I forgot to mention that on the weekend of 4/5 August, I was in a tent again. This was part of an off-roading trip to Parc du Marquenterre, in France. I didn’t enjoy the camping aspect at all.
JASONSLAPHEAD and I left in his Land Rover Defender on the Friday evening, travelled to France on Eurotunnel (Eurotunnel is the most amazing thing ever- what could be easier?) and arrived at our camp site, Camping Les 3 Sablieres, at around 10pm local time.
We found our way round to the tent area (after driving past many, many cabins that looked very, very comfy) and were surprised to see a fair amount of tents- it was certainly a busy weekend!
The tent area was next to a large pen, with about 10 horses in it- the only spots left to pitch our tents were right in front of the horses. I didn’t even think any more about this and put my tent up.
I always bring an inflatable, double mattress with me when I go camping and I use an air compressor, powered by the car battery, to inflate it with. I like my mattress nice and firm, so only turn the compressor off once it’s rock-hard.
I leave the compressor to it. In the meantime, we’ve been boiling some water on the gas-cooker for a cup of coffee. For some reason, the gas-cooker decides to burst into flames- this is a bit worrying as it seems to be the gas-canister that’s on fire.
I rush over to it, quickly turn it off and then disengage the gas-cylinder, making the fire to go out. I’d prevented a catastrophic explosion and was a secret hero- everyone at the camp site may have died, if it wasn’t for my quick thinking!
There was a muffled “pop” followed by the sound of rushing air coming from my tent. I went over to it and the unthinkable had happened- I’d popped my mattress and it was rapidly deflating. I spent the next 10 minutes trying to repair the hole with duct tape, but unsuccessfully. I was going to spend the weekend with no mattress- not even a mat to sleep on!!
Oh well, at least we had some boiled water and some coffee. It’s a shame we didn’t have any cups to drink it from though.
Being resourceful, we were able to find a used, cardboard coffee cup. As we couldn’t find any other drinking containers, we poured the coffee out of the coffee jar and into a carrier bag, using the coffee jar as a second cup. It’s not an ideal cup, but it was sufficient for our coffee-drinking purposes.
I didn’t know that horses made so much noise eating, that they fight with each other or that they fart and piss a lot. To top it off, there was continuous banging coming from a farm building nearby. Oh, and a group of French students in the tents across the way from us couldn’t shut the fuck up during the night.
I was woken the next morning by JASONSLAPHEAD feeding the horses handfuls of hay and talking to them- it was about 7am local time.
Off I went to the toilet block, which is one of the weirdest places ever. To be able to enter the toilet block, you need to swipe a little keyfob given to you when you enter the camp site, although if you pay any attention to the sign next to the door, English people need a badger for this instead.
There’s one toilet-roll dispenser on the wall next to the door and none inside the toilet cubicles, so you have to plan ahead and work out what you’ll need. It’s also uncomfortable when you go into the toilet block behind someone who proceeds to pull out metres of toilet paper- especially when that person is a woman.
That’s right, it was a unisex toilet block- I just couldn’t get my head around that at all. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to ignore the fact that there are people of the opposite sex in the toilets with you, you can’t help but feel like a pervert. Woman make a surprising amount of noise in the toilet, too.
We made some breakfast and set off to Parc du Marquenterre for some off-road fun at about 10am.
The day was spent following a female guide on a quad bike around the course in a convoy of around a dozen cars. There’s not a huge amount to report, apart from the small mishap we had with a tree.
Part of the course involved climbing up a sandy, twisty hill in a narrow track with banks on either side. The only way to be able to get to the top in one go was to floor-it and attack the hill as fast as possible.
We were making good progress and were about three quarters of the way up when something went wrong. The car was rocking from side to side as we bounced up the track and the roof hit a tree trunk on the left-hand side. This threw us in the opposite direction and we drove head-on into a tree on the other side of the track. I wasn’t wearing a seat-belt so I head-butted the windscreen and banged my bad knee on the dashboard. JASONSLAPHEAD injured a few ribs and his finger. I’m glad I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt as if I was, I would almost have certainly received a whiplash injury. Seatbelts are only beneficial in a high-speed crash.
A group of people had been standing at the top of the track to cheer everyone on and at the moment of impact, there was a chorus of “oooooooh” and everyone went quiet.
We reversed off of the tree and made it up the last little piece of the track. When we got to the top, someone came over and told JASONSLAPHEAD that “it doesn’t look pretty”, which sounded quite bad.
We got out to have a look and considering we’d just driven into a tree at between 20 and 25mph, the damage didn’t appear to be too bad. The Land Rover was fitted with a very heavy-duty bumper which had previously written-off two cars which JASONSLAPHEAD had crashed into. The off-side was bent right back into the front off-side wing, which was all pushed back. The metal on the bumper had actually cracked. The radiator was fine and the car had experienced no mechanical damage, so we thought we’d try to bend the bumper back.
