approximately 19 years old) in the absolute pitch dark save moonlight and suddenly being confronted with a huge badger, which stepped out of the high hedge which lined the path. We were only about 10 feet apart and we both froze and stared each other down for what seemed like hours (it was only about 30 seconds).
    Quite freaked me out I can tell you.

    The other was this summer in the Vienna woods. In a pall of strong moonlight, my friends and I observed a white horse (apparently living wild) rearing up in a frisky Champion the Wonderhorse type pose, just for the joy of it. Again it was only about 15 feet away and didnt seem bothered by us, except with the need to show off. Brilliant.

    4) Hm..tough one, since Ive not made a point of seeking them out myself. In terms of personal inspiration, it was probably the mountains in Slovenia in mid-summer 2008. Still wild looking, less tourist-trodden and unforgivingly beautiful.

    5) I’ve led rather an isolated existence lately, so going home to my flat, high on a hill in Buda is enough for any escaping. If I was swamped with people and the world was my oyster, it would depend on my mood, but Northern Russia (say Archangel) could be a mood-enhancer, or some less travelled Croatian island in summer.

  22. Thanks for some wonderful answers! Here’s mine…

    1. I’ve spent happy nights, weeks and festivals under canvas – although the reality of camping only rarely lives up to the ideal. Best experience would be either camping on a beach on the south coast of Crete, going for moonlit swims just before sleeping; or with my dad in the Brecon Beacons – just one night away from our holiday house, in a hidden valley – we got up early the next morning and were rewarded with the sun drawing open the morning mists like a curtain as we walked down from Pen y Van.

    2. Apart from the near-miss mentioned above, the most memorable was probably a naively misguided attempt to hitchike to Glastonbury with 2 friends from university, in Canterbury. We didn’t set off until fairly late in the evening, got one lift fairly quickly as far as the M2, then discovered a) you’re not allowed to hitch on motorways, and b) no one stops anyway. We ended up getting a lift in a motorway maintenance vehicle, and crawling along a 20mph to the end of the motorway. Then we walked into Rochester, and caught the first train home. Probably a good thing, as I don’t think any of us were cut out for breaching the Glastonbury security fence, which had just been revamped.

    3. If scuba diving counts, then close encounters with a turtle, barracudas and a swarm of jellyfish were pretty amazing. And we swam with very boisterous and friendly seals on an organised snorkelling trip in Scilly. I also never got over seeing kangaroos in the wild and parrots in the garden in Australia.

    4. Donds for Delphi – the ancient Greeks knew how to choose their sites. Not far from there is Meteora – a weird landscape of towering sandstone pillars, like nowhere else I’ve seen. As decoration, there are monasteries built impossibly on top of them by Greek Orthodox monks and hermits fleeing the Ottomans. Amazing place.

    5. I’m lucky to live within walking distance of the sea – so there’s always a distant horizon when I need one.

    • i once hitched out of Canterbury at closing time – I got to London in 3 lifts – via two parties (one being a bands after show gig) unfortunately i didn’t have my friends phone # so sat on a bench outside a 7-11 – they kept bringing me hot chocolates to kept warm for free.

      I then got a lift to Hamleys where my friend worked to meet her before work – went to a market stall – was given a t-shirt to change into with “I had this really weird dream” written on it.. had never met the stall holder, they just wanted to keep me warm.

      met my friend who called in sick – we were both given a free breakfast at a pub – then bumped into another person I vaguely knew – who took us out to lunch – then beer drinking all the rest of the day – I ended the 24 hour session with £2. 41p more than I started with- the £5 note I left home with for a pint was still intact… my brain cells were well and truly broken .. I just remember being put on a train home back to Kent.. sleeping .. waking just at my stop.. and walking back home to my parents farm, where I had to walk up to my room- change clothes and start work as if nothing had happened.

      sometimes – by accident – I ended up lucky.
      and sometimes human nature and friendliness just took me by suprise

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