Tsitsikamma…..mama!

It’s hard to believe it’s winter here, though, it’s been unseasonable warm from what we’ve been told by locals. Low 70’s during the day, early morning and evening have been cool, fleece-wearing temperatures.

We left Buccanneers Lodge and Hostel to head for the Garden Route which spans part of the “Eastern” and “Western” Cape. The names are a bit misleading as they are both north of Capetown, one is more “West” and in a southerly direction than its Eastern counterpart. On the way, we stopped at the Port Edward airport to exchange cars since our Chevy Spark, though running well and extremely good on gas, was making a high pitch wining sound when using the fan. We made the switch and picked up a Tata (Indian-made?) something-or-other. After driving just about 25 km, the windshield wiper broke. I didn’t intend on using the wiper; I was trying to use the turn signal which is located on the opposite side of the steering column. The wiper turned on and the blades got stuck in the up-motion, one inside the brace of the other. Back to the airport we went and swapped cars again, this time getting an upgrade to a Ford Figo. It’s a sporty, stiffer drive with more power and pep but not nearly as good on gas as the Spark.

The next stop was Jeffreys Bay, a mecca for surfers as it’s known for its consistent, perfectly shaped waves. And with beaches named Supertubes and Megatubes, how could we resist! We got there a bit late in the evening but caught some great surfers the next morning, dudes.

Then we headed down the Garden Route to stay in a small village called Storms River. The drive down was wonderful, highlighting why they call the area the Garden Route. Rolling hills of multitudes of shades of green, mountain landscapes, timber (European Pine and Australian Eucalyptus) plantations of varying sized trees, roadsides dotted with yellow flowers– very lush, indeed. After parking our bags at the hostel, we were itching for some hiking and headed right back out to Tsitsikamma National Park which was a short distance away and sat right on a wild part of the shore of the Indian Ocean.

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Tsitsikamma River mouth

We had just enough daylight left to do the 3.7km, 2 hour-hour long Blue Duiker (Africaans pronunciation: blu-de-ker) trail. We hiked down the park road to the trail-head which shot off west up and into the mountain away from the ocean. Cindy and I thought it was the nicest smelling trail we’d ever hiked. We found out later it was the smell of sage. The trail went up on the hillside and came back down to cross the park road, finally linking up with the Waterfall Trail by the oceanside before ending near the park store and restaurant. At the end of the hike we were rewarded with the sight of these Blue Duikers sparring.

Blue Duikers: smallest of the world's antelope family

Smallest of the antelope family

One of the cool things about the park is the spectacular rough surf and waves all along the shore. This is right near the spot where the Blue Duiker trail meets the Waterfall trail. Turn up the sound to get the full effect……

Watching ocean waves can be like watching a fire burn. You can only take so many pictures because they’ll look the same to some degree or other, but you can watch the wave action for a really really long time.

Wild surf!

Wild surf!

The next day we got an early start since there was a lot to do. We started with snorkeling the cove which was Cape Cod-ocean-side-temperature water. That is to say, COLD! We rented 5mm wetsuits and booties but once our faces and heads went in, it was still quite cold. I added a weight belt with an extra 8 kilograms to help me stay under, but Cindy had none and bobbed up and down like a cork. It was near low tide which helped flatten out the waves but there was still a good amount of swell and lots of wave surges. We watched as the fish got tossed back and forth in the surge and I thought, “We’re with you, little fishes!” We explored the cove for almost an hour which was plenty considering the water temperature.

Snorkeling entry point. I wish the water was as flat as that when we went.

Snorkeling entry point. I wish the water was as flat as that when we went.

We ate at the restaurant in the park. It’s remarkable that there, and most other similar foreign venues, the prices are reasonably close to what you’d find outside the park. It’s so unlike what you find the US which are utterly inflated “captured audience” prices.

In the afternoon, we hiked the Waterfall Trail which hugs the coast for about 1 1/2 hours one-way. This was such a remarkable venue, I have to say this is one of the nicest trails I’ve ever hiked. It was a bit reminiscent of the rocky Maine coast but with constant crashing and surging waves on one side and mountain forest on the other. The trail undulated up and down with occasional assists from wooden ladders and bridges.

On the Waterfall trail

On the Waterfall trail

The waterfall. For scale, check the picnickers at the base on the left.

For scale, check the picnickers at the base on the left.

Beyond the waterfall it becomes the Otter trail which is a renowned hike that continues along the coast for a 5 days.

Who're you lookin' at?

Who’re you lookin’ at?

We saw a lot of these guys (Rock Dassies or Rock Hyrax) around the park. I caught one on camera on safari back in Tanzania but it was so camouflaged with the rocks, the picture didn’t come out well at all. Despite its size difference it is the African elephant’s closest living relative!

After we got back from the Waterfall trail, I added a quick spur hike to the suspension bridge that hangs over the mouth of the Tsitsikamma River.

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The Tsitsikamma river

The Tsitsikamma river

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