The worst camping trip in the world, ever

Photo: DJ Struntz

by Keith Offgram

Just before the turn of the Millenium, December 1999, me and five mates decided to spend it in Mexico: surf along the coast and go big for NYE in Acapulco.

It was a cool crew of mates fresh out of Uni, we had boards, a bit of cash, and we were mad keen for waves, shits and giggles Mexico-style while dodging the grim English winter.

A farmer not too far up the coast from Manzanillo said we could use his land to camp on for not much money, so we set up our tents and got our Mex on. Waves weren’t great but we were having big fun; wearing boardies all day in December and lording it.

Surf consistency: 9 Wave Variety: 7
Climate: 9 Radness: 6 Budget: 5

One night about 3am I heard vehicles approaching in my half-sleep. Pretty much the next thing I knew I was face down, naked, with a gun in the back of my head.

They grabbed us all out of bed one by one, pistol whipped us, punched and kicked us, and demanded to know where our money was. I told him where I had a hundred bucks or so. One of the boys, Neil, was all flustered and couldnt remember where he’d stashed his cash, and was in a bad way. He was crying, freaking out, and one of our crew, Pablo, who spoke fluent Spanish, said later Neil came within about 3 seconds of getting a bullet in the head.

Pablo, who spoke fluent Spanish, said later Neil came within about 3 seconds of getting a bullet in the head

Another lad, Sam got a few punches, rifle-butts to the head, etc, and also a thumb up his asshole. A Mexican bandito not only robbed his money and beat him up, but shoved a thumb up his anus, presumably for fun rather than business. Anyway, one by one everyone got a good going over. I had no doubt we were gonna get killed after we’d handed over our stuff. The vibe didn’t seem like shit-us-up-to-make-us-cough-up, it seemed like these guys actually wanted to kill us.

They ordered us into one tent, and we were crouched inside in a huddle while they got in our truck and did laps around the camp, coming closer and closer. They ran over our boards, all our tents and then stopped near us. The reverse lights came on, the engine was revving and they were shouting at each other in some kind of argument. Pablo was like, ‘Get down, get in the middle, they’re gonna run us over!’. They truck whined in reverse picking up speed coming straight for us, then skidded to a halt right on the tent. I remember the canvas flapping in the truck’s exhaust above my head, we were literally cm’s from being crushed. Six guys nude in a two man tent, in the pitch black Mexican night, bleeding, sobbing, waiting for death.

After some discussion about whether or not to run us over, the no vote won and they told us to stay inside – if we got out they’d kill us. Eventually we inched out. I puked up in the fireplace and then we all ran and hid in the bush until morning. There was a river which someone had said had crocs in and we kinda hid on the banks wondering if we’d ever see morning. The farmer came and got us the next day and was pissed off it’d happened on his land. The cops came out later in full gear with M16’s and bullet proof vests and all and said they thought it was the same gang who killed someone a few weeks earlier. They never caught anyone.

Six guys nude in a two man tent, in the pitch black Mexican night, bleeding, sobbing, waiting for death

We rented an apartment in Manzanillo, and basically didn’t go outside much. We went down to Nexpa to surf after a while but the waves were pretty terrible. Pablo only really told us the full extent of what was being said years later, it turns out we were even closer to dying than we thought at the time. I did go back to Mexico in 2007 (staying in hotels) and passed by close to where it’d happened, but didn’t give it too much thought. Well, a bit. But as the old saying goes, shit happens.

I guess shit just happens that bit worse at 3am in a farmer’s field in Mexico.


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