Sometimes, a well meaning fellow camper will say, “That’s a really great, rustic campsite. You should try it sometime.” Do you get excited or quiver in your boots? What’s rustic for some, might be luxury for others and, in some cases, can even be a misnomer for run down and, quite frankly, dirty. For me, the joy of true rustic, can only be found in those very wild places, where campsites are remote and where a solar shower bag and spade become your best friends. Somehow, run down doesn’t seem to matter when you’ve driven through thick sand for hours on end, are dusty and tired and longing for something cold to drink. Five minutes after arriving at your exclusive spot, all the discomfort is forgotten, as you pop both the roof of your camper and an ice cold frostie, and sit peacefully on the river bank while the sun sets slowly and the lazy Night Jar begins his melodic call.
We’ve been to places where a good 4×4 is essential and towing anything would be a nightmare; the kind of places where you arrive with everything you will need and leave with everything, including your rubbish. We’ve slept in our AHA camper on top of our Nissan Navara in the Kgalagadi, while a bored hyena chewed on our tow bar’s plastic cover and left us with a hole in our groundsheet. We’ve slept, or rather stayed awake, in a tent listening to roaring lions, coming closer and closer and eventually watched them passing by just a few metres from us. We’ve paid US$100 per night, (the equivalent back then of about R1200 in SA currency), for a so called “exclusive” camp site in the wilds of Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, where there were no working taps and the reed boma pit toilet had long since been destroyed by elephants.
If you travel expecting the simple joy of Africa, that is what you get. To haul out our solar shower bag, hang it on the side of the vehicle and shower “al fresco”, standing on a rubber car mat, while elephants cross the river just below our camp, couldn’t be more exhilarating, in an atmosphere that is purely and uniquely Africa at its best.
We’ve baked apples on a campfire, fed tidbits to bushbabies, shared our picnic table with four cheeky spotted genets, boiled water on the coals for hot water bottles to keep our toes warm on a minus seven degree celsius night (cold enough to freeze the water pipes on the camper) and shared divine tots of Amarula Cream as a nightcap before crawling, tired but happy, into bed. True rustic will do it for me EVERY single time. There is nothing better.