(aka: lessons learned camping)
At the tail end of 2011, I started dating an alpha-male. Although this doesn’t exactly qualify as ground-breaking news (I get that, don’t worry), it was a pretty profound breakthrough for me.
“Why?” some of you ask, puzzled, while the rest start tapping their feet impatiently humming ‘Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus’. And since 2012 is being heralded as a year of power, you can ‘choose your blog reading experience’ today (just remember you read it first here – we Nguni’s aim to please). Drum roll for your options:
#1. If you want to get straight to the heart of this matter and skip the background b*s, carry right on to …camping corpus where we get to the bullet point of the lesson
#2. If you’re wondering what weird significance my love life has on camping (or bushes, for that matter) and you generally prefer knowing the why behind the how, let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), cue soundtrack The Sound Of Music (Swiss hills, Aryan kids, cute nuns, Von Trapp stairs, a few of my favourite things et al) and head to the end where the prequel is hiding…
The Kalahari Knight decided the best test of my mettle (and thereby our compatibly) was a 10 day beachside getaway. Now before you swoon at what a charming prince he is, let me explain: we camped, rough and ready bush-style sans running water or modern day amenities (like toilets). While the rest of the civilized world relaxed into a drunken festive stupor, I took a crash course in camping. Here’s what I learnt:
- People who drive 4×4′s belong to secret societies – honourary membership to the Land Rover Get-a-long Gang can be gained simply by being a passenger. Look forward to a holiday of wild smiling and incessant waving to perfect strangers who happen to drive a matching make
- Painting your nails in a 4×4 (even if it is a Land Rover and you’re a member of The Get-a-long Gang) is a massive NO-NO. Attempting to remain ladylike on the road is likely to result in feet that look like road kill
- Should you persist with the pedicure, wisely opt for a shade more neutral than Flaming Fire Engine Red unless you want to look like the victim of a car crash
- 6 hour car trips with young children makes Nightmare On Elm Street look like A Midsummer Nights Dream – you’ll never be happier to stop and dine at a Wimpy. Just don’t let them dip into the sugar…
- Do not accept free gifts from petrol stations. Karoke is awful when alcohol is involved but try being sober and trapped in a slow moving vehicle with sugar-high kids belting out Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). I’d like to thank you, Engen. No, really…
- Always pack your own iPod and charge fully before setting foot in a car somebody else is driving
- Regardless of what anyone says, urinating in the bush is not romantic – especially in the middle of the night when you stumbling around half asleep trying to find somewhere sanitary to ‘go’, avoid waking family members and getting your imperfectly pedicured feet lacerated by mussel shells
- ‘Holding on for grim death’, hoping the urge will eventually pass so you can stay in bed and maintain a semblance of sleep will result in an even worse fate: a bladder infection
- Do not pack double-ply toilet paper as no amount of soft tissue will soften the blow when you inadvertently squat on an aloe (it’s also not exactly bio degradable and likely to get you ridiculed for being a sissie). Pack Citro Soda in case of emergency (the aforementioned ill fate) and remember to read your Getaway ’how to take a bos kak‘ etiquette articles thoroughly
- The sun rises at least 2 cruel hours earlier in tent. Three – if your partner snores. A nasty natural phenomena, apparently
- Bathing in the sea is romantic and novel on day 1, thereafter it simply becomes chilly, salty and unpleasant. Likewise, cold showers are never fun, even when it’s hot
- Showering with an audience, even if it’s family (but especially when they aren’t yours) is remarkably uncomfortable and guaranteed to make you feel royally ‘stuck up’
- You can have too many braais
- Don’t bother packing eau de toilette, perfume or even deodorant for that matter. After day 4 everyone smells a little like You’re The Fire (the campfire, that is)
- Buy solid, practical, thick-soled slops. Fancy, finicky or vaguely fashionable flip-flops will get f*cked up (excuse my profanity but you should see my shoes). Your car-wreck feet will then get sliced into sushi unless you swallow your pride and borrow his. In which case, you’ll look like a clown trying to waterski – on land
- Sand can (and invariably – will) get in everywhere and will take almost forever to get rid off. And that’s just in your sleeping bag. Get dumped once by a wild wes kus wave and you’ll be fishing granules from your ear for the rest of the holiday
- There is such a thing as a salad craving – you don’t have to be pregnant or a model to miss fresh leaves. Trust me, after day 11 of a high-protein, mostly meat diet even the strongest of men start salivating at the thought of a lightly tossed Greek
- Brush up your spelling – you never know when a smart 11 year old will attempt to beat you at Scrabble first thing in the morning, before coffee. Packing a mini-dictionary is considered cheating or child abuse (I forget which)
- Pack good coffee
- Stock up on ‘local-is-lekker’ artisan beer but opt for Darling Slow Brew as The Bone Crusher will, as the name suggests, effectively crush both skull and sobriety if drunk at lunchtime. On an empty stomach. In the sun
- Get good seats – don’t skimp on cheap camping chairs and be sure to spend a little more when buying a mattress. Mother earth is HARD
- The waterbed-like novelty value of a blow-up mattress will wear off – surprisingly quickly (but it’s still way better than foam)
- Braaing marshmallows on the fire is still fun when you’re an adult. Remember to buy enough so you aren’t forced to steal from the children. Follow with wetwipes…
- Wear your own wetsuit (you don’t want to know what happens in there)
- Freshly caught crayfish on the braai is about as good as it gets and only gets better if you have Nandos Peri-naise to dip the legs in (the crayfish’s, not yours… ew!)
