For those of you who don't yet know, I am writing a series on a 27 day hiking/camping/river rafting/ mountain biking experience I had back in 2013 with an amazing group of girls. To read the first and second part of the journey, click on this link below:
We river rafted again, this time for only 17km. There were a lot of calm stretches, and not so many rapids; except for a particularly bad one where my partner and I ended up in a thorn tree and the boat started filling up with water. Our bags and us almost fell out the boat! We had to raft down a weir, which was quite exciting but quite nerve wrecking. If we had put our paddles wrong, we would have flipped the boat in the weir and capsized, being unable to come back up; but I think the river guide made it sound a little worse than it really was. My big bag got sopping wet, but luckily everything was separately packed into ziplock bags, so none of the contents got wet. We floated down the calm river while we ate lunch, ad reached our campsite at 12:00pm. The campsite was called Bontebok, and we were going to be there for 2 days and have a rest day. The facilities were the best in terms of hygiene and convenience. The bathrooms had hot water, clean showers and endless supply of toilet paper and clean basins with huge mirrors! There was even aircon in the toilet block!There was even a barbeque, tap and bin at each plot and the ground was nice and sot for camping; so we were really spoilt. We met the boys at the campsite and they helped us out the river and deflate the rafts. One of the boys in the group sprained his ankle, so he had to stay the next day; lucky for him- he got a whole extra rest day! The boys found a large rain spider and decided to pick it up, I found some sort of bravery within me and gave it a go, and convinced some of my group members to have a go. I think that was probably the first and last time I'll ever do that again!
We woke up late and had cereal, and I again got my own milk which I guarded with my life. The Group 3 boys arrived at 1:00pm and after they settled in most of the girls and guys went to swim in the river. We played cards with the boys for hours, and by that third week, we were all basically professionals. I wrote my letters to my friends in other groups and my parents and family and packed up for the next day's hike.
This was by far one of the most difficult days. We had to walk 18km in total. a quarter of the way there, we got to a river bank on the Breede River. Lying there were 2 tubes- large and small and some rope. We had to cross a flooded river with strong currents. It would have been easier if it was just us, but our big bags had to be transported too. One of the girls swam across and tied the rope to a tree on the other side. On our side we blew up the tubes and some of us strapped bag onto the tubes while others put on life jackets. After 2 1/2 hours everything and everyone was safely across and nobody's bag got very wet. We had lunch on the river bank and then walked for 4 hours in dry, blistering heat. The campsite had a river beach, so most of us had a swim before supper to cool down. I was still very sick, and was just prolonging my illness because all I had was cough medicine and that spray, but I needed antibiotics for my bronchitis which I never received, although promised.
One of the best, most fun days on Trek. I partnered up with the river guide and we rafted down the river again. It was a short raft of 11km and there were lots of awesome rapids and great views. We arrived at the campsite at 11:00am - quite early! Again the campsite had amazing ablutions and the actual camping ground was shady and pleasant. I had a long nap and then the whole group went for a swim. We received another welcome letter drop, which made the day jus to much better.
We had another rafting day and I again partnered with the river guide. We beached on a sandy river bank for lunch and the whole group got together to built a big 3D number '2' sand sculpture, to mark our territory as a group. We jumped out the rafts in the middle of the river and cooled down for a swim. My tent mate and I went for a shower, with an ablution block that had a gas powered geyser. Halfway through our shower, the gas unit bust into flames, and we had to run out in front of everyone in tiny little towels! It was so embarrassing, but thinking back on it now it's so funny. Our campsite had a large sheltered Boma, with a barbeque area and chairs. We decided to sleep in the boma for the night on our mattresses instead of pitching the tents and it was such a fun experience, especially since we could see the stars. There was a little kitten at the campsite - which I loved because cats are one of the things I truly love.
This was to be our last cycling day, and for the first time, I got a working bike!We stopped for lunch at one of the most important Trek landmarks, a road sign that points to De Hoop Nature reserve, our final destination.It was a very exciting moment, because it meant that the end of Trek was near and that we had already achieved so much. We rode for about 5km, and then out of the blue, a pair of my family friends drove past. They stopped as soon as they saw us and they chatted to the group and I for a while. They took photos of us and sent them to my parents, before wishing us well and driving on. We entered the De Hoop Nature Reserve and decided it was a great idea that anyone who needed the bathroom stop in a specific area and go behind the bushes there. Not half a minute into it and everyone who was squatting jumped up and screamed, climbing frantically onto our bikes. A massive swarm of MOSQUITOES attacked us. I didn't even know they did that! The pests stayed with us as we struggled up a steep hill and by the end of it many of us had been chewed up. We had to cycle down a large, steep hill in single file with a big following distance, because it was quite dangerous and often trucks and vehicles drove in the opposite direction. Just as one of the girls rode, her tire punctured and we all had to stop. I was known as the group's bike fixer; and I had taken a short course in how to fix most simple things on a bike, like punctures. Unfortunately the glue in the puncture kit wasn't sufficient, and it took ages. Half the group left down the hill while a couple of us were stranded with a deflated bike, which lead to the group's first and only fight. After we got to the campsite, we forgot about the drama and went to check out the ablutions. There were free soaps, lotions, shampoos and conditioners- kind of like being in a hotel. The showers were huge and the warm water never ran out. The toilets were amazing and yet again had air-conditioning.
