Monday, September 21, 2015

You Win Some

As the saying goes you win some you lose some. 

Mr. Deep and I created the preparedness challenge that I explained in this post feeling so confident that we would win. Who would design a competition knowing that they would lose? 

We lost. We lost in spectacular fashion. To quote Bon Jovi, we went down in a blaze of glory. Only minus the glory.  

Our losing began from the moment we met our fellow campers at the Crocodile Bridge rest camp. As we pulled into the camp there were two 4x4 vehicles already parked there, both with huge trailers attached. Mr. Deep asked me, "do you think those could belong to the other campers?" Of course I said no because I didn't think they made trailers appropriate for off road. Well guess what? They do and it was. This gives you a peek into what might be wrong with Mr. Deep and me. It never occurred to us that someone would have a 4x4 trailer. It was then I began to realize that Mr. Deep and I were like a high school basketball team. We are a good team but we have never played outside of our division. We practiced hard and prepared well but we were outclassed. Similar to high school students we apparently think we know everything and that everything we do is right and perfect and great and maybe that's not always the case.
Our first clue
We didn't lose just by the mere fact of the trailers. In fact, the trailers could have allowed us win if they had gotten stuck or fallen off the trucks or something. The trailers were just the beginning of our losing. We lost on so many levels that I put together a chart showing all of the categories in which we were eclipsed and I have included photos to prove that I'm not exaggerating.

Fire starting methodNewspaper, kindling and a lighter.A giant can of propane with a special nozzle that is used to ignite a whole pile of logs at once.Not uswho knew this even existed?
MealsSmall pre-planned meals such as steak with couscous and chicken soft tacos.More meat then you can imagine. Enough to share with the entire group and have leftovers.Not usThis could be chalked up to different styles and they were a group of friends all sharing food.
Method of cookingcamp stoveSeparate the coals from the campfire and cook over the coals using a large metal grill like thing.Not us
FirewoodA few bags of split wood purchased at the local grocery store.Wood from the black wattle tree which is native to Australia. This wood gives the meat extra flavor when used for cookingNot usYou can't make this %&!^ up!
BarCans of beer and wine. Wine was consumed out of a coffee mug to reduce number of cups to pack.A full bar complete with special camping tumblers, real wine glasses and a bar to mix drinks.Not us
SleepingA tent on the groundThere were three couples. One couple did have a tent on the ground (bigger than ours) one slept in their camper and one had a tent on top of the camper.Not usIf lions do kill people while sleeping guess who was going to be the easiest target?

Firelighter gas can with hose and nozzle and metal grill
Splitting up some of the black wottle wood

Neil's bar
Bobby also has a bar on his trailer. Sadly this is not a great picture of it. Yes, they are all wearing headlamps.
Yummy stuffed sandwiches that our fellow campers shared with us at lunch one day. These were made over the fire the night before with a special camping panini maker. Our lunches were PB&J!
Our not so enviable setup
As the trip progressed Mr. Deep and I made lots of jokes to each other such as how we were Team Angola facing the Dream Team in the first round of the 1992 Olympics.  But it still wasn't a sure thing that we had lost the challenge. If the trip were a boxing match we might have gotten a few points in a decision from some of the judges for things like "most creative use of regular household items" or "camping on a budget" or "nice touch in adding sauerkraut to your poached hot dog dinner." 

But to keep going with the boxing reference unfortunately a knockout punch was eventually delivered. Our car battery died. It didn't just die. It started dying a slow and agonizing death. At first, we blamed our camping fridge. Oh by the way, they had a camping fridge and a freezer. I saw them eating ice cream pops on day three. Not even kidding. But anyway, even though our camping fridge is supposed to have a mechanism to ensure it does not drain the car battery, when the jeep battery started to die we figured the regulator on the fridge wasn't working. To address this we starting unplugging the fridge when the car wasn't running and we shifted our planned meals around to eat our most perishable food first. When despite these efforts the battery continued to die, we bought ice at a rest camp and turned the camping fridge into a cooler.

