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Camp of the Dark Moon

On the first day there was music and dancing.

Licola Wilderness Village saw the arrival of many goons across the afternoon on Friday as The Camp of the Dark Moon got underway. Carpools picked up from local areas, airports, and from much further afield with some groups driving from Canberra, Wollongong, and North Queensland. Old camp friendships were rekindled, and new ones were quickly forged. The beer started to flow, and everyone pitched in with the set-up. There were marquees to build, axe targets to assemble, and barbeques to cook.  Tom Scott gave a rousing welcome address, outlining some basic rules, and spoke of the history of camp having grown from the original 10 goons, to a whopping 160 this year! He also introduced the cabin captains and presenting their captains hats. This year everyone was assigned to a cabin and, under the leadership of their captain, became a team for the duration. Each cabin came up with their own name and logo that was spraypainted onto shields, informing all of their mightiness.

Not long after the address, the sound of thudding axes echoed around camp, the fires were lit (for the first and last time unfortunately, due to fire bans for the remainder of camp), and the music started.  Three amazing bands kept toes tapping, goons dancing, and set the tone for the weekend. Headline act The Currency were incredible and have found their way into more than a few playlists since camp.

On the second day there was wrestling.

Saturday started strong, with an early morning energy that would not be seen again over the weekend. A full third of goons took off on the hike, marching 11kms – up the road form Licola, there and back again – some walking straight into the river to cool off on return. Meanwhile, others played chess, relaxed by the river, or just chilled out. Before lunch we were all treated to a clogging demonstration by Josh King, proudly showing off his percussive dance skills to much cheer. The afternoon saw screen printing, the first choir practice, and some role playing and board games, all of which were paused for the spectacle of the annual slip-n-slide competition.

What a bloody spectacle it was! The ever-present wind provided an opportunity to display the TGBC team spirit as many a goon was required to hold down the runway – lest it blow away. Many brave participants gave it their all, but it was Scott Johnson who took an early lead, and without defending champion, Tim Trotter, in attendance, it was looking to be all but a one-horse race. Step up Andrew Manton. Andrew soaped himself, took a run-up, and hurtled himself down the slide to take the lead under a roar of applause. This was getting interesting! But Scotty too Hottie couldn’t let his chance slip away. He put his body on the line and launched himself for another run. With a groan inducing thump he propelled himself an amazing 48 metres to take back the lead, claim victory, and bask in immortal glory!

The pick of the afternoon activities were the tastings, with a choice of beer, whisky, and tequila on offer. The tequila tasting was a highlight, with four Mexican tequilas were sampled to the accompaniment of Mexican boxing on the big screen. Chatting about tequila cheers, talking about boxing, all while drinking the good stuff – who could ask for more?

After dinner all in attendance crowded around for a group photo with cabin shields at the front. SHIELD WALL! Coins were awarded to the dedicated goons who completed all challenges last year, and a special gift for the camp committee for an amazing job well done.

The came the wrestling. Adrenaline Professional Wrestling journeyed all the way from Melbourne with a full ring and set up in the camp gym. Tough Guy Book Club brought the noise! With an atmosphere bigger than anything WrestleMania has ever offered, the once innocent gym was turned into an arena of shouts, claps, jeers, cheers, boos, and oohs. APW did not hold back! The fights were brutal, intense, and entertaining. Heels were booed, babyfaces cheered and one wrestler was stapled – fucking stapled! – in the head. One performer got the crowd on side by reading a book (It is probably a first for a wrestling crowd to yell “Shhhh! Let the man read” with such passion). Guitars were smashed, top ropes were launched from, and even a door was used – as JR would say; as god is my witness, it was broken in half! The masked Chicken Man was a crowd favourite, and his merch was quickly sold out.

After the show the unavoidable Liar’s dice got going, with 4 separate tables of the camp tradition underway at one point. Event the APW troop got involved which led to an impromptu slapping lesson. By some reports, Nick Pitt’s chest slap could be heard as far as cabin 12, and was bright red for the remainder of camp.

On the third day there was debate and book club.

Sunday was a lazy start for most, with more than a few opting for a leisurely sleep in – some not resurfacing until after lunch or later. The last reported night owl was still engrossed in conversation at 5am the night before, and one missing soul was found after a brief search, having wondered into the wrong cabin and finding an empty top bunk – all tuckered out by the previous day’s activities.

Some, however, avoided the perils of liar’s dice, or perhaps have a stronger constitution, and morning activities went boldly on. Calligraphy, D&D, and screen printing started the day, continuing after lunch with tarp origami, and cricket.

Tastings were on again in the afternoon with whisky and beer on offer and enjoyed heartily by all in attendance. For others there were board games and role playing games or lazing about reading and chatting. In the evening Tim Woicek led a band that had formed at camp for a blues song re-written about the camp itself.

What is a book club camp without book club? 21 separate groups, sorted at random, split off to discuss The Wizard of Earthsea. It was refreshing to have a club chat with all new goons.

Following the chat, the place to be was watching the Great Debate where six learned goons had at each other over which reading style is better, digital or paper. They went hard, and the huge crowd on hand were thoroughly entertained! Then was the Goon Choir who, having assembled for only two practice sessions at camp, belted out two fantastic songs; Bound for South Australia, and Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At.  With just enough audience participation and a champion effort from the volunteers, it was a credit to all who took part.

On the fourth day there was packing and farewells.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to Licola Wilderness Village for another year. Goodbye to old friends, and new. Goodbye to eating camp food and doling what you want for a few short days. The marquees, axe targets, and a shitload of empty cans were all packed up and everyone started departing to airports and the far-flung places from whence they came.  There was a farewell lunch held nearby to prolong the inevitable – but ultimately it was over.

On the fifth day there was rest.

And it was good!

Camp doesn’t just happen. It is a highly organised labour of love for an incredible group of volunteers who spend hours of their time to give us all a long weekend to be remembered. Thank you to everyone who made The Camp of the Dark Moon happen. The camp committee all did an amazing job, and they came from all reaches of the club.  If you want to get involved and give back to TGBC, put your hand up and join in the heartache – it will be fun and rewarding.

Finally, camp is what it is thanks to everyone who attends. Thank you to everyone who turned up from as far as Broome, Auckland, and even Sale! The planning for the next camp has already started, come along – you won’t regret it.

A lasting memory of the Camp of the Dark Moon for many will be the world-famous river flotilla. A fast favourite at camp, the inflatable flotilla featured at least four unicorns, a bin chicken, sloths, water fights, recovery beers and a bloody good time had by all. We’re not sure what the kayakers paddling past thought of the affair, they paddled past too quickly for anyone to ask…


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