Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Backpacking - Tuesday March 18 and Wednesday March 19, Day 5 and 6 – Wilderness

Wilderness turned out to be just that – wilderness. It’s a very small down settled in the mountains, but still on the Indian Ocean, as well as a river. It was a very pretty town, but had very little to do, as we would found out.

After getting settled in we asked the front desk what we could do in the area. She encouraged us to walk up to the nearby National Park claiming that it, and the local town, was not far away. We made the long trek there to find that the trail was closed and that the water was a suspicious brown color, so we played cards and journaled instead of doing anything too exciting. When we decided to head back we thought it would be a good idea to go into town for dinner before it got too dark. Before we knew it we were walking for kilometer after kilometer with no town in sight. Eventually we made it, but the walk felt like forever. As we were enjoying our well-deserved pizzas the electricity went out for the daily load-shedding. We couldn’t believe our luck. By the time we finished dinner it was dark and we thought we should call a cab. We called a cab to pick us up and ended up waiting for almost an hour in front of the restaurant in the dark dressed like hobos and wrapped in our towels. We were turning away customers we looked so ridiculous. As we were standing there we noticed that “Jersey,” the couple we met back in J-Bay were at the restaurant, as well. We found this a lot on our trip, we’d run into many of the same people over and over. That was one of the coolest parts.

When the cab finally picked us up we made the three minute drive from the restaurant back to our hostel. When we pulled in the driveway the cabbie informed us that it would be costing us 90 Rand. We couldn’t believe it. A drive at least twice as long was a third of the price back in Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth. We were really ripped off and angry. The last two days weren’t really going too well for us!

In an attempt to be more social Sonya and I spent some time around the campfire. Sitting there I met a guy from Germany. He was in South Africa doing an internship for his studies as a doctor. We was doing surgery in a township hospital in Cape Town. He was so great to talk to. We talked a lot about township life, which we’ve both become too familiar with. It was great talking to someone who could relate and teach me about an aspect of township life that I knew nothing about. He’s studying orthopedics and he talked a lot about the diabetes statistics in the townships. He told me that 80% of amputations in township hospitals are diabetes related and the majority are above the knee because people go untreated for so long. He also said that they estimated that over 35% of township dwellers have diabetes and most go untreated. We talked for a really long time and he gave me suggestions about our next destination, Mossel Bay. We discussed Germany and America, and made lots of Borat references - he was a lot of fun. I also found out that before he decided to go into medicine he thought about being an art therapist. That was a really fun thing to discuss with someone. Unfortunately our time together was short, but he was definitely the most amazing person I met along the way.

The next day we woke up early for a morning of kloofing, something I’ve only heard of rarely in the States. It was a lot of fun and a great workout. First we squeezed ourselves into wetsuits and were then driven to the top of a mountain on a river. There were started hiking down the mountain to the river. The hike took about a half hour and was super hot. The wetsuits were not a great hiking accessory. It was strange to be wearing sneakers with wetsuits and since it was so hot we had the suits pulled down to our waists leaving our tops covered only by bikinis. It was an awkward hike. When we finally reached the water we were debriefed on how exactly to kloof - just make your way through the rocks and river however you can, and we got into the water.

It was freezing, but the wetsuits helped. We started off swimming then we had to do some climbing. It was so much fun! At some points there were rapids that sucked you through them. That was the best part. This waster was also the unnatural brown color, which we later found out was actually quite natural. It was colored by the same ingredient that makes tea brown - it looked and felt like a river of iced tea. It took us about three hours to make our way down the river. At several points we had relatively long distances to swim, which was awful in our ill fitting life jackets. We got to do some high jumps, too, which was really cool. I felt so free jumping from the top of these cliffs into the water on a gorgeous day in Africa. At one point we also encountered a waterfall that came straight down the gorge into the river. It was SO HIGH. We got to swim under it in the river and it felt like rain coming down. It was beautiful.

By the time we finished our kloofing adventure we came close to missing our Baz Bus to Mossel Bay, but made it just in time.