Friday, 8 May 2015

May 3: Hiking and beaches in Wilderness

We had a beautiful day today…

Sunrise from our hostel
…so decided to go hiking right from our hostel into the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park. We started following an old abandoned train line…

Train bridge now used by cars
…which quickly took us into a dense green forest…

Where green stuff goes on vacation
…which was full of cool spider webs.

Glistening in the sun 
About 2' in diameter. The web, not the spider
The “normal” trail stays in a valley, but we chose an extra 1.5 km path that climbed 150 m to a viewpoint over the valley we were entering, before dropping back down. Somewhat staircase like going up, we were dripping with sweat in the +95% humidity at the top, though it was only 20°.

The valley, the estuary and the beach 
One of the lakes behind the dunes now visible 
Looking down at kayakers in the placid river
The river is stained brown from bark tannins.

Kinda looks like chocolate 
The woods are lonely, dark and deep
The hike follows up the canyon, a bunch of it (maybe 2 km worth) on a boardwalk, sometimes down near the river…

Miles of boardwalk
…often plastered on the canyon walls almost a hundred feet above the river. After 3.5 km, you arrive at a pair of waterfalls at the canyon’s end.

Lower falls; 40' high 
Upper falls. the "bridge" carries a water pipeline
On our way up the canyon, we crossed the river on stepping stones. On our way back, we came by the “pontoon bridge,” which isn’t a bridge at all but rather a simple pontoon boat on a clothesline that you pull across.

Two folks on the boat 
Looks safe to me 
Less than 1 horsepower
We crossed!
There’s a pretty national park campground at the mouth of the river valley that looks like a lovely place to stay.

Yurts and everything
It was a nice hike, if warm (especially the climb up to the viewpoint) but the best part was the birds. There were many I saw but could not get photos of, and there are endless birds calling in the trees.

A lesser double collared sunbird 
A terrible photo of a rare Knysna Turaco 
We liked this guy
After stopping for lunch back at home…

Entrance to our hostel 
There are a lot of "Fairy Knowes" in South Africa, including Cape Town
We went over to the beach in town to discover that while the beach is pretty and big, the Indian Ocean is cold.

Big beach 
Welcome to Oregon 
Obligatory shot of Karen with cold feet 
My expression says it all 
Mist on sand 
Someone ironed the beach
Though the beach was pretty popular with folks, including fishermen.

Fishing for Snook or Cob apparently
What scared us on our beach walk was the number of jellyfish washed up, from the hand-sized ones to this bugger. Apparently, African kids will use these as soccer balls.

Big. And purple
The sand dunes on the beach are lined with really expensive houses. This house was Karen’s fave.

We wandered back to town via the river’s estuary, which is very pretty and home to lots of birds, too.

Currently blocked from the ocean by sand
Wilderness is not a very big town; the core isn’t more than 3 blocks in size and is mostly made up of about 8 restaurants and 5 real estate offices. Karen got a hard-sell sales pitch from a guy selling rather beautiful textiles, mostly batik or potato printed. The pitch included that his mother made some (which is BS), and that he hadn’t sold anything all day, which wasn’t surprising given that there really was no one around for reasons I could not fathom, given that it was the Saturday of a long weekend.


Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Parking “attendants”

Popular spots in South Africa lack parking. Anywhere you have a lot of people wanting to park you have “parking attendants”.

He’s a guy who “guides you” to a parking spot on an access road (instead of one in an empty in the parking lot) then tries to charge you to “watch your car”. There are a lot of these in Africa. The ones in Stellenbosch even have “Informal Parking Attendant” on their reflective vests – because they all have reflective vests. We saw them in Wilderness, Mossel Bay, Stellenbosch, Knysna, and even at the Cango Caves.

Locals seem to just follow his instructions and park, then tip him something on the way out. We avoided most of them, parking close but not so close that finding a parking spot was hard. Maybe during high season, their services would be useful. When we went, not so much.

Now, Cape Town has real parking attendants. There are no parking meters. There’s an attendant who will find you and sell you a ticket. Different person. But then again, they won’t “watch your car” in Cape Town.

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