My new beach project is known to be the “rustic” site. I had been previously informed that I needed to be mentally prepared for this camp. I was expecting a campsite in the wilderness in the middle of an uninhabited beach, miles from any other civilisation, with no running water and a nightmare in the rain. However, this image had not prepared me sufficiently for the reality of the place.
When somebody tells me that something is rustic, I automatically add romantic connotations to it. I was imagining a hammock slung in between palms on a white sand beach, with nothing as far as the eye could see but the sea and the sand. I was imagining howling gales and pouring rains as I sat with other volunteers in the warmth of the camp, watching the sea pounding on the beach. I was imagining showering from a bucket with the rainwater accumulated in the heat of the day. I was imagining playing cards by candle light. And this image, this romantic idea of an isolated and forgotten campsite was exactly what I got, and more: Foraging for bananas growing in the vicinity, fishing for dinner, and swimming in the natural pools created by the sea.
This is what I got… and more.
The camp is 2km along a deserted beach, accessible only by a 4×4, except for when the sea has been particularly vicious and you have to walk in with your suitcase. Not ideal. Luckily the car managed to get half way along the track before I was turfed out and handed my suitcase- not at all practical in sand as I discovered. Luckily the boys from the camp came along to help me lug it over, through the driftwood and wild tangle of plants. It was an overcast day with a spot of rain in the air, and the sea was an angry grey with giant waves. As I walked along the side of it I could suddenly see the camp looming ahead in the distance- it looked faintly like a slum house like in India. Entering the first shack I saw a large living area with a kitchen, driftwood table and chairs, a bookshelf and a hammock. The sleeping area is a two-walled bungalow with five beds inside. One other side is made of tarpaulin, whilst the other has nothing covering it.
Outside are a designated showering area, cleaning area, the hatchery, and the toilet shack. I was pleased and surprised to find that there is even a toilet seat, rather than just a hole in the ground. It is quite a bizarre experience to be sat on the toilet looking at the sea, or showering overlooking the beach. Definitely an experience worth having though- you feel very connected with nature, very rustic, just as this experience promises.
My first night here was a whole host of new experiences. I watched astounded as bananas were chopped up, fried and served with ketchup. It just seemed wrong. But when I gingerly tried one, I found that it tasted just like potato. I was eating banana chips, with a type of banana that we do not get back home. One of the boys had walked up the beach to cut them for dinner.
My second surprise was the way that the patrols and the hatchery are run here. The hatchery is huge- about 400 nests- and so there are two night time watches from 18.00 until midnight and from 00.30 until 06.00, where one person must check the hatchery every half an hour, and take the hatchlings to the place where they were laid to release them into the sea. There is also an evening beach patrol and a morning one- I was to be on the sunrise shift, which turned out to be stunning. I walked along the southern stretch of the beach, watching as the sky slowly turned from pitch black to daytime- it was a great way to start my time here.