We tied a tow rope around a tree and hooked it on to the damaged part of the bumper and JASONSLAPHEAD reversed the car back as fast as possible, hoping that the force would bend the bumper back. It didn’t.
The steering felt a little weird after the collision, so we had to take it a little easy for the rest of the day. We stopped for some lunch and attempted coffee again- this didn’t go too well because most of it had fallen out of the carrier bag. On the bright side, the gas-cooker didn’t try to kill us again.
We carried on around the course and after lunch, managed to find ourselves at the end of the convoy. The rules of the convoy are that you always keep any eye on the car behind you in your rear-view mirror and if they get stuck or go missing, you hold back and make sure they can see you. When everyone does this, no one will end up getting left behind.
It’s a shame that no one told the arsehole in front of us about this rule (although conversations with others later revealed that he has a tendency to leave people behind).
We got stuck on a hill and had to reverse to attempt it again. We did this and were only delayed by about a minute but by the time we got to the top, there was no sign of anyone else. We thought we’d follow the most apparent tyre tracks as there were many different ways that people could have gone, but this got us lost. It was about 3.30pm by this point, so we pulled out the sat-nav, located the start/finish point and tried to follow the tracks in that general direction.
We arrived at the start/finish point long before anyone else. This gave us a chance to inflate the tyres (we’d earlier deflated them to around 10psi so that the car would cope in the sand a lot better), surveyed the damage to the car and drank some beer.
At about 5.30, everyone else turned up (a few of which had noticed that we’d gone missing) and shared some photos and stories. We were pleased to find out that someone had videoed our crash on their mobile phone- we watched this and it really does look spectacular! At least having it on video makes up fro the damage to the car and the injuries received. It was a surprisingly big impact. JASONSLAPHEAD’s still waiting for that video to be emailed to him.
Some of the others had driven over to France that morning and were now heading back to England on the same evening. They all left and those of us staying at Camping Les 3 Sablieres headed back to the camp site, which was only 5 minutes down the road.
After food, back at the camp site, I was having a nice little rest in my folding chair, just outside of my tent. The sky started to become very dark and thunder started to rumble in the distance. This got louder and louder until it was right on top of us, deciding to unleash the mightiest of rain upon everyone at the camp site.
People were running around like headless chickens, trying to get their belongings out of the rain and themselves into their tents.
There was a little canopy on my tent, which I had up. As I quickly tried to take it down, it slipped from my hands and dumped the puddle of water it had been collecting into my tent. I quickly dived in to pull the flap back out of my tent again, as the water was pouring down it and making a mess. As I dived into the tent, I knocked over a bottle of Coke. I pulled the flap out and zipped up the tent. I now had a wet sleeping bag and a sticky puddle of Coke.
The storm eased off and stopped completely after about 20 minutes- I emerged from my tent to blue skies, which were almost mocking us all and pretending that nothing had ever happened. Seeing as I now had a soaking-wet sleeping bag, I went off to the toilet block with the intention of using the only hand drier to dry my sleeping bag off with. This took at least half an hour and may have caused problems for others, who ended up using the fitted hair drier to dry their hands with instead.
It was now dark and most people had retired for the night. The only people who didn’t were the French students, who were just wandering around in groups, shining torches around and making a lot of noise. It turned out that the building nearby was a stable, which was the venue for the annual horse break-dancing finals- the noise coming from there was atrocious; just constant banging of hooves on wood.
I was pretty tired so figured that I’d be able to ignore it and just fall asleep anyway. As I was about to get into my tent, some of the French students came over (still talking loudly) and started to squeeze round behind our tents to stroke and feed the horses! I couldn’t believe it- how ignorant was that? Especially when people are trying to sleep! None of them spoke English, but I think they understood that I was telling them to fuck off. I eventually managed to get to sleep.
Once again, I was rudely awoken the next morning. My tent was being banged around and I could hear voices in French, right outside my tent. People were tripping over my guy-ropes to get to the horses!! I couldn’t believe the audacity! It was 8am and people were feeding the horses right next to the tents that people were sleeping in.
JASONSLAPHEAD was still fast asleep, which annoyed me a little bit, so I made the decision to undo his tent and let it down whilst he was still asleep in it. I forgot about his claustrophobia and felt bad for a moment, but that passed.
JASONSLAPHEAD eventually crawled out of his collapsed tent, we packed up and left the camp site. Just outside Calais, we stopped at a petrol station to investigate the damage to the car a little further. It looks as though the chassis may be bent, which would have taken some doing! Fortunately, the suspension and other components can be adjusted to rectify this.
As usual, there was queues of traffic at Calais to get through passport control- probably because the English Border Agency actually check the passports. On our outward journey, we just got waved straight through.
The trip home was uneventful, apart from a screaming woman at Maidstone Services on the M20- apparently, she had her phone nicked.
So, this is why I’m not too keen on tents any more and am seriously considering buying a caravan. I’m definitely going to avoid Camping Les 3 Sablieres in future, that’s for certain. I may even avoid France, full stop.