Africa · South Africa

Wilderness

My next stop along the Garden Route was the town of Wilderness, nestled in between hills, forest, a river and the beach. Just driving in I could see where it got its name, it’s a beautiful bit of the world.


After checking in I headed out to discover the infamous caves with a girl from my dorm. Taking the Pied Kingfisher trail we walked along the river into town and then out onto the beach. The weather on Wednesday afternoon wasn’t great and the beach was covered with mist and was basically deserted, making it very atmospheric. After about 15 minutes on the beach we reached what was apparently the path to the caves, an abandoned, overgrown railway line, and an extremely ominous sign. With no-one else around and feeling very concerned we chickened out and turned back towards to the hostel. We later found out that was the right way but I think you will understand why we felt a little uneasy when presented with the following.


The next day we were up early to head into the national park to find the waterfall. For some reason we decided it would be more fun to kayak than walk the entire way but when we crashed into the bank almost immediately I think we realised it was not going to be an easy trip up the river. Nevertheless the scenery made it worth it, even if we refrained from taking pictures because everything was soaked! Zig-zagging our way across the river we made it to the docking point and abandoned the kayak for the 30 minute walk the rest of the way. 

The waterfall was beautiful and I soon stripped down to my bikini in order to swim in the pool. I think it was the shortest swim in history as the water was unbearably cold and I quickly clambered back out and decided on sunbathing instead. 40 minutes later we decided it was time to head back and whilst the walk was fine we knew once again the kayaking was going to be challenging as our arms were already sore from the journey up. We seemed to have developed more of a rhythm on the way back but even still an hour of kayaking each way is a lot! I do think it was the best way to see the national park so was worth the painful arms.


That afternoon we attempted for the second time a trip to the cave and with the sun shining and more people around it didn’t seem anywhere near as creepy as the day before. A short walk along the railway line and through the tunnel brings you out at one of the most unusual sights I’ve ever seen. The cave has been turned into a community, with about 10 people having set up home in something that reminded me a little of Aunty Wainwright’s shop but with added shells. Bedrooms and seating areas had been set up, decorated with whatever bits of furniture and knick knacks they could find. The pictures don’t really do it justice, it really was something else. The story goes that Clifford received a message from God to leave his house and set up home in this cave, which in turn has become some sort of refuge for homeless people or those needing an escape. The whole trip was made extra special when we saw not one but two pods of dolphins in the ocean on the walk back.


That evening was spent drinking, listening to another live band and setting the world to rights with a lovely South African couple we met. After plenty of drinks, them force feeding me their braai and hours of chatting about everything from the Queen to puppies it was time for bed.

My last morning in Wilderness I needed some alone time so took a slow walk into town for breakfast and a wander round before stopping next to the river to read my book. The lack of suncream drove me back to the hostel earlier than planned but was still a great end to my time in such a beautiful place.

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