With the food eaten, Ryan’s hand bandaged with toilet paper and the fire roaring, we looked over the amazing view we had found and contemplated the beauty of the nature we found ourselves in. As it was getting dark we decided to grab our sleeping bags and head for the edge of the mountain, where we sat and talked over a can of beer in a way that only lifelong friends can.
|Camping at sunset. (Warning: May contain Photoshop)|
This was one of the most pure, memorable and fun days out I had experienced with my friends, and this moment was the culmination of all our hard work and sacrifice. Nothing could have possibly spoilt this moment.
|Well, almost nothing.|
His sleeping bag was now utterly ruined and covered in a dark brown sticky slime. One way or another Gavin’s entire day had been shaped and ruined by that most unwelcome of stinky spectres. He looked at his ruined sleeping bag; he potentially faced a night of cold comfort and realising he had no choice other than to improvise he did the only thing a man in his position could do. He stripped the outer cover of his sleeping bag off and burnt it. We all stood around the fire and watched as Gavin consigned the outer coating of his poopy bag to the mists, leaving him with only a rudimentary collection of thin foam padding and nylon.
Night time came and we all retired to the tent to get a good night’s sleep before our trek back home in the morning. Or at least that was the plan. What we didn’t realise that Gavin had developed a serious snoring problem in the years since we had last shared a tent. Despite his lack of warmth from only having half a sleeping bag, he fell asleep almost instantly, leaving his companions with a night of misery and torment.
The hours till morning passed slowly. As I laid there, either waiting for sleep or the sweet embrace of death, I started to think of clever new ways to get to sleep. But exhausted and with a back full of rocks, most of my ideas sadly involved covering various parts of my face with socks. For some reason this did not work as well as I had hoped.
The night went at a deathly pace. All that could be heard throughout the forest was the non-stop rattling of Gavin’s diseased lungs as he did his best drowning pig impression. Daylight came creeping up on us at around 4.30am. By 6am I was ready to get up and give up on any chance I had of getting an hour or two of badly needed sleep. Neither I nor Ryan had gotten a second of rest that night and at this point in the camping trip we were seriously considering murdering Gavin, burning and burying his body and maybe blaming a wolf or a feral sheep.
But we settled for taking turns sporadically punching Gavin in the tit.
Gavin awoke bright as a daisy and proceeded to bounce around the tent, making lots of annoying noise and generally ensuring that if he was up, so was everyone else. We both complained about his snoring, but he cared not for our night of torture and told us to just deal with it. The mood had seriously shifted at this point. Sleep deprived, sore and cold, we were getting to the stage where harsh words could be said, fists could be thrown and sticks could be jabbed. Thankfully there was still one thing that would bring us all back together and reaffirm our bond of friendship and rescue the camping trip.
|RICE PUDDING ROCKET!|
When camping as kids, we often took several different types of food with us. However as is often the case, we usually took more than we needed and were left with a serious surplus of tinned goods. So like any sensible minded youth, we did the only thing that we could do, we put all the tins on the fire and watched them explode.
To say that several people have almost been brutally murdered from this insane ritual is something of an understatement. My brother once took a face full of exploding spaghetti in a particularly savage tin explosion but somehow managed to survive (though be it as a sewer dewling spectre).
|I'M A MONSTER!|
Another time Gavin almost took a tin of pea and ham soup to the cranium, when, bored of waiting for the tin to pop we decided someone should go down to the fire and poke the tin with a bit of stick. As I type this I now realise that it was probably not a very wise move on our part. But what is even crazier is that when Gavin got within a foot of the tin, ready to poke it deeper into the ashes, it exploded and shoot off like a bullet just inches past his head.
All these stories pale into nothingness when I remember the greatest food missile of them all. The Rice Pudding Rocket. I don’t know what it is about rice pudding. Maybe it’s the thick creamy ambrosia goodness, or maybe it’s the expanding rice that gives it that extra kick, I don’t know? All I do know is that if North Korea is serious about building a proper rocket that could do some serious damage, they could do a lot worse than look into the new and exciting world of rice pudding propellant technology.
We all packed up and I took out the tin of rice pudding. As it was a popular tradition, I always made sure I had a tin in storage should we ever decide to go camping again. My forethought proved to be totally worth it as I carefully placed the tin of rice pudding on the fire. We stood back and waited.
Usually it takes around 5 minutes for a tin to pop, but after nearly 20 minutes we were starting to think it would never happen. Then the first warning signs came. The tin started to buckle and pop as the lid of the can strained to keep the energy contained. We gathered up our camping gear and stood well back, weary of the indignity of being taken out by a Sunday evening dessert.
Suddenly a massive explosion echoed around the forest.
