Day 3 – Wilderness to Tsitsikamma

Erica woke us up bright and early at 6am. Finished sleeping and bouncing like a baby.  We dragged our tired carcasses out of bed and started packing our gear. I was planning to do the nearby mountain bike course but sudden heavy rainfall and cold put a quick end to that idea.  The MTB trail is accessible from the campsite and winds up a very steep hill. Heather and I are having and ongoing debate about whether the term “meander” or “snaking” is more applicable to narrow mountain trails or wider jeep tracks – sadly still no conclusion but my take is that only narrow paths can snake up a mountainside while wider roads meander.  I was told by the local adventure company that the ride is incredibly tough but the veiw from the top is well worth it!    We’ve decided to return in a few weeks time to do this trail in better weather – plus the accommodation is excellent and at only R385 for entire cabin the Ebb and Flow Rest Camp at the Wilderness National Park is great value for money.
We left Wilderness at 9am.  Stopped in Knysna for a coffee at the viewing point over the heads (no chance of cycling Harkerville Forest in this rain), then went onwards towards Plett.
En-route we stopped off at the Wolf Sanctuary.  Erica was not interested in the wolves, black-backed jackals or hyenas, but instead was enthralled by the goats playing on various obstacles created for them. It is unbelievable what a goat can balance on – I have pics of goats casually walking on poles which ants would think twice about! Erica loved the babies and the inquisitive Emu’s who came up to the fence. The tour cost only R60 per person (kids R20, babies free) and afterwards you are free to picnic while the kids play on the well-constructed playgyms or the petting zoo (wolves are unfortunately not included! Just bunnies, goats, emu’s, tortoises and anything that generally won’t take your hand off).
We got Spur take-out in Plett and then resumed our journey.  By this time the rain was coming down quite heavily. The countryside was green and lush in all directions. August is a beautiful time of year to travel, plus the weather is not too hot.
Onwards and we arrived at Nature’s Valley reception at 2pm, but unfortunately could not find the SANParks guy who was supposed to give us the key to our cabin.  We saw some scuffmarks in the dirt which gave us the answer – he was dragged off into the bush by 3 baboons who mistook him for a breeding female. Either that or he was having a very late lunch. Forty minutes later, with Erica due for her nap, our options were (a) break into a chalet or (b) get SANParks to arrange accommodation at their nearby Tsitsikamma Reserve.  Despite waiting 40 minutes for the guy on the longest lunch ever, sanity prevailed and Heather managed to arrange upgraded accommodation at no extra charge at Tsitsikamma. This turned out to be a much better location than Nature’s Valley with awesome views over a turbulent sea.  Well constructed kiddies playpools and natural rockpools along the jagged coastline make it very safe to swim. The campsites and caravan stands are well apportioned, and all the log cabins are nestled in the original forest of the area. In this primeval Lord of the Rings setting, I felt a little like Frodo, but that soon changed to Saramon when I found out the toilet seat was busted.  The camp cavalry arrived quickly and after a quick pit stop we were saved from the prospect of hovering or descending on cold porcelain for the rest of our stay.
Sadly no microwave or kettle is  available to warm up baby bottles, but there is a nearby outdoor kitchen with a hot water urn which does the job. Heather took advantage of the very good laundry facilities and while waiting took a little walk. Desperate for a microwave, she watched a newly arrived group unpacking to see if they had a microwave. This must have looked sinister in the semi darkness, especially with Heather’s hood pulled up against the cold, ’cause soon after they went inside and closed the curtains. Heather suddenly realised that she was still watching them through the windows – just like a stalker! We had a good laugh about this when she got back to our cabin.
Tsitsikamma’s SANPark has a suspension bridge which we’re going to walk across tomorrow to start our hike. Garth gave me a great child-carrier backpack for Erica, complete with sunshade and beer-holders! This should be a lot easier than negotoating obstacles with the pram or attempting to carry all 10kg of baby for the duration of the hike – that doesn’t sound heavy but just try it for just 1km and you’ll see how 10kg starts to feel like 20kg.