Sunday of week 7

On monday we had our final test for the Padi open water diver (still have the actual open water sessions to do mind you), but we both comfortably passed it…. I had 1 mistake. 😦

Catherine flew home Tuesday so I had the house to myself all week. I essentially did nothing other than eat, watch TV and sleep. Oh and go to the bar several times. But I’ve been pretty tired that last few weeks, so it was nice to recuperate. (Though this shouldn’t be interpreted as Catherine tires me out, no, no, no!)

Matthijs and I had planned to go for our second outdoor weekend this week, but the weather was truly dismal (so dismal that Catherine’s flight back is over an hour late as a result). We’ll get back to you on that one in March, as there’s no possibility before that.

I had a quiet weekend too. Read lots of economist articles (Thanks Tashi, for sending those our way). And then rather than bore you with the spcifics in writing, if you have 159 seconds to spare, you can see for yourself what I did Sunday below.

Of course, the soundtrack is intended to be ironic. Anyone who lives here will have figured that one out. 😉

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A few key learnings from a night in the woods

Whilst the video is almost finished (or in other words, currently uploading to youtube), I wanted to share a few key takeaways from our night out in the woods.

A lot of it will probably sound pretty obvious, but as it is with this kind of thing, its only obvious after the fact. Due to Matt and I being quite “go go go” kind of guys, we may have overlooked a few things on our way out.

The first is related to gear. Obviously, the more the better, and owing to our walk in and out of the forest being about 10 minutes, in this case it wasn’t a question of “how much” we could carry. I think we showed that with minimal preparation, it’s possible to spend a night in the woods and have a good time doing it. Though in future trips, it would be advisable to take more clothing layers of various thicknesses to be able to fine tune the level of “warmth” going on, without resorting to wearing a coat in bed which is decidedly uncomfortable.

An improved sleeping bag is definitely a must. Last time I relied on some hand-me-down gear from my mum and dad I slept in a leaky tent. The sleeping bag I used is perfect for guests when they sleep on our couch, but not so much to get the right kind of warmth out in the woods.

A thermos, means we wouldn’t have to resort to heating water up every time we want a hot drink. In all likelihood, we would warm water up anyway for the hot bottles we put by our feet, but the logic of improved sleeping bag means maybe we would be less reliant on that. (Though, it’s a case of not forgetting the thermos in the kitchen, as I had actually prepared it).

Not only an improved sleeping bag, but if we are to continue hammock camping, we need to insulate the bottom half of ourselves too. If we’re talking scientifically, a sleeping bag (as well as clothes, quilts, etc) keep us warm by trapping a layer of air within the material from which they are made. Unfortunately, when you’re lying on the material, the air is “crushed” out, meaning you’re no longer insulated. This results in the cold we felt coming from underneath. We countered it somewhat by using the survival blanket (this aluminium foil type stuff), but it didn’t entirely solve the problem. So thinking logically (and which a quick google search confirmed) we need some kind of under-insulation. One option could be to simply put a camping mat inside the hammock, and another could be an “underquilt”, which is like a sleeping bag, except it hangs on the underside of the hammock, but not directly beneath the occupant, meaning there is a palce for the air to trap itself and keep you warm.

It would be ideal if we could find a way to bring a small fire which is not a gas flame. Now obviously, this weekend anything in the forest was not combustible owing to the fact everything was waterlogged. But also, it is illegal to make a fire in most forests, so there is that to get around as well.

Food is the next big one. This time, we were only in the forest for about 18 hours, so it wasnt major. We picked up cup-a-soup and some pot-noodle and ravioli, but it would be more enjoyable if we brought something a little more gourmet along. Also useful would be bringing a kettle as well as a pan, so that the tea and coffee don’t have to taste of tomato sauce.

   

 I’m sure I’ll think of other factors as time goes on. But maybe I’ll share a few more after our next trip.

B

Week 4! Two Twits with No Tent.

