Thursday, October 11, 2007

The great campervan migration

(To be read in the voice of Brian Denehy, that big fat American bloke who sometimes used to play a cop in TV shows, and, perhaps when he was short of cash, narrate wildlife documentaries, eg: "Patterns in the grass")...

Dusk falls on the African savannah. The low whooping call of hyenas competes with the popping of beer can lids and the crackle of boerewors (snag) fat on the braai (barbie)...

The couple are alone under the African Sky (still available in paperback, rrp $19.95), and they have the darkening contintent all to themselves.

Then they hear it... First a low, far-off rumble, rising slowly but inexorably (right word, Bec?) to a crescendo as the earth begins to vibrate.

The head of the column appears, high and proud, leading the way. The alpha has gained the ascendency and the reward is there for his taking - all of Africa's bounty supplicant before him, the pick of the veldt - once he checks into reception, of course.

Welcome, Legion of Fans, to the Great Campervan Migration (GCM).

Second only to the great wildebeest migration of the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystem (which has kept many a between-gigs American televison personality in narration work), the GCM is becoming an annual fixture here in Kruger.

There is a company, somewhere in the Netherlands, which markets group campervan holidays. This is Africa at her most dangerous, her most raw, a holiday for those not afraid to wear socks with their sandals in public, nor pump out a chemical toilet.

You can hear them coming a long way off. The whine of tortured, underpowered motors and straining gearboxes dragging massive bodies (vehicle and human) through the unforgiving African landscape.

And do not get in their way, if you value your life or personal space.

Muriel recently blogged on Salmagundi about an episode with a caravanning family camping on top of her (so to speak) on an otherwise empty 10km stretch of beach.

This is the way of the GCM. The elderly lowlanders who take part in the GCM have that distinctly European (I'm talking about people from Europe, not white people in Africa) need for proximity to others.

Mrs Blog and I were in the charmingly deserted camping ground at Punda Maria Camp the other day, bemoaining the inefficiency of the South African National Parks booking service, which had tried to tell us there were no sites wtih electricity left, as all had been booked. We scoffed, being the only ones in the campsite, but little did we know, the GCM was just over the hill - all 20 of them.

Zis is zee organised holiday, understant? There is the co-ordinator, or guide, who arrives first and (I'm not kidding here) erects zee flag, claiming zee camp ground is now under the command of the GCM Gruppenfuhrer (I don't know why I've switched to German, as they all tend to be Dutch, though I am sure there are a few Teutons in the ranks of the GCM).

The others rally around not only the flag, but also any other camper unlucky enough to be in residence when the GCM thunders in.

And so it was for us, camping quietly in a little grove of Mopane trees, down on the fenceline.

Before we could say f@ck off, we had several couples in monstrous campervans parking around us, and asking us if the ablution block, which was closed off with red and white striped tape as it's now a building site, was open. No, of course it's not open - that's why we camped near it, just in case a huge party of 20 campervans arrived. We had hoped, forlornly as it turned out, that the GCM would laager up around the toilets and showers.

But why, LOF, do people from the continent have to invade each other's personal space (let alone countries)?

It's like those beaches in the south of France, or Greece, or Italy, where people feel compelled to sit, cheek to cellulite, on sun beds. Why? What is wrong with a bit of Liebensraum now and again?

Perhaps the GCMers assume that by camping next to us we will provide some measure of protection from the lions that occasionally saunter along the (low) fence at Punda Maria.

I can assure them, LOF, they are wrong.


redcap said...

There are Germans, all right. We found some in Botswana. Just two old farts in a van, though - not an earth-shaking stampede of them, thank Ford. Two was well enough.

bec said...

Yes, inexorably is the right word.

As long as you and Brian are referring to a sense of inevitability, which is probably right as long as you don't have a handy length of razor wire to put across the road behind you when you find your next camping spot.

Crookedpaw said...

The couple were relaxing under the African Sky? Must be the trade paperback; the A5 would be too small. Wouldn't afford a lot of shade at all.

They say in order to pique someone's interest enough to get them to visit your blog is to leave a pithy comment, so here goes:

A Pithy Comment.

Now that's out of the way, I can say thank you for stopping by The Bookcase. My exclamation upon discovery of who it was had left a comment led my partner to believe that something had stuffed up with my computer again. Wow! An actual published author.

Of course, you realise I now have to write a review about yours, don't you? And I have to be more prolific. But that's okay; I tend to perform better when working towards a set deadline.

Now if only I can find a publisher who will say "Yes, we will publish your book, as long as you have it finished by ..."

Live long and prosper.

Muriel said...

O, the wonder of the human magnet (thanks Meg). I've always loved Brian since I saw him in the movie The Belly of an Architect -- based on a book by Ayn Rand, I think, that I tried hard to but didn't understand, and the movie was also confounding. But he does have a lovely big voice. (If anyone out there knows why Ayn Rand became the voice of a generation, please let me know.) So good to have you back, Mr B.

tonypark said...

Good to be back, Muriel, in the land of internet connectivity and beer-on-shelves.

Thanks all. Nice to see you, Crookedpaw, and remember, when penning your review, if you can't say anything nice about someone (or thing), don't say anything at all.

You'll still be invited back, as Muriel's here and she was scathing of my sex scenes.

Good idea about the razor wire, Bec. Must pop out to the hardware store.

meggie said...

I also wrote about the magnet principle, in a a more mundane setting. My daughter loves camping, & they go off to National parks in the off season counting on no other campers. Set up alone, in blissful peace. Then the campers from hell plonk down next door, with effing dogs, & loud radios, & swearing matches after consuming gallons of booze. Daughter & co pack up & leave.

aki g said...

That is the space and mundane camping grounds no one can hear you scream

ali g said...

aki g????...sorry... ali g I do belong to the chardonnay set you know