In the Pursuit of Happiness…I went…well…read it and find out…

First of all, before I continue this post, there are a few things you should know…

1. I don’t camp. If it doesn’t have four solid walls and a roof, I don’t sleep in it. If it’s on wheels, I’m not keen on sleeping in it either.

2. I don’t mind the rain, as longs as I am between four solid walls and a roof.

3. I have a love affair…with my bed. Sure, I sleep in hotels on the odd occasion, but I’m always happy to go home and sleep in my own bed. I have an orthopaedic mattress, you see…

4. Dogs should be taught that barking at night is a disturbance. In fact, I personally think it should be covered by the nuisance by-laws.

5. I like my shoes and socks dry.

6. I love hot, clear running water.

7. I like to be able to get fully dressed after a bath.

8. I am not much of a mariner.

Now that you have a semi-picture of the prima donna I can be, you will enjoy the story that lies ahead. I went camping this past weekend. In a tent. Close to home though, beautiful scenery…

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but still…in a tent. For those of you who are a bit slow on the uptake, a tent doesn’t have four walls and a roof. It is a material structure, which, if not properly erected will either implode on you during your not-so-comfortable-slumber, or simply blow over in a gale.
It’s amazing that whenever I plan something outdoorsy, something will happen. In this case, everything will happen.

Two weeks ago it was my 34th birthday and I decided that in this new life year, I would try everything, retaining the good…so I thought camping would be a good place to start. I sent out invitations to friends asking them to join me this past Saturday for fun, laughter and memory-making in the sun. My invitation was received with quite a substantial amount of enthusiasm and timeous RSVP’s. A good sign…

Saturday arrived somewhat sooner than I’d anticipated, but I got up early and went with my Dad to the campsite. He was going to set up the motorhome for him and Mom and I was going to pitch a tent for Elizabeth and I.

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Steve and his new girlfriend, Michelle joined us later, along with Sarah (another friend from the gym), her boyfriend, David and another mutual friend, Jack. Elizabeth arrived some time later, a little green around the gills with flu, but soldiering on as usual.

Dad was cooking up a pasta storm while we all sat around watching him. He is so incredibly at ease doing the caveman-thing, that none of us wanted to interfere.

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We had wine to focus on.

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Pasta was set aside for us to enjoy after the rugby. The clash of the world’s best…the All Blacks vs the Springboks. We all piled into the cars and headed off to a local haunt to watch the game. Despite all our cheering, the Springboks lost the game, and we pretty much lost our will to live.

Exiting the pub we were greeted by rain… Putting my best game-face on, I drove back to the campsite, thinking that Steve and Michelle were right behind us. Mom was snug under the covers in the motorhome and dad was waiting for us ever so patiently. Sarah, David and Jack decided to have dinner in their tent, but were soon piled into ours as they’d left the flap unzipped and as a result, all their goods and chattels were wet. After about a half hour, Steve and Michelle had still not returned and getting worried, I called. Steve told me they’d got lost. A likely story 😉

Now seven people in a four man tent is not exactly a bright idea, but we had good fun nevertheless. Laughing and joking and regaling tales of our childhood. I took a sip of my wine (which was in a mug because all the glasses were in the now-locked motorhome. I took a big swig and felt something solid go down my throat. I spat the wine out very quickly, but it was already too late. Jiminy Cricket had made is way down my throat. Thankfully he was already disinfected by the alcohol.

The rain had dampened spirits just a touch and soon everyone was ready for bed. Sarah and David decided to rather go home and come back the next morning; Jack did the same (he had to work at six a.m.). Part of me wished I was going home too, but soon the rhythmic pitter-patter of the rain lulled me to sleep. I was quite warm in my fluffy blanket and comforter on my inflatable mattress.

Said mattress did not remain inflated for during the night, so consequently, I had a not-so-comfortable-slumber. But not before first being assaulted by said mattress. Due to the fact that it was deflating, it was somewhat flexible, so every time I tried to turn over, which was often, the stupid thing would wrap around me like a hot dog, or, if I sat up, it would bend at my waist, knocking me on the back of my head, making me wish that it was morning already so that I could hunt down the barking dog that kept waking me up in the first place. I vowed that if that dog emerged I would bark right back at it.

Morning broke very quickly, with Elizabeth waking me up at 05:30 because she needed to go to the loo. Seriously?! “MTM, please come with me. I don’t feel well…” So, being the trusty friend I am, I unzipped the tent only to be confronted by a haze of smoke. Thinking WTF?! I tried to get out the tent only to walk straight into the gauze. That’s right people, I didn’t unzip the door properly. There are two zips. Once the second one was open, the smokiness was gone.

Steve was already up. Given the fact that he has to be at the gym at 5 a.m. every morning, it is understandable that his body-clock couldn’t sleep late. Michelle lay blissfully unaware of everything around her. Poor woman had worked the entire Friday night, and not had any sleep after coming off shift the Saturday.

After trotting off to the loo, Elizabeth and I wanted coffee and found Steve at dad’s magic bucket which warms water, but alas, does not boil it. Desperate for caffeine I asked Steve if he’d go to the gas station and buy us some and he obliged. He’d just finished putting on his shoes when Mom and Dad woke up which meant he didn’t have to anymore and we could make coffee in the motorhome! Parents to the rescue!

