The Centenary July Camp in the beautiful Cobham camp-site was a very special and memorable occasion with many people who had not been to July Camp for years and years making a welcome return. It was remarkable how the years of separation slid away and conversation flowed so easily. It seemed that everyone was committed to making this a very special occasion of the commemoration of many thousands of ‘man-nights’ spent in our beloved Drakensberg under the umbrella of the unique July Camp.

On arrival, the campers were greeted by the unexpected sight of a huge, ethereal, dazzling white marquee! This was to be the venue of the first evening’s first informal sherry (of which there was an abundance) and a hearty camp supper and electric lights way up in the vault of the marquee! We reminisced happily and about camps of the past, July Camp personalities and highlights of various Berg trips, many humorous and some teasing.

The marquee was also the venue for the next day’s main event of the Centenary Camp, the July Camp Centenary Lunch which was attended by 132 people! We wanted 100 campers to celebrate 100 years and we got them and more. Little did the diners know that there had been a near panic that morning when the generators would not start, but good luck favoured us, and the problem was sorted out by those talented and experienced people on hand and all ended well. The speeches were entertaining and brought back many treasured memories – and a few embarrassing moments.

To our delight one of our real old-timers was there for the beginning of the camp, Colas Coetzee and his daughter, Suzette. Another old–timer and legend, Bill Small, saw the camp out. Bill, who is in his nineties, was Officer-in-Charge at Cobham for many years. His daughter, Helen, and granddaughter came and camped with the best of them.

But the Centenary July Camp was not focussed just on the past. In welcoming the youngest camper, Graham Smith’s grandson, Joshua aged 18 months, and his parents, we definitely were looking to the future. Another element of our commitment to the future was in welcoming the first KZN Section Youth Outreach group of July Campers. They were a delightful party of young people and fitted in so well. At the time of writing this report, we have just heard that they will be attending July Camp 2020 at Injisuthi!

Of course a feature of every July Camp has been the birthday cakes and the centenary year was no exception. Ed Saloman and Vusi Ndlovu, our chief cook, created his amazing fruit cakes for each weekend. The first weekend we had the Centenary cakes and they were delicious! The second batch of cakes, on the last Saturday, we accorded to Vusi and his band of helpers who did so much to keep the camp going.

The camp organisers admit that we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the combined hearty appetites of 100+ Berg-hungry people and were in unchartered waters. We apologise for the time it took us to get the quantities of food sorted out to include the late-comers who arrived after the early birds were already on their second and third helpings! We never did manage to get the washing up queue sorted out and the determined free spirits skipped the washing up between courses and went straight back to join in at the back of the serving queue and thus the two queues remained hopelessly confused. And some people ended up with three dirty plates and others ran short of plates.

The joy of being in a built camp-site, complete with mown grass, hot and cold running water and flush toilets, was enjoyed by all, especially the Advance Party who did not have to dig them and erect those screens which so often, have collapsed, got torn and blown away. The only camp structures that we had to erect were the bell tents, the gazebos, the solar lights and the partial fireplace screen.

There was only one much and often lamented aspect of the Centenary July Camp, 2019 – ‘It is unlikely that any of us will be at the Second Centenary July Camp!’