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April 19, 2013 / samwilson60

Back to the sea

Having completed our scenic loop back to Oudtshoorn we headed south again, back to the coast, and to a nice little backpackers with great views of both the Outeniqua mountains to the north and the beaches of Wilderness to the south – weather permitting.

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We’d stopped in George on our way through, having been given the name of a water filter consultant there by a helpful businessman in Oudtshoorn (loving the customer service in this country!). We’d agreed with our new friend in George that we’d go back the following morning once we’d measured up. As luck would have it, he was also the former, very fond owner of a 60 series Land Cruiser just like ours, so we also though he could help us find a leaf spring specialist (having broken yet another spring halfway up the Swartberg pass).

Much like the battery shopping, finding someone to look at the leaf springs meant touring town and at each stop being directed to another, but amazingly this time it was even quicker and by 10am we’d booked the Tinker Beast in for an overhaul and were trying to decide what to do between now and then.

After visiting both Herold’s Bay and Victoria Bay, we headed back to Wilderness and its log fire, where we marvelled at the wintry weather and tried to work out how we’d fit a new filter twice the size of the old one into the same space. In between howling wind and pouring rain, Sam did awesomely at this, while Cat cowered in front of the fire with the computer.

The next day was an odd one, Tinkerless in George. We dropped her off and walked the few kilometres back into town, where we perused the shops (primarily those of an arts and crafts orientation for a change) and cowered from the rain making necklaces and cards, learning some new boy-scout knots and looking through photos. We had discussed hiring mountain bikes for the day but the weather was miserable and the logistics a pain. Instead we had a pub lunch and covered lots of town on foot. We left George latish, the Tinker Beast with her rear end higher in the air than ever before, and drove out to Nature’s Valley, where we found a backpackers even hippier than the last. We arrived too late to worry about whether it was dress-up night and just enjoyed the massive campsite garden, friendly people and roaming horses.

After a good sleep, we decided that we really needed to cover some ground. It was hard, because here again we could have stayed for days exploring the beautiful area but if we did that everywhere we’d never get home, so instead we had a fairly uneventful but effective driving day and made it all the way to Port Elizabeth, a fairly uninspiring but handy stopover.

In PE, as everyone seems to call it, we found yet another backpackers that offered us a small patch of grass behind the pool for the tent. It looked pretty good, and with the Ironman in town that coming weekend, we were counting ourselves particularly lucky. Even when they’d managed to squeeze another pair of tents around ours, we were happy. And when the guy sleeping in one of them came over to apologise in advance for his snoring, we laughed it off and told him not to be silly – after all the camping we’d done in the car parks of West African nightclubs, as if anyone’s snoring could keep us awake. Little did we know. As he audibly drifted off later that night, Sam got an uncontrollable fit of the giggles but by dawn neither of us were laughing. Without wanting to sound mean, it was like nothing we’d ever heard before and you could even hear it inside the hostel, if not beyond.

Sleep-deprived but glad to get out of the city, we then proceeded to the more conventional, non-backpacker Double Mouth campsite on the Wild Coast. It was in a beautiful little bay, surrounded by hills, so while Sam beat himself up under the truck, Cat jaunted around the river mouth adjoining the campsite. We then both relaxed in front of our first fire in ages – awesome.

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In the morning we collected at least two Awale sets worth of shells, plus a few more potential necklaces-in-the-making, then set off further along the Wild Coast. Reluctant to head back to the main road, we tried our luck on the more minor, eastbound tracks closer to the coast. Our path was cut within a few kilometres by one of the many rivers in the area, but there was a ferry (of sorts) ready and literally waiting. As soon as any paying customers showed up (namely us), it was all go and we were cruising across the water within minutes.

On the other side, the road was rocky but fine, as long as there was no choice as to where we went. As soon as we had to navigate, things got a little trickier – all the most viable routes according to our map were actually overgrown tracks intersected by locked fences, or simple dead-ends, so before long we agreed to return to the N2 after all, just for a bit. We soon took another southbound turn, back into the hills of the Wild Coast proper. If not as mind-blowingly picturesque as other stretches, and at times slightly uncomfortable, it was a very interesting trip through the Transkei, as most of the locals still know it. After much debate, we decided to spend the night at The Hole in the Wall, whatever that may be (OK, almost certainly a rock formation of sorts, but beyond that, who knew). As we were nearing the hotel/holiday village/campsite, we caught up with a few other 4x4s, clearly heading the same way and took this to be a good sign. The place was actually heaving, raising our expectations for the Hole in the Wall instantly, as well as our concern at being quite obviously the only ones who hadn’t booked in. The hotel complex was big, but not too bling, and while the camping area was just a small patch of grass among the chalets, we ended up being the only campers, although we were soon joined by a chicken that looked like someone had already tried to wring its neck and a couple of puppies with equally playful parents. It was already getting on by this point, and the puppies were providing entertainment enough, so we decided to save the Hole in the Wall itself for morning.

When we did venture out, we were immediately stopped short by some fairly ominous, heavy duty fencing but once on the other side the view improved greatly. We had just one offer of services from a ‘guide’, which we declined with thanks, only to question our every turn from there on. We picked paths almost at random, debating whether we’d actually know what we were looking at if and when we found the Hole. It was nice enough just walking over and around the various hills – if we’d had time we’d have carried on further – but as it was we turned back once we’d got to a bay with both a wall of rock slightly out to sea and a hole in said rock.

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The beautiful but seemingly endless hills of the Transkei

 

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