That is a warm welcome! Owner Janny Dekens is ready with home-baked cake on a gingham cloth when I bump into the grounds of the Vechtdal campsite in Nieuwleusen with my large camper. Hubby Luit Dekens is now heating the hot tub: four of the twelve camper pitches in the pasture have such a luxury.
Once the camper is in place and plugged into the electricity, the firepit turns on. Because although the temperature is mild for the time of year, all the extra heat is needed, including that from the electric heater in the camper. Two of the four seats from the garage that the camper has are unfolded, the cap comes off the wine bottle: life is good. Especially when the second glass of red wine is consumed in the hot tub, which has reached 38 degrees. Winter camping is not that bad!
The fire pit, the hot tub warm: winter camping is not so bad.
Ⓒ Frans Paalman
More and more campers notice this. Corona has many disadvantages, but the advantage is that we are increasingly discovering our own country and taking advantage of these kinds of opportunities. After all, there is plenty of room, even in the spotless sanitary facilities that are allowed to remain open.
My camper is equipped with a surprisingly large shower with toilet. The two Volkswagen vans with pop-up roof of my neighbors who celebrate their girlfriends anniversary, do not have that luxury. They are also allowed to use the Finnish sauna that is hidden on the site.
Earlier that day I picked up “De Bul”: my camper that owner Gerrie van Wely rents out via the sharing platform Goboony (see box). The day before I was able to prepare myself through two extensive instructional videos, although the owner will check all points again when I come to pick up the four-wheeler. De Bul lives up to its name. Quite a case to hit the road, knowing that the last time I drove a motorhome was over 15 years ago. That was in the mountains of New Zealand, then ever guessedaus still work on the Dutch highway?
On the road with such a large colossus: some getting used to, then a breeze.
Ⓒ Sander de Bokx
Although you have to realize that the handbrake is on the left and must go all the way down, otherwise lights will come on after a bend and sounds will go off. After the first two somewhat awkward turns, the feeling is there and I can chug. Music on and the woman of the world feeling is complete: what a freedom to go out with everything you need! Cooking is also easy to do: the camper has three spacious hobs.
The first ordeal of winter camping is the night: although not very cold, but for a cold like me, the temperature drops enough to pull an extra duvet over me on one of the two double beds in addition to a winter duvet, wool blanket and goat wool socks. At night the rain taps comfortably close to my head: the bed, which can be reached with a retractable ladder, is located just under the roof.
Waking up nicely with the winter sun.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
In the morning, a basket with bread is ready under the canopy. One by one the doors of the campers are slid open; half of the camping pitches are occupied. Remarkable and partly due to the corona crisis: the neighbors would otherwise have been in Spain, for example, now in the steaming hot tub in the Vechtdal.
Full of nature
Time to say goodbye to Janny and Luit who looked after me almost like an adopted daughter. The next campsite awaits: De Barendonk estate in Beers, Brabant, just over an hour and a half away. I arrive just before dusk, but it’s nice not having to drive in the dark with such a beast.
De Barendonk is completely different: larger, surrounded by forests and meadows, and a certified nature campsite. A historic place: the reception, the shop with local products and the spotless facilities are located in a part of the country house on a mound that dates from 1484 and has had its current form since 1796. Since 1996, owners Liesbeth and Jan Hermanussen-Thijssen have renamed the family property a recreation destination, in addition to the dairy farm that has existed for years. You don’t get the cheese much fresher.
Only one of the 30 places divided over four fields is occupied. That will be busier in the coming weeks, according to the number of bookings. In Corona time, more and more people find their way to the campsite. A cozy fire basket can be placed at every spot, which enhances the winter camping feeling.
The winter campers are different from the summer guests, I let myself be told. At least, on this campsite. More robust, more of the outdoor activities. They don’t turn their hand to sleep in a tent in freezing temperatures. Respect, because it is easy for me to talk in my luxury camper.
The campsite almost for myself: what a unique thing!
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
In the meantime, the home front is stirring: by myself on such a dark campsite. should that be? With the curtains closed and the door locked, the camper could have been anywhere and thanks to everything I have at hand, I don’t have to get out anymore. The heating goes on again, as does the tea light you brought along. Music on, laptop at hand, goat wool socks back on, a simple meal prepared from the (gas) oven: this life is starting to fit me more and more.
Funny how quickly you get used to the things that make traveling with a camper easy. Before driving: check whether everything is fixed, otherwise the dishes will fly out of the cupboard at the first corner, the caps on the drain of the sinks because otherwise the movement will create a not too fine odor and all doors (including the garage and water supply) properly locked, otherwise they will open spontaneously while driving. Everything in a fixed place (and put it back there) for an overview.
Once the curtains are closed, there is your own world, including a block of rush cheese, bought in the shop belonging to the campsite with local products. Make sure you have enough wine stock or drive past a supermarket before you park the vehicle at the campsite, because once on site there will be nothing more of it. Then bring your own tea. And send an app to the home front that tomorrow morning I will immediately respond whether I have been dragged into the Brabant forests.
In the morning I wake up with the rising sun from those forests. That is also nice about the camper: windows everywhere so that you always wake up on one side with a beautiful view. The hoarfrost lies over the meadows, the mist gives a mystical image, something different from camping in the summer. Here, too, an additional basket with breakfast awaits you in the morning, again a corona development. The owners also noticed that although campers have everything with them, they appreciate a breakfast service like hotels do.
A bread basket with breakfast can be ordered at many winter campsites.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
The third and last campsite is waiting, on to Noordwijk. Camping De Duinpan has many permanent pitches for large caravans. A stone’s throw from a beautiful dune landscape and the beach. For twelve years, this location now also receives visitors in winter. The winter season spots are increasingly being booked because people prefer to pay € 200 more per year than for a parking facility. In this way, they can also use their place on wheels in winter, also because the winters are getting milder and therefore more attractive for a weekend.
From camping De Duinpan you can walk straight onto the beach for a refreshing walk.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
It takes some maneuvering to steer the seven-meter-long colossus between the tightly trimmed hedges, but once in place, I am welcomed in the evening by a group of rabbits who are curious and almost tame on the empty spot next to me.
The clear night shows the stars (and sporadic aircraft from Schiphol) clearly through the skylights of the camper. Such a clear night also ensures a low temperature, both outside and in the camper. Early in the morning I turn the supplied electric heater to the highest setting. But a little suffering is allowed, isn’t it? After all, it remains winter camping.
Airbnb for RVs
We rented the camper through Goboony: a platform, founded five years ago, where camper owners can rent out their vehicle for periods when they are not using it themselves. A kind of Airbnb with a choice of more than 4000 campers of all shapes and sizes. Picking up itself is like picking up a rental car: fill in the papers, check the condition of the camper and drive! Problems on the road? A call or text and help is there.
This year 50,000 people traveled via this platform; a doubling of the number of bookings and the camper offer.
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