The Way to Wilderness
Hitchhiking is not recommended in South Africa, but finding people who have cars that are staying in the same backpackers as you, is. It is certainly cheaper. We caught a lift with a fellow backpacker who was driving to Mossel Bay. The land from Hermanus was dry as, and I couldn’t believe the sight of fields after fields of dirt mixed with gravel, baked to a crispy reddish brown. Another example of over-farming.
Mossel Bay is fairly boring. Nice area but not much happening there. There are some caves nearby but we just didn’t feel the urge to go. So, next morning we hooked up with the same driver and made our way to Wilderness, a small town aptly named for its surroundings. We stayed in a place called the Beach House Backpackers. It had a beautiful view of the beach below, paragliders taking off to the right of us, and a restaurant that made some killer pizzas! We stayed for a few days soaking up the rays and revelling in the beauty of nature.
One day, Lizzy and I walked down to the beach and noticed blue bottle jellyfish washed up all over the place. Wanting desperately to swim, I slipped on my sea shirt and swam out. I had learned from my uncle in-law to look for rips in the water and decided that the whole beach was one big rip, so Lizzy watched me from the shore as I swam out. After going through some of Oz and taking the necessary precautions against things that hurt you in the most impolite kind of manner, I became careless. It was a good feeling for a while swimming there but it wasn’t long before I had a bluebottle wrapped around my wrist and another on my ankle. Taking my stinging cue, I casually exited the water and went back to the Beach House with Lizzy. Frankly, despite the stinging sensation and small raised lumps on my skin, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It reminded me of walking through nettle bushes in eastern Canada. In fact, I was a little excited. Not because I’m a sadist but because I hade the opportunity to try out a well-known fact regarding treatment for a jellyfish sting. Uh-huh, while showering up, I used mind over matter and urinated on my wrist (I figured I would have better aim than going for my ankle). Almost immediately the stinging sensation went away and within an hour or so, my small lumps disappeared. It really works! Excited, I decided to leave my ankle alone as an experiment to see how long it would take to clear up. It took about a day and a half. Not bad.
Like its name, Wilderness is tucked away in a forest with winding rivers, beautiful valleys, bunches of wildlife and a beach full of rips nearby. Lizzy and I hiked a trail called the Giant King Fisher. It meanders its way along the river, up the valley to a waterfall. Lizzy and I just took our time and watched all the birds go by. One in particular is called the Knysna Lourie. It has a green-capped head with a white mohawk and bluish-green body and when it flies, it has crimson under its wings. A marvellous looking bird. On the way back, we could hear baboons pulling away at the grass that they like to eat down and communicating with each other in the valley below.
Prior to starting this trail, Lizzy and I, through a series of events, met the ‘manager’ of a backpackers and provided back up for her when she had to ask a backpacker to leave. Afterwards, we found out the owner is the same owner for the Beach House where we were staying. A day later, Lizzy and I hiked up to a place called the Map of Africa, which is a lookout. From here you can see the ocean on one side and the other, you can see a landmass that has the shape of the continent of Africa. Pretty cool. I was happy to see that despite the state of some black South African homes up on this hill, the South African government hadn’t the brilliant idea of relocating the people off of their prime real estate. From there we continued on down into the valley, following along old oxcart ruts that have been worn into the rock. Once at the bottom, we made our way along a river to the sea stopping nearby a bridge, which has a steam train cross it three or four times a day, and had some wine. Watching the train reminded me of a choo-choo set that was complete with steam, tunnels and bridges. It was exactly the same. After we arrived back at the backpackers, we met the owner and he invited us to work for a month on the farm backpackers called The Fairy Knowe. (No fairy jokes please heh heh….) Lizzy and I thought about it and decided to see the next day what it would be like. Despite our butterflies, we thought that it felt O.K. and that it was worth a month of work so, we decided to stay. Despite an initial casual conversation as to what our responsibilities were and what our compensation would be, nobody of authority really seemed to take charge and that would be the cause of some frustration for the next month to come.