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Over the space of a weekend, let's follow Camille for her first night in a tent. She will be accompanied by her friends to form the famous four: Thomas, who is always with her on every adventure, Hélène, a traveller through and through, and Nathan, the handyman of the gang.
Given my limited experience in pitching a tent, I check my phone for a video on how to do it. Oh dear, there's no signal. One thing is for sure, I'll be switching off this weekend. My friends look on with an expression of amusement and alarm in equal measure: The tent we have brought clearly doesn't need a video tutorial to pitch it. All that is needed is two seconds and four tent pegs – easy as pie! We set up camp on a flat piece of land a stone's throw from the lake. I feel that we won't be disappointed tomorrow morning. It's great to be here, all together. As friends we often meet up, but experiencing something unique like this is priceless.
I feel like we're going on a holiday camp… Except that I am 27 years old now and, rather than having my mum pack my bag, it's me. Indeed, the backpack is still empty… What do I take? I put the question to our WhatsApp group that we've called, "The famous four go camping". It's the best thing I could think of. The famous four is made up of Thomas, who always comes with me on every adventure. Then there is Hélène, a traveller through and through, and Nathan, the handyman of the group, who could build a shelter from scraps if it should rain. "When you go camping with a tent, you should aim to travel light, yet in comfort," they all say as if with one voice. My backpack is starting to fill up: technical clothing, water bottle, cook set, tableware, bedding, groundsheet, lighter, maps, some string, bin bags, water container, toilet paper, biodegradable hygienic products, bath towel, tea towel and sponge, external battery and a torch. Have I forgotten anything? I nearly forgot the most important thing… the tent!
The car is ready and so are we. It's Friday, just about the day I was most looking forward to this week: Today, we're off bivouacking all together. Everyone has forsaken their weekend plans to head off for the nearest lake we could find. I didn't even know that there was such a beautiful location on our doorstep. It's a place where wild camping is permitted. The mini-adventure promises to be great.
There's a laugh a minute and you can hear the crunching of crisps and some great stories are recounted. Each in turn, we tell each other the news of the week, but, very soon, the conversation turns to the travels and adventures of our dreams. For Hélène, it's exploring as many countries and cultures as possible, while Nathan dreams of surfing and Thomas of climbing mountains. I also have a fondness for the mountains. We met Hélène and Nathan a few years ago in Sri Lanka, just like that, almost by chance and we immediately hit it off. Indeed, if we have something in common, it's the taste for adventure! The hours go by and I nearly forget where we are. I feel like I am at the edge of the world, far away from home, disconnected from reality and yet we are just a few miles from home. It feels good… Am I repeating myself already?
It's time to go to bed. Tomorrow we'll explore the surrounding area and, who knows, we might have a swim if the weather's fine (and warm enough)!
In this new tarpaulin house, although I feel as good as if I were in my own bed, I find it
hard to get to sleep straight away. It's pitch black and the silence is deafening. I have to admit that I'd almost forgotten what it felt like. Right this moment, I feel both vulnerable and at peace in equal measure. Life goes on outside, something is moving. I heard that there were foxes in the area. No worries, it's just Hélène who went to find a sweater. Indeed, the temperature has dropped. Will my sleeping bag keep me warm enough and do I have a sweater in the car? What if it rains? What do we do if it rains? Will it hold? These are just some of the questions that I will be able to answer tomorrow, because tomorrow, no longer will I be an amateur camper. Indeed, I will have spent my first night in a tent.
It's Saturday and, without consulting each other, we all indulge ourselves in a lie-in. We've deserved it. I wake up before the alarm because the sun's rays are shining on the tent and warming up my face. My nose is slowly warming up and I can start to breathe in the smell of coffee: Hélène and Nathan have prepared breakfast (I did the right thing asking them to come). Between the scrambled eggs and toast with jam, everybody is talking about the first night in a tent and everyone agrees: it's a unique experience. It has to be done, even if it is just about having the sense of being alone in the heart of real things, nature, the wind and the cries of animals.
All my questions have been answered. Indeed they now seem a little absurd in the cold light of day: the sleeping bag was indeed warm enough. Worst case, I would only have had to grab a sweater from the car, like
Hélène. It didn't rain and, if it had, the tent would have held and I would have got to sleep with the sound of water dripping. When we experience something new, when we leave our comfort zone, we always need time to adapt, it's quite normal. Indeed, if there's one thing I've learnt from travelling is that we can get used to anything.
After having breakfast in the sun and few card games, we decide to explore the surrounding area. Backpack, water bottles, camera? I think we have it all.
We head straight for the lake which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be ice cold, but nothing will stop us from having a dip. Long ago, I promised myself that I would never walk away from a river, lake or ocean, no matter the season. I promised myself that I would always take a dip! Refreshed, we go in search of a viewpoint overlooking the lake. So, we set off for the rocks, walking through the trees and brambles. There was no beautiful viewpoint. However, there were lots of laughs and falls and that's all that matters. Time flies by at a pace that is not to my liking. The kind of pace that goes by too fast This is often what happens when you're having a good time. The light is losing its harshness, suggesting that in under an hour, we should see an amazing sunset. We make our way slowly back to the campsite, turning our heads every few minutes to be sure not to miss anything of the spectacle. Our second (and last) evening at the campsite is starting under favourable circumstances.
Maybe I spoke too fast. Favourable circumstances? Maybe not. Great sunset, but aren't the clouds on their way? Yes.
We decide to move our camp a little further away. Nathan and Thomas take care of the tent, while Hélène and I take care of the rest. The advantage is that between the four of us, the tent, chairs, table
and dishes are stowed away in two shakes of a lamb's tail. We take the road and drive a few minutes south. I know there is a nice river in the area, which seems a little more sheltered. The rain never came, as if it had decided to spare us for this last evening. The sky is dark, but that doesn't matter. What's important is to make the most of the present moment, no matter what.
As we prepare our meal, I take a look at our campsite and our tent, which looks as if it is revelling at the sight of the water in the river, just like us. This object, which meant nothing to me yesterday, has become something of great importance today. This tent is my adventure, my new home, our colony of happiness. And although tomorrow the adventure stops, I know that the experience is more easily accessible than you think. Two days was enough for me to live an experience that I will remember for a long time, an experience that made me feel alive and more satisfied than ever.
See you next weekend? "And how!" they all cry with one voice.