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Letter: How camping has changed

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I have just finished reading your editorial in the June issue, in which you mention that there are some caravan parks that don’t allow children.

I was astounded and saddened by this, I also remember reading a letter a few months ago in which a woman complained about a nearby camper snoring, and suggested that snoring people should not be allowed to camp. All this got me thinking about how camping has changed over the years. I started wondering if some parks have lost the essence of what camping is all about.

I have been camping all my life and can’t even remember when I first camped, as I was way too young.

My father loved camping and passed the love on to me. I will be turning 72 years old shortly, and I still love it. Be it in my tent or caravan, I need to get my fix at least every few months.

So, in short, I would like to make a comparison of how I remember it then, and how I find it now.

Long, long ago when I was young, a camp site would normally consist of an open patch of ground, with a tap, a long-drop, and maybe a shower head on top of a pole.

It was very rough and ready, and I remember that lots of the campers would be fishermen on a ‘boys only’ weekend.

However, around 1960 caravans became very popular and camping changed forever.

Caravans far outnumbered tents and some parks even banned tenting.

Ablution blocks were built, but were rather primitive, grass was grown, and camping became a family affair. There would be children running around playing and, as children do, making a noise by shouting and laughing. Nobody minded, as children playing is a happy sound and it usually means all is well.

If you wanted to bring your dog you just brought it. I can’t remember any caravan park that didn’t allow them.

Camping was a lot more social then, and there would be lots of interaction going on within the campsite – making new friends or catching up with old ones.

Going to the loo at sundown could take hours, as requests to join somebody for a ‘dop’ along the way were frequent.

If a party started up near your site you either joined them, or put a pillow over your head to block out the noise. That’s just how is was. Nobody complained, as long it didn’t get out of hand.

Now let’s fast forward to the present.

There are many more caravan parks around, virtually all have electricity and keeping the fancy ablution blocks in a spotless condition is a priority.

I find that present day campers are still friendly and most will pop over to introduce themselves when you arrive.

Tents are getting more popular again as, I guess, they are cheaper and towing a caravan uses a lot of fuel.

However, judging by the caravan adverts in this magazine, caravans seem to be getting bigger, and the small- or mid-sized caravan is now being replaced by off-road trailers.

Camping has become much more controlled and quieter, and if you look around after 9pm most caravan lights are off and the occupants fast asleep in bed.

It’s a big no-no for anybody making the slightest bit of noise during the day or night. I feel that noise has almost become an obsession, as far as camping goes (however, I do understand this in game parks). Perhaps some campers should chill a bit and be more understanding to fellow campers. Remember, there is only a piece of canvas or, at best, a thin caravan wall between you and the next camp, so it is expected that you will hear your neighbours from time to time – you are camping after all, not staying in a private house.

Many caravan parks now also offer special rates for semi-permanent pensioners, and this has become very popular at some parks.

I understand the economics of it, as a park owner, as it’s filling sites. But for the average ‘family’ holidaymaker I’m not so sure if it’s a good thing – as I think they could feel they are camping in an old age home.

Perhaps management should consider keeping a section of the park for holidaymakers only, and relaxing the rules a little so the kids can enjoy themselves as well.

So, that’s my take on camping in the past and in the present. Both have there good and bad side, but, if I had to make a choice, I think I would vote for the past. It was just so much more relaxed then.

I’m sure some will agree with me and many will disagree, but that’s what makes the world go round.

The picture enclosed is of my father, mother, myself and my dog Shadow camping in our 1958 Gypsy. I remember the trip from Queenstown through the former Transkei well, it was mostly on dirt roads to the factory in Pinetown, to take delivery of the Gypsy. A great adventure for an 11-year-old.

Electricity of any sort was unheard of in a caravan in those days, so no fridge and the lighting was two gas lights, which made the caravan so hot at night it was unbearable. My Father made the awning in the photo out of broom sticks and calico, but, as you can see, it didn’t work so well.
By Roy Kallaway

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