Setting up camp in an established camping ground, frequented by other members of the general public, is always a bit of an art. First you have to find a good spot. For us, this meant putting our bags down and walking the length and breadth of the site, carefully inspecting all the free locations. To avoid any association with a ‘festival’ vibe we stayed well away from anything that looked like a big noisy group. We steered clear of tents the size of small houses, established camper vans, barking dogs and campers with sound-systems or children.
We didn’t want to be too far from the kitchen or the toilet and shower block, but also not too close. The site itself had to have a reasonable amount of shade, be devoid of unsightly remnants from previous campers, and preferably, have natural views in all directions.
There were lamp posts laid out in a grid-like fashion across the entire site. We knew from our previous stay that we didn’t want to be too close to one. They remained on throughout the night and if your tent was in the wrong location, the light would make its way through the thin fabric walls, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
During the peak season, meeting all of the above requirements would be impossible, but because the tourist season was nearing its end and Camping Argostoli was relatively un-populated, we managed to find a great place to set up our tent. It was a reasonably flat spot, catching filtered shade throughout most of the day from olive trees that covered virtually the entire camping ground.
After unpacking the tent, I always lay it out flat where I’m planning to pitch it and then lie down on it as if I were sleeping inside it. I did this as well on Clare’s side of the tent so I could be sure it was suitable for sleeping. You want it so your head is slightly higher than your feet. Definitely not the other way around. You also don’t want to be rolling off to one side. Only when I was happy with the position did I start pegging it out and feeding through the poles.
The couple who run Camping Argostoli are lovely people, as are the extended family who help them out with the day-to-day care and maintenance of the place. They are all kind, wonderfully hospitable and laid-back in a way that doesn’t make you feel like your every move is being monitored. There was hand soap at the basins and detergent at the kitchen sink; thoughtful little details that help make it easier for travellers who come with backpacks and tents, rather than fully outfitted camper vans.
We had arrived in a taxi from Vigla Village with a few supplies that required refrigeration. After asking if we could possibly store some items in a fridge in the reception office, they said instead they would deliver a small fridge to our campsite and by the time I had pitched the tent, it was there, and at no extra charge. We gathered some plastic chairs and tables from around the place, strung up a clothes line, plugged in the fridge and we were set to go.
After a day or two we hired bikes and rode to Argostoli for supplies. We were then able to make our own coffee, breakfast and lunch as a way of saving some money on food. Generally we would still eat our evening meal at the restaurant on the camp site, which offered good value home-cooked meals.
One of the key principles about this kind of camping is staying organised. Most of your gear remains in your backpack which we each stored in a vestibule on either side of the tent. We kept essential items such as water, insect repellent, sunscreen and head torches close at hand to ensure they were always easy to locate.
We hand-washed our clothes, made plates out of plastic packaging containers, avoided buying anything that wasn’t essential and made the most of our surroundings. The hard reddish-brown soil, littered with dried leaves and smashed olives and the silvery green leaves of the olive trees against the bright blue sky reminded Clare of Palestine. It was a nice introduction and transition into the landscapes we would encounter later in our trip.