The first time I set up camp in Mexico sans parents, I had just turned 20. Kamari and Sam and I flew into Puerto Vallarta and arrived at playa Tenacatita with tents, a hammock, a one burner stove, a precious cooler, and little else. Our camp furniture consisted of crates salvaged from a local tienda. For two months, we ate crouched in the sand like heathens. We had to keep the beer and the food in (gasp!) the same cooler. Apparently we didn’t learn from the experience. The following year was actually worse: a camp of nine 21-year-olds all relied on one Colman featherweight stove, which barely worked because we were running it on gasoline. The third year, I wised up, got civilized, and drove down in a truck with my boyfriend. We had a real civilized camp with stuff like tables. We also began amassing camping gear, which we stored in the nearby town of El Rebalsito.
Over the years the cache of camping gear grew to mammoth proportions. Every winter I brought down new stuff: refinements like a third cooler just for ice storage. I’d find perfect items at the Melaque mercado: a baby bathtub for dish washing, a post hole digger for building an outhouse. Friends would fly down and, upon returning to the US, decide they didn’t want to haul certain gear: a decrepit tent, or a cowboy hat purchased at the Rebalsito fiesta, or a rake bought to tidy the palapa floor, or the sweaty, rum soaked remnants of a costume from the Coco Open, our annual coconut golf tournament (lingerie or official golf attire required). All of this flotsam and jetsam ended up in storage, and our camp became more elaborate each year. We had a costume bag. We even had artwork.
Then the shit hit the fan, the developers moved in, and we could no longer camp at our favorite beach. Our camping gear languished in storage for three years. Last year, our friend Dobie very understandably asked us if we could finally empty out our storage unit. Peering into the gloom, we found a lot of stuff we’d forgotten we owned…and a python. Sidestepping the sleeping snake, we threw some junk away, threw some stuff on the roof rack of our van, and donated the remaining random items to local friends (including the tote of lingerie).
This year, I can’t afford another van odyssey, but I can’t survive the winter without a trip to Mexico. So I’m back to square one. Rewinding 15 years to my ignominious youth. I’ll be flying down with a suitcase, or maybe a cooler as luggage. For the first time in ten years I’m faced with the prospect of camping without a proper kitchen. I’m faced with the prospect of scrounging in the sand like a philistine. Over the next two-and-a-half months till departure, I’ll refine my packing list again and again. Maybe I can find a tiny cooler to fit into my big cooler “suitcase”?