48 Hours a Day - chapter-27
At five in the evening, the minibus arrived at the camping destination.
Everyone unloaded their stuff from the trunk and bid the driver a cheerful goodbye.
When these city-bred students saw the foothill nearby covered in lush greenery, sheltered by the blue skies and white clouds, they were estactic.
Xu Jing was especially eager. “Wow! This place is not bad at all. We should come here every weekend.”
Xiao Xiao retorted, “Does your family’s money fall from the skies? 300 yuan?! I can’t afford coming here every week!”
“Knock it off! It’s going to be dark soon. We need to find a place to set up tents and cook.” Shen Xixi chided.
Xu Jing giggled. “I don’t know how to cook. I’m only responsible for the eating.”
“Fine. Exchange your cuteness for food then!”
The group chatted as the chortling continued; the mood light and cheerful. The girls were the ones who had chosen the camping location – mainly Xiao Xiao idea – situated in a less popular and crowded area.
She had a backpack traveler uncle who enjoyed traveling on foot and was familiar with the uncultivated mountains nearby. The girl had badgered her uncle into providing her a list of unspoilt locations with breathtaking views.
Even better, the visitors there were few and far between; there was none of that hubbub and chaos.
Sad to say, except for Xiao Xiao who had gone camping with her uncle once or twice when she was younger, all the others did not have any camping experience whatsoever. To make matters worse, Xiao Xiao was only occupied with playing at that age; her uncle completely handling the bonfire-building and cooking business.
As a result, even choosing a place to set up the tents proved to be a challenge for the group of coddled university students.
Everyone seemed to be in disagreement – one said that it should be at the top of the mountain, the other that it should be somewhere sheltered from the wind. Then someone also added that they had to watch out for falling rocks.
In the end, Zhang Heng could not stand watching the conversation going nowhere, so he said, “Err… this place nearby is not dangerous. It’s summer now, so we don’t worry about keeping warm. We can choose whichever place to set up camp and it’ll be fine for sure.”
Predictably, everyone ignored him.
Immersed in the excitement of playing house in the open air, they found Zhang Heng’s make-do attitude to be unacceptable.
It was almost sundown and after careful and elaborate deliberation, they finally settled for an open space by the foot of the hill.
To say the least, the spot they had chosen was pretty good – it had an expansive view, and other than being a little further from the water, it had no other faults.
However, the problem was that the sky was starting to turn dark, and their tents were still unbuilt.
Such a task must not be undermined. For a novice, setting up a tent was extremely technically challenging: inserting the tent poles into the sleeves, stringing the ropes, staking the pegs into the ground, and then guying out the tent to stabilize it.
Without any experience, it would take the novice a long time to figure out single step.
Fortunately, this did not prove to be a problem for the Zhang Heng, as he had buit a house with his bare hands before. He nearly built up the three tents entirely all by himself. Even up to the last one, he was made up the steps as he went along.
Xu Jing clapped her hands. “Alright, Zhang Heng! The next time I’m stranded on a desert island and can only choose one person to come with me, I will choose you!”
“You’re so bad! Even on a deserted island, you’re going to make someone your scapegoat?!” Chen Huadong clicked his tongue.
“I’ve seen a few wilderness survival shows! It would still be useless even if it were the whole group of us on that island.” Wei Jiangyang shook his head.
Zhang Heng merely smiled and said nothing.
No one took this kind of idle chatter to heart.
Just then, an idea popped into Xu Jing’s mind. “It’s already dark now. Let’s have a campfire party!”
It was like this girl never worried a day in her life.
“Campfire, my ass. Let’s eat first. I’m starving to death.” Xiao Xiao grumbled.
Only Shen Xixi was able to lend Zhang Heng some help when he was setting up the tent. As the others simply could not get the mechanics of pitching a tent, they took the initiative to prepare dinner on the other side instead.
In the civilized world, there was no need to start a fire using the bow and drill method, not even in the wilderness. Only a portable cassette furnace for outdoor use would be needed. It was ready for use once the gas cartridge was inserted; a very convenient alternative.
Naturally, Zhang Heng was glad to see that thing. He came to have fun not to show off his skills. Any survival skills he possessed were to be used to protect lives in the event of emergencies. If only he had a lighter on the island, he would not have to chaff off the skin on his hands to get fire.
Dinner that night was hotpot – the most convenient outdoors menu for large, noisy, hormone enraged students. First, the base ingredients. Then chuck in washed vegetables and meat all together. There. Done.
When Zhang Heng had finished building the tent, the group sat around the hotpot in a circle with single-use plastic bowls in their hands, watching and waiting for bubbles to form.
To many of them, it was a refreshing feeling.
In the summer, the temperature in the mountains was just right; not too hot and not too cold. It was much more comfortable than the stuffy, unair-conditioned dorm room. The only thing that seemed to take comfort there were the hordes of blood-sucking vampiric mosquitoes.
Zhang Heng and Shen Xixi took out mosquito repellents from their bags almost simultaneously. Seeing this, they smiled at each other
“Why isn’t the meat done yet?” Xu Jing muttered pitifully. Just a while ago, she was still demanding a campfire party, and now she was more concerned about the meat in the pot than anyone else.
A mischevious Chen Huadong was about to make fun of her when a rustling noise came from the woods nearby.
That alone had pushed timid Xu Jing into a panicked frenzy. “My god!!! Are there wild beasts in these mountains?!”
“No. There are none,” said a startled Xiao Xiao. Although the place was not a tourist attraction, it was close to the city. In the autumn, many photography enthusiasts would come here to visit. They also spotted other campers not far from where they were earlier on. If there were wild beasts here, it made no sense that no one had ever seen them before.
As soon as she had spoken, something scurried out of the woods.
The beast turned out to be not an animal but just a person. However, before they could breathe a sigh of relief, the outward appearance of the trespasser unsettled them.
His was a rowdy-looking youth lined with tattoos on his arm. The young man smiled mischievously at the group and said, “Oh, I knew I smelt something fragrant coming from somewhere. Turns out there’s something tasty here! Count me in! It just so happens that I haven’t had dinner yet.”
When the trespasser had finished talking, Zhang Heng got up, turned around, and went into his tent.
The youth smiled at that. “Okay, okay. Smart. Now that I have a place to sit, I’ll just help myself then.”
Everyone could see that this lad had ill-intentions. Wei Jiangyang and Chen Huadong shared a look. This was the perfect time for the guys to step-up their game.
Wei Jiangyang spoke first. “Dude, we’re not used to eating with strangers.”
“No problem. I can introduce myself first. We can all be friends. A little chat, and we’ll get to know each other,” the youth grinned as he reached into his pocket and took out a folding knife.
Wei Jiangyang’s and Chen Huadong’s face fell, and Xu Jing looked like she had just seen a ghost. They were all university students. They had never been in a situation like this before. Fights were rare back in campus. Even if a quarrel did get physical, no one had ever used a knife.
Everyone’s heart sank at the next announcement as the young man declared, “I have three other friends who hadn’t eaten too. They’ll be here soon, but it looks like there’s not enough space.” He looked around and then pointed at Wei Jiangyang, Chen Huadong, and Wanghuan. “Why don’t the three of you give up your spots to them eh?”
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