Losing my Splashy virginity

2011-04-28 00:00

THERE are some things in life that you have always wanted to do but never quite got around to. For me, one of them was going to Splashy Fen. After being pestered for months by my Splashy fanatic friends, I decided to go for it (after much reassurance from my editor).

Having never camped before, or ever slept in a tent, I left Pietermaritzburg on Friday feeling apprehensive and wanting to go home to my family instead. However, driving through the mountains calmed me and I wondered if Jo’burgers were right in saying that Table Mountain has a bewitching effect on Capetonians.

Entering Splashy was like entering a portal­ into another world. The narrow dirt road seemed enclosed by trees and mountains, and crossing the single-lane bridge intensified the point-of-no-return impression.

After settling in I set off on my own to explore, being too hyperactive for my camper friends who had mastered the art of just chilling. Walking around I realised that there is no such thing as a Splashy type of person (even though I was told that I dressed like one). The festival attracted all types — old, young, drunk, tattooed.

I danced the night away to bands that I had never heard of before, but who I now love. My knowledge of South African music has never been great and in one awkward moment, while taking photos backstage, I asked a woman which form of media she was affiliated with, only to find out that she was one of the performers.

That night I was the first to fade, the camp fire too smoky to offer any comfort. I froze, ceaselessly shivering, praying for the sun to rise. I never slept, and listened to random conversations through the all-but soundproof tents. Somewhere around 3 am I heard a man running through the campsite, throwing expletives at the cold. He was lost. The pitch darkness made it easy to lose your way among the endless field of tents.

When my friend, whose tent I was invading, was finally visited by the sandman, she found me curled up with my teeth chattering. Thinking that I was going to die, she covered­ me with all the contents of her bag. Her sympathy, however, died the next morning when she found out that I had slept on top of the sleeping bag instead of in it.

I was out of the tent as soon as the sun came out, ready to pack up and leave a night before I had planned to. Before I could make my move the scorching heat had removed all memories of the cold and I was engulfed by the thrill of Splashy. There was much to do, with two music tents, a comedy tent, a tribal village with drum circles throughout the day, a foofy slide, a tattoo artist and the Sharks game.

That day my friends headed to the river to swim. Sticking my toe in I realised that a certain level of insobriety was needed in order to immerse myself completely in the freezing water. So I sat on a rock and watched them and the horde of others who added colour to the green banks. It seemed almost surreal. People sitting drinking beers, neck deep in the water, some washing their hair with biodegradable shampoo and others­ travelling down the river on floating objects. One bright spark used his camping air mattress as a raft and laughed as he floated past us.

Much is said about the negative aspects of Splashy. Sure there are drugs readily available (not that I encountered many) and obnoxious drunk teenagers who you have to work at avoiding. I lost count of how many times we were mooned and how many people­ I had to walk over who were passed out with their face in the mud.

As the ska band The Rudimentals (left) sing, crazy things happened at Splashy. The thing is to just embrace it for what it is, which is anything that you want it to be. It could be four days of debauchery with your friends or an entertaining family camping trip with many examples to point out to your children of how it is not good to drink copious amounts of alcohol. It could be an adventure among the mountains or an out-of-body music­ experience­.

For me, it was a momentary escape into another world filled with many first-time experiences — such as using one of those plastic­ cubicles. And through it all, all I wanted to do was sing, “the hills are alive...”.

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