Now caffeinated, I was actually ready to face the world. I just couldn’t get warm though. Turns out that my sneakers, fabulous as they are, they are not waterproof, so as long as I kept walking on the wet grass, the water would seep in, wetting my socks, resulting in me staying cold.

After changing socks about five times, I decided that the only way to get warm would be to have a bath or a shower. I couldn’t get the shower taps turned on, so I decided to have a bath. I nearly plutzed when I opened the tap and brown water came out. Elizabeth was in the opposite bathroom and her water too, was brown. I was not amused. Turns out that the park uses the water from the river which is filtered to remove organisms and such, but it can’t remove the colour. I was horrified!

Knowing me better than I know myself, Elizabeth shoved me aside and poured about half a bottle of bath foam in the bath making the brown water invisible under a white blanket of sweet-smelling bubbles. I eventually climbed into the bath and was pleasantly surprised that the water is even hotter than ours at home! I lay and soaked for a while. When I was ready to eventually wash myself, I realized that I had no soap. Crap! I bemoaned my lot to Elizabeth who came to my rescue with body wash, but not after negotiating the use of my sponge because she’d left hers at home. Fair deal…

Out of the bath and ready to get back into dry clothes…only to discover I’d left my underwear in the tent! So I had to go commando…first thing I did when I got back to the tent was put on my bra and panty.

Dad being the awesome man that he is already had a fire going, so Elizabeth and I held our shoes over the flames and got them dry. A flame licked my shoelace and it caught alight, but I slapped it out very quickly.

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I’d rather have wet shoes than no shoes! We soon found out that the fire was for breakfast, not shoe-drying. Sausages, eggs and buns on the menu. Camping was turning out to be real fun.

Mom wasn’t feeling well, so I loaded her, and some of the stuff we wouldn’t be needing, like the bedding and my clothes in the car and quickly dashed her home. Once back at the site, I ended up with wet shoes again, so Dad said I should check in the motorhome. He remembered seeing mom’s wellies in there somewhere…I found them and soon I was happy camper because I was going to have dry feet for the rest of the day. Or so I thought…

Other friends had let me know that while they wouldn’t be able to camp, they’d join us for a barbeque on Sunday. They started arriving and soon we were a happy group of Dad, colleagues, friends and kids. I should mention at this point that I did this exact same barbeque thing, at the exact same venue for my birthday last year, and it was a great success. One of my friends Yasmin, who was there last year and I decided to repeat history and hire a pedal boat.

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We pedalled up river back to the campsite and Steve and some other guy-friends were standing at the fire, close to the riverbank, so when we pedalled in, Steve grabbed the rope and pulled us in. Yasmin and I couldn’t manoeuvre the rudder to come alongside the bank, so we “parked” as best we would with Steve holding the rope tight. We both got up at the same time and balance along the pontoons, but Yasmin stepped off a split second sooner than I did which resulted in the boat tipping and me going arse over kettle, fully clothed, with heavy wellies on, straight into the murky brown water.

Apparently it was like watching something in slow-motion – but it was not slow enough for someone to reach out their hand and grab me without falling in themselves. I emerged from the water like someone who’d been baptized by a madman, hair all matted on my face, clothes clinging to my figure and wellies filled with water and Lord knows what else.

The guys helped me onto the bank but once I was up and I’d realized what had happened, I burst into tears. Tears of embarrassment and shock. The fright was bigger than the embarrassment, because some years ago I dived into the shallow end of a swimming pool, which resulted in my cracking my head open and breaking my nose. The doctor said that it was a miracle that I hadn’t broken my neck. It dawned on me at that moment when I saw everyone that I could very well have fallen back, and hit my head, or broken my neck because I didn’t know how deep the water was.

Michelle and Elizabeth both came running with towels and calmed me down. I was shivering with cold. Elizabeth took me back to the ablution block and ran me another hot bath. At this stage I was so cold I didn’t care what colour the water was. The problem arose when I realized I had no clothes. They were at home, with mom. All Elizabeth had to lend me was her pyjama pants and her top. I put them on, this time forced to go commando, only to realize that the pants were short and the hair on my legs was so long you could pick up a signal from a space satellite. I grabbed another pair of pants out of her bag – mom’s very bright, pink, fluffy pants and pulled them over. Ah…legs covered.

I had to put on one of Dad’s tops over Elizabeth’s one because without it, it was quite obvious that I wasn’t wearing a bra. I really looked glam. Trendsetter, I tell you!

After lunch everyone went home and we packed up camp, with many wonderful memories. I can’t wait to go camping again, but next time I’ll be a tad more prepared. I’ll make sure:

1. To inflate the mattress extra hard and put newspaper underneath it (I heard it keeps the cold away).

2. To have more than one pair of shoes (and to make sure they’re water proof)

3. To have more than two pairs of socks.

4. To have more than one change of clothes, and not to take them home before I’m sure I’m not going to need them.

5. To have soap and all my clothes in the bathroom when I go to clean myself up.

6. To wear my bathing costume if I’m going to be close to the water.

7. To check my cup/glass of wine for bugs before simply taking a swig.

Next camping trip is booked for 25 and 26 October, at a place called Peace of Eden… but this is a different type of camping – the tents have beds in them, and there is a shower off the tent. Carmen and Ewan arranged it quite a while ago. I am looking forward to it!

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