There are only so many first-world luxuries a girl born amongst the rolling plains and unending coastline of the Eastern Cape can handle before she starts yearning for a crackling fire and soft grass between her toes. She inevitably forgets that Japan does not do lawns or warm Indian oceans and starts surfing the internet for her next camping conquest.
I experience something akin to lacunar amnesia every time my brain glosses over hours of packing the car, all manner of creepy crawlies and squat toilets and highlights only the pretty sunsets, making smores and eating meat for every meal. Roland and I have been fortunate enough to make some excellent camping companions as well as some friends who are easily peer pressured into cabins and tents when they would much rather sleep under hotel sheets, while living in Japan. It is with these fine fellows that we set off to Miyazaki every few months, to swim, surf and have our ankles pockmarked by mosquitoes.
I love a good bargain! It is one of the few traits I got from my father (yeah, thanks dad for giving me talking too much and a love of shopping but keeping being good at every sport ever created to yourself) and so it was that when Roland and I found out we would be staying at the campsite of our choice for free we could not fill the cooler fast enough. Even though it happened to be off season, the camp manager was kind enough to turn on the water and electricity for us but did not open the showers leaving Roland and I no other option but to go onsen at the beautiful hot spring overlooking the sea every evening…….oh no, not majestic sea views while relaxing in warm water!
|View from the onsen|
The riverside campsite was gorgeous and came with a few surprises the first night. We had a crazy Dutch co-camper who kept calling me `Frederika` and his dog `Happy` for company and a kind Japanese couple who kept giving us free food and showed us how to eat the local grapefruits (hyuganatsu). The secret is to eat the white part you would usually ignore as it is fluffy and sweet.
We drove into Miyazaki city the next day to buy some super rare haloumi and feta-cheese, see some amazing friends, visit an art instillation and view a breathtaking temple hiding in a cave…..but mostly it was for the cheese.
The last evening however we spent all alone, in a dark forest, utterly convinced that the black cat sneaking around was a demon and that this time we definitely saw slender-man, no really this time it was not the exact same tree stump from before. Even Roland walked rather briskly every time he went to the bathroom and back.
While our first foray into camping this season was fun, our second kicked it up quite a notch.
At first the temperate Japanese spring was being pretty kind to us travelers from a foreign prefecture. It blew enough of a breeze over the ocean for the boys to enjoy as good a surfing session as relative newcomers to the sport can hope for and whipped up enough waves to pummel those of us not surfing, in the face a few hundred times. It was cool enough to still wear jeans as we ate cheese wrapped in bacon and roosterkoek straight from the fire and was just sunny enough to make us think that we were in the clear before heading home the next day.
|Roosterkoek (Bread made on the grill)|
There are few feelings as wonderful as snuggling warm under the covers while you hear the rain gently tapping against the walls of your tent and then few feelings as depressing as slowly coming to the realization that not only will you be running Kenyan sprinter style to the bathroom in a few minutes but that later you get to pack up a tent in the pouring rain.
|Before all the rain there was surfing|
While impersonating drowned rodents, Roland and I battled our sopping wet tent into the car and did damage control when we landed back in Hiji. At one point while I was inside the outstretched tent, now covering our kitchen floor and spilling over the counters, out into the hall, I just threw down the towel I was drying with and lay down in frustration while Roland laugh/cried as he wrestled with our electric fan. Somehow through the swearing and gnashing of teeth the tent ended up mold-free for future trips.
As we were barely out of the rainy season for our next adventure we traded a cabin for our usual canvas and headed to Survival Island.
I felt like Jane Goodall as I dramatically threw my backpack over the edge of our chartered vessel and struck a heroic pose in my khaki shorts, as I drifted ever closer to a deserted island overrun by wild creatures and covered in undiscovered caves. Well truth be told, we could see the mainland from where we were staying and if we did not think jellyfish were gross, could probably swim there. The wildest creatures we encountered were the five billion mosquitoes that vampired their way across our soft skin and the caves were very much discovered. All of this did not however dampen our adventurous spirit and we still had some remarkable moments to take back home.
No one is going to take away the feeling of floating in the sea as we watched huge thunder clouds burst into lightning strikes over the mountains on the mainland or the fright we all felt when a huge tree crashed onto the path we were planning on using to get back to our cabin. We may not have foraged for our own food but eating a whole chicken stuffed with a can of beer, or grilled cheese sandwiches accompanied with tomato bisque is far better for sure and even though we had a great time mocking one of our friends when the only ingredients we saw him take out for his meal slot were a can of spam and some mangoes we were shut down when he provided an array of cooked meats and roast duck, finished with some fruit salad for dessert.
Yes the cabin was hot and the showers glacial and yes some of the bites on my ankles still itch but I will forever be grateful that every now and then life affords me such wonderful adventures with such ridiculously amazing people in such awe-inspiring places.