In our constant search for campgrounds we have come to find that marinas, harbors or kanu clubs will offer very cheap camping. These camping places are much nicer than the big camp grounds because they are in great locations near the water, cater to walkers, bikers or boaters, not well known (read as uncrowded) and very quiet. So, naturally, when we approached Torgau we searched for such a campground. Just before we entered the town limits Jay switched on the GPS and surprise, a kanu club less than a kilometer away.
We pulled up to the outer fence and I called out to the gentleman who was sweeping the grounds. “Do you know of any camping nearby?” in my best German. Unless the camping is advertised we don’t assume that they allow camping.
“Ya, Heir” he responded.
Finding out that we needed to be back by 5:30pm, we darted off to find a grocery store to purchase supplies for dinner, breakfast and lunch. Returning to the boothaus we were greeted by four young paddlers, one who had studied in the US for a few months and spoke English relatively well. (Better than my German). He explained that Boothauses along the Elbe all offer this same service because the boaters like to camp.
For seven Euros each we settled into a camping spot on the small patch of grass between the boothaus building and the dyke for the river. We were given a key to access the bathrooms, showers and a small kitchen and were offered cold beverages for one Euro, on your honor. We were set.
The evening was perfect- I even posted about the perfectness of the evening on facebook. I did note that the humidity remained high- but other than that, we had everything we needed. I played hacky-sack with Jasmine, the 7 year old daughter of the boothaus owner, made dinner, read for a little while and then turned in early. Jay worked for a little while and came to bed around 10pm.
No sooner had Jay settled into sleep did the wind pick up. We could hear the trees above us whipping violently around. We were sheltered from the wind by the wall on one side and the dyke with tall trees on the other. We listened to the wind for a while and only became a bit weary when we started to hear branches breaking and being strewn all around us.
Then the real fun started. Thunder. Flash 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and bang in the distance. Not too bad, we were settled in to enjoy the show. After all, who doesn’t like a good thunder storm?
Within minutes, the thunder grew more violent. More consistent, louder and definitely closer. It quickly became difficult to separate the flashes and bangs- and then it was right on top of us – flash bang and the sky opened up with a torrent of rain. The lightening was so intense like a thousand camera flashes going off right in front of your eyes at the same time in the pitch black night. The thunder rumbled and shook all the way down to your bones- you could feel every clap with your heart.
At times, the tent would light up with the poles making an eerie shadow- a black skeleton on a brightly lighted backdrop. One flash caused the poles to light up brightly – giving an inverse skeleton when all you see are bones all lit up- like Wiley Coyote when he gets electrocuted. Both of us thought we were seeing things – but my hair standing on end told me otherwise.
We decided instantly that we needed to vacate the tent and move into the boothaus. I reached down to support my weight with my arm and found the bottom of the tent felt like a water bed. Water had poured between the ground cloth and the tent floor. This prompted us to move a little faster. Jay’s first comment was “ damn-it, I need pants” and mine “better find my glasses” – and with that we were shuttling everything we own from the tent into the boothaus with the thunderstorm raging on all around us.
We got everything inside and pulled down the tent. Amazingly the tent itself and any of our stuff that was inside the tent remained dry! Yay for Big Agnes Copper Spur Ultra Lite 3 tent!
The bags stored in the vestibule were floating along with our bike bottles and fuel bottles. My shoes, even though they were in a plastic bag were under water and soaked. Jays shoes were saved as he had placed them on top of his crazy creek and they were happily floating.
We hung the wet gear out to dry all over the boothaus and settled in on the floor of the lobby. We were very grateful that we had access to the boothaus. At 6am the keeper came by to check on us and left us a key to a bed room in the boothaus – at no charge. Very kind.
The most amazing part of the whole episode was how fast it went from calm and quiet to a raging thunder storm – this was all within a matter of minutes.
We are sound and safe and have taken up a night in a radhostel – a hotel for bike tourists. It is quite shwank – complete with a bathtub.
Added July 31, 2014: The bathtub was very nice! We enjoyed our brief encounter with luxury.
That must have been one hell of a storm. I have another friend in Germany who commented on the storm that same night.
It was pretty intense! Kind of cool at the same time!