Photo: Campsite under the pine trees
We were not disturbed by bears, or anything else, in the night. I was cosy as warm toast in my three-season sleeping bag.
TH was always first up in the mornings. He would brew the tea and then thrust a hot steaming cup through the tent flap, while I was still curled up in my bag. I would groggily sip it, while trying to prise open my eyes. Mornings are not my thing.
However, this morning I needed more speed. We had decided to photograph our sponsored tent (thanks to the Kiwi Camping Company http://www.kiwicamping.co.nz/ ), with the majesty of the Yosemite granite cliffs in the background. This meant we had to break camp and whiz up the tent again, but in one of the spots with glorious views – these places were always "no camping" zones, of course.
We figured that if we got up at dawn, then very few people would be around to notice us. If they did, then hopefully they wouldn’t think that we’d be making camp for the night, at that early hour. F1 & F2 hated mornings more than I did. When we discussed tactics the night before, they decided we would be on our own on this exploit.
After the warmth of the tent, the air outside was rather brisk that morning. We hobbled stiffly about in the cold, trying not to make too much noise in the still quiet campsite. We threw the tent in a big heap into the back of the Land Rover and scampered off to a place we had noted the night before.
We were still getting familiar with this new tent, but it was so easy to erect. There was only one centre main pole and one peg in each of the four corners. Later in the trip, when we were more practised, we could set up our entire camp, complete with sleeping bags, cooking equipment and deck chairs, in less than two minutes.
TH banged off a number of shots with his camera, while I kept an eye out for park wardens and sheriffs. I had our "brag book" ready. This book was our badge of honour, and it proved very handy during the trip when applying for visas, impressing local dignitaries and cutting through bureaucratic officialdom. It contained our press clippings, some give-away promotional material about the expedition and letters of recommendation from highly placed people. On the opening page was a letter from the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Hon. Jenny Shipley.
"It is with much pleasure that I introduce TH and Eventful Woman (of course she used our real names), who are planning a very special expedition around the world in Land Rovers.
To endeavour to cover approximately 28,000 km and visit over 30 countries over 12 months is no mean goal.
The expedition is certainly a testament to the vision and tenacity of these spirited New Zealanders.
I look forward to following their progress and wish them all the best in this endeavour." Ends.
We hoped that the phrase "spirited New Zealanders" would cover us for temporarily erecting a tent in an illegal spot. If not, then certainly the words "I look forward to following their progress" might signal that we had ‘friends in high places’, which could deter even the most over-zealous officials.
The letter was dated 17 February 1998. We had only secured it in the two weeks before we left New Zealand. In 1997 we had already obtained a letter from Prime Minister Jim Bolger but, by early 1998, he’d been rolled by Jenny Shipley in a leadership coup. PM Bolger’s letter was positioned on the second page of our Brag Book, followed by letters from the Mayor of Manukau City (our home city), the New Zealand Ambassador to USA, and the Chief Executives of two of our sponsors: Repco New Zealand and Rover New Zealand.
After the expedition, a lot of people (non-New Zealanders) asked me how we obtained these letters. The short answer was, we just asked for them. And, we were very proud to carry them, and the good wishes of the writers, on our expedition.
However, as further explanation, we are from a very small country with a tiny population (4,000,000). As New Zealanders, we all love to travel and are often very adventurous. It is part of our unique culture. Accordingly, it is much easier here to request, and receive, letters of support for odysseys like ours, from our political leaders.
Meanwhile, back in Yosemite National Park: There were no bureaucrats at that hour of the morning. A couple of motorists curiously cruised past. Soon we had our tent pulled down and smuggled back into the Land Rover. We returned to the campsite very pleased with ourselves, and looking forward to a late breakfast.
Of note, the day I am writing this blog is 20 March 2006, exactly 8 years to the day that the above events were described (20 March 1998).
© Eventful Woman, 2006
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