As the shockwave of the blast knocked us back, I briefly saw a small silver can streak towards the heavens at a speed I would not thought possible. The can then disappeared from my sight as it continued it’s law of physics defying upwards trajectory. We inspected the now extinguished fire and could not find one grain of rice anywhere?
We looked up to the sky, but saw nothing. Gavin thinks the can fell to the ground nearby. Ryan thought maybe it had landed in a tree. Me? I still maintain to this day that that particular tin of rice pudding achieved orbit and is currently circling the Earth, forever a symbol of man’s ingenuity and quest to reach for the stars.
Having survived several attempts on our lives from masked psychopaths, sheep shit, Gavin’s snoring and exploding custard based food, we headed home. This was the safest time. The time we could relax, look back on our adventure and laugh about the mistakes and goofs we had made. But not this time. This time our greatest challenge was yet to be faced.
Taking a quicker and shorter route back home was of course the sensible and obvious thing to do. We cut through forests, fields and over fences. We were now in the home stretch and had saved over an hour already. We had just one final leg to go before we hit the nice, even tarmac roads and headed back to the safety of my house. But then we came to an unexpected fork in the road.
To the left was a clear mountain path that ran alongside the side of the mountain and eventually brought you out onto the road in about half a mile. To the right was a fenced off inclined field, about a hundred yards long, with the same road home just on the other side. We had two choices. Take the long boring route home or just cut through this somewhat ominous field and save ourselves a good half hour of carrying heavy backpacks.
The choice seemed obvious. I summoned my men and told them the plan.
|Tonight, we make our own path!|
Somewhat tired and weary of following me into another half mile of wilderness, they eventually agreed and followed me as we took to the field….. and into hell.
For the first 50 meters or so everything went fine. The ground was a little uneven, but we had faced worse and despite a few slips we felt this was something we could handle no problem.
Things started to take a turn for the worse however when we started sinking.
Unbeknown to me, I had led my men into a festering bog of sinking death.
Gavin, by far the heaviest of the group instantly started to panic; he attempted to jump from coarse bush to bush, before gravity and poor footing started to drag him down into the mire, leaving him to flop around like a seal on a beach as he scrambled for purchase.
|I hate yo so much Wayne!|
I had no illusions of what I had led us into. I knew that it was highly unlikely that all 3 of us would get out alive, so should one of us have to die to save the other 2, I was prepared to accept that loss. I just didn’t want that loss to be me. So I decided that speed was going to be my ally as I ran like a maniac, attempting to pick up enough speed and momentum to jump over and clear the patches of sinking earth in my path.
|Speed is my alley|
|Speed! She has betrayed me.|
This of course resulted in me running at full speed into the deepest part of the bog. I instantly sank up to my knees and felt my shoes come loose in the grasping earth below as I struggled to reach the fence just ahead. Ryan took a different tact altogether and used both mine and Gavin’s mistakes as a good indicator of what would and wouldn’t work. Using Doodlejumping skills not thought possible by a human, he managed to get to within a few meters of the fence before realising that he had jumped himself into a cul-de-sac.
|Float like a feather.|
|Sink like a rock. HELP!|
Unable to go backwards and this his footing quickly giving way he did the only thing he could do; he got into what was basically a pond at this point and scrambled for the fence. We all reached the metal wire and wooden posts of salvation at roughly the same time. We stayed there for a brief moment and looked at each other, not quite able to understand how or why we had just re-enacted at least 3 different movies about Vietnam. At various stages we had all been up to our waists in Charlie-town and I had even got ready to say my goodbyes, but managing to pull ourselves out of the quagmire (though be it with some of us shoeless and close to death), I estimated we had saved a good twenty minutes. Which you can’t really put a price on….
|20 minutes people! That's almost an entire episode of South Park|
Deciding to say our goodbyes before we entered into any more nightmares, it was clear that this had been something of a special camping trip. We had pushed the envelope so far with this one that it is unclear if we will ever take to the mountains again.
We all went our separate ways that day. It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives, like busboys in a restaurant.
Ryan went home and got on with his life. I heard later that he had gotten a job working the line at a Sony factory and had briefly been promoted to supervisor before an unfortunate cultural misunderstanding resulted in him accidently sexually assaulting 14 visiting Japanese dignitaries.
Gavin got married and had a couple of kids. He did eventually manage to get out of Maerdy and had managed to make a decent enough life for himself. Last week he entered a fast food restaurant, just ahead of him two men got into an argument and one of them pulled a weapon. Gavin, who had always made the best piece tried to break it up. He was stabbed in the throat with a chicken McRib sandwich. He died almost instantly.
I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was on that camping trip.
Jesus, does anyone?