This started as an idle comment on a WhatsApp group… A friend was suffering from “lockdown fever “ and needed to get out with his partner. I jokingly suggested an evening camping in their back garden. When we were finally released, he bumped into me whilst I was walking the Jack Russel at Delta Park and he expressed a desire to take his wife camping as a surprise outing – albeit in the back garden. And so, the plan was hatched…
Date night approached and the romantic getaway was planned. He was adamant that it had to be perfect, no going inside to fetch anything that may have been forgotten! His garden had an outside shower and loo, so we referred to that as the “ablution block”. Then we set about creating the perfect kit to make the evening happen. As always, location is key! Being unable to travel meant that he had to choose the perfect site in his garden and he focused on an area under a tree near the “ablutions”. As he did not have much kit, I loaned him the necessary, which we kept under cover in the load bed of his bakkie. The plan was to set up the campsite whilst his wife was at work and surprise her on arrival. Attention to detail was paramount. Being winter meant that they would only have to contend with the cold, as there was little chance of rain. The sleeping bags, tracksuits and beanies would more than cope with the highveld winter.
So, we looked at his requirements as if he would be packing his bakkie to go camping and categorised them into: camping kit, personal kit, clothing, food and other items. Due to the cool weather, we opted for a cooler box for the food and beverages, as a portable fridge was overkill. As a concession I lent him two flasks for boiling water for tea or coffee. During the afternoon he set up the tent, air mattresses, sleeping bags and blankets and laid out the tracksuits for bedtime. He cheated a bit as laundry and other extraneous items would end up on the rear verandah so as not to clutter the tent, and towels and toiletries would stay in the shower area. Chairs and a camping table were set up and wine was put in a bucket of ice. Even though this was in a back garden, we insisted on steel cups and enamel mugs for authenticity. No electricity was used, and lighting was via a variety of gas and rechargeable lanterns. For the “romantic” effect he bought some flickering solar fairy lights which he draped around a few shrubs. A second table was set up for the crockery and cutlery as well as the cooking utensils. Then the gas braai was set up and the show was almost on the road.
Whilst waiting for his wife, a simple Greek salad was prepared, and corn and baby potatoes (pre-cooked) were wrapped in foil ready for warming on the braai. So, dinner was a simple affair of salad, corn and potatoes with lamb kebabs. Desert would be a fruit salad with cheese, followed by coffee and a glass of dessert wine.
When his wife arrived, she was shocked and thrilled! The only concession around the house was to allow her to put her laptop and handbag inside. As he put it to me “we were like school kids on a first date, we laughed and had such fun, watched the stars and the moon and forgot all about the pandemic”. After a quick shower, they retired to bed and slept right through until the Hadedas arrived to signal breakfast, which was simple, juice, yoghurt and scrambled eggs with bacon bits followed by tea. The beauty of the whole exercise was the feeling of freedom and relaxation that it brought about.
I still have not got my kit back, as they would like to repeat the exercise now that intra-provincial travel is allowed. I suggested Laurentia Dam near Muldersdrift, as it is scenic and close to home. They have not yet confirmed a booking – and yes, the fairy lights will go with. This was an adventure and felt like nature to them. It also shows that with a bit of ingenuity anything is possible under the circumstances. So, if you want to emulate the experience either at home for a bit of fun or even a local campsite here is a shortlist of essentials:
- A tent that is easy to pitch and has space to stand upright.
- Sleeping bags that can withstand the winter weather – preferably the type that can zip together.
- A double blanket or quilt.
- A double air mattress.
- Pillows – and yes use normal ones if you are doing this at home.
- A gas braai or normal braai.
- A gas stove for breakfast or boiling water.
- A lighter and matches as well as firelighters if camping where you are going to make a fire ( in that case add in wood or charcoal and your grid).
- Pots, pans and a spatula.
- Breadboard and a bread knife.
- Cutlery and a bottle opener/corkscrew.
- Dinner plates, side plates and bowls.
- Mugs and glasses.
- A French press for coffee.
- Dish towels, scourer, plastic dishwashing bowl, washing liquid, serviettes and or paper towels.
- Condiments- salt, pepper, spices, olive oil, butter, tinfoil.
- Tea, coffee, milk, preferred drinks.
- Solar fairy lights and lighting for the campsite.
- Headlamps if you are camping away from home.
- Tables and chairs.
- Personal essentials (toiletries, medications, first aid kit ).
- Fire extinguisher.
- Toilet paper.
- Clothing – include foul weather gear if camping away from home.
- Bag for dirty laundry.
- Mallet/Axe combo for tent pegs and splitting wood.
- A good attitude – this is meant to be real fun.
Given the uncertainty of tourism, short breaks like this can be inexpensive and a great way to destress and reconnect with your partner and family, so get out there… you owe it to yourselves.