The Tent Shuffle
As most of the riders found out quickly, TDA is as much of a mental challenge as it is physical. Part of this challenge and experience involves camping almost the entire way from Cairo to Cape Town, unless you are in the “EFH” (Every Frigging Hotel) club. Camping, of course, has its own set of challenges – from finding the perfect surface, best coverage from the elements, or ideal placement next to your camping buddy.
The campsites vary along the way, all the way from abandoned camps, to deserts, or next to lakes, and villages. At first, camping wasn’t so easy. Being used to our comforts from home puts anyone at a disadvantage in the struggle to acclimatize to sleeping on the ground for the next 120 days. Different camping obstacles arise depending on the style of camp and the elements we are faced with. These range from people feeling too crowded, finding the best “neighbour” overnight, ensuring you aren’t too close to the facilities, finding the shadiest spot or the sunniest spot, and the list goes on.
Throughout the progression of the tour and the social experiment that it is, it has become more and more evident that we are pack animals. Where one tent goes up the rest usually follow suit, even when given a vast camping space. We call this “satellite tenting.” Usually upon arrival to camp, riders get their tent up right away, meticulously choosing the best spot, further from the truck, on higher ground in case of rain, or in nice shady spot. Maybe they’ve just chosen the optimal spot, but they soon realize they are the “satellite tent,” and the rest of the riders cluster their tent around this area. Most of the riders have had their turn being the “satellite” tent. Although there may be disadvantages to this, there could also be advantages. A few being that you are the safest in the middle of the pack, when hyenas are roaming about at night, or that you’ve actually chosen the best spot so that when the rains come you really are on the highest ground.
If camping in a cluster is not for you a few strategies to avoid being the satellite are as follows;
1. The fake out. Put your tent in a spot you might not want to camp, the key here is, don’t peg your tent in, so you can move it easily after everyone has set up.
2. The late night pitch. Don’t be the first to set your tent up. Optimal time to set up to avoid being part of the cluster is after dark.
3. Be the freight train. Snore really loudly, so that no one will want to camp next to you (it helps to sleep on your back, to increase snoring volume).
4. The busy body. Unzip and organize things in your tent over and over again before bed time, the sheer annoyance that people feel around you will keep them away.
5. Become the stench. Don’t shower, and let your stench do the work for you.
Things have become more relaxed over time but the tent shuffle hasn’t seen its last day, and won’t till we roll into Cape Town. Rider Don would say “when in doubt, hotel it out.” We say it’s all part of the experience, and really, there is no other place we’d rather be. So happy tenting future riders, I’m sure we will see you REALLY close next to one of our tents.
Additional Reading: Tenting Etiquette On Cycling Expeditions