Full disclosure: I deeply dislike the term ‘glamping’. As far as I am concerned, it is an abomination within the English language, along with all its compatriot portmanteaus.
The word itself — portmanteau — actually sounds rather beautiful. It was originally a practical leather travelling bag, and now more often denotes a linguistic blend of sounds and meanings. To my mind, though, it recalls some marvellous shawl or cape, rich with brocade to keep out a cruel, 18th-century wind. For such a brilliant combination of letters to be associated with some of the worst words in English is a shame. Sheer laziness is what I think of such word-blending. It’s about as lazy as the act of ‘glamping’ — glamorous camping.
Nevertheless, here we are at Castaways Resort in south-west of Auckland, New Zealand, ready to experience this ironic combination in the flesh. Castaways calls the experience ‘glam camping’ rather than ‘glamping’ and for this small mercy I am very grateful. It’s about 6pm, the winter sun setting far too quickly and darkness looming, promising an interesting journey to our luxury tent.
Castaways calls the experience ‘glam camping’ rather than ‘glamping’ and for this small mercy I am very grateful.
We park up and are guided to our vehicle for the evening — a golf cart that will transport us to our tent, no traipsing over grass, laden with gear necessary. I put my partner in crime in the driving seat and plan just to enjoy the ride — one that turns out a lot bumpier than expected. It is already too dark to make our way alone, so we are helpfully led by a kind staff member lighting the way in their car. Left to our own devices, things may have ended quite differently, as my chauffeur is not exactly an elegant driver. It’s fortunate that we have the lovely Castaways crew making the journey a little less ‘death by golf cart’.
We follow the car in front of us, surrounded by pitch black. With only the headlights for guidance, it becomes like having tunnel vision. For all we know, we’re merrily about to drive off a cliff. After what seems like forever driving around the Blair Witch Project set, the car in front of us finally stops and we are shown to our tent.
What a tent it is — or indeed, not a tent at all. My last experience of tenting involved pitching our own, pegs and all. When it rained, water would trickle inside the tent and onto our faces. When someone was not having a ‘good tummy moment’, everyone would know, and the only escape was to run into the rain, as far away from the tent as possible. That, after all, is real tenting — the way that gets us closer to nature, and also to our companions, in ways possibly altogether too natural.
The tent in front of us is the exact opposite of these past trials. Everything is ready and waiting for us, including a luxurious king-size bed and a bottle of New Zealand red. The ‘tent’ comes complete with a fridge, barbecue, couch, romantic lighting, and — wait for it — a bathroom with running hot water and a composting toilet. If there was one thing I found difficult to handle when camping previously, it was the toilet situation. With this new development, I feel like my problems are mostly solved. It’s particularly great for those couples who are not ready to know each other quite that well just yet.
The ‘tent’ comes complete with a fridge, barbecue, couch, romantic lighting, and — wait for it — a bathroom with running hot water and a composting toilet.
Upon opening the fridge, we find dinner and breakfast ready for the following day. There are tempting little containers labelled ‘entree’, ‘main’, and ‘dessert’, along with clear instructions as to how to cook our meal on the barbecue. It is all very homely, making us feel as though mum came to our tent and did all the work for us before quietly leaving. Perfect: after all, when camping as kids, mum and dad often did all the work, while we were allowed to eat and make merry. There are no s’mores around campfires here, but it certainly is civilised fun while still having nature right at our doorstep.
Although it is difficult to see in the dark, I can smell the grass and hear the sound of the sea nearby. The crashing of waves is one of my sounds in the world and at once I begin to relax. I also start to come around to the idea that we do not have to do anything at all. Camping takes commitment, effort and preparation, all of which bring their own sense of satisfaction. But it is actually nice to be able to experience that feeling of freedom that camping offers without having to worry about pesky details to get there.
We settle into our palatial tent, happily immersed in Coastal Glam Camping, one of two camping experiences offered by Castaways. While the coastal version complements the New Zealand beach scene, Totara Tree Glam Camping caters to those who want to experience some thick New Zealand bush. In this case, the tent is perched between two totara trees — quite the treat for those excited by the idea of a luxury treehouse with the sounds of native flora and fauna lulling them into a deep sleep.
The next morning, I wake to the sound of light rain pattering above us and I feel the excitement that comes with waking up to the rain in a tent. That sound brings the outside world in, and makes one part of it. I smile as I shift on the soft, comfortable mattress with its lovely linen caressing my skin. This could be a wholly different experience in a regular tent. I could be waking up to the beautiful rain with my inflatable mattress deflated and a twig digging into my back. I would certainly have need of my imagined brocaded ‘portmanteau’ to protect me from the elements as I relieved myself in a nearby copse of trees, dark and dripping with the overnight rain. On reflection, I would prefer to be just as I am now. Nature is a wonderful thing, but it is also unforgiving. Sometimes a little ‘forgiveness’ goes a long way.
‘Glamping’. Well, I suppose real portmanteaus exist for a reason. We need a practical bag when we have a few things to carry, and a practical (if abominable) term to carry the best implications of two words — and the best of both worlds.
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