June 24, 2010 / 2:08 PM / 10 years ago

Dutch bring love of camping to World Cup

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Mention camping to the Dutch and watch their faces light up.

They are some of the world’s tallest people, but love nothing more than squeezing themselves into tiny tents or boxy caravans.

Soccer tournaments allow them to combine their two greatest passions — the Dutch football team and camping, and some 800 Dutch fans have pitched up in South Africa to follow their team in convoy.

With the Netherlands due to play their final Group E match against Cameroon in Cape Town on Thursday as many as 30,000 orange-clad Dutch fans are expected to descend on the beautiful coastal city, among them thousands of Dutch expats as well as the campers.

“Of course the Dutch love camping. You are so free and can put your caravan wherever you like. Also, you never know what a hotel room will look like, whereas you always know what you are getting with your caravan,” explained Ruben van Geldorp, a 27-year-old businessman wearing an orange cape and shorts.

Asked if Dutch people’s reputed thrift had anything to do with their love of camping he said: “We are not cheap skates but if we can save money we can, and obviously camping is a bit cheaper.”

By midday a large orange crowd had already gathered in Cape Town’s fan fest beneath Table Mountain, dancing and swaying in the sunshine to Dutch pop songs.

“There is a fantastic atmosphere here and at the campsite. It is all Dutch people together and we march together to the stadiums. Nobody cares about how you look, it is all very relaxed,” said 25-year-old Laurent Lebouille, an airline employee from Maastricht, camping with three friends.

The Netherlands’ population of 16 million own half a million caravans, with about 20,000 new caravans bought every year. Dutch drivers with a caravan in tow have infuriated their European neighbours for decades.

However touring South Africa Dutch campers have enjoyed largely traffic-free roads and stunning scenery — and no irritated German or French drivers behind them.

“We are getting to see so much of the country, it is really wonderful,” said 25-year-old student Pauline Stultiens from Hoogerheide, dressed in a traditional Dutch milk-maid outfit.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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