From the swansong of Arnold Paikin to the debut swan dive of Clive Cameron, it was a weekend of high drama as norms, precedents and etiquette were summarily ignored and cast aside. It was an object lesson of how to let one’s hair down and to hell with precedent and regulations. The only redeeming feature was that everybody enjoyed themselves without killing themselves in the process.
Hiking is shorthand for Spartan living quarters, lack of facilities and bland food, otherwise the excursion cannot be classified as a hike. Instead it must be characterised as a Celebration of Nature, Escape from the Wives or a Boys’ Weekend Away but certainly not a hike.
Not that the hiking accommodation on the Lesoba Hiking Trail exemplifies Soviet-style architecture and facilities, but it cannot be categorised as luxurious. So when Rule phoned me and apologised about double booking, I envisioned a downgrade to the lamb’s pen. Almost clutching at straws, my mind willed her to utter the open sesame word, Chalet. Apologetically the magical word was almost whispered. Instead of a nod of approval with alacrity, I pushed the envelope: “For seven?” She relented and gave Gunther a separate room.
In spite of declaring his undying fealty to the Quo Vadis Hiking Club and committing himself to attend all future hikes organised under the auspices of the Club, we forgot to obtain these pronouncements in writing. All was forgiven when Arnold produced some fine whiskeys from his rucksack. Instead of some altruistic motive, as the night wore on the truth prevailed, as it is wont to do, that in fact it was a stock clearance as the Paikin family was disposing of all their unwanted possessions.
Instead of a torrent of abuse descending upon Arnold’s head for not adhering to the Club Rule that ten years notice had to be given in writing before one could resign from the club, he was applauded for ignoring the Club regulations.
Of course, Walter Baumgartl did not comply with this Rule, but under the circumstances I forgave his transgression.
Having known Kurt for 30 years, the one piece of advice that Kurt has regularly and consistently ignored was that by his long-suffering doctors. Irrespective of what problems were besetting him, or what their severity was, Kurt blatantly ignored them.
When I first spoke to Kurt about booking this hike, he was adamant that he would be hiking. Having formed the mainstay of the Club for over thirty years, I took him at his word that the hiking would include the scramble up the crevice on the side of the butte to the plateau above. Where Kurt’s and my understanding of the meaning of the word hike differed was that he only wanted to walk around the hut a few times and then go back to bed. Instead he showed his mettle and hiked to the electric fence and back.
But Dagma will also be proud of him!
Embedded into the fibre and DNA of the Club is an elitist streak. Unspoken, this precludes hikers of less exalted means and ability from being afforded an opportunity to hike with the hoi poloi. This explicitly meant that the plebians were never entitled to become members per se.
In his lack of forethought, Arnold invited one, Peter Glover, to attend the hikes. His ostensible reason, in keeping with the social status of its members, was that the Club required its own dedicated cook and bottlewasher.
Peter’s appointment was fraught with danger as he known to be a raconteur of note who could subtly ingratiate himself into the hearts and minds of the members. However, it was not the hearts and minds that I should have been scared of, but our stomachs. It was Friday night’s meal of traditional Basque food which was the final straw. In spite of my stern reprimand to the members not to be swayed by Peter’s faux intellectualism, fake bonhomie and excellent cuisine, I was outvoted and Peter was elevated to the status of permanent member. That was too easy. I would have thought that a caveat such as carrying the generalisimo’s pack on every hike as well as cooking all the meals would have been the least that they would have demanded as a quid pro quo.
Anecdotally, many of my friends have experienced the “new broom” syndrome where the new maid is a star performer initially and then only to become ever more lackadaisical as time progresses. Please report any deterioration in cooking standards on subsequent hikes. Any tardiness or lowering of standards needs to be expeditiously nipped in the bud.
The drinking club
My initial concern, some five years ago, was that the nomenclature for the club should be amended to the Slacking Packing Club as it more correctly reflected our main activity. Now I am more inclined to err on the side of The Drinking Club as it embodies the Club’s ethos. The lads certainly showed their drinking mettle in that they consumed booze amounting to R 1203 at the Fouriesburg Country Inn during an 80-minute rugby match – The Boks vs the English!!
So as not to alert the wives as to our main activity, perhaps the title The Gentlemen’s Club would keep them off our tracks. This will also provide us with room for manoeuvre as it could include nefarious activities as part of our repertoire.
So as not to get any husbands into trouble with their wives, I will not reveal the names of the excessive imbibers except to admit that it was the normal culprits being Kurt, Gunther and Clive.
Clive’s attempt at a death defying head first dive onto rocks during his descent from the butte was ill-advised, ill-considered and frankly stupid. Firstly below him was a rocky patch and not a swimming pool. When I heard what I thought was a loosened rock bouncing down the mountain, I took refuge behind a huge boulder. Instead it was Clive Cameron practicing for the next Olympics. Fortunately he came off unscathed but before he attempts to improve on his leg breaking stunt on the Num-Num trail, please advise me so that I can disabuse him of the need to draw attention to himself.
The silent majority, with the emphasis on silent, did not prevail.
We are now the quintessential Slacking Packing, Whiskey Guzzling ex Hiking Club.