Grapeshot Challenge: Castaway

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Words || Nathaniel Keesing

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I can’t swim. Several years ago, on a warm Australia Day, when global warming’s power-level was still under 9000, me and my friends thought it’d be a good idea to jump out off some rocks into deep water. It wasn’t a good idea. Was it a rip, or was I simply weak as a kitten? I don’t know, but I was drowning. The beach wasn’t getting any closer and I was losing energy. My life flashed before my eyes (which at that point was a bit boring to watch to be honest) and I thought that was it. Until my friends said to just swim back to the rocks a meter to my left. Long story short, I survived.

When I was challenged to sailing across the great Macquarie University lake, I must admit, I was terrified. Any body of water makes me nervous, and that lake looks filthier than douche water. Would I catch that brain-eating bacteria you hear about on A Current Affair?

To make things even more difficult, I had to make my raft out of recycled materials around campus. My wasteful ass was shooketh.

There was only one place I could go to build my vegan raft. It was time to go dumpster diving. I met up with Sarah, Grapeshot’s Deputy Editor, who was supervising, but not interfering, just in case I drowned or that mythical monster-eel that lives in the lake pulled me under. Which is also drowning I guess. We went to the goldmine of capitalist waste, the loading bay dump.

There were loads of half eaten food, mountains of unnecessary packaging, and bin bags filled with disposable coffee cups. The environmentalist inside me was screaming in pain, but the Macgyver in me was doing the hoedown throwdown.

I found half a pallet, which my Dep Ed pointed out had nails sticking out of it (I like to think it adds to the aesthetic), served perfectly as my raft. Now I’m not saying I’m fat – I like to think I’m juicy – so I immediately I know this 100% fat-free pallet won’t be enough to handle my jelly. I needed something more. Sarah, obviously a more experienced dumpster diver than I, pointed out the styrofoam down the side of the bin. It slid almost too easily into my pallet (That’s what she said). I have an ass that won’t quit though, so it was still not enough. I emptied bin bag after bin bag, trash raining to my feet, until I found one that didn’t seem to have a hole in it. I wish my inspection technique was a bit more thorough, as I was about to learn.

After chucking the mess back into the dumpster, it was time to make the pilgrimage to the Macquarie lake. Carrying everything by myself (thanks Sarah) I reach the duck shit-cover shore. It was much wider than I remember. I hadn’t actually seen if for half a year since they destroyed the old Campus Hub. After getting nakey and changing into something I didn’t mind ruining, I washed the bin bag in the lake since it was filled with… some sort of juice. It smelt like an infected belly button, don’t ask me how I know. If making goonshine or being hunted by cane toads wasn’t going to kill me, this was the challenge to do it. After cleansing the filth with even filthier water, I pressed my lips to the bag, half gagging, and made my floatation device. Until it started to deflate. Fuck. I had to act quick. I grabbed my impromptu boogie board and dove in head first.

Have you ever seen those videos where someone belly flops into a pool and water goes everywhere? Yeah, that happened. To make things worse, the lake is actually super shallow, the water literally never rose higher than knees length, but the lakebed is super muddy, like quicksand. So my raft pretty much got stuck in the lake. I was already completely cover in dirty lake water, so what was a bit of mud on my feet? It literally felt what I imagine wadding through faeces feels like. I was ankle deep and I just wanted to cry. Sarah was crying with laughter and filming on her phone, and I felt very attacked. I pulled my pallet out of the mud and decided that I couldn’t give up, and decided to power through.

The water never got deeper, but the mud sure did. I was literally knee deep in shit. I was screaming and crying, to be honest I’m shocked I didn’t get any attention from campus security. There was so much weird textures on the water. Was it an eel, or just a used condom? I don’t know which I’d prefer. I made my way to the middle of the lake by the fountain, deeper in the mud than I was in water when I had to call it quits. The water was actually a nice temperature once I got used to it.

The fountain, on the other hand, felt like glass shards raining on me. I’m not a quitter, but I’m not not a quitter. There was no chance of me getting past the fountain. I gave up and made my way to shore, with Sarah very disappointed I failed this months challenge.

Could I have gone around? More than likely, but like when I almost drowned years ago, you don’t think straight when you’re panicking deep in water… or shit.

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