Ever since buying a van, I feel like paying for a place to sleep is a dreadful waste of money. There are so many beautiful places in Europe that are free to sleep, that a campsite; especially a European campsite (which is usually just a greener version of a parking lot) doesn’t do it for me any more. They are noisy, over crowded and the toilets usually leave much to be desired and worst of all many campsites insist on being well lit! Why would anyone want to sleep in a well lit area?
So , this insistence I have of not paying to camp out mean that some times arriving in a place leads to spending quality time driving around finding a suitable place to sleep. This is not bad as usually you end up in unexplored parts off town but it can be exhausting if you’ve driven all day and the sun is starting to set and all you want to do is get the camp stove out and make some food!
I’ve found that the busier or more touristic a place is, the worse your overnight spot will be. This is because these areas become so built up that life overflows in every available space. I’ve slept on sides of highways, in bus parking lots, outside shopping centres (the worst because of the lights and constant noise in the mornings! Some people do their shopping at crazy early times!) and the other night I slept in the parking lot of the cemetery. This was because it was the only free parking in the entire town. Not as creepy as it sounds though, the cemetery was adorned with lights and flowers so it was quite beautiful. The problem comes in the next morning when it’s light outside and you’re trying to be discrete while hundreds of people meander past, all going about their daily lives. Brushing your teeth in a cemetery parking lot does prove an unusual sight.
Then occasionally you find yourself off the beaten path, usually somewhere in the mountains, having travelled along a dirt road and you find the perfect spot. This spot reminds you went you never want to pay for a camp site again! It’s quiet, in the middle of no where and the view is incredible. Tonight I’m sleeping in such a spot. There is a braai area (braai is south African for bbq) all ready to go, a lake side view and the mountains in the back ground. It’s a single lane track to get out here and not even a farm house in sight. The air is clear and fresh and the only sounds punctuating the evening are those of birds chirping their final songs before retiring for the night. I find there is something thrilling about sleeping somewhere that not another soul knows where you are. Alone on a mountain is just a feeling that only people who have done it can know. Absolute freedom and peace.
In fact it is so beautiful here I almost don’t want to leave tomorrow and might just find myself spending another night here. There are plenty of hiking trails in the area to keep me busy during the day and the tranquility that surrounds me makes me reluctant to return to the mayhem and craziness of the real world which I will have to face in a couple of days time.