Monday, 31 October 2005

It’s Hammock Time (can’t touch this)

It stopped raining about an hour before dark on Sunday so I went for bit of a walk, I was going to go for a whole walk but I got distracted by the sunset which was amazing so I went to stare at that from the top of a hill rather than getting stuck into a big stomp through the woods like I had intended. It really was a magnificent, like a drop of crimson paint in a jar of light blue water spreading out in all directions. I have been working in the art world for a bit over a year now with the result that I can’t help but see a sunset or sunrise without comparing it to artwork. There have even been a couple of occasions when I have been I have been watching a sunrise and I have caught myself thinking, ‘that’s amazing, however did they capture the light?’. It was getting dark so abandoning the walk I went back to make some food.

Oh the delights of camp cooking. I had the choice of just add water pasta with cheese and broccoli or noodles, I plumped for both. I do really like the pasta thing but visions of roast dinners did come to mind as I crouched beneath my tarp. I did have a minor success in the self sufficiency stakes; I managed to collect rainwater by angling the tarp in such a way that I could catch rainwater running off it in a billy can. I figured that seeing as I needed to cook the pasta for 8 minutes any bugs in it would be killed in the cooking process, so I poured the water into the jet boil by candle light and put it on to boil. I think it would be nice to do something other than sit on the floor or on my sleeping bag for a change. It’s Sunday after all and I think it’s about time to introduce some civilisation into the proceedings. It’s stopped raining so I decide to tie the hammock to an overhanging branch in such a way as I could use it as a chair. The first thing to do of course is to tie it to the branch. So I scramble up the tree with the hammock stuck up my jumper. The best way to get from the branch I’m on to the branch I want to be on is to jump and land on the second branch on my stomach, but this is not going to be possible with a hammock stuck up my jumper. So the hammock gets held between my teeth for the jump, it’s not a big jump but being off the ground the gap seems enormous. I have to steel my nerves to make the jump then go. I’m rather pleased to make the branch without falling off and breaking my ankle but rather less impressed to find myself lying across a soaking wet branch that is covered in a thick layer of slime, not only is it slippery but it’s filthy also, clouds of steam are billowing through the candle light time to rush, all that energy being wasted. Somehow whilst lying across the branch with the hammock still between my teeth I manage to get my coat off me and onto the branch thus giving me a clean dry place to sit. The hammock is tied in place with no dramas and I even remember to tie quick release knots so I don’t have to climb back up later on.

The plan before I climbed the tree was to jump back down the view from in the tree was a lot different than it had been from the ground. It was dark and I could not see the ground very well, besides there was now a hammock in the way, it didn’t strike me as the best thing in the world to be jumping onto. I moved along the branch a bit, getting my trousers filthy along the way as I got closer to the trunk. Now there was a branch beneath me, it was not a big branch so would not hurt me if I landed on it but it was covered in leaves so I could not see the ground at all. From what I remembered the hill is fairly steep at that point and for some reason jumping on to the side of the hill without being able to see the ground did not appeal to me. I stood on the branch told myself I was going to jump and watched with detached amazement as my legs stayed exactly where they where. Three times I tried to jump in total and three times I stayed where I was, I began to feel more and more like a cat stuck in a tree. Another cloud of steam blew past. I ended up dangling from the branch at arms length, my legs being lost to view in the darkness beneath the leaves. Figuring I could always hop to the nearest house if I broke my leg I closed my eyes and let go. The sensation of falling was incredibly brief, seeing as I was only about an inch from the ground when I let go I guess this is not surprising, there was a palpable sense of relief and I rushed to put the pasta in the water before it all boiled off or I ran out of water.

The best course of action whilst waiting for the pasta to cook seemed obvious, sit in the hammock chair. A good idea but not really practical when the hammock is only a few inches from the ground, that branch certainly did seem higher up when I was in it. So I undo the quick release knots and there I am at square one again; on the ground holding the hammock, OK now I’m covered in gunk so something had changed. I still obviously want to have the seat, this time I choose to throw the rope over the branch rather than climb the tree. This works a treat and I’m soon enjoying the luxury of sitting in a rather comfortable seat and listening to the radio as the pasta cooks. Life is good.

A splash of Encona Hot Sauce livens up the pasta and I sit swinging whilst I eat feeling as though life is about as good as it gets. For some reason I get lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that the hammock is pretty comfortable as seat. I decided that it would make a nice change to sleep in it. Bit softer than the ground I thought – there’s that Ditch Monkey deductive reasoning again, on a roll I go again with the reasoning; red sky at night shepherd’s delight therefore it isn’t going to rain. So there is no need to put the hammock’s waterproof sheet up over the hammock. Excellent, the only place in the area that I could tie the hammock up would preclude the possibility of tying the sheet on anyway. Soon enough the hammock is in place and I realise that if it does start to rain I can always go and take shelter under the tarp under which I usually sleep and which is already up.

After spending the usual five minutes trying to wriggle into the sleeping bag whist in the hammock and getting rather annoyed with the whole procedure I am finally comfortable then I realise that my alarm clock is in my rucksack. Ten minutes later I’m back in bed and comfortable although a little out of breath from all the effort of getting into bed. I wake numerous times in the night, sometimes because it is so cold sleeping in the hammock and other times because I’m uncomfortable. For some reason lying in the hammock for any period of time leaves me feeling as though I have dislocated my hip. Every time I need to roll over I need to wake up as the process of rolling over is more than a little tricky if it is to be done without wrapping the sleeping bag around my neck and cutting off the blood to my brain. After a night of not sleeping very much I was woken up by rain on my face. Where is that Shepherd now, he won’t be so delighted when I get my hands on him. I manage to get out of the hammock whilst still in the sleeping bag and start hopping to the shelter with both legs still in the sleeping bag. Then I have to go back and take the hammock down (still in the sleeping bag) I’m very pleased to have used quick release knots. Finally I get to crash out on the forest floor beneath my gore tex sheet. Comfortable at last. Ten minutes later.

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