fire is a life force. it creates and destroys. a campfire creates not only warmth but an atmosphere, a circle for campers to gather around to tell stories. the fire is something that you need to keep alive. while you are awake the fire is burning. it is one of life’s greater pleasures to stare into the fire in silence. and it’s not an awkward silence. the flames and embers are so beautiful glowing and flickering you can get lost in it, when it looks like it’s starting to die you can bring it back to life, it’s a simple project that everyone takes part in.

i went camping this weekend and it was marvelous. i love camping but i had forgotten how much. it’s been a while. at home i camped fairly often, but this was my first time in korea and i’ve been here for a year and a half. in summer in south africa i camp almost every 2nd weekend. granted it’s mostly at music festivals… but still. i also do the long term outdoor/”true nature” camping. so i can set up a tent in no time. i am down with the  finer details like bringing dishwashing liquid, what food works best on a fire or gas cooker and the importance of those little fleecy blankets. i also know to bring baileys to drink with my hot chocolate in the morning.

this has been said many a time but korea is a small country. and a highly populated one. so it is incredibly rare to feel that seclusion you feel in nature, where you fee like you’re the only person for miles. this weekend was the first time i experienced this feeling. although there may not have been miles seperating us from civilization, for a little while it almost felt like we were cut off from the outside world. we camped on a small relatively unknown island. there are many islands here, some are more famous than others. most are tourist destinations. the island we traveled to is called imjado. it is down in the south-west side of the country, close to mokpo. to get there we took a train to mokpo, a bus to jido/cheomam and a ferry to the island. the bus and the ferry didn’t take too long. the ferry was half an hour and the bus a little over an hour.

we were lucky in many ways. lucky because it was a long weekend so we had more time to enjoy ourselves. lucky because it never rained. lucky because we were camping with people who had a friend who lived on the island, he also had a car. and lucky because it was out of season so there were hardly any other travelers.

we camped on a hill overlooking the beach. behind us was a soccer field and not very far was a public bathroom. the beach is apparently the longest stretch of sand in korea. the tides on the beach were crazy. in the morning it was possible to walk out to the small island across from us. in the evening the tide and waves came in so high that we were splashed wet while observing the sunset from the boardwalk. then it went back low enough again so that we could shoot fireworks on the beach in the night. the sound of the waves and the crackling of the fire were the background noise to our campsite banter.

one of the joys of camping is the open spaces. open space surrounding you, open space up in the sky and open spaces of time. camping is the freedom to relax to the max. you have the whole day ahead of you with nothing to do. except eat and enjoy yourself. there are simple time fillers like playing cards, strumming a guitar, reading a book, going for a walk or having a nap. at nightime there’s the fire. the hearth around which everyone gathers. like they’ve been doing for thousands of years.