October 4, 2006

South AfricaWe got up at 6:30 am; Giant’s Castle—or half of it, anyway, with a fresh coat of snow—showed itself for a few seconds between the clouds but then vanished, not to be seen again. We carried the packs down to the trucks, then headed over to Craig and Charl’s for breakfast. Both the Imodium and the ibuprofen seemed to have done their work and we were both feeling better.

Despite the clouds we had a hike planned, so we met down at the reception office with rain gear at the ready. Charl’s plan was to hike up one valley, then to take a cut-off trail and descend the Langalibalele Ridge, ending at the Bushman caves for the tour. We started off towards the picnic area and dropped down to the river, but we missed the bridge leading to the trail and went in the wrong direction, retracing last night’s walk down the river trail. We saw a herd of eland on the hill above us, and guessed that they were the ones who had been breaking off all the flowers. Finally we reached Rock 75 and checked the map. David and Rosemary told Charl about the mistake and he agreed we had missed the turn.

So we agreed to go up to the caves for the tour, rather than retracing our steps. We had to wait 40 minutes for the 10 am tour to start, so we sat under a cliff overhang and stayed out of the rain showers. The tour cost R25 per person and lasted nearly an hour. Our tour guide was a bit hard to understand, as her accent was quite strong, but we could follow her. And besides that, there was a group of Germans whose leader translated everything into German for them. There was a diorama depicting the Bushmen’s way of life, then we proceeded to some other caves with paintings. Besides the paintings of elands and other animals, there were also paintings of everyday things, including soldiers with guns.

After that most of the group decided to carry on hiking, doing the loop in the opposite direction from the original plan, but we and Kim and Jenny decided to go back to the camp. Rosemary went into the curio shop and Paul went birding down towards the picnic site. Soon the rain grew quite heavy, and when the hiking group returned their rain gear was quite wet. We had a quick lunch of sandwiches and hardboiled eggs, huddled in the shelter of the trees.

After that we all got into the trucks and headed to our next camp at Sungubala Bush Camp near the Royal Natal National Park. There was about three hours of driving through the countryside, so we got there in late afternoon.

The camp was really nice. Most of the group was housed in green canvas tents under thatched roofs, but we had our own little A-frame cabin complete with two single beds, a small bedside table with a solar lamp and two smaller tables by the door. We would be staying her for three nights. We had tea and sat around the fire for a while.

Dinner was about 7 pm, provided by the camp owners. It was lamb shanks, rice, curried butternut squash, mixed vegetables with garlic butter, and maize meal, very good indeed. Dessert was apple and almond crumble with hot custard sauce. We went off to bed around 10 pm, hoping for better weather tomorrow.

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