What is the thing with winter camping? I was never into it but when I had to cross Patagonia I could not avoid cold temperatures, snow and frost. Heat reaching to a 50 degrees is not pleasant either but cold starts to sit in the bones and makes stiff. Cold has the easiness to disable pleasure and make the whole trip a grim nonsense ongoing rather than a pleasurable challenge.
Plan: 2 nights camping, 70 kilometer in 2.5 days. Done: 1 night camping, 60 kilometer in 2 days. Average speed: 9 (much pushing through mud). Level of happiness and satisfaction: high.
Not washing yourself for over 2 weeks, eating a year long the same simple, low variety diet and groomed more like a homeless than the usual cyclist becomes normal and feels just fine for the lifestyle you’d chosen as a world cyclist.
All right, the sourdough resembles more of a neat brick but nevertheless taste fantastic and a real luxury it is.
But once you’re settled and once the summers need your full attention in a more sustainable endeavor, then it are the cold seasons that are left.
In my case I have two options: take it or leave it. Winter camping would be easier when one is able to sleep in a closed sleeping bag. When one is fine with a mummified position while still alive, or even better, liking the tightly wrapped baby swathe, then winter camping has one less challenge for you.
The huge orange bump is a new trial to keep warm at cold nights.
With only the cold seasons left, I need to take off. My brain needs to be fed: with the minimum of tasks, with only the basics left and the maximum of no-thoughts. In order to feel life, it’s best to get out of the confinements of walls. A home might be comforting but comfort kills off the notion of aliveness.
Purposefully, it is not that our home is the utopia of comfort, with a bedroom reaching temperatures of 5 degrees I ought it okay to take another sleeping bag than my usual down Cumulus. Unfortunately my new down blanket for the regular bed does not fit the kickbike set up so I take off with a cheap Vaude synthetic blanket. My hopes are high, my expectations to a warm night very much alive.
The first hairy, short legged animal -a weasel perhaps- crossing the path makes me realize that we mainly go on living in our head. This little creature takes me instantly out of thoughts. I call it the pureness of being, which feeds me, which is life.
When I watch the train pass at a not fenced-off railway track I feel that strong notion of aliveness again. Hungary has lights flickering at railroads crossing with paved roads to indicate the railway system works and white lights means no train approaching.
As usual, camp spots are marked by boars’ tossing up the earth in search for food. I decide to park my tent alongside a deer track in the hope to hear their presence.
Punctually, 4 o’clock I head into the forest and search for a spot to set up camp. The thought of walking into a forest and search a spot to sleep is for many people a scary one. Forests are dark, cold places where rapists and exhibitionists and generally perverts gather, but, as reality has it, also happy campers.
Happy I am because I look forward to having a fire ablaze, my test-sleeping bag awaiting me and a warm night among mist and the nothingness of a national park. What I do not know yet is that I will be sleeping between a jostling railway track and a toiling highway leading to Budapest. Furthermore, not very far away is a hunter shooting equally happily away bullets, about 20, ranging from eight thirty to six thirty. Not only do my earplugs fail to hear nothing, the synthetic Vaude sleeping bag is not sufficient to keep me warm at minus one. I not only sleep precious little, I develop a headache from dehydration and a fermentation process in the guts of a tumbled food intake keeps busy.
The evening meal, although not sufficient for the pshycial effort of the day, consists of my very own grown spinach. How luxurious is that!
I burry my toilet ongoing, as well as the firepit. After the coals of the fire have turn cold and after peeing on it, I leave little evidence of my being there.
The realization is really to sleep under a sleeping bag instead of in. So, all I need is an extra down blanket on top of an open sleeping bag. Then, I will be off again. Towards a warmer night in wintery climates. Because that is all I have left being that Little Dutch Farmer. Because drab nights are so delightful. Pushing the body to these extra kilometers and feeling the muscles next day is a part of the aliveness. The cold windy spots to consume your lunch are far from pleasant. The wet toes and pushing through mud are not fun, neither are the receiving looks of humans never seen a kickbike set up before. But hours lasting trice as long, discomfort turning into pleasure and the pull of a comforting home are the liquids fueling the battery.
And, once back home, the absolute quietness has returned. New task: take out the zipper of an old down sleeping bag and turn it into a quilt. New ride must be warmer to get a good night sleep.
Do you like to know what I do at camp spots, besides making photo’s, keeping a fire going, eating, making chai and selfies? Well, check out my creative website. Plus, when you are having the slightest interest in natural food, I am keeping a list of ingredients for healthy energy snacks and drinks, all of which you can find in nature.
The world feels better when the sun shines, May 2017, Patagonia