Night 24 (midnight hike):
We started a midnight hike form the campsite at 9:00pm and walked on a road parallel to a beach for about 45 minutes. We had a quick rest stop and star gazed, spotting the southern cross, Orion and his belt, and Scorpio. As we entered the bech, there was a large container of water, so we filled up and hiked along the sand dunes. It was fun, but very confusing. We couldn't tell the difference between the sound of the wind or the ocean waves, so we were never fully sure about which direction we were headed in, and we didn't have much light. We decided to call it a night and played out our bags in the dip in-between two dunes. Because the wind was blowing coldly, we stuffed our mattresses and sleeping bags inside our survival bags , to create a wind barrier; and then pulled the sleeping bag hoods completely over our heads.
We got up at our usual time - 5am. We watched the beach sunrise from the sand dunes and left in cold, crispy weather. After an hour and a half we started down our last dune before getting to the flat beach. Me, being a cluts tripped and fell halfway down the dune and got so stuck in a bush I couldn't get up. I looked like a scared tortoise, with mu huge bag holding me down. One of my friends ran to my aid and untangled me. In an attempt to help me up, she rolled me over and then I continued to roll the rest of the way down the dune! The group was in fits of giggles. We used our survival bags to collect any rubbish on the beach, and after about 30 minutes they got very heavy! We had to use 4 girls to pull 1 bag! I found a large buoy that had drifted from the ocean, and took it with as a souvenir. We stopped for lunch at some lovely rocks, and half of the group went for a freezing ocean swim (I couldn't because I was still sick). A friend and I went to pee, when a baby seal started to wriggle about a meter away from us! It looked at us and just flopped back into the ocean, and of course being girls we went on and on about how cute it was. We also almost got spotted by another group of tourists while we were going to the bathroom, and got the fright of our life! At 12:30 pm we walked up to a dune to meet our principal and other teachers. We raised the Trek flag together on a makeshift flag pole and I got very teary and emotional, along with a few other group members. We got ice cold Cokes (a real treat) and loudly sang our Trek song. We took lots of pictures and talked together. After a while we carried our bags to a large bus and had a 35 minute bus ride to a boarding house we would stay at. The group 1 boys welcomed us and we unpacked our bags in a large (25 bed capacity) dorm. We realised we were sleeping in proper beds for the next 2 nights and that was the best! We socialised and went to bed rather late.
We woke up and lazed around. We played cards with a few of the boys and said our goodbyes to them. At 9am we started a debrief. We chatted about different aspects of the Trek and all wrote letters to each other. We did a 2hr solo where we had to write a letter to our (older mantric) selves, which we'll be receiving this year. At lunch I made 2 huge toasted cheese sandwiches, because we finally had a proper kitchen with stoves, microwaves etc. Our group worked on our flag and the song. We then took part in a super fun tradition; we cut out dresses from our survival bags and everyone had to wear their 'designer dresses' to dinner. I, of course when all out and made a full princess skirt with a bustle (don't ask me how I did it; I still don't know how!). We started a potjie, a traditional south african stew done over a fire. I found a cat, and of course I was overjoyed to have a soft, purring creature on my lap again. We played cards after supper, and moved downstairs. We pranked the boys by adding salt and pepper to their muesli and spraying a few apples with deodorant. When the boys went to bed, we all slid down in our sleeping bags and played cards. We decided it was a great idea to wall twerk in our sleeping bags, and of course the boys caught us! We went to bed for the last time on Trek with full hearts.
We woke up and had breakfast, showered and packed up. We said goodbye to the group 3 boys and at 8:00am we got in the bus to drive home. It was a long drive, ±3 hours. When we got into the school gate, we got out the bus and sang our Trek song with high spirits as we neared our parent who were waiting for us. Our principal gave a short welcome speech and then one of the girls had to explain the significance of everything on our Trek flag. Another girl said a prayer and we said goodbye to the group for the last time. We finally got to say hello to our parents and it was such an amazing moment of achievement and accomplishment; both individually and as a group.
Hope you enjoyed sharing this journey with me, and until the next post.
-The Traveling Oyster
Trek group 2: