I remember it clearly, the point at which I said “I promise I will never, ever again suggest a holiday like this”. It wasn’t when I looked like this:
No, when I was paddling furiously across a boat lane, being sluiced with cold, brackish water and swaying from side to side in the not-insignificant swell, I was far too busy shouting, swearing, concentrating on the direction we were heading in and wondering when we would be stopping. I said we’d never go on another holiday like our kayaking trip to Sweden when we were lying in a tent, on a rocky outcrop somewhere in the Baltic.
But, surprise surprise, just a few months later the struggles of navigating, paddling and camping have faded, and the memories of stars, wilderness and wildlife have taken over.
Camping with our new friends
Next stop eastwards would be Russia
So, if it appears that I am destined to keep suggesting these trips, suffering during them and then enjoying them in retrospect, perhaps I should just try to learn some lessons, so that next time I find myself having a shouting match with Dave over our shared inability to find a bloody campsite, I can remind myself that I’m enjoying myself. Really, I am.
Lesson 1: Set realistic goals
The kayaking company in the Saint Anna & Gryt archipelagos said we could kayak many, many kilometres a day if we wished. I had visions of us being on the water in the early morning, covering distance swiftly and then efficiently setting up camp at dark. One of these things turned out to be true – we are good at setting up camp (once we’ve found a flat bit of rock).
First campsite, on a islet which for most of the year is a bird sanctuary
However, we are not, and never have been, early starters. By the time we’d cooked breakfast and had several cups of tea, we were lucky to leave our campsite each day by noon. And although we did cover a fair bit of distance, it’s surprising how long it takes when you spend lots of your time working out where you are and where to go next. If I’d been a bit more realistic in the first place, I could have relaxed about having a lie-in rather than feeling like I ought to get up and start the fire.
Lesson 2: Split tasks
I like making fires as much as the next thwarted childhood pyromaniac, but the simple fact is that Dave is probably more efficient at getting things going than I am (he’s also not averse to a bit of lighter fluid whereas I like to think of myself as a purist). When we camped in the US, we often arrived at campsites shortly before, or shortly after dark, which made efficiency imperative. We honed it down to a fine art – we could put up the tent, lay out the mattresses and sleeping bags and get a fire going within 11 minutes. But that only happens when you split tasks, and know your role. Camping with a kayak involved learning new responsibilities – I had better water shoes and sat in the front of the boat, so it was my job to leap out and hold the boat steady while we started unloading. Tent interior – my job. Fire and water collection – Dave’s job. It doesn’t matter who does what, so long as you get it done.
My job – start dinner. I did the food order so had a good idea what to cook each night. I also had the gratifying experience, when we camped with some others, of seeing their envy of our yummy homemade curry, while they waited hungrily for potatoes to bake in a fire.
Lesson 3: It is possible to subsist during the day on sour cream flavour Pringles
All hail the mighty Pringles.
Lesson 4: Don’t camp near cows
Your kayaking company will tell you not to camp near cows because of the possibilities of ticks, and Lyme disease. A legitimate concern, but I was much more worried about being trampled, gored or eaten during the night we camped in a field which turned out to contain cows. Nothing is quite as alarming as being woken sometime in the small hours by a cow with big horns bellowing right next to your head. It turns out I can become a strangely early riser when pushed.
Nope, can’t see any cows. We’re safe.
I hope I’ll be able to remember these lessons, and be a little more sanguine next time I find myself on a trip which I’ve suggested, which involves hard physical work, lack of basic creature comforts, being cold, wet and pursued by animals. I don’t fancy my chances – but at least I’ll know it’s OK to keep breaking my promises, and to keep suggesting it.