I guess the reason why I never camp overnight in England is because nights are relatively cold all year round plus wild camping is frowned upon in most places.
Last year I treated myself to a hammock as a cure for my empty travel diary and spent most of my free time swinging between trees in various places outside of London. Some of those places became like my second home so I thought why not spend the night?
I know all the trails and paths in Surrey like the back of my hand by now and know which ones are very busy with walkers. All those winter walks finally paid off and I chose my route on Friday morning but it didn’t start off well.
When I arrived at Waterloo station I was greeted by what looked like a massive exodus. I know the weather was supposed be really good this weekend but is everyone leaving at the same time!? Only after I look at the message board I notice that every train is either delayed or cancelled. Crap.
After speaking to a member of staff I learn that there is a circuit power failure in Surbiton and no train has left since 8 am this morning. Marvellous.
My ticket has two travel options: one from Waterloo and another one from London Bridge. The first one is faster and less chance for a missing connection so I decide to wait a little bit and see if there is any improvement. After all my goal today I just to hike to my hammock spot and spend the night. As long as I get there before it’s dark, it’s fine by me.
There is a light of hope as we have one train that has the green light light to go and it serves my route, but there is one small issue with it: nobody knows where the driver is. Just as I am about to board the train they cancel it. I can either waste more time here or take the alternative route. Two hours after my schedule I arrive in small village in Surrey, home to my favourite forest. Well one of many. Even the sun started shining which I take as a good omen.
What did I pack:
-three pairs of socks and underwear
-long leggings and shorts (it will be hot on Saturday and Sunday, at least during the day)
-4 litres of water (that bit is painful but there is nowhere to refill bottles)
-kindle (which I opened once and just browsed through my library)
-first aid (yes, I’m better at it now)
-food for two days (I will be changing locations so will replenish it at pit stops)
My backpack’s total weight may have been around 10-11kg. It’s hard to believe it’s the same one I used when trekking across Central Asia for 7 months. There was barely any room left after I squeezed my sleeping bag and hammock in it.
Hopefully all those planks and push ups didn’t go to waste.
All I have to do now is to hike 7km at my own pace. Easy peasy, no rush stroll. I can even take the scenic route if I want to. Oh I so wanted to but the weight load on my back forced me to take a rest every 40 minutes. Nothing too uphill this weekend for sure.
The sunset official time is 9.17pm but you still have another hour of semi light left. Good to have this buffer of time if you need to change your hammock location. The original spot I chose was in a dense fir forest and so perfect! Except it belonged to a private property and I was not about to break two laws in one night. But I figured I may find something near by that has public access. Bingo! At 7.30 pm I have my spot located and my hammock hang between two trees. Fitting sleeping bag, backpack and me into it was a true test to it’s strength. I did not have a plan B in case the hammock broke. It would have to be ground.
Many people will ask me: why not a tent? Well because hammock is cheaper and being off the ground means I’m exposed to less bugs. Works for me.
After changing into my night gear aka wearing everything I brought with me at the same time, except for underwear, I am finally ready to settle in. You have to be firm with hammock and have a good sense of balance. Tucking myself in the sleeping bag is a bit of a challenge and I try to think of myself as a caterpillar trying new outfit rather than me being stuck in a coffin. Takes a lot of shifting and shimmying but I’m in, my net bug is zipped and my bladder empty. Now if only all those birds could politely shut up so I can enjoy some peace and quiet. Ha! They were singing for an hour after the sunset and just when I thought it will be silent, all the creepy birds came on afterwards. You know the one they use as a soundtrack in horror movies? Exactly. At 11.30pm I managed to fall asleep only to be woken up by a growling. Thinking it’s someone’s dog I quickly sit up and try to look up only to realise the growling it’s my own stomach. Tough luck buddy. Dinner is over.
An hour later I am woken up by …rain! Yes! The rain that my weather app has not mentioned!! We are about to find out of my sleeping bad really is waterproof. Luckily it’s just a drizzle. At 3am the sky starts turning bright and all the birds are awake again. Unknowingly I set up my hammock in the best place for sunrise view! I’m shattered though! And I have to hike over 20 km to my next location.
After morning toilet, changing back into my day attire and some breakfast, I try to fall asleep but too many walkers near by. Why are some people so loud??
I know I’m cranky because of lack of sleep so will need some extra chocolate today to keep me going. The hike which supposed to take me 3 hours ended up being a 5 hours journey but I saw some really cool stuff on the way. Walked through forest, field and ended up by a canal.
Then 10 minute ride in a train and quick stop to buy more water and food and I’m back at the trail. The last 40 minutes it is a hell but I can already see how empty and quiet this place is. Heaven.
Around 5.30pm I reach my final stop. THE STOP. I discovered this place a month ago and it is the best view ever!!!
I have a quick dinner and a rest before watching the sunset and by rest I mean bailing my eyes out. The exhaustion took the better of me so I just let it all out. Good thing there is nobody around. Except for the sun and birds. Gathered myself up just in time for the show:
Better than any 5*hotel!!! Just look at this!
Beside the already familiar chatter of birds I can also hear football fans cheering and singing. I really hope they won’t stay all night nor they will discover my location. Phew! At midnight everything is pitch black and quiet. And I’m left with the best view one can ask for: starry sky!!! I saw 4 shooting star and you bet your ass I made 4 wishes!!
I kind of wish I had someone to share it with but at the same time I’m glad I have it all to myself!!! What an experience! And another sleepless night, this time due to me counting shooting stars:)
Even though it was my first time camping outdoors I chose places I’m familiar with. I need to know in advance where my hike is going as otherwise I will not enjoy it and be anxious most of the time. You don’t have to tell me the route but tell me the destination. Plus I would otherwise focuse on finding the perfect camping spot rather than the surroundings.
I’m glad we don’t have predatory animals because honestly I don’t know how anybody can sleep knowing there may be a bear roaming near by. Or a wolf. Or a mountain lion.
I’m very proud of myself for preserving but gosh, you have no idea how much I wanted to quit on the train.
The lack of sleep and heavy backpack completely depleted my physical body but mentally I feel like a new born. I found peace in the present. Wherever I go, there I am.
Sleeping outdoors was always my dream but I never had the opportunity or guts to do it. Guess I can tick it off my bucket list then:) I will be tackling another fear of mine this coming up weekend so stay tuned! And you? When was the last time you tackled your fears?