I hate camping. I have never understood the appeal of sleeping in a tiny, stuffy tent. It simply eludes me why some people choose it over sleeping in a comfy bed. My camping experiences so far have been from “so so” to “really awful” (one of the worst was when we chose the coldest night of the summer to camp out and in our despair ended up burning our camping equipment to stay warm). Maybe, if I had a really nice camper, or maybe if I went to a really, really nice campside, and maybe if I tried glamping (glamorous camping), I could revise my opinion, but so far, camping has been my enemy.
And my last camping experience in Parque Tayrona, a national park on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, did nothing to change my mind.
The campsite we found (also the cheapest in the entire park with $ 5 dollars per person per night) provided tents. So we rented one tent for two people. This teeny thing of a tent was either made for two children or two people that never move, but it was certainly not made for two adults (one of them being 6 foot tall) and their backpacks. It took us about an hour to arrange and re-arrange our stuff the first night, before we both found a decently comfortable position to sleep (soooort of). It also did not help that you could feel every bump of the ground under the paper thin mats that we had.
I understand that you cannot expect a five star luxury surrounding on a camp ground, but you can definitely expect the kitchen and the bathrooms to be clean – especially if there are very few people on the campsite. However, the only people who tried to keep the kitchen and the bathrooms clean were the campers. You could always see somebody trying to get the stains out of the kitchen utensils or trying to get the clogged bathrooms to work. The only one who didn’t make an effort to clean anything was camp manager Don Hernán. Well, I guess if you hold your breath, and just eat cold food for 3 days, it’s all good. And then there were the showers. They were open, unisex showers, which was okay with me – until the 60 year old camp owner walked in completely naked and asked me to please look the other way. Ummm …
Let’s face it, when you camp, you enter the world of the bugs and you have to adapt to THEIR rules. This did not only mean to spray repellent on me … like every 5 minutes … but it also involved a nightly ant hunt where boyfriend and I had to unpack the entire tent, kill about 1000 ants, tape the holes in the tent with duct tape, find and kill even more ants inside boyfriend’s backpack, and put everything back in the tent hoping that the ants wouldn’t come back. All of this with just flashlights as technical support. Great activity if you are REALLY bored, not so great if you want to sleep.
There was absolutely NO way to keep the dust and sand from the campground out of the tent. This might not bother other people, but for a highly OCD personality such as myself, it is just frustrating. Needless to say, that I gave up on trying to keep ANYTHING clean after two hours and simply accepted the fact that once we got back to “civilization”, I could just wash EVERYTHING (twice!). (Alright, that was not completely honest, I did try to keep everything clean for the 3 days that we camped there and could only keep myself from going crazy knowing that a nice washing machine was waiting for us.)
BUT – I have to be fair and say that there were also many, many enjoyable moments at Don Hernán’s campsite.
Maybe he wasn’t very much into cleaning toilets, but he sure kept us entertained at all times with one of his many travel stories. Also, he was a constant provider of tasty coconuts. As he decided to fell his 30 coconut trees on the camp ground, there was fresh and delicious coconut water any time you asked him for it.
The fellow campers
If you are in a place with no light after sunset, no internet and no TV, the best thing to do at night is to bring out the candles and flashlights and get to know your fellow campers. Honestly, if you walk into the common room of a hostel nowadays, 80% of the guests are busy staring at their smartphones or laptop screens, probably posting on Facebook how much fun they are having – but talking, sitting down together and sharing travel stories has become really rare this days. Not so on Don Hernán’s campsite. Argentinians, Chileans, Germans, Americans, Austrians would all sit together and – get that! – just talk. You wouldn’t believe the things you learn about some people this way !
Parque Tayrona is an amazing place, with gorgeous flora and fauna and breathtaking beaches. Hiking, snorkeling, swimming, or just relaxing and reading a good book really makes you forget how much your back aches from sleeping in a tent.
Lessons to be learned:
If you go camping, make sure you have a comfortable mat or blanket, or, in our case: invest a little more and stay on the campsite where the tents are on the soft sand.
Make sure you camp in a place that is as amazing as Parque Tayrona.
Finally, let me be clear: I still hate camping, but I also had a LOT of fun!