Look Up

Words: Chris Booth
Photographs: Fiona Christensen

If there’s one piece of advice I can give to any camper, it’s this: Look Up. If you’ve ever been camping outside of the city limits, then you will have been told by someone to look up, to gaze at the beautiful stars, and let yourself be overwhelmed by the infiniteness of space.

“Wow, look at the stars…” This is something that will be said at least a hundred times a night if you go camping. And believe me this is coming from a camping veteran. Ever since I was little, I’ve been camping. In fact, I don’t even remember my first camping trip, that’s how young I was. But no matter who I go with – whether it’s Scouts, Scripture Union, high school camping clubs, or festival goers, the result is always the same: Someone will say “look up at the stars”. And I will never regret doing it.

Recently, I went to AfrikaBurn and for the few days that I was there, I began a ritual that I would try and complete every night before the sun went down. I would make supper (making sure to use as minimal cutlery, crockery and dishes as possible), wash up the dishes I did use (so that I’m not doing it when I’m meant to be partying), and then make sure that everything is ready for me when I go to bed. The reason for this ritual was simple – it was so that I didn’t have to spend most of my time scrounging around my tent with a torch light, trying to find my see-through contact container to take my eyes out. But there was another reason for this ritual… it was so that I could perform my favourite night-time camping activity – staring up at the stars.

Even though I still partied hard at AfrikaBurn, I would often find myself sneaking off to the toilets for some midnight stargazing. For those of you that haven’t been to AfrikaBurn, you have to understand, the toilets are open-air. They may be smelly long drops, but once your cheeks have hit the seat, you feel a calmness wash over your body as you stare up at the Milky Way – taking in all the vastness of the universe as you sit there bare-assed. It is the most amazing and intense feeling you could feel. It’s true when they say that cities have ruined the night sky – because they have. Sitting outside in nature, looking up at those magical white spots blinking back at you is the best experience you could have.

Indeed, most people go camping for other reasons – they want to learn how to tie knots, they want to learn about God, they have to go due to some obscure rule, or they go to party the day and night away – but once there, everyone feels the need to look up and to marvel at the night sky. Some say it makes them feel insignificant, some people say it makes them see God, some say it makes them want to escape, and others say it makes them think ‘what did I just smoke?’. This is the power of the true night sky – one unobscured by the mass of light emanating from major cities. So the next time you are out there in the wilderness, remember to look up and to think – I’m not going to tell you about what, you’re going to have to discover that for yourself.