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Cycad Trail

16 - 18 September 2005

By Aileen Pienaar

“Jy het wat gedoen…………?”

“Die kombi vat petrol, nie diesel nie”

Well, what an auspicious start to the weekend. While the guys stayed behind to sort out the petrol/diesel misunderstanding, Karen, and I dashed off to the Abraham Kriel home to fetch the children. I don’t think the kids knew what they were letting themselves in for because they all dashed out there as if they were going to the ice cream parlour. After squeezing them and their luggage in the cars we took them to Karen’s house where they were given something to eat and drink. The men, being typical men, hadn’t quite finished sorting the petrol/diesel situation out yet. I mean, how hard can it be - drain the diesel out and fill it up with petrol. Oh well. I suppose being men, they have to do things the hard way.

Eventually everything was sorted out, the bags and food packed, the children packed, the volunteers packed and off we went.

After arriving at our destination, the volunteers unpacked the luggage while the kids ran around exploring. Deciding that we had all had a hectic week, that it was too late to sort things out now, that we needed a break, etc, etc, etc, we elected to just park off around a blazing fire, have sandwiches and coffee and just relax. Once the kids had ran themselves ragged exploring and fighting over who is sleeping where, they also slowly traipsed off to bed.

We all know what happens when you don’t do things the night before. So of course there was much running around the following

morning getting breakfast ready, dishing out the brand new day packs, filling up water bottles and lunch packs and all this while you were still trying to wake up. Bit hectic but eventually we got going. The kids were also still trying to wake up so were a bit subdued during the first section of the trail.

Don’t know why they couldn’t stay subdued. But boys, being boys, just had to try and find a salamander so were forever off and running under, over, between, around boulders looking for this elusive reptile. By this time the majority of the party had gone up ahead so I was left with these very energetic boisterous children who didn’t know the meaning of ‘scared’. Well, I could explain it to them in the minutest detail because I swear my heart stopped every time they clambered over a rock, or jumped down from a boulder or scrambled over a cliff.

Eventually I was saved by Karen who came back to find out where we were. Deciding to take a short cut back to the others, we……um……deviated somewhat and we caught up with the others a wee bit later than we thought. (If memory serves me correctly, it was at the camp). Tired, hungry and very thirsty. That didn’t last for very long so after being fed, watered and rested, they were up and running again, very intent on finding a salamander.

The base camp was great for kids because there were lots of places where they could run around without doing too much damage to themselves while giving you the opportunity to catch the breathe you lost out on the trail. And also for planning dinner.

Or so we thought. A person needs to realize that a lot of work goes into making ‘stokbrood’. You have to find a stick that is not going to burn. You have to measure out the amount of dough each person needs. You need to roll it out so that it can go around the stick. You need to be able to somehow glue the darn stuff to the stick so that it doesn’t fall off. Then you need to be able to find an area over the braai that is not too hot or too cold so that it can cook at a nice even temperature. That way it is neither raw nor burnt to a cinder. Please take note that ‘stokbrood’ does not taste good when it looks like charcoal. Very, very frustrating but the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. And it was such a novel idea for them that they wouldn’t even wait until the wors was cooked to put it into the ‘stokbrood’.

Not being adventurous enough, we decided to make eggs in the shells of oranges. Haai, wanneer sal ek ooit leer om my bek te hou?

Cutting the oranges in half and eating them wasn’t much of a feat. Breaking the eggs in the orange shells was quite easy. Trying to put them on the fire without burning your fingers was a little bit more difficult. BUT trying to keep them upright so that they wouldn’t roll over. Boy, oh boy! This is the time when your imagination has to work hard trying to figure this one out. Think I would rather go hiking again. But it was a lot of fun and I must admit the eggs had a lovely orangy taste to them. Maybe we should market this idea?

And then of course the ultimate – dessert. Once again something new. Cut a banana in half but leave the skin on. Fill the cut section with marshmallows and bits of chocolate, wrap it up in tinfoil and place on the fire. Sounds quite simple doesn’t it. Well, it wasn’t. How do you keep the banana closed without spilling marshmallow and chocolate all over the place especially as it was one of those last minute ideas and you don’t have enough tinfoil. Do you put it on the braai or in the coals? How long do you wait? How do you get it out the braai without squeezing it to death with the tongs? Hey! You do what anybody else would do. What you can with what you have and have fun while doing it. Dessert was great. Very, very sweet, but great.

What a day! Walked our feet off, taxed our brains, abused our bodies with raw or cindered dough – naturally we were exhausted. So after everybody took turns in the lovely hot showers we all passed out.

On Sunday, after dragging the kids from their beds, packing lunches etc, we decided to try the orangy eggs again for breakfast. Well, we did it with so much panache this time, you would think we had been doing it for years. Or maybe we were just good!

Volunteers and kids decided that they wanted to go and have a look at the overnight camp while I, as usual, decided to stay behind, ostensibly to tidy camp and pack things away. By all accounts the overnight camp had an awesome shower with a glass door so that you can look over the gorge while showering.

Once back, the combi was packed, the kids packed, the volunteers packed and off we went back home. Some of the things I learnt was:It is pointless getting upset when things go wrong. You need to learn how to adapt. You are never too old to learn new things in life – making stokbrood and orangy eggs was a wonderful experience and seeing the look of satisfaction on the children’s faces when they ate what they had made – raw or burnt was an unforgettable experience.

That children are children the world over. They are loud, boisterous, adventurous and excitable. The screech of excitement as the children find their elusive salamander and the team spirit involved in trying to figure out how to make him a home that is comfortable was worth the heart stopping moments of watching them trying to find him. (They were eventually persuaded to allow the salamander to be released).

It was a wonderful weekend and I thank Karen and Frans for having given me this opportunity.

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