How long does it take to set up a camp?
Without exception, each one of our guests asks the question; so how long does it take to set up a camp? And this question is generally followed, in quick succession by; how many people did it take, where do you get your supplies from, and water and electricity, and so it goes on. Perhaps because it is what we do, we no longer consider the process, but it is always a pleasure to explain to our guests what goes on behind the scenes.
Setting up a camp begins long before we arrive, and as each location is different, a little bit of local knowledge is very helpful, like how far is the nearest; fuel supply, water, fresh produce etc. And yes, when we are looking for or at, a new location, we camp, not in quite the same style and luxury, but camp we do.
listing all the inventory that is needed is where we start; there is no going back because we forgot something, so it must be right first time around. Loading is also a bit of skill, not so much to ensure that it gets on in the order we want to get it off, but also to ensure that the load is correctly distributed and balanced on the truck/s and trailers. A few hours at a weigh bridge, while we repack is not something we can afford to do. Before we actually arrive on site, we have a rough idea of where we’re going to position the staff camp, kitchen and dining tents, and guest tents, and there is always going to be a bit of site preparation before we begin.
First off the truck is everything we need to set up staff camp, we find a spot not too far from the guest areas, but also not immediately obvious to guests. We accommodate staff in our explorer tents, and generally make them as comfortable as we can. This is pretty much what we can achieve on day of arrival, and so without the use of the kitchen just yet, we have a couple of days worth food supplies in ice boxes.
Day two begins with the kitchen and stores tents, and then moving the tables, fridges, freezers and equipment into the tents. We move directly onto the guest tents, and this is to give the housekeeping staff enough time to dress the tents. Placing the guest tents is a critical part of our set-up, and we try to ensure that we limit our impact on the environment, and also provide each tent with maximum possible privacy. Each guest tent comprises two tents, the tent, and the shower and toilet tent, which is positioned immediately behind the tent, and accessible from inside the tent.
Selecting the ideal sites for the guest tents is always a bit of a challenge, and one that is determined by the amount of flora, and other natural obstacles. The balance between distance, privacy, and ground cover, when placing guest tents, is vitally important to remain within our ‘touch the earth lightly’ approach. In fact we would go as far as saying that very often we improve the environment through the removal of coppicing, and excess moribund ground cover. The process of setting up guest tents can take anything between 2 and 5 days, and largely depends on the amount of site preparation work that is required.
We took the decision to remove all 220v supply from tents, and now have only 12v within the tents, ensuring that no harm can come to guests from any wiring inside the tent. Once the lighting in guest tents is complete, the job of fitting out the tent takes place, and we use 92cm bed as opposed to the 76cm which has been, thus far, the standard in mobile tented camps. This little change has made a significant improvement in the overall comfort of the tents. Finally beds are made, towels, guest amenities, and toilets are added, the tent is then complete, and will remain as is until the morning of a check-in, and all that remains is a final once over.
We then move to the central guest areas, and repeat the process for the lounge and dining tents. Lastly we lay the power supply backbone to all the tents, and test all feeds before burying cables and waterproofing exposed transformers etc.
‘D day’ is always fast approaching, and the day before sees our kitchen folk heading off to buy supplies, which will hopefully last for the first 3 or 4 days of camp. This generally amounts to a little under a ton of stock , with ice boxes and ice. More often than not, this trip will be several hundred kilometers, and will take a day.
The breakdown of the camp is repeating much repeating the process in reverse, and is inevitably quicker, unless we have had rain, in which case the process will be delayed, as we cannot pack wet tents. Superficial cleaning of kit and equipment takes place on site, with a deep clean and repair of everything taking place upon our return to our stores. It generally takes a little over two weeks for set-up and break-down, assuming everything goes to plan. And it has yet to go to plan, with everything from tyre blow-outs, minor crew injuries and rain all playing their part in the process.
We will be asked how long does it take to set up a camp many, more times, and we never grow tired of sharing each camp experience with guests.
There can be no better validation for the job of setting up a camp than a satisfied guest, and this makes it all so worth while.