The first time we went camping as a family was to Mmabatho, which was then the capital of what was known as Boputhaptswana. I had a weekend off work, so we tried out our camping equipment at the municipal camping site, and then visited historic places in neighbouring Mafeking. My son Jamie was 3 years old, and his brother Shaun was 1 year old. Unlike many South African campsites, the municipal was pretty basic, and it was really cold at the time. There’s really nothing like African cold – the lack of humidity can chill you to the bone.
I asked Jamie what he thought about our tent, which I’d gone to great expense to buy, even though it was by today’s standards pretty simple. I thought he’d be impressed and excited about being able to camp away from home. Anyway, he looked around the tent and said he didn’t like it. Why not, I asked. “No plugs” was his response.
This was both funny and prescient. It wasn’t as though we were particularly dependent on electricity at our house at that time – we didn’t have a television (because we couldn’t afford the aerial), and this was before the days of computer games for kids and suchlike – so I don’t know why he was concerned by the lack of plugs. However, his comment did very much summarise a big difference in those days between camping and living at home.
Nowadays, most campsites provide electricity hook-ups. Our campervan has an external electricity hook-up and one internal plug. I read recently about a new, larger, recreational vehicle that has 17 plugs. A bit excessive. In addition, my Garmin runs off the cigarette lighter fitment and gives me Freeview television, if required.
On our recent campervan trip to Spain I reckoned I was fully kittted-up with respect to communications, but it didn’t turn out that way. The Garmin worked fine, and Lindsey was able to watch the royal wedding, with a Spanish commentary – “Katarrrrina”
I couldn’t get a signal on my Samsung Galaxy Ace phone through Virgin, though, despite having called 789 to get international roaming switched on. Maybe this was because we were camping in out-of-the-way sites. I have no idea. However, Lindsey managed to get a signal sometimes on her phone.
Then my 3 mobile network dongle only worked for half an hour in Spain. I think this was because all of my data allowance was used up with a stupid Windows update (and the blasted thing then failed to load). This wouldn’t have mattered, but 3 then wouldn’t let me top-up.
What a nonsense! I tried several times from different locations to purchase more allowance. How can 3 expect to make any money when they won’t let you top-up? Their Help said it was possible to phone a request for a top-up – but my phone couldn’t get a signal! And have you seen their Use Mobile Broadband abroad help page? You need a PhD to understand it!
These things need to become more simple and more reliable.
The same thing has happened before. I’m going to change my supplier and get a different dongle. Hopefully one with better Scottish coverage than 3, and one that doesn’t offer you ‘Pay-as-you-go’ which turns out that you have to use the data within a month or lose it.
If it hadn’t been for all the cycling and running we did along Spanish roads with virtually zero dug-up patches, I might have got stressed 🙂 As it happened, it was quite good to be incommunicado for three weeks.