Wednesday, October 1, 2008


When I started my “20 Firsts” challenge a couple of months ago, for the most part I pretty much just wrote down random things that I wanted to do, and that’s how the list was compiled. One of them was going camping – not because I’ve never been camping, but because I really haven’t been camping since I was about 12! Since I wrote the list, I haven’t given very much thought to how I’m going to accomplish the items, mostly because I’ve been incredibly preoccupied with varsity and other “stuff”. So, I was amazed when I was actually invited to go camping by someone who doesn’t even know that my list exists (unless Dustin happens to read my blog and I don’t know, which is a little creepy!)!

The camping trip itself was centered around my friend Dustin’s 21st birthday party, and the theme was “Survivor” – inspired by the TV series. The invitations were scrolls, which told us that we were challenged to “out-drink, out-party and outlast!”, while surviving 21 hours! I was a little nervous about the party itself – not for fear of being devoured by “lions, tigers and bears”, but rather because I would be camping with 30 or so engineers, who form the bulk of Dustin’s circle of friends, and for those of you who don’t know, engineers are generally quite weird, especially en masse. Nevertheless, my friend Brad and I drove off to Dustin’s house at the Vaal River – aptly named “Vaalium” – on a Friday afternoon and prepared ourselves for the festivities (or having to crawl through mud and climb trees)…

Having arrived, we were greeted by Dustin, who handed us our buffs, splitting us into either the purple or orange team. We dragged our bags down to the river (a move we would regret at 4am, when the temperature dropped severely, but which was done based on the spectacular view), and set up camp. I set my 2-person tent up by myself, while next to me, 3 engineering guys (Andrew, Jonathan and Malcolm) tried to figure out how to put up their 2-storey mansion of a tent, and ended up with a couple of extra tent-poles, which was somewhat suspicious. So far, we had completed challenge #1: building shelter. We then walked back up to the house, where a ferocious game of volley-ball was underway. I took this as an opportunity to practice my photography skills, because I’m a hazard to myself and others on the volleyball court, although the engineers did eventually convince me to join them (and then spent the rest of the match deflecting the ball away from me).

How many engineers does it take to put up a tent? (Jonathan, Andrew and Malcolm)

With most of the survivors having arrived by this stage – and having suitably exhausted themselves with building their “shelters” and defeating one another at volleyball and pool –, it was time for supper. The most challenging part of this for me was not eating the entire garlic bread myself. Yes, as much as I am generally a picky eater, I can’t resist garlic bread! Luckily, I was soon distracted by the salad – and Malcolm kindly agreed to move the bread to the other end of the table…

The majority of the rest of the evening was spent playing pool, meeting engineers and listening to the merits of aeronautical and mechanical engineering over industrial engineering, playing “30 Seconds”, learning how to sokkie with Malcolm, listening to the merits of aeronautical and mechanical engineering over industrial engineering, eating chocolate cake, sitting around the campfire while discussing the merits of aeronautical and mechanical engineering over industrial engineering (which almost ended with me asking Richard if engineers EVER talk about anything else), and eventually ended up on the tennis court, at about 00:30am, playing doubles tennis matches with Malcolm, Rob and Andrew, and then action cricket with whoever was still awake and sober enough to participate at that hour! The most impressive part of this was definitely Rob, who is a lovely indie-emo boy, who became strangely enthusiastic about tennis at 1:30am, and was tearing around the court, drink in hand. Tennis was actually a lot of fun – although that might just be because Malcolm let me serve, and because Dustin really did look like John McEnroe!

At about 3am, we wandered off to our tents to get some much-needed sleep, and we woke up at about 8am, where we traded stories about who snored, who had kicked who in the head, and whose feet were the most frozen (I’m pretty sure I won!). Then, it was time for breakfast – lots of coffee, left-over cake and some scrambled eggs, mostly eaten by very tired, somewhat hung-over groups of people – and the packing up of tents (and the question of how to remove tent-pegs from the ground when they’ve been hammered in much too hard), and the eventual trek back to Jo’burg!

And that was my camping trip! It was certainly not what I expected, but most definitely enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to the next one – regardless of the scenery, activities, company and food!

The Vaal scenery - worth freezing for!