- Watching an alpa-male tow a beta-boy from Bloemfontein who bury their timid city Touareg in sand (while on honeymoon with his perfectly manicured stukkie) is very, very sexy
- You can survive without constant updates from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or WordPress. You can function as a human being (relatively well) without an iPhone
- Use sunscreen. Liberally. Especially if you sneak away to celebrate Christmas with a cold G&T and a skinny dip…
- Avoid reacting when your alpha-male’s oldest calls you his dad’s “stukkie” – even if you’re offended, make sure you don’t show it or it’ll stick – forever
Bottom Line? Camping is great, bonding with mother nature rocks and nothing beats getting away from it all. The secret is to leave before you lose your mind!
Pa Nguni is probably about as straight as a fish fork so while I learned a lot about art, culture and being a wine snob from him, very little by way of ‘practical’ life lessons could be gleaned from this branch of my biological tree. Fortunately Ma Nguni set about rectifying her initial error by packing our bags, exchanging Stellenbosch for Underberg (bye, bye vinelands) and preceding to remarry an outdoorsy man from Scotland who thankfully taught me hiking, biking, history and the bush.
Growing up in the Drakensberg meant almost perpetual hikes and other outdoor activities and I quickly evolved into a rough, tough, barefooted tomboy. I became an avid little princess camper who, as a child, used to beg her parents to park the Peugeot in the garden to ‘sleep out’. I invited some girls from school to join in the adventure but surprisingly, none were too keen to camp out in a car. Having given up on girls, my friends became farm boys forcing me to learn their lore: soon I swore, baited hooks and fought like the best of them. The alpha-female emerged.
During O-Week, I joined the Mountain and Ski Club but fell in love with karate. Bio Dad took a brief break from his easel to watch me compete but summarily dismissed my making the provincial team with a curt:
“Well, it’s not Swan Lake”
I suspect I’ve been a constant disappointment – he’d have preferred a neurotic daughter with a modelling career and double majors in anorexia and bulimia. Instead, I went to a shrink, developed an athletic appetite and chucked what few dresses I owned in favour of depressingly severe suits and pinstripes.
But I stayed true to my dysfunctional DNA by dating questionably ‘straight’, shockingly selfish (many a Narci) beta-boy delinquents who reminded me, however unconsciously, of drama queen daddy dearest. Laugh all you want but the number of repressed homosexual men fronting as heterosexual is alarming (your gay friends can tell you how many married men out there are looking to hook up or the boys of dubious orientation ‘who protest too much’). About the only time I diverged from this disastrous dating pattern was with The Mercenary, whom Pa Nguni actually liked, but I suspect, only because he was Afrikaans and sported the same Rolex. Mass graves in the dessert were politely overlooked in favour of watch taste and dirty dollars. The merry murderer ditched a me for an exotic dancer, Tic Talltower, a few months later. Perfect gentlemen, huh?
Eventually I grew up: one stroke and a few more magnificent mistakes later, I learnt my lesson. Which was when an alpha-male, my Knight from The Kalahari, came striding into Scarborough. And bringing us (back) to what I learned this holiday…