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Breaking away from the city noise? Bah!

It might be idyllic and peaceful far away from the city, But wait until darkness falls and the snorers start doing their thing, Jaco Kirsten warns.

In the veld, far away from the city’s frenetic pace, you sleep properly. You dream in technicolour and you heart purrs like a recently-serviced V8 idling in the garage. Unit one particular night when something wakes you from your deep sleep. Through the haziness you become aware of a deep, ominous rumbling noise outside the tent.
You listen attentively, but suddenly it’s gone. There it is again! What on earth could it be? A water buffalo with lung disease? A cow that’s dying after eating a plastic bag? Or what about a lion? A gigantic male right next to your tent!
Wait a minute… doesn’t the noise come exactly from where Mikey pitched his tent?! The bugger. It’s him snoring! Show me some one who hasn’t been tormented by a snorer and I’ll show you someone who’s never camped in a group. Apart from braais, low – octane jokes and tent pegs that mysteriously dwindle each time you pitch your tent, snoring is one of the constants of travelling and camping. But apart from subtle sarcastic comments and red puffy eyes the next morning, no one really addresses this issue. Why not? To the best of my knowledge Drive Out has never had a headline on their cover such as “The top 10 snorers in SA”. Or what about, “How to sort out a snorer”? And “Snoring: how it works”. No tour leaders ever mentions snoring when explaining house rules. It’s always stuff such as, “Remember to leave only footprints and take only memories” or, “Don’t feed the animals.” Bah! Never are snorers politely asked to pitch their tents a considerate distance from others.

Look, most blokes over 35 snore. It’s a fact of life like punctures and getting stuck in mud. But you get snoring and then you get snoring.
Normal snoring is almost part of the soundtrack of soothing night noises, along with crickets, frogs and the rhythmic ke-clack-ke-clack of a train. So don’t accuse me of being unreasonable. But some snorers unleash a force of nature that could warrant its own National Geographic television series. I mean, if guys can spend months on end in the Kalahari, armed with cameras and microphones to study the social structure of a colony of meerkats, how much more entertaining wouldn’t it be to take along night-vision equipment and film the devastating effect a couple of snorers have on a group? Think about it, it has the potential to combine the drama and interpersonal friction of Survivor with the entertainment value of Idols.

While participants can also use Ray Mears’ Bushcraft to flee from the snorers’ aural assaults. A few months ago I ended up with a group of people at a river camp on the Orange River to explore the Richtersveld.

As I was one of the earlier arrivals I made a point of pitching my tent right in the furthest corner, away from the noise. Well, that was the plan. For if it wasn’t for my headlamp I wouldn’t have made it through what later resembled a UN refugee camp in Darfur, without falling over someone’s tent. Before turning in, I put in my earplugs, like I always do when sleeping close to a group of strangers. At about 01:30 I was woken by something that should’ve registered in the Richter scale. It was incredible; as if I wasn’t even wearing ear plugs. This was obviously competing in a different league – with large mammals such as grizzly bears, lions, elephants and plough horses. But that wasn’t all,
Mr Snore decided to pitch his tent less than 50cm from mine. Which brings me to the next point: If someone knows their snoring can be detected by US military satellites, why don’t they have the courtesy to pitch their tents a bit further away from everyone else?
And I also don’t buy the excuse that they “can’t help” snoring like that, because his belly would’ve made a Japanese whaler giggle with excitement. So I presume the poor guy also “couldn’t help eating so many pies over the course of a few decades? Just like he “couldn’t help” taking a lift instead of the stairs? And he probably “couldn’t help drinking eight eers every night to sustain his lard. Well, you can help by pitching your tent some distance away, sir.
The net result was that I work him up about every 45 minutes when he woke me up. The text morning I moved my tent. And was he cross with me for having the audacity to have woken him! Sorry to hear about your problems, Butterbean!

Apart from the above technique, which is only to be used in emergencies, there are a few other ones to resort to. The most common one is to take a few stiff drinks and get into bed before the snorer. The theory is that you’ll be in a deep sleep before he starts to let rip. From experience I know that this technique only has a 50/50 chance of succeeding and depends on the snorer being a medium-grade offender. The other problem is that if the snorer stays awake longer than you do, he’s inevitably going to drink more. Before you know, him and his mates are getting louder and start cackling at increasingly lame jokes. Soon one’s wife sticks her head out of the tent and tells him to be quiet. This is followed by an (unintentional) stage whisper along the lines of “Hey okes, we have to shhhhhhhht!!! Whereafter they all giggle like girls unit they forget to keep their voices down thirty seconds later. And you should hear how a snorer performs after having conquered the best part of a bottle of Captain Morgan! I once shared a room with a very successful South African crime writer. His other talent is his capacity for snoring. As luck would have it I lost my ear plugs after two days of travelling and the next evening I decided to stay up later and take some “self medication” around the camp fire. Soon after midnight his snoring woke me up. At that volume and intensity, sleep was out of the question.

Eventually, out of sheer desperation, I took me Leatherman and started cutting a T-shirt into strips to plug my ears. Then I wrapped the remainder around my ears and head unit I resembled something out of Night of the living dead. In true zombie form, nothing succeeded in killing his snoring and it became a very long night.

The other option is staying up late and making a noise yourself, but that would be unfair to the innocent people. That’s why I wondered if one shouldn’t banish the snorers to night shift: They can keep the fire going and stand guard while everyone sleeps.
When morning comes they can go sleep in their beds in the back of a vehicle, just like a baby. And that is actually quite fitting, because I don’t know which is worse: a baby or a snorer keeping you awake all night. And when you do eventually manage to fall asleep, there’s bound to be some silly man who gets up at four in the morning, starts his dieselbakkie ( why is it always someone with a diesel bakkie?) to “charge his batteries) Which means that the snorers rule from 23:00 to 04:00, where after the early risers take over. When, then, are you supposed to sleep? In the past, I readily accepted when invited to join a group of people on a trip to some remote place. However, through the years I’ve become choosier about the company I keep. And I don’t even feel guilty about it. Do you know why? Because if I wanted to lie awake the whole night through, I would have pitched my tent in front of a night club at lease night clubs have lots of pretty women. So do yourself a great favour and think twice about it the next time someone invites you along on a trip to “go and enjoy some silence”.

Drive out - 27 Nov 2009