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 part of the journey, click on this link below:
It was our first cycling day of about 52km, across bumpy terrain and many uphills. Many of the bike's brakes and gear were rusty after boys in group 1 left them in the rain, so some were difficult to operate. After a very short while one of the girls in the group got her chain stuck in between 2 cogs, so we spent almost an hour having to force it out. At lunch, we stopped by a big dam, and one of the support crew vehicles met us there. The support crew blasted music through the car radio, and helped us adjust anything we needed on the bikes. We were also surprised with 2 loaves of banana bread, 2l of coke, sprite and cream soda as a reward for fixing the stuck chain before without hep from the support crew. We came across a scarecrow en route, that had our prinicple's face stuck on and a school jersey, and we all found it hilarious. We got to camp earlier than most groups do, and relaxed by a river at the bottom of the campsite.
This was by far the easiest day in terms of hiking, because we really didn't have to hike that far. We walked about 2km up the road to set up camp in the garden of a hiker's lodge called Zebra Moon. Our leaders walked down to the local bakery to pick up fresh loaves of bread, and we shared one big loaf between 3 people. We were also surprised with a few watermelons, which was perfect because the day was so hot! After lunch we walked to a local school's aftercare and repainted a Wendy house (shed) in white and yellow. After that we walked to the local primary school and played with all of the children. We read to them and then played lawn games with them outside. I found a cat later that night at the campsite which was super friendly, and it made me very happy because I am totally a 'crazy cat lady' at heart, and I was missing my own cat so much.
We had our usual early start - awake at 5am and hiking by 6am. We started to hike up a mountain and struggled for a while to find the hiker's trail. For tea, we stopped at Breakfast Rock, a well known landmark to the avid hiker for its gorgeous views of the surrounding area. After a long walk, we stopped at another massive landmark, this one slightly more exciting. Oak Falls, a massive waterfall that cascades into a large natural pool in the rock deeper than we could see. This pool cascaded into another waterfall into another pool and so on. We had lunch and swam. Although the water was FREEZING we had to take this kind of opportunity. After lunch the weather changed as we hiked further up the mountain. A thunderstorm approached, which was very scary. We all had something metal in our bags, and I had titanium in my arm in the form of plates and screws because I had broken my arm the previous year, so there we were; 13 girls & 2 leaders crapping ourselves because we all though we might just get struck by lightning and die right there.... maybe we were slightly dramatic, but in the moment it seemed right. We got to the best hut we had ever been to after about 2 hours in the storm. There was a FRIDGE which we had never experienced on Trek. We received Coca-Cola and marshmallows to roast, and a friend and I volunteered to barbecue meat outside in the storm. In hindsight we should have just cooked the sausages in the pan provided at the hut, because I got bronchitis (and ain't nobody got time for that, especially on Trek!). We played cards in the one hut (the group shared 2 huts between us) and drank our coke. It was an amazing night, until my half of the group got back to our hut. We found, to our dismay that the roof was leaky, and because of the rain an thunderstorm, half of the beds (including sleeping bags, pillows and any bags that were stored on beds) got absolutely soaked beyond the point of being deemed sleepable. I had to share a sleeping bag, pillow and single bed mattress with a good friend of mine, which I wouldn't have minded except for the fact that there was a drop dripping next to my ear the entire night! The one good thing was that at least we weren't so cold on such a stormy night because of all the shared body heat.
We woke up late and sat in bed. We had cereal for breakfast, and because I'm lactose intolerant I had a whole bottle of lactose free milk to myself, which was amazing! We started hiking down the other side of the mountain at about 12:30 and after about 2 1/2 hours we got to another beautiful self catering cottage. We would have camped somewhere, had it not been for the storm which had flooded out our planned campsite, but I much preferred to be indoors! The cottage was 2 stories, and upstairs was an attic room with 4 big single beds (you could easily fit 2 people in). Because of the rain we were going to have to stay at the cottage for 2 days, so we decided that the first night half of us would share the beds and the other hand would sleep on the floor on mattresses, and the second night we'd switch around. The beds were so comfy and we even used the proper feather pillows. The two leaders shared a double bed downstairs. There was a small lounge and a bathroom and kitchen; with yet another FRIDGE! we could even boil water for tea, coffee, and instant noodles! There was a jungle gym outside which we used a lot, and the lodge owners provided board games for us girls while the leaders watched TV in the Lodge's common room.We received our second letter drop, and it was again emotional and it was relieving to hear from home again.
