Friday 21st April – Desert Magic

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I was surprised when I woke up to find a huge lump in my throat. We’d gotten it completely wrong it seems. Jon must have caught a cold on the plane coming over and now I’d got it. Bugger. Worse still, Jon wasn’t feeling any better, in fact he’d gone the other way. Not the best place to be sick considering all the climbing we’d been looking forward to doing. We slept in until it was a bit too warm to be in the van anymore. I got up and got straight into having a salt water gargle. I was kicking myself for having not replenished my supply of Zicam when we were in the pharmacy isle at Walmart. I’d seen the bottle there but decided not to buy it thinking I wouldn’t need it again. Damn it!

I made the both of us some warm oats to soothe our sore throats and we wandered over to hang out with Daniel and Paul over breakfast. Paul’s son and his girlfriend had arrived early that morning and they had plans to climb some classic routes around camp that he invited us along to. Daniel had told us where we could find water just out of the park and that was what we planned to do today since we would be running out of water by the end of the day. We were both thinking that’s all we’d get done, not being in any state to climb rocks. After breakfast, we just chilled out at camp, me taking the hammock, Jon my comfy chair. I blogged while he played Tetris on his gameboy (yes, a gameboy!). It was a nice way to pass the time. In between games and writing, we watched the climbers around us scaling the multiple routes right at the camp. Talk about FOMO!

Later that morning, as Daniel was packing up to leave, he came over and left us with half a dozen plastic bottles of water. This meant we didn’t have to go into town so we thanked him profusely knowing that we could chill out at camp all day, focussing on our recovery. Very kind of him. While Jon was over at the next camp socialising with the guys playing Klop, I was still chilling in the hammock when the ranger stopped nearby and said “I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re not allowed to attach hammocks to Joshua Trees, rocks or any camp structure,” which apparently included the concrete picnic table. What the hell. I told him ok and that I would take it down so made to sit up. Paul saw the whole exchange and advised me against taking it down, which I agreed with but felt like I’d made the effort by making it look like I was getting up to do something about it. When I wandered over to find Jon, I told him and his new friend Brian about it and Brian informed us he’d been a ranger here for years and was the kind of person that, if the National Park service told him to start cutting down Joshua trees, he’d do so. Obviously no brain and no logic, just a guy that will do whatever he’s told without question.

Around lunch time, we wandered over to the day use area because we saw an ambulance. It was nothing too exciting, just a lady that needed a bit of care before she was released back into the wild. We did a bit of scrambling on a boulder until we got into the wind and felt a bit cold so retreated back to camp. Jon made us some Lemsip drink in an attempt to curb our symptoms. It was a blackcurrant drink that tasted good at the start, but got worse towards the bottom of the cup as the paracetamol in the mix sunk to the bottom. We switched positions then, Jon taking the hammock and me making a lunch of egg and cheese bagels. Paul started playing his guitar again, serenading us in this beautiful setting.

When I mentioned we could while away some time by watching a movie on my computer, Jon set about rigging up a system to hang the laptop from the roof of the van so that we could lie in bed and look up at the screen. A very successful system it was, we lay back and watched a 1993 movie called Tombstone, named after the country western town I’d visited in Arizona not too long ago. It was a decent one with all sorts of drama in old school fashion, every step of the story line pretty predictable. We took a break three quarters of the way through to get out and stretch our legs. We were both feeling pretty rubbish thanks to the cold and being in such a cool place doing NOTHING. On the way back from the bathroom, I saw that Paul, Steven and Ariana had returned from their afternoon of climbing. I gave Paul back the $40 he’d given me to buy sunscreen for him when we went to town since we hadn’t been anywhere. They were sitting in his Westfalia enjoying some freshly cut pineapple which they offered to me and Jon. It was beautiful pineapple and gave us a good bout of Vitamin C. After another round of Lemsip, we were back in the van to finish the movie. A very dramatic ending where the main characters lived happily ever after.

Jon, comfortable in the van had a nap inside it while I napped in the hammock outside. We both heard Paul playing his guitar as we slept, making beautiful strumming patterns that he shared with his son. It was the most perfect setting. A good couple of hours and we were all napped out and I needed a jacket thanks to the wind that was gently picking up and the sun disappearing behind the rocks.

We got ourselves up and I got on to making some dinner while Jon played a bit of Tetris. The bachelor’s party next door was getting rowdy already but in an entertaining way. The same as every day, there were people stashed in a hole in the rock above our camp. It was a prime sunset viewing point that was always occupied. The drunken lads in the hole had neglected to take beverages with them and so it was up to their mates on the ground to get some frosty ones up to them. The hole is at least ten meters off the ground and not an easy target, but after a couple of failed attempts that resulted in exploded beers all over the rock, and Jon and I saying “Nup! No way, never!” A strong arm successfully delivered a cold one up to the group in the hole. We cheered on with the rest of the crowd in amazement and awe.

After dinner, the live music that was promised us still hadn’t started and we were both tired despite our day of rest so we crawled back into the van for another movie, this time “Need for Speed”. We knew it would probably be crap and for sure it was, but it was easy, mindless watching. When I heard music emanating from our neighbour’s campsite, it went straight on pause and we were out to join the small crowd that had gathered around the fire. The band Desert Magic consisted of three young guys that had been together for over a year, all of them very talented.

The music was strange, but perfect for the setting around us. They worked well together creating sounds that left us all swaying along to the beat and applauding at the tail end of each song. For their grand finale they performed the Dance of the Planets, a song in which they represented the speed of each planet’s orbit by a frequency of sound. Each planet was represented by a person wearing a planet hat and Jon was chosen to be earth. Though he’d never played a guitar before, he joined the other planets in their procession around the sun (represented by the campfire) making sure to walk slower than Mercury and faster than Mars. The planets continued walking in circles, plucking the strings on their guitars to the tempo of their orbit for about ten minutes until they all came together in the end for a final note. What a cool idea.

The entertainment over for the evening, but we hung around the fire a bit more and talked to the band members. It didn’t last long, we were actually the last ones standing, everyone else retreating to their beds for the night. When we finally kow-towed around midnight, we had enough energy left to finish our movie and finally turned our TV off at 1am.

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