2017 July Camp

Report-back on  JULY CAMP 2017 at CAMBALA

Well, it certainly was a Camp with a difference as we knew it would be
from the very first moments after the decision was made!

It is unlikely that we have ever had a July Camp so close to a
permanent dwelling. True, in 2006, also at Cathedral, we did have the
Base Camp in the idyllic Research Catchment 8 between the simple,
small buildings that had been built to house the instruments when the
earlier research programme was active. They had been left standing
(and looked for all the world like very solidly built, brick
outhouses) and we sited the 2006 Base Camp close to one of them which
made an ideal, icy cold meat store.  It was good to see that these
little buildings have come back into their own, and that they are
being used for research purposes again.

Jump to 2016.

We were so anxious to return to the beautiful Catchment 8 site, but
now it is, judging by the number of vehicles going into it every day,
in very active use for a multi-disciplinary research programme. As a
result, very understandably but very regretfully, we were not allowed
to Camp there. So, we decided to break new ground and have the Base
Camp with a difference in the grounds of Cambalala, formerly a forest
foreman’s home, but now restored. The  KwaZulu-Natal Section of MCSA
leases from Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife and which members can

Yet another difference was that while the Base Camp infrastructure, as
usual and for safety reasons was sited on a mown grassy knoll,
literally in the back yard of Cambalala, the Campers’ tents were
nestled in clearings the Advance Party had made in the ‘nchi ‘nchi
(spellings vary) bush, also known as ‘ouhout’. I am a ‘nchi ‘nchi bush
camp addict, so for me this camp site was highly evocative bliss,
while for many others this was a novel experience. However, as the
bush wove its magic there seemed to be many new addicts. Birdsong woke
me us before the ever welcome call of “Coffee, please”!

Before lightweight tents were so readily available, often an
escarpment sub-camp party that was relying on caves, where possible,
would find that there was one spot without a suitable shelter, but if
there was a copse of ‘nchi ‘nchi bush marked on the map, one
considered one’s party very fortunate and hastened towards that
special place. Hence my fondness for the bushes, which in fact, given
time, can develop into handsome large trees.

Yet another different aspect of this Camp was that within minutes of
leaving the cars parked near the bottom of Mike’s Pass, one was
walking up to Camp along a beautiful Berg stream and into a pristine
valley - one immediately felt the stresses drop away and petrol fumes
clear from one’s lungs.  A few hours later, one arrived at Base Camp
having already enjoyed the first, and possibly one of the best hikes
in the area. July Camp had begun before one even had sight of Base
Camp or tasted the first of the ever-present cups of tea or coffee.

Our youngest camper, Roelof Hauman, chose that he and his very
obliging father, Carel, should spend all their three days in this
enchanted river valley. On the last day he commented to his father,
“Pappa, vandag was ons in die hemel.”

But now, the carefully phrased paragraphs give way a racing crowd of
memories all rushing and jumbling for preference:

·         The glorious, ever-present uninterrupted panoramic view from
Amphlet and Turret to the very end of the Cathedral Ridge,

·         Successful Escarpment trips, happy contour path sub-camps
and numerous day walks,

·         We found and happily used Roland’s Cave, but Botha’s Shelter
remained elusive

·         Brilliant red Natal Bottlebrushes in full bloom,

·         At night, the beautifully whimsical coloured solar fairy
lights draped in the bushes and marking Dave’s tent,

·         Brilliant starry nights and fascinating discussions led by
Andy as he took us across the Southern skies,

·         A dramatic full moon on the opening night which also
happened to be Tineke’s birthday,

·         Roelof’s accounts of his daily adventures and Carel’s
delight in having shared these precious times with his son,

·         Being able to alert the authorities to a dramatic arson fire
easily seen from our high vantage point, while still hidden from them
at the official buildings

·         Re-greeting friends last seen 10 or 15 years ago and finding
that though there were a very few minor visual changes, the real
person remained unchanged,

·         The hugs, the embraces and the bubbling joy of greeting old
friends and then meeting new ones that had, till then, been only
e-mail names and suddenly were real people, and kindred spirits, what
is more,

·         The eager delight which greeted the first fragrant
appearance of the famous pickled pork,

·         The enthusiasm with which the healthy salad and cold
meat–type lunch disappeared,

·          The groans of delight as walk-tired muscles were lowered
into the hot water of the old tin baths. All tiredness  and pain
forgotten in the healing magic of ‘one bucket of hot water and as much
cold water as you like’

·         The fragrant, dancing delight of firelight on those nights
we could have campfires

·         The singing and chatter around the fires

·         The joyful, helpful, ever present Scouts who were always in
just the right spot to render assistance. What a privilege and a
pleasure to have them with us. Please become an entrenched part of
July Camp. We welcome you with open arms. Your presence lowered the
average age dramatically.

·         The joy of the Scouts even when weather conditions forced
then to retreat from their second attempt on the Bell Traverse, and
they arrived back in Base Camp in high spirits and wiser for having
made the right decision under the circumstances.

·         The generosity of the Duracell bunnies, Hanlie and Peter,
who brought two buckets of macadamia nuts for us all to share and

·         Delicious sweet, juicy oranges.

·         The wind that came out of nowhere and devastated the Base
Camp infrastructure in minutes.

·         The commitment with which the KZ-N Committee, as a man,
leapt up to hang onto and hold down the gazebos while others struggled
to get the heavy duty covers off and managed to do so without any

·         The sight of the two conical army tents that we use as the
swelling and billowing; the one ripped from top to bottome and the
other one just gracefully sank down on top of contents. Both,
considerately did not damage the solar lighting.

·         Two Scouts holding onto me while I tried to hold onto the
equipment tent which was determined to blow away, but was prevented
from doing so. While this battle against the billowing once-white
canvas was playing out, Jabulani just carried on quietly and
methodically hammering in the tent pegs as they were wrenched out.

·         The laughable sight of fully laden lunch tables being blown
away side-over-side and scattering their loads in all directions.

·         The delight that not one of the Campers’ tents that had been
set up in the gentle sheltering embrace of the ‘nchi ‘nchi bushes,
only a few metres away, was damaged.

·         The inevitable cries of the ‘The bathrooms have gone’,
followed shortly by ‘The loos have gone’.

·         The miracle that next, day by lunch-, a totally different
order was established and the Camp was fully functional again.

And those are just a few of the memories of July Camp 2017.

Do yourself a favour and come to July Camp 2018 and collect your own
vivid scrapbook wonderful July Camp memories.  Every July Camp, is a
Camp to remember and recall fondly.