If you truly want to experience the bush you need to immerse yourself in it. There is something spiritual about camping, shedding away the complexity of life, divorcing your brain from unearthly patterns of technology and being at peace away from the humdrum of humans with long lenses and the screeches of “Oh my god! It’s an IMPALA!!!” often heard in less remote parts of Africa.
There is perhaps no better place to experience what our great earth has to offer than in the land of our northern neighbours, so I set off for Namibia with a rooftop tent, a spade, a couple of cast iron pots, a muslin cloth, a fire extinguisher and a cooler box of beer. I went to seek out two of the truly great pleasures in life, fire-cooking and beer-sipping under the great African skies.
My destination, Spitzkoppe, where grand granite boulders protruding from the stark desert have provided shelter for animals and humans alike for 12,000 years. Indeed, this is where scenes from the prehistoric action movie 10,000BC were filmed. My mission: to experience these ancient lands with one of the world’s oldest – and greatest – beverages.
Beer is the perfect companion to this environment as beer itself harnesses the best nature has to offer. Beer in its natural form – out of the hands of the bearded, tight-jeaned hipster – is unpretentious and falls into the category of “the finer things in life” just like my view from the top of the ancient granite perch.
The real challenge when camping is not the lack of running water or ablutions, nor the preservation of your food source but rather how to keep your favourite companion cold. You often hear people say that “there is nothing better than a cold beer”, but I would go a step further and say that there is nothing better than a cold beer in the desert. But how do you keep your beers cold when the nearest fridge lies hours away at the end of a gravel road?
Well, ice would be plan A, however as you reach your second afternoon in the heat-soaked desert your beers will be swimming in water better suited for steeping tea than cooling beer. Perhaps the most effective way to bring a hot can of beer down to temperature is also the most spectacular: using a C02 fire extinguisher and spraying directly into your cooler box. It does the trick in seconds, but be sure to have a spare for an actual fire otherwise you might end up using your beer to put out an unplanned blaze.
Sinking beer into the campsite stream is not an option here and I have had limited success with this in the past. I have yet to try burying beer underground but the logic and science is sound. A tried-and-tested method is to soak a muslin cloth and fashion it into a bag, cans of beer within. Hang from a tree and let the gentle breeze cool down your beers via condensation and heat transfer. But whatever beer you decide to drink and however you choose to keep it cold, just make sure you do stock up on beer, because camping without beer is not camping at all – it’s squatting.
Cans for camping
Here are five reasons why, when it comes to beer and camping, cans rule supreme:
- They pack into the cooler box more tightly than bottles, thus extending your capacity.
- Cans are always fresher than bottles and keep their flavour integrity longer due to not being tarnished by UV light – a major problem in sunny southern Africa.
- A thin metal exterior is much easier to cool down than a thick layer of heat-absorbing glass.
- You can crush them, which saves you space as of course, you’ll be taking your rubbish home with you.
*This article was first published in On Tap Magazine. South Africa’s first dedicated beer publication is a quarterly magazine aimed at craft brewers, homebrewers, beer fanatics and those just beginning to dip their proverbial toe into the mash tun