It’s another week end and of late these seem to be slipping away at break neck speed….it’s just a week to Valentines (the much hyped commercial dramas remind you of the same), whereas I still remember the first week end of 2014, but come to think of it, it’s already the second weekend of the second month. Am I attempting to grasp on to every single minute that seems to be flitting away?
With tour Dubai in full swing, roads closed, the plans for an early morning ride on the bike was shelved.
Camping plans were made instead, the supermarket trolley was full of goodies for the evening. Fresh cuts of meat, cheese, bread, crackers and anything that can keep a bunch of hungry people happy. A batch of baking, a few experiments for quick food and before I knew it, it was time to hit the road.
With a 30 min delay and Raj hurrying me, we finally were ready to go! Car was loaded, tents-check, sleeping bags-check, food-check, entertainment check and finally, we hit the road!
Navigation is not the easiest and we learn this the hard way! With the 30 minutes delay, we were already lagging behind when we are informed that the meet up venue had changed. This inadvertently means, change in direction and in turn, a further delay….all this while, Raj was on auto pilot as he drove along. I suddenly realised that we were on the road that takes us to work every day…..A quick stock take and this now means an additional 15 mins on the road, a detour of approx 30 odd kilometres.
The stalwarts of dune bashing, unlike us newbies into this thrilling sport, are still way behind and with a few calls to one another for direction, fueling pit stops and many many other things, finally we reach the meeting point.
Those waiting for us had already started gobbling chapati sandwiches while sipping steaming hot cups of tea. A stretch break while we waited for all 7 cars to form the convoy into the dessert.
Tyre pressure, fluids, mechanical details (all check boxes ticked by men), we were soon ready to make our way into the red sand dunes, for an evening of pure adrenalin rush. The heart in mouth situations were many, I could hear my camping gear rattling around at the back of the vehicle and my thoughts were around the icing on the cake I had baked and the fruit trifle sitting in the freezer box.
The adage time flies when you are doing something that interests you is so true….as not long into the dune bashing the sky turned a myriad of colours – the red orange glow of the setting sun was upon us. Signals from the troops and we had to quickly start the descent from the dunes to hunt for the camping site for tonight. None of us were keen to set tents up in the dark….the thought of the underworld creatures beneath the soft smooth sand that slips past our toes whilst barefoot was bliss, but no thanks to company whilst in la la land.
While the men debated the best spot to set up camp, wind directions and how to position the cars, the rest of us were enjoying the nip that was setting in. The air was crisp and clear, with a rare exception of some dust when the wind caught up momentum. The guys brought out the remote operated dune buggies and some of us bum slid down the dune and then huffed and puffed on our way up.
This called for the thirst quenchers, the nibbles and soon there was so much food that we wondered if we would have space for all the meat/vegetables and of course the deserts.
As we collapsed in exhaustion, we were still giggling about our antics and for a change no one bothered about sand in our clothes, in our hair and even on our eye lashes.
We didn’t have the luxury of time, the crackling as the wood caught fire had us hurrying to our next set of chores. Before darkness set in, the chairs had been placed around the camp fire, in the barbeque pits the coal was catching fire and the skewers of meat and vegetables were ready…out came the cheese, the breads, and all the food that could feed an army.
While the aroma of the barbeque filled the air, the hungry started gathering closer together, waiting for the plate of food to be offered around. A few vegetarians like me were longing for the baked potatoes and grilled zucchini. Soon plates of pork chops, grilled tandoori chicken, toasted pita bread, cheese, hummus, and vegetables were being passed around. Believe me when I say the plates returned empty quite quickly. All of us were wolfing down the food – was it hunger, was it the outdoors that increased appetites, or was it just pure good food? No one bothered to answer me!
Soon the hunger pangs died, the embers in the barbeque turned ash and the unanimous decision was to save the deserts for a little later. With the chill setting in, the pitch black darkness of the dessert against the flames of the bonfire, it was time for the guitar and the songs. The cacophony of off key singing had many of us in splits, while there was still a few rock stars amongst us, who carried on. The kids had settled into a huddle in a tent playing with their tablets. They didn’t have the patience to see the adults turn into kids themselves.
With the energy ebbing and while some prefer a quite evening in solitude, we moved into the most spooky part of the evening. As the glow of the flames died, a calmness descended on the crowd with stories of the supernatural. As if on que, someone decided to get more wood into the bonfire, so that the fire burned brighter and the flames licked the wood chunks, the stories continued and then no one was willing to even move a few yards to get the deserts.
A few moments of silence, each to his own thought, before the kids clamoured for attention. The mention of iced chocolate cake had them running for the container. There was spring in their steps and no fear of the unnatural in their minds, so we gathered courage from them. The desert disappeared in minutes, with the last morsel of the trifle polished and the icing of the chocolate cake licked clean.
Soon some of us wandered into the night, getting ready to wind down, while others sat next to bonfire or what used to be. A few snores, some suppressed chuckles, while others called it a night. The kettle was still happily whistling away, the only noise for miles to be.
With most of campers in their tents, I sat staring into the embers of the bonfire. Raj was making sure that our tent was warm enough with bedding on the floor and the sleeping bags soft and inviting.
When I heard a shuffle of feet, an eerie feeling gripped me, I froze, I could see the light bobbing up an down a few feet away in our tent, in the otherwise dark stillness of the night , but I could not scream…I was hoping Raj would be by my side. The shuffling feet called out to me, that’s when I realised it was one of us looking for a late night drink. A sense of relief washed over me and I could feel the colour rush back to my face! A feeble smile crossed my lips, while I threw my head back and decided to marvel at nature.
The black expanse of the sky, with a million stars sparkling like diamonds, it seemed to transport me to a fantasy world where the darkness was not menacing. The stars seemed to have a story to tell, they seemed to wink at me and assure me they were my angels guarding over me tonight. The various constellations seemed to send me optimistic messages, whilst I yearn to know more. Are you the angels my mom mentioned in her bed time stories to me, are you the little sparkles that build the fantasies of many a travellers of yore? Are you, are you, are you…….?
A soft caress of lips and warm breath on my forehead, woke me out of my stupor. Raj was leaning over me, wondering if I had fallen asleep. I cajoled him to sit by my side for a few minutes. As I snuggled next to him, his arms around me, I knew I was the luckiest woman in this world. He held me tight as I smiled and looked up at him. There was love and pride in his eyes as he stroked my hair – a silent moment that expressed a multitude of feelings, sending vibes that we both recognized – love, respect, a friend and confidante.
As the dew fell and a slight dampness engulfed us, Raj hurried me into the tent, while the camp slept peacefully, with a promise to wake up early and witness the sun rise from the dunes above.


2 thoughts on “Camping

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