Camping in the bush # 3 – kit

Generally camping in South Africa is quite easy.

On my trial run in the South of England the week before I left, I had to contend with rain, gale force winds and ground so soft it was like pegging our tent in soup! I’d used 2 sleeping bags, a hot water bottle and a double layer of thermals to keep warm!!  Compared to that, South Africa is simple.

My main problem this trip was being too hot to sleep – can’t say I’ve ever encountered that in the UK!!

A potential problem could have been that the ground was too hard for pegs, but my holiday-buddy had read up on that – and had packed nails for both herself and me! (We had 4” ones, 6” would have been even better).  We also took a mallet, even though it was heavy…with baked hard ground it was well worth its weight in baggage allowance!!

My buddy had a ‘lunar’ tent by First Ascent.  In the picture below she’s left off the outer shell to be cooler.  Great idea… until it started raining in the night!!!

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I slept in the ‘spaceship’ (AKA hyperlight ultamid-4 ) and if felt luxurious having it all to myself on my comfi new sleeping mat!

Being as the northern part of Kruger Park is a malaria zone, I bought myself a mosquito net.  I went with this Sea-to-Summit net because it was chemically treated and has a mesh size of 516 holes per inch. (The WHO recommends a minimum of 156 holes per square inch).

I used a bent paperclip hooked into the holes of our adjustable tent pole to hang it, which worked well.  Fortunately I’d had a practise run and realised that tucking it under my lightweight, mummy-shaped mat wasn’t going to work.  To get round this I used the loops at the bottom of the net (designed for pegging it out) and tied a piece of elastic between the two at the head-end and the same at the foot-end.  This gave me a net which I could suspend from my improvised hook and then loop under my mat securely.  After a few nights I learn to take my water-bottle, book etc inside the net with me.  By leaving them at my ‘bedside’ it held the net out a bit, meaning it wasn’t so near my face.

The only bit of kit that didn’t work well was my sleeping-bag.  I couldn’t bring myself to go camping without it, but even in a compression sack, it took up a lot of suitcase space, and I didn’t need it.  A couple of times I pulled it over me, but a thin blanket or even a jumper would have sufficed.  More often I woke up sweating and wondering how it could be so hot even though the sun had also gone to bed!

L

Camping in the bush # 2 – neighbours

We may have been in the middle of nowhere, but that doesn’t mean to say we didn’t have neighbours.  Some nights it was really quite noisy – frogs, insects, birds and hippos can all be quite talkative at night!!

I was fortunate enough to camp all over Kruger National Park – starting in the South and working our way North over 12 days.  My holiday buddy had planned it carefully so that we would get to experience all different sorts of habitats.  At the start of our trip we had an amazing sighting of a rhino and on our final nights we were woken up by lions roaring in Mareola!

Our constant companion were the hyenas.  We had two good sightings of them on the roads in the south.  They are much fluffier than I expected.  I quite liked them!!  Yet in the souvenir shop there were stuffed fluffy elephants, griaffes, lions and leopards… but no hyenas!

In Shingwedzi I woke up at 4am as we were booked on a bush walk.  I unzipped my tent, peeped out… and peering  back at me was a hyena, just 10 m away.

The hyena was just the other side of the fence

Mareola went one better than that though!  Below is a picture of our tent set up.  Just the other side of the fence was the hyenas’ path.  In the evenings they would walk very purposefully backwards and forwards sometimes just 2 or 3m away.  It was difficult to tell whether we saw the same animal several times, but one time we saw two at once.

Suffice to say I was very grateful there was a fence!!

L

Camping in the bush # 1 – packing

We’re all familiar with back-packing, but suitcase camping – that was a new one for me!

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Turns out that by the time you’ve packed your tent shell, your tent inner, your tent pole, your sleeping bag, your sleeping bag liner, your sleeping mat and your mosquito net, your suitcase is pretty much full!!  Fortunately my kit is fairly lightweight for backpacking, so I was able to stay within our 20kg weight limit and still squeeze in some clothes!

The trick was in careful packing…including squeezing all the air out of the compression sacks.  Most of our compression sacks are waterproof ones for backpacking.  For this trip I left the tops open as there was no danger of them getting wet and that way as I pulled the compression straps the air was able to escape easily and I could squash them smaller.  Then everything was carefully organised to make use of all the funny little corners of my suitcase.

For a bit of ‘luxury’ we bought a cheap pair of folding chairs when we landed and then donated them to the campsite staff when we left.

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More about my adventures will follow!

L