Zips, Velcro and the roar of burning gas (Steph): La routine, quoi! - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

May 13, 2007

Zips, Velcro and the roar of burning gas (Steph): La routine, quoi!

One evening, after a hard day, we spotted a village football field and its little changing rooms. Just the place for some impromptu camping. Nobody minded.
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Every camper will tell you that zips are the archetypal sound of camping. I reckon it takes at least four 'zips' for me to leave the tent, and then only if the inner tent is already open. It can take 11 or more to get out and leave it in the same state as before.

And if it isn't fastened by a zip then it's bound to be Velcro. Equally discreet.

Cooking is worse. It's only at 7am on a quiet campsite when everyone else is still asleep that one realises how loudly gas burns.

So how do we fill our day? We have almost incompressible 2 hour routines in the morning and the evening:

Léo generally gets up about 7am, driven out of his sleeping bag by his bladder. He then sets to making coffee. We carry proper coffee, filters and a collapsible filter holder. And we add sugared condensed milk to help kick-start us in the morning.

It takes me a little longer to surface. But before leaving the tent I have my chores. Having put on my cycling vest I sit in my sleeping bag, mermaid-like (sort of, use your imagination) and pack Léo's bag liner and sleeping bag into their stuff sacks and fold up the clothes he's been using as a pillow. Only then do I crawl out of my bag and repeat the performance with my bag, liner and clothes.

Then the fun starts. The mattresses. They're self-inflating, about 2cm thick and have to be deflated, rolled and stuffed into their bags. I roll them tightly, close the valve to stop air getting back in and then I put this 15cm wide cylinder between my knees and slide the bag over it. It's a struggle some mornings. You can probably imagine what it reminds me of, only bigger. It's the hardest part of my morning.

Having tidied the tent I get out. (More zips.) My coffee awaits, usually along

"I sit in the tent like a mermaid: my coffee awaits." Léo gets to work with the stove.
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with a dish of tinned peaches. Breakfast continues with chocolate spread and banana sandwiches and more coffee. Luxury. You can see why it all takes two hours.

All that remains is 'la toilette', folding up the tent and packing everything into panniers. We're usually on the road by nine.

The evening also has its chores - we arrive, drink beer if it's available then I shower while Léo builds our house. Once he's showered we wash that day's clothes so they have some chance of drying overnight.

We cook - one-pot meals for the most part. We have two saucepans but only one gas ring so simple is best. Our diet varies. We eat rice with stuff in

A kitchen all mod cons . . . (the lily-white feet are an unfortunate by-product of too much cycling)
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it (just dried packet soup in it if we haven't been able to shop that day), or something in a tin that can be heated up - Hungary does a good line in tinned stews - which we eat with instant mashed potatoes. Occasionally we fry something but the logistics get complicated. Pudding is something sweet and sticky in a pot.

It's rare we dawdle much after dinner. We're almost always in bed before it gets dark, say by 8.30, sometimes a fair bit earlier. Exhausting work all these routines. And somehow we find time to ride 80 or so km in between. I tell you, sometimes it feels a bit like being back at work!

"Exhausting work all these routines."
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[If you'd like further insights into camping life, just ask my sister. She's a recent convert so is well-placed to advise. Or I think that's how she described herself!]

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