Picture it: 9:45 on Friday 15 February at the illustrious Sutherland Golf Club... Officials convene in the parking area to finesse the rules of engagement for the day ahead.
Next - the briefing for those destined to particpate in the action. The tension's already palpable & Francois appears to be getting psyched...
Here Hamish, in his trademark garbage-man pants, attempts to explain his deep moral objections to wielding a gun. There seems to be a lot of sympathy regarding his dilemma.
While camouflage gear was alarmingly popular (who knew so many among us own such apparel?!), the crucial need for padding led to some remarkable fashion statements. Extreme layering was the order of the day & Eben was undoubtedly the best equipped, sporting full motorcycle kit beneath his T-shirt. Keith secured Best Hat honours while Chris insisted that the Russian-hatted photographer be photographed as well.
For those not familiar with the subtle art of paintball - here's what we'd be up against... The pellets are about a centimetre in diameter & feel remarkably solid - hmmmm :|
With only 10 guns & >20 potential combatants, skirmishes were limited to 5-a-side affairs. Here we have Paul, Wouter, Ockert, Eben & Willa ready to unleash their fury.
Defending the pennant (which looked an awful lot like a whistle hanging in a tree) on the near side was the team consisting of Hamish, Vic, Nicolaas, Martin & Francois.
Spectactors looked on from the relative safety of the staging area to the south of the battle field.
& ... ACTION!!
Nicolaas & Vic were on to a good thing operating from behind a stack of tyres. They were also able to repeatedly tag one another back into the game whenever either of them got hit. Note the menacing green form of Eben lurking amongst the trees in front of them & the prized green whistle hanging from the tree in the foreground.
Francois: sniper extraordinaire. We better keep an eye on him when he's up in the CCAS tower, he could do a lot of damage from up there!
Someone managed to capture & blow the whistle on the far side, so 1-0 to Vic's team...
Then time to swap sides & go again - best of 3. Okkie's rueful expression says it all - apparently Hamish's blinding orange pants proved to be a massive distraction. Willa on the other hand emerged unscathed, the picture of a contented solider :)
Aah - that manly post-battle swagger! Splattered with orange paint, but glad to be alive.
Keith was overcome with relief when Hamish made it back in one piece...
The reluctant gun-slinger looking exceptionally pleased with himself, giving a whole new meaning to "a killer smile".
With that, it was time for the next 2 teams to take up arms. This was a particularly daunting time for me as it meant relinquishing my traditional weapon, knowing full well that I was likely to end up being shot with it.
Captain Chris showing a bit of smuggery in anticipation of wiping out our team. That's just not cricket, ek sê.
Happily, Christopher (who usually masquerades as an industrial designer) turned out to be a fearless action photographer! He was willing to snap photos while darting around the battle field, while always keeping in mind that he would have to sacrifice his unprotected body if the D7000 ever came under threat. Here he captures Denville sprinting for cover...
Keith & I strategising about how to more successfully negotiate round #2.
Johan moving at speed... Later in the day he was spotted - & ferociously shot at - while sneaking across the kill-zone rolling one of the tractor tyres along as moving cover. No end to the resourcefulness of SALT Tech Ops!
Don't shoot - I'm from Electronics!! Hang in there Dave, hopefully one of your team mates will tag you back into the game soon...
Oh No! Keith was almost at the whistle - but then was cruelly cut down. Probably by that vicious Adelaide, again!
Soldier of the day could only go to one person: Nicolaas. He was All Over The Place - fast...
Stealthy, agile, mean, accurate...
&, somehow(?!), a member of both winning teams during the early rounds!
Not to be underestimated either were "the quiet ones" - Jaci, Willa & Adelaide (in particular) exhibited exceptional ruthlessness at times...
The winning team leaders caught stomping on one of the hapless losers.
In a short break between contacts, there was time for a bit of target practise to tweak up one's aim & overall technique.
The whistle hanging in the tree became the target of choice.
But soon it was back to the day's core business of stalking & shooting at one's colleagues... Martin making the most of his Sutherland winter woolies on a perfect February day!
Christopher traded me the camera in return for a jacket & a gun before joining the fray.
With one team short a combatant, Judge Darragh could no longer contain his Irishness & leapt at the opportunity to indulge his violent streak.
He was quickly kitted up & briefed by his squad for the upcoming mission.
The crowd naively assumed that they were ready for what was to follow...
Still insisting on having "a bad back", the new recruit was stationed at the back to guard the whistle. Who would dare to argue with a look like that?!
Well, only Ockert - of course! Here he is - blasting down the eastern flank, about to mow down our unsuspecting hero.
After a brief, but frenzied, fire-fight - which included a few stray rounds being loosed on the startled spectators, it was all over.
Is That the way to treat the head of SALT Instrumentation?!
As throughout the day, Eben is still wearing the biggest grin of all - could that be attributed to his kevlar "underwear"?
It seems having awesome wheels was the secret to not getting nailed with orange splotches today. Sir Anthony - the very epitomy of Cool :)
Once the dust had finally settled, we realised to our horror that Willa, an innocent bystander, had fallen victim to a stray bullet during the last exchange. Fortunately she's a whole lot tougher than one might think & Darragh would be well-advised to regard any SALT coffee with suspicion in future...
The boss awarded Nicolaas & Adelaide each a day off for their superb efforts in combat.
Meanwhile - over in the skerm, Liza, Annie & Heiletjie had been savaging huge numbers of veggies for the various potjies.
The Astro Ops contingent consisting of BVIT guru Marissa, SALT Astronomer Amanda & SALT HRS envoy Luke arrived once most of the gunfire had subsided.
Chris' Thai seafood potjie was the first one ready & battle-scarred Keith was quick to dig in. Incidentally, comparing the evolution of our respective war-wounds has been a popular conversation piece during the past week...
Having shed his protective exoskeleton, Eben took up the task of producing 2 of the potjies, one with lamb & the other with oxtail (aka "koei stert" if you're Abigail!).
Between all the shooting & eating, there was also time for some lounging around in the shade.
Although looking quite comfortable in the picture below, The Crazy was almost wheeled away at one stage.
What does an external observer make of this rather exotic mix?
Although incredibly hot from the potjie fires, the skerm was a great place to park off & chat.
In the midst of it all, Chris still felt the need to send out the Technical Day Log.
We ploughed our way through Keith's chicken potjie & then Vic's awesome beef curry while waiting for the last 2 to finish cooking. Although we missed Charl (who was up in Joburg) throughout the day, we did acknowledge that the potjies were running way ahead of his usual almost-ready-by-4am schedule ;)
Can anyone find Jono in this picture?
Pity John Stoffels missed the paintball action but he did join in for the rest of the proceedings :)
After the many abuses & bruises dealt out in the morning, all gathered around in the afternoon & evening to enjoy a wonderful series of meals & the great company of like-minded lunatics.
As usual - thank you to everyone, but especially to Chris, for putting together such a fun day for all! Let's not wait another 2 years for the next spanbou session...