Day 261: Adrenaline Junkies?

Wed. 1st May 2013

Not as scary as advertisedThis is our fifth day in Africa and we still haven’t seen any clouds. We’re not complaining, but as can be seen in some of our photos, our cameras are struggling to cope with the intensity of the sunlight.  It is a good problem to have and we are just enjoying the warmth and the sunshine. It is somewhere around Plan D or E of our trip for us to be in South Africa and with the time to explore the Garden Route but now we are here we are finding the scenery to be just stunning and that there is more to see than we have time for. (So, situation normal then!)

Suspension bridges along the coast and over Storms RiverYesterday, we had a view of the road bridge over the gorge cut by Storms River and today the first item on the agenda is to walk over the pedestrian suspension bridge down at the mouth of the river. The suspension bridge is billed as being for “adrenaline junkies” and for us it brings back memories of the ‘Monkey Bridge’ in Mulu National Park in Sarawak (see here). We wonder how it will compare.

Rocky promontory at Tsitsikamma parkThe bridge is located in Tsitsikamma National Park just down the road from Storms River Village. The park is set out along the coastline as the road winds down to the sea. We meet a couple on mountain bikes whilst we are paying the park entrance fee and for once are glad that we have a car and will not have to be peddling our way back up this hill. Once down the bottom, we find that there are plenty of barbeque stations for a ‘braai’ as well as chalets for overnight stays. What a view to wake up to in the morning with the ragged, coastline and the Indian Ocean just outside your bedroom window.

One of the local residentsThe path to the suspension bridge is well laid out and for the most part, comprises of boardwalk. We see a group just setting off in their sea kayaks and this along with the coastal path remind me of Abel Tasman Park in New Zealand. At the bottom of the trail we see some of the local furry residents sunning themselves and keeping the grass under control – we never did find out what they were. A little way along the trail a semi-circle of wooden benches along with a sign announcing it as an outdoor classroom –  presumably for visiting humans rather than the local fauna. What a brilliant idea. I’m sure Myf would approve.

The view looking up Storms River GorgeThe views along the coast are superb with the cliffs sweeping down to the sea and a rocky shore alternating with sandy coves all the while washed by the clear sea and the deep blue sky. However, when we get to the suspension bridge, there is a little bit of disappointment. Yes, there is quite a long span out over the water and it does sway and bounce a little when you are on it but, at 7m up,  it isn’t very high  (the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge near the Giant’s Causeway is much higher at 30m). The bridge is extremely robustly constructed – wide enough for 2 people to stand side-by-side and rated for 25 people simultaneously. Great views, definitely yes. For “adrenaline junkies” only? Not so much.

Looking down the hill into Plettenberg BayWe shouldn’t get too sniffy though. The scenery is  gorgeous and we’d really like to linger longer. There is even a trail to a waterfall (one of our specialities, this trip) but we don’t have the time as there is a fair bit of driving to be done today. Our lunch stop is in Plettenberg Bay, another one of those picture perfect bays (around the river Plett) with the town set onto the hillside as it gently slopes down and ends in mile after mile of straw coloured sand. We have dipped our toes in each of the Atlantic, Pacific and now the Indian Oceans and it is the latter that has provided the best paddling.

Rolling hills like petrified elephants We are steadily heading east, toward Cape Town, but today we also head north, inland and into the mountains that we have been shadowing ever since we left PE. These feel like they are old, old hills – not too high and rounded rather than sharp features and with steep, deep valleys. One group of hills looks to me like a herd of giant elephants has been petrified. Every now and again, there are parking spots with viewpoints for us to stop and take in the spectacle. Whilst we want to press on with our drive we feel compelled to stop and just admire it all.

Striking architecture of the church in OudtshoornOur destination is a little north of the town of Oudtshoorn as there are some caves here that we want to see tomorrow. We get the sense that this is a key part of the old, white South Africa. There are farms everywhere – no wineries yet, but fruit farms and higher in the hills sheep and now ostrich farms.  Whilst we booked to stay in The Old Mill, we are nearly past De Oude Meul before we realise that is what we are looking for. We are greeted by the owner in a thick South African accent. It is clearly no high season here and we seem to be the only guests staying in what turns out to be a modern bungalow rather than an old mill and so not quite as scenic as we had hoped.

Our room at the Old Mill - not really as old or mill-like as we'd likeSo, are we becoming jaded and burnt out adrenaline junkies? Complaining about the like of scare in the suspension bridge and overlooking views out over the mountains from our too modern room? I don’t think so. The suspension bridge may not have been an adrenaline rush (Johnny & Patricia, if you are reading this, it was much easier than the canopy walk in Poring Hot Springs). But the scenery and the views have been just stunning. Each turn of the road has brought new vistas. Sometimes it has been rolling green hills like home, sometimes brown scrubland like we imagine Africa, sometimes steep mountains and gorges – always dramatic, always worth a second look.

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One Response to Day 261: Adrenaline Junkies?

  1. fiona says:

    In the words of Louis Armstrong: ‘ What a wonderful world’!

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