The many lessons I have learned while camping in Japan:
1. Cats are heartless creatures who will steal your last chicken drumstick while giving you a look of pure disdain, or even cat-burgle your potato salad purely because it can.
2. Just as a watched kettle never boils so an almost blown over tent will not tumble into the sea no matter how hard my friend Josie stares at it.
3. No matter how idiot proof Roland makes the instructions, I will still put a tent together to look like an abandoned witch hovel that bergies would be too ashamed to sleep in until he comes to fix it.
4. Metal pegs and a plastic hammer do not work as well as one might think.
5. Whenever we are in a crowd or an onsen I will embarrassingly speak Japanese to my Korean friend, every friggin time.
6. When David says he will get some fire wood he means he is about to deforest half of Japan.
7. Camping in Japan is ridiculously fun.
I think it was when we felt the second vibrating tremor under our feet as we hammered in our first peg, that Roland, Lauren and I realized that we had chosen to erect our tent on an old meteor crash site. However, Roland was not going to let a little granite and diamond stop him and his plastic hammer and so after a few muscle spasms and manly grunts he Germaned his way into the ground.
The Nagasaki based campsite was beautiful, with a grassy Frisbee field and an ocean filled with sharp rocks, jellyfish, sea urchins and some weird muscles that one of our party members thought we would eat if he cooked it. He was wrong. David and Minyoung were the second couple to arrive along with their adorable baby who gave me nothing but suspicious looks the entire weekend. Well that is not strictly true as he did flash me a big smile when he saw that I was heading home. Damn kids and their ability to tell who is scheming to kidnap them.
The second couple thought they would take the scenic route past our campsite to the other side of Nagasaki prefecture, because who doesn’t like an extra hour of driving before putting your tent up in the dark. Luckily Josie and Mark made it in time for our first meal of eat whatever comes off the grill, immediately. I think we ended up having chicken for starters and garlic bread for dessert.
The next day dawned with a cup of stolen coffee and a trip to the nearby onsen to wash some of the smoke out of our hair and some of the bacon and egg grease from our hands. I know I say this all the time but man I love to onsen! There is just something weirdly fun about being naked outside, in a gorgeous stone hot-spring while talking to your girlfriends about how boys can`t close a cupboard or find an object just slightly left of their field of vision.
As the other campers went back to chill, Roland, Lauren and I headed to the nearby Huis-ten-bosch theme park. Not only does this perfect replica of a city found in the Netherlands appeal to my Dutch sensibilities of eating chocolate and cheese, at this time of year it plays host to the gardening world cup and a Van Gogh exhibit showing off fifty of his works.
While I enjoyed looking at the amazing little blocks of art that was the sculpted gardens, getting to see the actual paint strokes of the artist I admire most in the world was one of those moments that just gives my soul a good shake. I was biting back the tears as I stared into that man`s eyes as he saw them and felt him wring every drop of emotion out of me with a few well placed patches of colour. I bought a little overpriced fridge magnet at the gift shop depicting one of his self-portraits so that every now and then when I grab a block of cheese or put back the milk I get to have that little chill of Goosebumps up my arms as I remember how it felt to see so much genius a few inches from my face.
My intellectual introspection was very short lived however as not five minutes after viewing this amazing exhibition I found myself barefoot in an exact replica of the Royal palace of Amsterdam. You see, Lauren had worn some pretty high heels to the park, not knowing that the place is huge and so after many a kilometer her feet finally said no! She was also wearing tights and so would have looked like even more of a crazy person if she had no shoes on so after much protesting on her part I handed her my slip on shoes and walked the fancy pants palace grounds, street urchin style.
Our last night once again saw the grills lit and the meat marinating as all of us attempted a game called Geek challenge, sponsored by the lovely Ducky that is currently living it up back in SA. Now I don`t want to say that Josie and Mark cheated to beat team Froland but they did, a lot! Our imminent defeat even made Roland brave enough to cry, `Noooooo woman` when I hastily shouted out the wrong answer relating to the X-men.
Other than losing our ETC ticket for 10 minutes as we hit the toll booth while searching up a storm, the trip back was all Belgian ice-cream and magic dumplings filled with curry and a soft boiled egg. It really was a fantastic weekend and I am already looking for the next campsite to be lucky enough to get a little visit from a few foreigners and one suspicious little kid.