For years now, there has been a move away from camping trips. A shift towards the convenience and comfort of hotels and lodges. Part of it is understandable, there is something to be said for a good nights sleep in a huge bed with freshly laundered linen and a chocolate on your pillow. There is something to be said for walking across a heated floor in the middle of the night to the bathroom. And many people just have bad memories of camping as a kid, especially if you grew up in the UK.
People started to build more permanent structures in mountains, to offer more comfort than camping yet still allow you to be in these places a little longer. They are nice, they are certainly more comfortable than a tent, but they still isolate you from the world outside and the people outside. Sipping cocktails in a hot tub does not bring you closer to the locals, it emphasises the difference. And any permanent structure also changes that world, that often fragile environment forever. A tent, carefully placed, will leave no trace on the landscape, you could walk by an hour later and not know anyone was ever there.
Equally returning to a nice valley based hotel at the end of the day means you miss the best part of the day in the mountains- sure it can be great, but it is a bit like watching a great movie and leaving halfway through- the mountains and riverbanks do not suddenly stop when you go home, life carries on without you and that is when some of the best moments occur. I too have had nice nights in valley hotels, or nice nights in mountain huts, but the nights I truly remember all involved a tent. I am not suggesting the whole world should give up hotels, but I am suggesting that we can provide people with a deeper experience of Peru if we try and encourage them to do just a little camping, it can add value.
Certainly, it is definitely not as comfortable as a hotel, but sometimes a little discomfort is good. Discomfort challenges us, discomfort can open our eyes to new experiences. We get too used to comfort and soon we are comparing the thread count of various hotels, the size of their bathtubs or the pattern of their rainfall showerhead. Is that really so important? Yes, camp nights can be cold, the campsites can be high, our backs are not as young as they once were, and that full-length inflatable mattress is not as comfortable as a real bed. You have to duck to get in the door, there is no wardrobe to hang your clothes, and no telephone to call for room service. But it is a small price to pay. And besides anyone who has camped with us knows it is a pretty comfortable style of camping.
Camping takes you far away, immerses you in the landscape 24 hours a day, reduces the barriers between you and the people that live there. They too huddle against the cold, they too feel that joy at the first rays of the sun, they too trod the same path to get here, felt the same stones beneath their feet, the same moisture on the grass, the same sway of the wooden bridge. Camping immerses you into the soundscape of a place. There is sound everywhere, the early cockerel, the tinny transistor as people head to the fields, the laughter of the kids walking to school, rain on the tin church roof, birds squabbling for territory, the sing-song chatter of Quechua speaking women wandering by. They are not even all pleasant sounds- but they are very much the sounds of Peru.
Yet camping does not only bring you closer to the locals and the landscape, it also brings you closer to the people you travel with. Many years ago I guided treks around Mont Blanc. We offered camping trips and hotel based trips, both lasting two weeks. The bonds formed by the campers, always outshone those of the hotel groups. Barriers were broken down so much quicker.. Those were bonds formed with strangers, sat around chatting by the light of headlamps, sat around shared dinner tables, sat outside your tent, shared experiences of having to run out to the toilet tent at night, of standing around early in the morning as the sun rises with a cup of coffee in hand, of seeing each other without makeup, with hair in a mess, seeing you and taking you for who you really are, not the clothes you wear, the wine you choose or the job you do.
Imagine how powerful that opportunity to spend time with loved ones and friends can be, no distractions, no hotel door to close, no disguises to hide behind, just you and them.
Here are a few suggestions of short overnight camping trips: designed for those who are prepared to suffer just a little, to gain such a lot.
Overnight Huchuy Qosqo trek: not an easy trek, but where else can you have Inca ruins almost to yourself and camp a few hundred metres away as the sun drops over the mountains?
Overnight Lares trek: you want local life? This is the trek. The hiking is gorgeous but it is the people who will remain in your memory for years to come.
Overnight Apurimac Black Canyon rafting: this is a full expedition in two days, complete with stunning roads, great rapids and riverside campfires. From 10 years upwards.
Overnight Apurimac Granite Canyon: two of the best days rafting you will ever have, remote, wild, technical, with a memorable beach camp. Over 16 years only.
Write to us on info@amazonas-explorer to find out more about any of these trips0