How not to make a tent!!!


Two weeks, two countries, one tent. What could possibly go wrong??

With previous recreational camping, and festival, experience one should be an expert in assembling a tent. However, day one of the trip, after a few hours spent in the picturesque town of Le Harve (the main port used for shipment of goods to Paris), we headed west through the torrential rain and obscenely high bridges to a camp site ‘supposedly’ 13km away from Le Harve and ‘en route’ to Arromanches-les-Bains on the D514, one of the D-Day landing beaches and home to the largest military operation in history.

‘En arrive’, after over an hour in the car due to horrendous weather and an ‘ill advised’ built in SAT NAV, we pay for our pitch and decide to wait in the car for the rain to clear before attempting to build the newly purchased ‘Argos recommended’ tent. However, in the brand new Peugeot 207, there are 6 bottles of vino and a DVD player which enables us to watch ‘Idiot Abroad’ and self-proclaimed moron Karl Pilkington. 

So after a few laughs and more than a few vinos, the rain cleared, albeit temporarily, and we began to build our new found home for the next two weeks. We began by assembling the poles, a logical place to start, and then proceeded to feed the poles through what I thought was the main tent structure, admittedly knocking the poles into people’s caravans in the process. I’m sure they were fairly unappreciative as by this time it was gone midnight, pitch black and for a split second we were probably mistaken for burglars.

So, a bit giddy and waking up the neighbours, we continue to attempt to feed steel poles through non-existent structural tubes causing both frustration and hysterical laughter. After several hours, and help from three local, non English speaking, French teenagers, we realise that we are not in fact building the main tent structure as we thought, but we are actually attempting to put the steel poles through the tent rain cover via the tie down loops. Slight error of judgement on my part, or commonly known as failure to read instructions (an all too common trait amongst English people). In addition, what I thought was part of the main tent, actually turned out to be the porch ground sheet. Whoops!

However, after four long hours, in intermittent torrential rain and plummeting temperatures, the tent was finally standing. Forget the Taj Mahal, Christ the Redeemer or even the Egyptian Pyramids – this was a beautiful sight. For normal, less intoxicated people, the drama would end here, but in a slightly drunken stupor I fail to realise that the main tent structure has zips, so instead of being snug inside the tent listening to the rain and appreciating the sounds of the surrounding nature, I spent the night freezing and soaking wet after only zipping up the rain cover. Not the best way to spend the first night of your European road trip.

Since then, I would like to report that there have been no further ‘tent issues’ and that we and the tent have built up a beautiful, platonic relationship, so much so that we would now be lost without it. However, along our journey we have bent pegs, lost pegs, had to put the tent up in the sand, borrow make shift hammers and have almost been cooked alive whilst inside trying to get some sleep in 40 degree heat after the running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona. At times, we have wanted to smash it to smithereens, slice it with a corkscrew or throw it off a rather large sand dune. 

After spending that first evening laughing at the idiocy of Karl Pilkington on his travels, one feels a bit of a hypocrite now. Whilst Karl may not always come across as the most intelligent, well-educated man, I’m sure he could assemble a bloody Argos tent.

Moral of the story, if, like us, you prefer to spend your evenings enjoying a glass of regional wine contemplating life and admiring your surroundings, rather than slaving away ‘tent building’, I personally recommend you buy one that ‘pops up’. Bon Voyage and good luck!

Finally…mastered…time for a beer!

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