Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Yzerfontein Massacre

My watch said it was five to four, about 30 minutes before my wife usually arrives from work. I was quite pleased to see my wife arriving earlier than usual, we were on our way to Yzerfontein to test my new camping checklist and the sooner we could leave the better. I was rather disappointed when she pointed out that it was indeed half past four already. My watched stopped about thirty minutes ago. We were a bit pushed for time, seeing that the sun goes down much earlier now and pitching a tent in the dark is nothing to look forward to, especially if you have done it only once before in the middle of your living room.

We chose Yzerfontein for various reasons. It is not too far away from where we live and usually not too crowded on out-of-season weekends. The wind was quite strong when we left Cape Town, but as we were getting closer to Yzerfontein we could see that it had died down. At the entrance gate I was told by the caretaker of the Yzerfontein Caravan Park that sleeping in vehicles is not allowed. It was actually just a misunderstanding between me and the nice lady and a "kombi that was kitted out with a bed" is considered a camper, so we were good. We chose our little hideout carefully taking into consideration the current wind direction, the closest neighbours and the distance to the beach. The only thing I don't like about this camping site is that it does not have any grass, so my tent was going to stand naked on the open sand. Not that it really mattered, I was sleeping on a blow-up mattress and my wife and son was taking the kombi. There weren't many people in the camp, so finding the best spot was not difficult. I immediately started with the tent. I was impressed with myself. After 15 minutes the tent was standing. The sun was already going down so we unpacked the car, pumped up the mattress and started the fire. The whole idea was to see if my camping checklist had everything that was needed for camping, so we weren't going to do the walk on the beach first, etc, etc.

On the menu for the evening were lamb chops, pork rib, mushrooms and "braaibroodjies" (sandwiches toasted over the fire). My first correction on the checklist was changing "beers" to "plenty of beers". My son kept asking me why we are camping and I was hoping that after this camp he would've dicovered the answer for himself. After finishing a real good meal with nothing missing my wife put my son to sleep and then joined me by the fire until we watched the last log turned into ash. It was two days after full moon and the moon still had enough shine to create a very relaxing and romantic atmosphere. Far in the distance we heard people cheering and we assumed that the Stormers were giving the Crusaders a hard time. Apart from that it was very quite and the only other sound we could hear was the waves breaking on the beach not far from where we were. A perfect evening and at this stage a perfect checklist....

We sadly parted ways at around ten o' clock, my wife to the kombi and myself to the tent. We were thinking of leaving our son in the kombi and then both go for the tent but knowing that he might wake up at any moment and find himself in an unfamiliar setting could maybe ruin the sleep of the other few happy campers. So we decided to do what's best for him and stuck to our initial plan. I love sleeping in a tent, especially if there is a soft wind blowing. The movement of the tent, sometimes against your body really gives you that feeling of being outdoors. I've slept on a few occasions under the stars, but that can only be done in places where it is really hot and where you will not be covered in dew the next morning.  This was not one of those places, so I was glad that I had something to cover me. By this time all the cheering died down and all I could hear was the breaking waves and the leaves in the trees.

The mattress was quite comfortable. Actually better than the the one in the kombi and even better than the king size I bought for our bedroom a few months ago. I fell asleep very quickly and the first time I opened my eyes were around 3.30 am. I realized at that point that I was awake and that continuing my sleep was not going to happen without effort. I lied still and listened to the sounds outside. I could still hear the waves and the leaves...and then I heard footsteps. Ok, I am still not sure if it was really footsteps, but being a horror movie freak it didn't take me long to go back to all the gruesome scenes from movies were stupid teenagers go camping somewhere in the woods where there are already rumours about a crazy madman roaming the woods slaughtering people one by one. The thought of lying in a tent that does not give much protection from whetever may be lurking outside, was not very reassuring either. I remembered that I left the axe outside against a tree and thought to myself that stupid moves like that apparently does not only happen in movies only. There I was, a grown-up man who has to protect his wife and child, shivering while I was writing the script for "The Yzerfontein Massacre".

I was shivering all right, but that was really not because I was scared. It seemed like the air in my mattress cools down at the same rate than the earth's surface. Besides, that was exactly where I was lying, a couple of centimeters above the earth's surface, at 4 in the morning and only covered in a single bed duvet. I was wondering what else I could put on my camping checklist to prevent this from happening again. I still couldn't sleep so I decided to get up and answer nature's call which would've kept me awake in any case if I didn't go. I zipped open the tent and climbed out like a real McGyver. The moon was right above me and there was enough light for me to see that there was no madman walking around with an axe. The axe was where I left it. I peeped through the kombi's window and saw my wife and son all snuggled up, unaware of the massacre going on outside. I did my thing and climbed back. Funny enough it felt a little bit warmer when I got in, probably because it was much colder outside the tent than inside. The only way for me to fall asleep again was to grab my Nokia 500 ExpressMusic and to listen to some songs. I think I listened to about four songs before I dozed off again.

When we woke up the next morning the sun was yet to come up. My son prefers to wake up really early in the morning, especially on weekends. We still cannot figure out how he knows that it is a weekend, but somehow he manages to pull us out of bed on the only two days when we can afford to sleep late. We took a stroll down to the beach and after a while returned to the camp site do start our breakfast. This included bacon and eggs, toast, yoghurt and muesli, just like the camping checklist predicted. Of course there was coffee as well. What is camping without that first cup of coffee in the morning? I decided not to tell my wife about the footsteps, did't want to scare her away from any future camps. My son was still asking why we camp and I realized that we will have to do a few more before he might realize why. If it wasn't that my wife had to go work on this lovely Saturday, we would've probably spend more time on the beach, but we had to pack up and just tossed everything into the kombi. At nine we handed in the gate and ablution keys and were on our way home. On our way back I tried one last time and asked my son if he liked the camping. "No", he said, "I couldn't play with my toys in the sand". Well, next time we will make sure that we spend more time on the beach and then I will ask him again. For my checklist test...passed with destinction!

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