It was our one leader's birthday, so we woke her up by singing happy birthday, and giving her a mug of hot chocolate, some Kit-Kats we had saved and a birthday candle. We had to stay indoors because of the weather, so it was nice to rest up for the next days long hike. We played lots of card games and scrabble with our leaders and for some reason decided that it was an excellent idea to crawl fully into our sleeping bags and roll around the lounge floor like worms.We definitely had a laugh, I guess you get creative with your entertainment when you don't have technology to turn to, and it was actually so much fun. We decided to start working on our Trek flag, as it is tradition to customise it according to your groups memories and traditions. I volunteered start sewing a large number 2 in sequins on the flag and it turned out surprisingly well. We added some more bits and pieces to the flag and called it a night.
Seeing as every girl had to lead at least 1 day on Trek (you are in charge of the map and you set the pace, although you can be helped) I had to lead us because I was the only one who hadn't done so yet. I was nervous as I was the only person who didn't have a map- our 2 leaders couldn't find it, so I had to rely on directions given to me by the support crew. We actually got to the solo site very early, 8:45am. This was the halfway mark of Trek, and we had to sleep alone in the forest for a night, making our own shelter (we had to hand in our tents), food and entertainment. We could only use the long drop toilet if we really needed to and we were not allowed to communicate with each other in any way. I was still very sick with bronchitis, so this gave me an opportunity to get a rest from the group and try to recover. I opened a can of tuna for lunch and as soon as I did so, a flock of dung beetles came to my campsite, ew. I built my shelter for the night, a small lean-to, and stuffed my sleeping bag and pillow inside. We received a tarpaulin, which I used as a ground cover to avoid getting poked with sticks and rocks. The leader for the day gets the Trek flag to carry, which I used to aid in my shelter building. The school counsellor came to speak to everyone to make sure we were all coping. As one of our tasks we had to write a letter to the principal. We also had to make a small gift that we were going to do a secret santa with later. I found a soft block of wood, that was slightly wet and carved out a bear totem with my pocket knife. I plaited dried grass and tied it around the bear, so that it could be worn or used as a charm on someone's Trek bag. I had a difficult sleep that night, due to the fact that I watched a Slenderman 'documentary' a week before Trek started; which was set in a forest. Maybe that wasn't the smartest thing to do...
I lead again and it was one of the most difficult days I had through the whole of Trek. I again didn't have a map, so had to rely on what the support crew told me. Most of the group was dehydrated due to the heat and the route was extremely long. We stopped at the small town of McGregor to have lunch. Because of a depleted water supply we decided to muster up and know on one of the local's door to ask if we could fill up bottles from her tap. She obliged and we all filled up as many bottles as we had and went on our way after having a chat and telling her all about the journey. We met one of our support crew members inside another small town who again filled up our water and sprayed us with a hosepipe, which was actually welcome considering the heat. We walked for another hour until we reached our site for the night, Vroelikheid, a small accommodation village for hikers and cyclists. The huts were all 'rondawels', traditional african style. Four people were in a hut and there was a lovely Boma outside; a place to socialise, cook and eat. There was also an industrial kitchen on site whee we prepared our food, which was very helpful. Another support crew member arrived with a trailer full of bikes, and we unloaded them for the next day's cycle. We got surprised with the leaders telling us that we'd be allowed to have a quick phone call home for a few minutes to our parents. It was such a welcome opportunity and we were all so elated. When my phone call was up, I burst into tears. It was so emotional hearing from my parents again after being away for so long. We exchanged the gift we had made on solo, and I received a flower ring that one of my friends had woven with dried grasses and stuck flower into.
We began bright and early, swapping our normal bags for our smaller day packs, and selecting our bicycles. It was to be our longest cycling day of ±75km, and there were lots of uphills. We had to cycle through very deep puddles and potholes. At 11:30 we stopped for lunch and a support crew member repaired our bikes. We got to our campsite at 2:00pm, which was very early, considering how long the cycle was distance-wise. Our campsite was a small lawn in front of a house by the Breede River, and the 2 leaders slept inside for the night. I felt very achieved for the day, because I had managed to keep up with the rest of the group on a beat up, broken bike on a route that was almost only uphill.
This was our first river rafting day on the Breede river! We rafted down a 22km river stretch and encountered rapids that were so much fun! My rafting partner and I got stuck in a bush and started to drift down the wrong part of the river, but luckily the river guide helped us out of s sticky situation. We stopped alongside the riverside on a bank to have lunch in the shade. We rafted for another hour until we got to a beautiful river bank where we set up camp. I had an afternoon nap, and the group chatted for an hour after that. The next day would be our next rest day, so lots of the girls sat in front of a pink bucket shaving their legs giggling about their crushes who they were going to see then; it was quite a sight to see!
I hope you all enjoyed sharing the second part of this adventure with me! Stay tuned for the last part in the series; it will be up in the next few days!
Until the next post
-The Traveling Oyster xxx