Taking the rough out of camping

  • Divya Verma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 24, 2015 13:28 IST

It’s been a long week. You can’t wait to get out, unplug, and look at the sky without 50 highrises (and 20 cranes) in the way. You want one of those breaks where it’s just you, fireflies, a campfire and some barbecue.

But what you don’t want is sleeping on stony ground, wrestling with a tent and going without a bath. And you certainly don’t want to return on Monday with muscles aching from trying an adventure sport.

Relax. You’re not lazy, and you’re certainly not alone. As more Mumbaikars get bored with cookie-cutter resorts (buffet dinners, crowds, filthy pool – who can blame you?) but don’t want full-on adventure, a new way to get away is emerging.

Camp companies are planning quick, cushy holidays to let you get close to nature, without roughing it out. They’ve got clean bathrooms, sea-facing tents, live gigs and cookouts. And if you still want adventure, there’s that too.

The easyFor many operators, these simplified but comfortable trips are a way for first timers who are interested but intimidated by the outdoors. Ritika Saraf whose company, Some Place Else, has organised three trips to Murud since May 2014, calls them “camping trips for newbies” – youngsters breaking free from conventional holidaymaking, “but not at the expense of comfort.”

She manages everything herself, from the ferry from Gateway of India to the campsite at Mandwa, meals, tents, sleeping bags and activities. To make things easier still, the campsite has permanent bathrooms. “Many people think that going on a 10-day camp or trek with no bathrooms and showers is not their cup of tea. So, the best thing to do is start with the basics,” Saraf says. “If you like it, then go for a camping trip to the Himalayas or something equally challenging.”

Amit Jambotkar, CEO and partner of the Letscampout takes care of the details too. The organisation, founded in 2010 by Abhijeet Mhatre, has 12 campsites across the state and organises adventure trips to Lonavla, Phanasrai, Tungarli and Shirota.

But it also has more relaxed breaks involving stargazing, astronomy and bird watching at Kashid, Kaas, Matheran and Panchgani, for which the nitty-gritties, tents, sleeping bags and meals, are all taken care of. “When you go on a leisure holiday, you sleep in a five-star hotel; but when you camp with us, you sleep under a million stars,” Jambotkar says.

Big Red Tent, on the other hand, has four designated camping grounds within driving distance of Mumbai for those who want to escape any time of the year. Amar Gandhi, the company’s business development manager, says the grounds at Kolad, Vasind, Karnala and Khopoli are where you can find “a balance between adventure and leisure camping”.

It’s where he says “people can just enjoy the rustic feel and solitude that camping offers”, plus the luxury of already pitched tents, toilets and showers. Meals are offered too. He believes that more urban dwellers are interested in the idea of a camp-style holiday, but they still want a few luxuries and activities.

Frill seekers
If a night trek might cause a sprained ankle, rappelling might test your vertigo and the idea of river rafting leaves you cold, a gig offers the path of least resistance. How risky could listening to a band be anyway?

Some Place Else holds The Little Gig Escape, which as the name suggests, gets a band of young musicians to travel with the group. “We get a different artiste every time,” Saraf says. “With just 25-30 people in a group, it is like a private music festival.”

Alongside is a barbecue station. And as the sun sets, campers can gather around and set aloft floating lanterns. “From inside the tent you can have a 180-degree view of the sea,” Saraf adds. Big Red Tent had an acoustic weekend at one camp and Gandhi says it was “a big hit”. Letscampout was the camping partner for The Lost Party, Lavasa’s music festival.

Jambotkar keeps the activities simple – it’s usually a barbecue, fishing or light trekking. And if you’ve never done any of them before, help is at camp. “A group of experts travel with us and teach the guests.” They’ll soon add plush tents that can accommodate whole families with such features as mood lighting, personal toilets and running water.

Saraf even lets you get your pet along. “I had reservations, but I realised that they become the heart of a trip and are so much fun to have around,” she says. Several ferries let you transport animals for an additional fee, which some pet owners happily pay to keep their furry friends close.

She is now organising another series of outdoorsy events. The House of Bliss takes you away from the city and into a villa on the outskirts of the city where a wellness expert will conduct yoga and meditation workshops. Big Red Tent is holding a wellness weekend in March too – it includes an early morning walk along the river, sessions with a nutritionist and yoga at the tranquil Vasind grounds.

Honestly, how much more chilled can camping get?

(Someplaceelse.in, Letscampout.com, Bigredtent.in)

From HT Brunch, March 23
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