Hey all! Since Tuesday I’ve been chilling in Wilderness, South Africa. This town sits on the banks of the lazy Touwsrivier and my hostel, Fairy Knowe, is sweetly nestled into the trees. It’s also a short walk to the beach. The hostel actually has several buildings- a small office, a large open area with a bar, and a couple of buildings with living spaces. Everything (except maybe the bar) looks to be older construction. So it all has that worn-but-loved feel. I find it quite beautiful 🙂
After settling in on Tuesday, I went for a run/walk through town and to the beach. I chilled by the water for a bit and then headed back. The houses here are both architecturally eye-catching and covered in beautiful vegetation. Ivy and vines hang down from the trees, flowers spill out of planters, and succulents cover the ground. And the birds! Bird watchers, y’all need to come to Wilderness. Five minutes walking on the riverside boardwalk and I saw 5 different kinds of bird. It’s a shame I don’t know more about birds. I wish I had a guidebook, I could spend an afternoon sitting on the boardwalk watching the bids swim across the water and fly against the blue sky. It would be fun trying to guess their species!
On the walk back from the beach the light from the setting sun was creating the most beautiful colors in the sky and water. The sunrises and sunsets here are really something else. The colors are soft and blend effortlessly into one another. Much different from the Maryland skies where big, bright clouds create sharp contrasts against the sky!
Tuesday night I met Kitty, a lovely girl from the UK. She and I hit it off and made loose plans to hike and kayak together over the next couple of days. And we did exactly that!
Wednesday morning was a slow one- I watched the sunrise and then worked on my computer for a bit. After a trip to the market for some food, Kitty and I headed out. One of the employees at the hostel suggested we go to The Cave and see the Caveman. Apparently he needed candles, so we bought some on our way to the beach.
After walking to the end of the beach, we met up with the old railroad track. We followed them along the cliffs, our eyes searching the ocean for signs of dolphins. And we were rewarded! Kitty caught sight of a couple jumping and the next thing we knew there were dozens leaping out of the water.
After enjoying the view, we continued along the tracks and went through a tunnel.
When we came out of the tunnel, we thought we had arrived at a cafe. I thought it was strange, a cafe that was a 15-20 minute walk from the road. But upon further investigation what we had come to was even stranger.
Platforms lined either side of the tracks. To our left was a table with six chairs, a railing, and then the ocean. To our right was a large raised platform in front of a wide cave and then a lower section against the wall of the cliff. The lower section was lined with tables. It made me think of kitchen bench tops. Three guys standing against the tables drinking tea waved and welcomed us. They pointed towards a fourth man who was standing on the raised platform. He gestured for us to come join him. So we walked up to what was clearly an entrance. We had arrived not at a cafe, but at The Cave. And the man leading us inside was the Caveman.
Neither Kitty nor I expected the reality of the cave. We though it would be a large cavern that a kind homeless man lived in. But there was much more going on.
The ground was covered in floor boards and walls created various partitions. Sea shell mobiles hung from the ceiling (of the cave) and various constructed supports. There was so much to look at I had a hard time processing it at first. So many colors and shapes. I felt like I had walked into a fairy land or a movie set. It was stunning.
The Caveman pointed out a donation box and, in an oddly high and soft voice, invited us to walk around and take pictures. He then left us to explore his home.
We walked around the whole place quickly at first, just taking in the big picture. Once the initial shock and awe faded, we started to feel a bit uneasy. We slowed down, looked closer at the impressive collection of colorful artifacts, and understood our discomfort.
(Of course, we did not verbalize our feelings, it was only after leaving that we began to discuss the experience and discover we felt the exact same way)
Masks. Dolls. Dressing table covered in lotions and a hair brush. Impeccably made beds. What I can only describe as a Shrine to the Male Form.
We walked softly, stayed close together, and took our pictures. For all the creepiness, we couldn’t look away. Eventually, though, it became too much and we walked out of the cave.
We continued down the tracks towards Victoria Bay, discussing the experience. Shivers ran up and down my spine as I realized just how weird the place was. I began to feel even more creeped out, so I changed the subject, thoughts of the Caveman softly walking behind us, hearing our words, filled my mind. I looked behind me and saw no one, but my logical mind could not reason with the uneasiness I felt. We walked faster.
The feeling of being watched eventually faded and I became to again soak in the gorgeous ocean views and general railroad aesthetic that I love. We descended down to Victoria Bay in the most roundabout way, walking along a fence on a path I would barely classify as a trail. Once on the beach we enjoyed our lunches and ice cream, chatting about life and dreams, the way two newly met travelers often do. It’s wonderful how a mutual desire for connection opens up conversation and creates space for honesty.
We eventually headed back to Wilderness and our hostel. After the long day in the sun, I drank some tea, read a bit, and retired early.
The next morning (Thursday), Kitty and I packed bags for kayaking. We hired a two man sit-a-top kayak from the hostel and paddled inland along the Touwsrivier. The water was calm, only birds and our paddles breaking the surface. We oo’d and aaw’d over the tall reeds, the soaring mountains, and colorful wildlife. With only the sound of our gently splashing paddles, a peaceful mood filled the moments. My breathing was deep and slow without the need for focused attention on it’s rhythm. Again, we talked about our stories and hopes.
We came upon a point where the kayak could no longer continue so we beached our boat, grabbed our things, and began hiking. Our feet freezing cold from the water and shade, we voiced our silliness for leaving thicker layers at the hostel. When we found a sunny patch, less than a meter long, we stood still in the light and talked until our feet felt some bit of warmth again. It wasn’t long after our break that we reached the waterfall.
We found the perfect place to eat lunch, took the obligatory posed pics and shots of the water, and unpacked our food.
We sat and enjoyed the scenery for some time. Kitty napped and I read. Two young men showed up and began scrambling over the rocks. We watched them climb rocks and build up the nerve to step from one ledge to the next.
The trip back to the hostel held the same peace as the morning.
After enjoying some tea and changing into dry (and warmer) clothes, we walked to the beach with another girl. The time in the sun tired me out however, and I headed back to hit the hay.
Friday morning I packed up my things and checked out of the hostel. Leaving my bags behind the main desk, I joined Kitty and two other girls at the hostel for a walk to the beach. As always, it was fun to chat with and get to know other travelers.
Since I needed to catch the Baz Bus, I headed back while they continued their walk. I read and tried to convince the internet to allow my phone to download some Netflix shows.
I rode the Baz Bus all the way to Cape Town, where I met up with the wonderful Liaan. My next post will talk about all the fun Cape Town has been. I’ll write later, xoxo