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The art of camping

2012/06/09 Source

The beauty of camping is most keenly felt at night. It's when the sun sets and the campfire is the solitary light in the dark that you come to appreciate the fact that you're in the great outdoors. As the orange light flickers, it mesmerizes people gathered at the scene. The ambient glow brings people together, but it's not just the temperature of the fire that creates warmth. Accompanying the sound of crackling firewood is animated laughter. In the end, cozy chats, heated debates and intimate conversations create a warm atmosphere. Such moments are what money can't buy.

By Yun Suh-young

The beauty of camping is most keenly felt at night.

It's when the sun sets and the campfire is the solitary light in the dark that you come to appreciate the fact that you're in the great outdoors.

As the orange light flickers, it mesmerizes people gathered at the scene.

The ambient glow brings people together, but it's not just the temperature of the fire that creates warmth. Accompanying the sound of crackling firewood is animated laughter. In the end, cozy chats, heated debates and intimate conversations create a warm atmosphere.

Such moments are what money can't buy.

Before the campfire

Although many long for night to fall as soon as possible to gather around the campfire, waiting for its arrival is actually quite agonizing.

For those who arrive at the campsite near dusk just to enjoy the campfire, there is no waiting, but for those who come early in the morning and have already set up their tents, they need time to fill until their campfire moment arrives.

Usually, there are few recreational activities to pursue at a campsite because the sites are located mostly near rivers and valleys or sometimes close to a beach. The most common leisure activities campers can enjoy are swimming, fishing, playing ball games or riding bicycles around the campsite.

There are few campsites, however, that provide water leisure activities like the one located beside the South Han River.

Biking and water sports

At the Ipo reservoir campsite, built along one of the four major rivers, the South Han River in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, there are several leisure activities to enjoy.

On Saturday when this reporter visited the campsite, people were gathered for a weekend cycling and camping event sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO).

Around 200 participated in the event and they rode their bicycles to the campsite from Paldang Station, a 40-kilometer journey. Those there just for auto-camping rode their bikes around the campsite.

Riding a bicycle is one of the great ways that campers can enjoy the beautiful scenery around the Ipo site. A newly built bicycle road along the river is also very well made.

Experienced bikers usually bring their own bikes but those who just want to experience cycling during the day they are camping can rent a bike near the Ipo Bridge. One person or two-person bicycles as well as electric bikes are available for hire.

Campers may also enjoy other leisure activities such as water sports. Those who were at the bike camping event were able to paddle kayaks and canoes along the river. Although the water sports are offered only during the event period at the Ipo campsite, there are other sites along the four major rivers that offer canoeing, kayaking, dinghy yachting and wind surfing during the summer season.

For more information on canoeing, visit www.canoe.or.kr, on kayaking and dinghy yachting, k-marina.or.kr, on wind surfing, www.kwasa.org.

Self-made meals

When all the activities are over, it's time to enjoy a delicious self-made meal. The whole point of camping is to cook with basic equipment. The auto-camping site at the Ipo reservoir campsite offers a large space for each group of campers to park their cars and set up tents right next to it. Even those with room-sized tents often called "living shells" have enough space to set up tables and stools in front of them.

After dinner, until the time comes for a late-night barbecue, enjoying a cup of drip coffee is another joy of camping.

Experienced campers know how to make delicious coffee with the few tools they own. Some carry state-of-the-art tools for coffee making. Having a relaxed conversation over a cup of coffee is a great way to fill free time.

As veteran campers say, the art of camping comes from a sense of space and free time. Those who really enjoy camping, they say, are those who can enjoy having nothing to do.

Around the campfire

Moreover, having nothing to do makes you do something ― talk to companions.

After all the active outdoor activities and after enjoying a delicious meal with coffee for dessert, there comes another round of culinary excitement, barbecue. This is when the campfire comes to the fore.

As the evening progresses, temperatures drop and a hot summer day subsides into a chilly evening that gets colder as the night wears on. Even during the summer, a nice hot campfire is a good place to keep warm and huddle around with your loved ones.

As the fire crackles, conversation gets underway. When the flames subside, campers cook sausages on a steel plate over the fire. Chewing on these sausages, they begin a conversation.

"The greatest thing about camping is that we can really talk to our family members. During weekdays when everyone is busy, it's hard to have a decent conversation. But when we're out camping outdoors, I feel like our family bond is getting tighter", said Kim Eun-joo, a 37-year-old who came with her family.

"It's also great to be enjoying nature. It's great for the kids because those who live in Seoul don't get the opportunity to play in such an environment".

Park Mi-jeong, another camper in her 30s said, "Camping is great because kids can engage in various activities with their dads. It's also a great opportunity for a family to converse. It feels great to sit around the campfire at night chewing on sausages".

Improvements needed

There are, however, inconveniences about camping that must be endured. Perhaps the greatest inconvenience is not having access to a decent shower. The best campsites are those ones equipped with decent showers and toilet facilities, enough trees to provide shade, and shops nearby from which to buy food or other essentials.

In this regard, the Ipo reservoir campsite has room for improvement.

"I liked the fact that we could engage in various leisure activities here and enjoy the festival offered as part of the event. But it's a pity that the campsite doesn't have enough trees and shade in which to hide away from direct sunlight. Also, there aren't any shops nearby from which to buy food", said Park.

On camping

The Ipo reservoir campsite is being test-operated at the moment. Until announced otherwise, the site may be used at no charge to campers, but only if advance reservations are made online. The reservations are available on a first come first serve basis. To make a reservation, visit www.riverguide.go.kr.

Operating hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning and campers can stay for a maximum of two nights. Campers are advised to bring their own food, medicine and other necessities.

There are currently 602 auto-camping sites nationwide at which people can park their car and set up a tent. There are also dozens of campsites located near the rivers but there are only four that have opened near the four major rivers.

The Ipo reservoir campsite, the Hapgangjeong and Insamgol campsites near the Geum River in South Chungcheong Province, and the Seungchon reservoir campsite near the Yeongsan River in Gwangju are the four. All of the four campsites are available for free until announced otherwise if reserved in advance at the river guide website.

The basic equipment needed for camping are a tent, tarp, a foldable table and chairs, a sleeping bag, a mattress, pots and pans, and a cooler.

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