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May 20, 2009 > Rattlesnake Rendezvous a trip back in time

Rattlesnake Rendezvous a trip back in time

By Suzanne Ortt

Conjure up the Stone Age, a prehistoric period characterized by man making tools of stone. Now, visualize living a primitive lifestyle common 2.5 million years ago for a three-day weekend in the rough terrain of Camp Ohlone.

Rattlesnake Rendezvous, sponsored by the Society for Primitive Technology and East Bay Regional Park District, offers that challenge.

Twenty-five years ago, naturalist Norm Kidder originated and named this campout so people could learn indigenous life skills. Camp Ohlone, a rugged campsite, is the setting for a trip to the ancient past. Worldwide technologies are integrated into this adventure; no single culture is re-created.

To quote Sunol naturalist Cat Taylor, "Modern culture is increasingly separated from the natural world. Events such as this one allow people to reconnect with nature, to leave technology behind, to experience things at a slower pace and experience the rigors and satisfactions of living with primitive technologies and the intimacy of village life."

Highly trained instructors and naturalists teach fire starting, basket making, cordage, flint-knapping, spear-throwing using atlatls, arrow making (primitive archery practice available), bead and jewelry making with shells and bones, and open fire cooking methods.

Campers provide their own camping gear and food. In keeping with the camp's theme, all food is cooked the old way; no processed foods, sodas or snacks are permitted. The only modern utensil used is a metal knife. Dishware includes abalone shells, mussel shells (for spoons), baskets, wooden chopsticks, bowls and trays. Each morning, java lovers can stone boil coffee in wooden bowls or baskets.

After darkness descends, the group gathers around the campfire and relaxes for storytelling, jokes and tribal music played with didgeridoos and percussion instruments. Night hikes are another offering.

Be part of a Stone Age village with a population of approximately 80 people. It will be a weekend happening etched in your mind forever.

Three terms may need explaining:
* The atlatl and dart was the first true weapons system. An atlatl is a spear thrower, developed in Europe more than 30,000 years ago and in North America 12,000 years ago.
* Flint-knapping, the ancient art of stone tool-making, has changed as man has evolved. A few small groups in the world still knap for their survival. Admiration for this skill may increase after trying it.
* The didgeridoo, an Australian aboriginal instrument at least 2,000 years old, requires an unusual technique: circular breathing. Air is breathed simultaneously in through the nose and out through the mouth. Frequent practice is essential to increase one's skill.

Rattlesnake Rendezvous
Saturday-Monday, May 23-25
Camp Ohlone, seven miles from Sunol-Ohlone Regional Wilderness
Registration required
(888) 327-2757, option 2, 3

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