Dear readers (or “dear internet” depending what importance or reach I am telling myself to have),
Last time I started off telling you about prejudices and stereotypes and I feel like this could be the overarching element or, what is called a “metaphorische Verklammerung” in German, in the blog. A recursive concept that regularly reappears. So let me start off with an observation about South Africa once more. As little as I had imagined knowing about the entire African continent, South Africa feels nothing like it. This might explain why people keep telling me: “South Africa is not Africa, and the Western Cape (Stellenbosch region) is not South Africa”. I have not yet made up my mind what to think of that. Normatively speaking. No matter whether it is accurate or not. Whether I find this a) disappointing from quite a disgusting, Voluntourism-leaning anticipation to “get to experience what life really means” or b) relieving from a (not less discomforting) notion of comfort and leisure. Trying to get to my point; much of what I have experienced here was very pleasing, paradisiac and beautiful. This shall in no way indicate my conviction that life in Africa is easy and ever-pleasant, but rather point-out the (self-) awareness that we are a) very privileged and b) being privileged in South Africa is (shamefully) pretty awesome. Letting this aside, I meant to lead over to a very different section, rather narrative than philosophical when I started talking about the Western Cape’s beauty and peacefulness. Nothing of the Western/Northern (pick your favourite and excuse my generalization) stereotype about (South) Africa’s dry, suffocating climate and consequential landscape has presented itself to me.
Instead, quite rightfully so (source: heresay), my fellow companions here made comparisons between California the scenery and. We are surrounded by wineyards, green patches of pines, and valleys of forests and mountains of natural carpets. Clearly, this increases the eagerness to go for walks and hikes manifold. Alas, the second weekend of December, we went to our first hike. A Nature reserve called Jonkershoek was our destination. We went on a route recommended (or only selected/handpicked? Irrelevant I guess) by our favourite local Philip (fun fact: He comes from the same town as Die Antwoord, called Kuilsriver).
(I think thinking/working in sustainability hypocrisies are also a constant companion. Well, at least for me. Of course I cherish and support and appreciate the fact that reserves are taken care of and for that service an entrance fee is charged, but that day I was only annoyed that I was halted and asked for money. J )
Through rough vegetation, bushes and shrubs we walked for a while on sand, when we encountered a sign pointing towards a waterfall to our right. Trembling in excitement, we rushed towards it and we were not disappointed. From a small height, water was pouring down into a shallow basin. With the sun dripping through the leaf roof the water was coloured in light green. We did not hesitate for long and took a refreshing bath. Frogs and tadpoles were our companions. Of course the water was cold, but in Christmassy 25° C, the experience is something worth freezing for.
With this first appetizer in mind, we continued the trail and the route got steeper. Leading from a path on open terrain, we slowly descended between the mountain and entered a section, where the water was punctuated by rocks that led the way. Jumping from stone to stone we advanced. Deeper and further on the path of the river. At the end of the section, when the river disappeared between the rocks and in heights not reachable for us, we proudly sat on one of the greater rocks to bathe in our achievement, crunching some potato chips. A magical moment. So we thought. However, what a wave of disappointment shook us, when all of a sudden we saw a group of people climb down from the higher zones of the mountain above. The path continues. But we did not hesitate for long, as it was still early at the day. We can do that too! So we packed our stuff and started climbing. And what a climb that was! Slippery stones, sandy rocks, wet walls. Narrow pathways and a continuous up and down alongside the river posed a challenge at least to me. But it also was a team-building experience. I would be lying if I said that I did not think about stopping at one point, but I am glad I pulled through. The final was crowned by a small valley or mountain bowl that was surrounded by sharp and steep cliffs. Water was dripping and rushing from the top and moss had spread over the walls. At the bottom of the valley was another pond, admittedly incomparable to the first, given the scenery and the prologue to reach it. And again, we refreshed ourselves in the clear, icy water. After having surpassed this challenge, we now truly were proud with ourselves.
This newly developed fascination with waterfalls was what guided our recent adventure, this Saturday, the 19th of December. With great motivation and vigour, we had planned to leave to a nature reserve and a path leading to another waterfall. Yet, the weekend daze caught us red-handed, and we did not manage to leave the house until 2 o clock. The conviction that you should not go hiking on an empty stomach, our first stop was a remote country house bar, where we feasted on a triplet of sandwiches. And this “safety measure” was the right call, looking back. Yuri had found this trail on Capetown magazine, our current go-to-homepage when it comes to sudden yearning for adventure or leisure peaks. Situated right next to a highway, both, the parking lot and the nature reserve Limietberg, did not strike us as marvelous, but boy, were we wrong! I will fast-forward now as people have complained about my last entry being too long, so… [*high-pitched voice with incomprehensible gibberish*] … and then we arrived at the second pond. And the wounds and bulges and bruises and scratches were forgotten. Similar to the first waterfall two ago, the pond was surrounded by mountain walls, but its size was smaller, so that the remoteness and the impression of idyll was multiplied. This time the waterfall was not really a stream of droplets as before, but a full-fledged, multi-stage waterfall. The wall was covered with thick, rich moss and the relaxation it radiated was stunning. I said that the water before had been ice-cold. In comparison to the water now that was nothing. This time, it was freezing and painful. We all managed to take a leap into the pond, but stamina was not trained enough for this endeavour to last. Caro laughingly commented that she could not even swim in it, but only jump in and out because of the temperature. And she was right, it was bone-rattlingly cold…
On the way in the valley, we stumbled across a thick chain, which was equipped with several knots and Yuri could not help but to wonder where it would lead and why it would be leading anywhere anyway. Wearing nothing but our swimming clothes, we followed his lead and discovered that again, we were not at the final destination. It was settled; we had to come back. If this was just the beginning, how would the next stop look like?! However, being under pressure by the advanced time, we decided that it would be better to return to the car. And what has took us 2 hours to mount, took us one to descend. Cheerioh! What a day!