Daily Dispatch

Vagaries of an air mattress


AN INFLATABLE mattress is a lot like a poorly prepared cricket pitch – it produces variable bounce. That’s something batsmen dislike, while tenters aren’t too happy about a bed with unpredicta­ble consequenc­e either.

We campers try to make our outdoor adventures as comfortabl­e as possible. Some prefer a stretcher to sleep on, but stretchers tend to take up valuable vehicle space, while a deflated mattress folds into a small package.

The trouble with a mattress, however, is it is full of air, which in itself has good and bad qualities. In the heat of the day when inflated, it feels just right. Come the middle of the night when air is cold, its volume contracts and the firm bed you went to bed on turns slowly into a wobbly mass that sags in the middle.

This weekend these Chiels will exchange their firm, brand new double bed at home for two blobs of cold jelly. We’ll be bedded down at Nossob camp in the Kgalagadi Game Reserve, the first of three we’ll visit in two weeks there.

But there is one small problem. Day temperatur­es this time of year in the Kalahari are often around the 30°C mark (when we’ll inflate our mattresses); at night they plunge to freezing (when we tuck ourselves into sleeping bags).

What’s more, an air mattress has no insulation quality whatsoever, so you also need to roll yourself up in an extra blanket or two. Long johns, thermal undergarme­nts, a beanie and a thick pair of woollen socks also help.

Most of all, you don’t want to drink too much in the evening. Having to get out of bed in the middle of a chilly night is to be avoided at all costs.

We’re going with Mrs C’s sister and her husband from Cape Town. They’ve got a swishy rooftop tent, while we’ll pitch ours on the ground. Not that it makes any difference temperatur­e-wise. It’s just they’re more concerned about crawlies.

Liz informed us she was taking a mosquito net to sleep under. “A mosquito net . . . in winter . . . in the desert?”, we queried incredulou­sly. Not for when we’re camping, we were told, rather for when we share a hut at Mata Mata.

“But there aren’t any mosquitoes there either,” we said.

It turns out they’ve been talking to some Cape Town friends who had a couple of dodgy experience­s while staying at Mata Mata. The first was spotting a snake slithering through the rafters in the veranda outside; the second was when they were in their beds and a bat fell out of the thatch and landed on the woman’s pillow.

Ouch! Mrs C’s not too enamoured about that idea – well both really. Must say I’m not either.

But we won’t be going the mosquito net route, but you can be sure we’ll check around the thatch.

We also hear that there have been good summer rains in the Kgalagadi this year with red dunes turned into swaths of green grass and beautiful flowers.

Our last visit was in 2004. It will be good to experience the contrast between then and now. See you in a couple of weeks. Chiel today is Robin Ross-thompson; robinrosst@gmail.com

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