Cave Rumblings

Cave Rumblings

There’s a charming cave in the foothills of the Drakensberg called Aasvoëlkrans. It has a waterfall splashing into an icy pool – great for bathing. It has two levels – great for abseiling.
It’s charming, but there’s no toilet; which is perfectly normal for Berg caves and huts. On hearing the Tartaric call of nature, one wanders away from the place of temporarily fixed abode, with a wad of White Gold in one hand, and Doug in the other. White Gold is our boarding school name for toilet paper, and Doug is a yellow gardening trowel for the purpose of burying the White Gold and its contents, out of sight or smell of man, bird or beast. Dig - past tense dug, schoolboy slang Doug.

Our party of nine teenagers and one elderly schoolmaster had parked the school bus at Highmoor Nature Reserve reception in the dawn coolth of a February morning, shouldered our packs, and crossed the little wooden bridge, semi-circumnavigated the syrupy trout dams and wended our happy way the four clicks to our weekend Shangri-La. Where we sang, swam, abseiled and slipped and slithered all over those vulturine cliffs…
And then it was lunchtime, almost. Time to haul out the lunch packs provided by the hostel kitchen… but they weren’t there. No big deal. The day had left the dawn coolth behind and become pleasantly warm, in the shade, and fiercely hot out of it, but Rory and Pugsly cheerfully volunteered to trot back to the kombi and fetch them.
They were back in an hour and the packs shared out… a bar-one, two juices, packet of Instant Soup, a sachet of Muesli… and beautiful, golden, fried chicken! Dripping warmly in its cardboard nest. It would be dripping warmly. That chicken, that had been fried the day before, had spent the last six hours percolating in the sun-smooched kombi.
Rory and Pugsly were the first to grab the gold and Doug and head for the bush. The extra chicken they’d filched on their way back was kicking in.
Then Dermot; then Dean… the elderly schoolmaster… Pietie… Geoffrey… Jefferson…
There’s only one Doug for every two people and anyway, things were happening too fast for any adequate digging in that rocky ground. And the air became filled with the warm smell of the faeces (to misquote the Eagles); and the ground dotted with little crumpled stacks of soggy off-white gold. Groans of anguish and sad whimpers of distress replaced the gentle cooing of the Rock Pigeons… and misery held the stage.
The groans and soft explosions eventually faded and it was a sadly drained once-happy band of adventurers that douched their nether regions in that icy pool below the waterfall.
Eventually soiled undergarments were soaked and festooned dripping from the willows; bogroll was buried, and appetites were creeping back. Storm cookers were lit and water boiled in anticipation of that instant soup.
‘What kind of soup did we get?’ was the querulous question.
And the nauseous reply was, ‘Chicken’.

It was a wiser and gaunter group of hikers that trailed the elderly schoolmaster over the gloaming hills that February afternoon.

Would that we had had Epic Chow's Tasty Chow instead of that torturous chicken in our packs those two-score years ago.

- Zac Graham

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