The joys of Hypothermia

While journeying from Stillbaai to Gouritz, life got interesting. After having had a nine week break due to a stress fracture in my foot, the time had arrived to resume my travels. My kit was still heavy and “The Bitch” weighed about 31 plus kilos. She was cantankerous and was certainly letting my body know about it. I decided to take it easy and slow for the first few days.

Day two began to get tough. The coast had changed into soft sandstone cliffs that were crumbling into large friable blocks. This necessitated me having to climb over them very carefully. The beaches were a maize of blocks and boulders, the points just piles of the same. It took me the better part of a day to walk about 7-9 km. Eventually, I came to a point where the tide had cut me off. The return did not look great either, after assessing the situation, I decided to camp higher up on some rocks just above the tides reach.

After a lot of effort I managed to collapse enough sand from the cliff face to make a reasonably flat sleeping area. Not big enough to pitch a tent though. “Shouldn’t be a problem, its dry” I thought. Yeah right! The wind had picked up by now and the sun was going down. I gathered a bunch of wood, all wet and mostly old treated timber. The fire was not to be as I could not get out of the smoke and it was positively toxic. Guess it was going to be a cold night. I had a cold meal, donned all my clothes to stay warm, rolled up in my fly sheet and settled in for the night.

That’s when that bloody Irishman, Murphy, decided to come and stuff up my day. About two hours in it started to chuck it down with rain, no problem, I snuggled in deeper and covered my head. Murphy, not content with that then decided to channel a cascade of water down the cliff face and straight down my neck through my sleeping arrangement. I lay there pretending I was a frog in a duck pond. After about two nano seconds I gave up and dug out my head lamp to try divert the water. Alas! Murphy had butchered my batteries. I lay there praying for the acceleration of time in the hope that I could hasten morning, while the wind and rain punished me.

Sometime in the night, the crashing waves woke me from my misery. Only to find that a rogue wave had washed right up to my raised platform and stolen half my wood. Could it get any worse? Yup! About 8 hours later, looking like a sewer rat I crawled out of my hovel. I was shivering uncontrollably, my mind was wading through treacle and my muscles kept going into spasm. Alas! I was going into hypothermia. I could not walk properly and had no sense of balance. Through the quicksand of my brain the mantra, fire, fire, fire kept echoing.

All the wood was drenched, so I staggered around and gathered what ever plastic I could lay my hands on, including a section of fishing net. With hands that had turned into clubs I managed to get into my kit and retrieve the cotton wool. Praise be! Murphy missed it, it was still dry. I dragged it through some petroleum jelly, found my lighter and tried to force my claws to light it. Murphy got that as well, no gas. The wind was fast turning me into an ice version of the hunchback. After major effort I got my fire-steel out and got the cotton wool burning. Fortunately you can still operate a fire-steel without fine motor skills. To this pile I added all the plastic I could find, and what was left of my wood.

The blaze was spectacular, toxic as hell and looked like the invasion of the Iraqi oil fields, but it was warm. I stripped and sat almost on top of that fire for the next four hours trying to get coordination back into my body and stave off the cramps and shivering. Four hours later, my kit still wet, I was forced to move as the tide was low and I wasn’t going to spend another night there. After climbing the cliff to get out, I found a warm sheltered spot in the sun, got some coffee on the go and then slept for most of the day.

By the way I am seriously looking for Murphy as I have a bone to pick with him. Let me know if you see him.

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