There is nothing more contentious than to throw the topic of wild camping into a Motorhome discussion group. It evokes the most passionate of views and opinions and it divides people more quickly than a scorching knife through butter. My view is each to their own – we all have our own camping strategies and comforts and I believe that no one approach is right nor wrong.
We love a balance of both wild and official camping as each play a role our full-time lifestyle. Although I’m not here to present the virtues of one camping style over another, as there is plenty of this on Facebook to last us a lifetime. I do want to share our perspective of what wild camping means to us and the symbiosis it creates with the local community, with whom we are blessed to share our ‘home’ for a night or two.
We have no camping rules; although we do like the freedom that wild camping and Aires offer us. Secluded spots in rural areas, off the beaten track; spectacular beaches with the sound of crashing waves at Scoobie’s feet; magnificent mountain retreats that somehow comfort us with their towering presence. Sometimes we share with other like-minded souls, other times we have stunning solitude that brings joy to our hearts.
Yet practicalities require us to take shelter in a campsite every now and again, to charge up or do washing. Sometimes we find that such is their draw, that they call us to stay a little longer than we ever anticipated. And let’s not forget how luxurious that hot, steaming shower can be that we can languish under for more than three minutes.
That said, wild camping is primal, earthy and brings out the inner child in us, as we share a bit of ourselves with the landscape and the local community as we get closer to the heart of their culture. For us, it always feels so important, that if we are offered something for free, that we reciprocate by spending our money in the nearest town or local shop. And this is where the symbiosis becomes so clear to us.
We never take anything for granted and so if a community offers a free place to rest Scoobie’s tyres, then we will search for ways to give back. Even if it’s only a baguette, some small grocery shopping or a beer in the late afternoon sun. And this week has been a great example of this symbiosis. Parked up on a dedicated motorhome area, (complete with facilities), in Murcia’s heartland, courtesy of the small village of Ricote, we have enjoyed two nights in the tranquility of the mountains on the Valle de Ricote route.
After walking around the village last night to soak up the atmosphere, it was clear how we could return their gift of free camping. A market, a Bodega for their local wines, a Bakery for a lunchtime loaf and a Supermarket for last minute essentials. I particularly love markets; I love how they buzz with calls of ‘Todo Euro’ and how local women trundle through the maze of stalls with their trollies picking up their weekly supplies. Market traders looking to make a deal with tourists and fresh produce just calling out to be sampled – the mind reeling with recipe ideas. Markets always make me smile and as long as I enter with an awareness that I am a visitor who isn’t fluent in their mother tongue, then I can reap the benefits of their offerings with humbling gratitude.
And so this morning’s job was to arm ourselves with our rucksack and enter the hubbub of street negotiations that would undoubtedly ensue. Fresh fruit purchased, new words learnt as we conversed as best we could in our pigeon-Spanish and we even found some fresh daffodils to bring an air of spring into the van. And that was before we found some local nectar from the Bodega; vino dulce (sweet wine, a bit like port) and a vino abocado (mixed sweet and dry) for €1.45 per litre. So we came away with six litres of the most beautiful wine for less than €10. And the best bit of our little shopping excursion? There’s absolutely no carbon footprint on any of our purchases today, so we’ve been environmentally friendly to boot.
Now this is what I call true symbiosis. They give us free camping and we spend money in their shops and receive the freshest, most local produce you can imagine that is also kind to the environment. Everyone is a winner and we’re utterly grateful for both the wild camping opportunities and the luscious food that is on offer.
If only more communities could see the beautiful symbiosis that can exist between the motorhome fraternity and local shop owners, then we would all gain a huge benefit. Whilst I recognise that there will always be visitors who don’t respect the pay-it-back system, the large majority of us are very willing to participate in this very organic and beautiful arrangement. Long live wild camping! For a free magazine that we produced about Wild Camping, check this out.