Imagine turning 21 on the other side of the world, in a hut located in beautiful Matukituki valley, with a hundred Otago students dressed up in their Greek costumes. I never thought I would be celebrating my birthday in winter but New Zealand’s mountains, people I met, cold rivers, and the 100-star views from the toilet (which some still mistake for the woodshed) made for a memorable weekend.
We all assembled at OUSA on a Friday night and finally departed after an hour of everyone trying to get their shit together. I could not make it to the bus, so I hopped on one of the vans and did not hear any of Jacob’s wisdom he likes to share when drives the bus. We spent the first night camping at Raspberry Creek Carpark and it is still a mystery how I did not freeze in my Kmart sleeping bag and the 5-dollar mat. The morning started off with the famous OUTC breakfast full of oats, brown sugar, and dried sultanas. Surprisingly, we even got a banana each, probably some extra energy to carry all the stuff through the valley.
It was raining the whole way towards Aspiring hut and the mist covered all the mountains around us. I met a lot of people during the walk, most of which I am still trying to remember the names of, and envied those who were driving the four wheel through the valley. When we got into the hut, there was an Aussie guy Terry who shared his salmon and cheese with us. Just a few days later, he needed to be helicoptered out when he tried to summit Mt. Aspiring, but that is another story. What I can say is that he surely did have fun that weekend with us!
Before the night, we all got in our costumes, trying to fit the theme of Greek Gods and Goddesses. Perhaps my favorite one was the God of obesity who wore two XXXL shirts accompanied with a bottle of Scrumpy, of course. We then proceeded to have our three-course dinner which started off with chips and a dip. The main meal was half of the bucket of curry (the other half spilled in the van and covered decorations that were hung on the walls of the hut) and was one of the spiciest meals I have had. I am not sure if someone was too drunk and spilled extra hot sauce or if my ginger Scrumpy just made the combination unbearable. The brownies for dessert were the definite winner!
After we were all well fed, a few (or more) drinks in, and ready to release all the energy, we hit the dance floor. The music was pumping, people were sucking the life out of the poorly functioning keg, and the wine goons were being slapped. Everyone was having a good time (maybe except for the guy who accidentally cut opened his arm by breaking a window). When the clock hit midnight, Hamish (the president and a sweet friend) put me on the table, everyone started singing happy birthday and the DJ played “Party in the USA”. I am still unsure why they chose this song considering I come from Bosnia, but I didn’t question it then and just danced with a huge smile on my face through the night.
As the music and energy started fading away, people slowly made their way to the sleeping bags wherever they could find a spot. The bunks, the floor, the chairs, and even the desk were occupied with a hundred trampers who managed to fit into a 33-person hut. In the morning, we got up to sunshine and could finally see the mountains that were surrounding the hut. We all rolled out of our bags for a gourmet breakfast to cure the hangover and ate hash browns, eggs, sausage, beans, and leftover brownies from the previous night. The hut needed to be tidied up before the departure and the president of OUTC was fairly pissed that morning for cleaning up someone’s shit from the woodshed despite him clearly explaining everyone to use the toilet. If you are reading this and plan on attending Bushball, DO NOT SHIT IN THE WOODSHED, USE THE TOILET.
On the way back to the carpark, me and a few more people took turns carrying the keg back. The pump did not function properly the previous night, so we managed to get some leftover booze out to keep us hydrated as we were walking. Close to the end of the track, a group of us jumped into the cold Matukituku river. I was still in the water when they started singing happy birthday to me. I was looking at the mountains around me, listening to these people, and was filled with so much warmth despite the freezing river.
Thank you OUTC was such an unforgettable weekend, the keg stand, the spicy curry, the friendships, and for making my 21st birthday the best one so far! I may not take the shit sleeping bag with me but I surely will carry all the memories wherever I go. •