It was the coldest few days we had experienced. Just as well, we needed all the fresh air we could to get over the Oktoberfest hangovers. Rising back up towards the Bavarian Alps, the fine conditions gave way to thick layers of cloud, the dew settling thick in puddles on our tent.
In a couple of weeks, daylight hours had retreated and we made camp much earlier. Finding a forestry track metres from the road, we rode down to a clearing full of fresh silage bales. Having punctured our air mattress the night before we tossed up the idea of laying a bed of silage under the tent.
I lowered the barrier arm at the entrance to give us some privacy and alert us to any vehicles coming down the road.
We set the tent, cooked a quick dinner, then locked our bikes together. Early to bed.
Throughout the night we were woken by a menagerie of animals. One cow in particular had become what appeared to be trapped and isolated from the small herd. It bellowed for hours. We inspected, but couldn’t see it down the hill. Foxes did what they do best and made a variety of screeches that also disturbed our sleep.
Early in the morning I remember being woken by an alarmed Tamson and the crunch of gravel behind my head. A utility truck had pulled up and already the thud of steel capped boots began to sound.
“Hallo” was my quickest response as I put on a shirt, zipped open the canopy and peered over the top of the tent – top half out and looking backwards. My sleepy gaze was met with a cold stare. I could make out what looked like a Bavarian logo on the green khaki’s of a ranger…Shit.
The man, clean cut and no older than me gestured at my face. Maybe he was impressed with my moustache. Ah! Always such a great diffuser in situations of conflict. No? His scowl remained. I wiped some of the drool and tried to straighten my facial hair to look somewhat respectable before I was delivered a tirade in German. Being told off in German is in so many ways worse than in English…
Gathering myself I replied with “Ich bin Auslander und ich spreche nicht gut Deutsch”. This was the best German I knew and it pretty much says “I’m a foreigner and I don’t speak good German”.
This wasn’t quite delivered well, mainly because I sang it partly to the same tune (She’ll be coming round the mountain). “Ah, you speak very good German” was the response…Shit. He continued to deliver a lecture in German.
Meanwhile Tamson was hiding in the tent, cocooned in her sleeping bag.
The hidden driver of the vehicle interjected with some more GErman, then the ranger started speaking in English.
“There is a €5,000 fine for camping in a natural park”.
My best response: “OK. We’ll leave right away”. We didn’t have €5,000 to give away! I repeated this a few times as he reverted to German. Tam shrank even further into the sleeping bag.
Eventually the driver spoke to the ranger and he motioned back. He paused and turned back; “Do not camp in natural parks!” before jumping in the ute and speeding off. I fell back into the tent, exhausted from the encounter. The good thing was that we kept a tidy camp, unlike some of the others we had seen. Maybe this was in our favour escaping the fine. Taking a few moments to gather myself, I put on some underwear and with Tam we packed up camp in 20 minutes. A new record, without a hefty fine but unfortunately with a wet tent.
- Don’t camp in national parks, particularly those that have signs, in red, yellow or any other colour for that matter.
- Don’t lower barrier arms, they only reveal that you are camping there to those that know the area.
- Always keep a tidy camp. Always.
- Start speaking English right away.