My gloriously wayward Mum and I were discussing the survey conducted by the National Trust that concluded that a third of people had never swum in natural water.
“I am not sure I have ever swum in natural freshwater” I said wistfully.
She fixed me with a look.
“Darling, what about the trip to the Transkei that resulted in two weeks in bed, four weeks on crutches, repeated reoccurrences of the infection on your return to the UK which ultimately led to being admitted to hospital a week’s worth of IV antibiotics?”
Ah yes, the World’s 3rd Most Disastrous Camping Trip EverTM
Because however you spent your Millennium Eve, I am pretty sure it wasn’t spent sitting on a large rock on the Wild Coast of South Africa, 160km from the nearest town, being comforted by a girl dressed as a fairy while a piper in full highland regalia droned out Auld Lang Syne.
Or that on another night you got back to your tent, prepared to go to bed, slipped into your sleeping bag only for your toes to meet the African Bullfrog that had ‘found’ its way in there.
Or as the trip was entering its last days that the entire region would experience the worst flooding in 40 years resulting in half of the campers being unable to get out of the campsite for a full week. (I fell ill 36 hours after leaving, the thought of what might have happened is quite scary.)
But it wasn’t all bad. Actually it was great! I spent happy days in the river playing with the local kids even though my Xhosa and their English were pretty limited.
Take me for a beer sometime and I will tell you the story of how on the last day of 1999 some of the campers, stoned to the heavens, appeared over the hill on horses they had miraculously acquired like some S Club Magnificent 7.
My favourite memory is buying a faded kikoy (brightly-coloured cotton cloth) from one of local kids, paying with a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Admittedly he wanted money, but the book was the next best thing.
I still like to think that somewhere there is a young man who knows where his towel is. Not his kikoy, however, which ten years on is more faded than ever and currently drying in the garden.
Sadly it was our river swimming that started all the trouble. Now how on earth could I forget that?