Let’s skip the boring bits and get straight to the meat of the matter.

Catherine got me diving lessons for my Birthday last week. So Wednesday night we headed out for our first one. I loved it. Breathing underwater was a bit odd, and I’ve never had as big a build up of phlegm as after breathing through only my mouth for over an hour. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the next session in a couple of weeks. Ideally, we’ll go to the south (any south, France, Africa, America, Holland will do as long as we can dive a bit).

Unfortunately there are no pictures of the session, something I will try to remedy as the weeks go on and we get more confident underwater.

In other news, Matthijs and I had cooked up a little plan I may have alluded to at the end of last week’s post and luckily for us the weather played ball. What we needed (and got) was a 24 hour window within which no rain was forecast.

I should clarify. We live in the Netherlands, where in winter it is perpetually cold and wet and the nights are reasonably long at this time of year. We are both more or less city-dwellers with no wildlife or survival experience. We fancied an outlet for our “wild” selves that was more substantial than a saturday stroll in the woods. It seemed fitting then, to go on a microadventure and spend a night in the forest. But because that would be too simple, we figured we would head out without a tent.

Over the past few weeks we made several lists of things we might need, and they usually got pretty silly. By silly I mean adding things like a venom kit or bear bells to ward off the wildlife. But actually the “real” part of the list was pretty simple: tarpaulin, hammocks, sleeping bags, some rope and a cooker. Head out and see what happens.

And at 13:30 on Saturday, that’s exactly what we did. We packed two large backpacks into Matt’s car and drove off down the motorway towards a (legal) campground in the forest near Austerlitz (yes, the battleground).


On the way we got the odd rain shower, but nothing too extreme. We parked up, visited a local supermarket for meagre rations and headed off into the woods (in the opposite direction to where we were aiming to go).

We left the path and headed into the scrub, looking for a spot to pitch our camp, which we found, and then immediately decided on another spot. We also picked a dedicated “loo” and set about building up our camp. Once set up we got out the cooker and brewed up a cup of tea. Promptly followed by an improvised game of cards (we played UNO with a standard deck), then immediately we cooked our dinner, had another tea (this time ravioli flavoured) and then played another card game. I surprised Matt with a tin of beer. Which made him a happy man, as he was previously lamenting our lack of bringing brews.

Then we decided it was cold and time for bed. It was 8 oclock…..


We both lay in our hammocks for about an hour reading and then nodded off. All things told, there isn’t actually much to do in the forest once night has fallen, and as our attempts to light an (illegal) fire had failed miserably (it was like trying to set fire to a wet sponge) we didn’t even have a campfire to sit around. At about 11:30 we were both awake again, and a bit cold, so we decided to warm some water up and make noodles, as well as fill some bottles to put near our feet at the bottom of our sleeping bags (that helped a lot!). We fell asleep again, until about 2:20, where we repeated the charade and made some tea, and reheated our bottles.


That time, I’m sure I heard something sneak past the camp, as too many sticks on the forest floor broke in quick succession. Never mind, it didn’t eat us or any of our stuff….

We repeated the drill at 5, which by now we had down to military precision, and got back into the hammocks one last time until 8. Though we woke at about 7 and laid still enjoying the forest around us getting lighter (and the noise of the nearby highway getting louder).

Then, we made breakfast by frying off some bacon and pouring ourselves a large cup of coffee. We then started to clear our camp and tidy, having another coffee, finishing the tidying and heading back to the car.


There is an enormous amount more detail I’d like to share, but all in good time. Rather than just write, I’m working on some video footage we gathered to put together something mildly coherent and entertaining. We came up with a name for our “show”, and are working on putting together which we hope you’ll find entertaining. This being said, we ended up with about 4 and half hours of raw footage. But below is a preview of the first installment of “Two Twits with No Tent”. We hope you’ll look forwards to more, but ultimately, we’ll probably film more whether anyone likes it or not. 😀

Till next time!

B