I do want to pause and point out that Mr. Deep does get kudos for purchasing a compact jump starter prior to the trip called ResQ. This small little battery about the size of a walkman from the 80s can jump start a car 15 times on a single charge and it really does work. So that was impressive. What's not that impressive is that at this point we were jump starting our battery every time we started the car. Then one morning it became clear that although the jeep started it didn't want to keep running and that our battery was going to die for good and soon.  This was definitely a low point not only because we knew at this point we clearly lost the competition but because we might be stranded and either starve to death or be eaten by wild animals.  When this happened we were about 40 miles (60 kilometers) from any kind of civilization or help.

Luckily Piet was not going to leave us stranded for wild dogs to find. We kept the jeep running and then made a scheduled stop at a rest camp 40 miles away (it took half a day to get there.) When we reached the rest camp Piet called a garage, which thanks to aligning stars was located at this rest camp to fix ranger vehicles. The garage miraculously had a battery that was the right size for our jeep and it was installed and we were on our way. Yes, we were very, very lucky! When the battery was removed it was so hot that we were told it could have exploded at any time. 
This is Ivan the mechanic who installed our new battery. He saved our trip and possibly our lives!

So lessons learned are:
1) you don't know what you don't know
2) there are many different styles of camping
3) always have an extra car battery with you
4) in addition preferably have two batteries one that runs your car and one that runs your fridge and other systems

The other people on the trip were so nice to us. They shared their delicious food with us. They didn't make fun of us at all (at least not to our faces.) They are now friends and have invited us to come and visit them in the Free State province where they live.
New friends. I'm not in this picture as I'm behind the camera.
The ResQ charger got one last use on the way home from Kruger
Park. After we left the park we stopped for gas and came across people in a car with a dead battery. Mr. Deep (sliver of orange shirt) gave them a quick jump.


  1. I enjoyed reading how you didn't win but did! I am afraid I have never been camping nor will I ever go camping! It looks like you had a wonderful adventure. Next time make sure to have the 4x4 checked out before embarking on a big journey! And don't challenge anyone from Vrystaat to a camping trip!

    1. Yes, we definitely learned a lot! Some people are really serious campers!

  2. OMG I laughed so hard at this, you win hands down in the "self-deprecating humor" category. I have a friend who will say "I could have told you say" when you mentioned you would travel in a Jeep. He will SO love reading this and add it to the "Toyota is best" category that he keeps in HIS win/lose camping competition log...

    1. Oh, and I might add to your list: always have at least 2 spare tires with you. Or 3.

    2. Yes, there was a Toyota Landcruiser in the group. There was also a Land Rover and that poor guy was the butt of tons of jokes by the Ranger even though we were the ones having the car troubles. :)

  3. Really enjoyed this! (Over from Sine) You call those saamies Jaffels. Made for many school and church fetes and a camping staple is South Africa

    1. Ah good to know. I need to get myself one of those jaffel makers for our next camping trip. YUM!

  4. Oh hi cat, I meant to comment on the Jaffels too! We just had those at our Team Vuvuzela dragonboat race right here in Nashville - so yummy. Okay, so here is what I came here to post, this is what your blog post inspired me to write: Somehow couldn't post it on your FB page...

  5. So funny!!! I didn't realize how similar we are sometimes in our competitive nature and humor haha. I think you would have been my partner in crime when removing competitor signs at schools hahaha.

    1. Haha! I would love to know how you removed competitor signs in a stealth manner. Did you pretend to trip and grab the wall and pull the signs down with you? Not that I am condoning your behavior of course!

  6. Your writing is hilarious. :D I had to read this post to my husband and he laughed, too. That whole bar-on-a-trailer thing seems a little overkill, so I think you did just fine. Though maybe one of the panini makers would be a good idea next time.
    Btw, I nominated you for a Leibster Award, if you're interested, on

    1. Thank you Genesis! I am horrified that I am only now seeing your comment today and am so sorry that I did not reply to you in a more timely manner. Somehow I stopped getting the notifications via email when comments are made on the posts. Luckily my husband came across your comment and told me about the nomination. I am honored! Thank you! Is the best way to reply to the questions you've posed to answer them in a blog post of my own? Thanks again for nominating me!

  7. Don't know why the Land Rover guy got teased. Those things are practically indestructible. Jeeps are a close second. Toyota is fine but I would never want anything of theirs in SA as Toyotas are stolen more than any other brand as so many parts are interchangeable across years and models.


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.