Outdshoorn to Wilderness; Good beach, bad hostels and hiking in the woods

Wessel and Marleen, the nice Dutch couple, drove us to the village of Wilderness with them. We weren’t really sure what was in Wilderness besides a nice park and a nice beach, but it was the next stop on our list as well. There’s nothing much to the village - a bunch of expensive houses and a few shops and pubs. The beach, though, is eighteen kilometers long and all golden sand, with huge crashing waves and lovely hills all around. We all spent our first afternoon there on the beach. A lot of little jellyfish and Portuguese Men o’ War had washed up with the waves and the beach was crawling with little whelks. If you picked them up and let them crawl on your hand you could feel their little teeth gnawing away, trying to eat you. We went for a swim and let the waves smash us around. They must have been two meters high, these waves. They bowled me right over and spun me underwater in circles, bouncing my head against the bottom. I was happy to be hitting the bottom - otherwise I’d never have known which way the surface was. Waves that high can be a bit scary. None of us ventured too far from shore, because there was a strong undertow.

We’d planned to camp, but decided that one night in a bed was a forgivable luxury and stayed at the same hostel as Marleen and Wessel. It was right near the beach, and it did have beds, but those were its only positive points. Now, admittedly, we’ve been away from hostels for a few months and had apparently forgotten just how horrible they mostly are. But this place was worse than most. On first glance it was fine - big and clean. The dorm we got stuck in, though, shared a room with the kitchen, if you can believe that. The place was full of obnoxious surfer-types and a full assortment of all the other set of backpacking idiots. People were tramping through the dorm all night. Before I’d even gone to bed I’d lost my temper with one loser who wouldn’t keep his voice down, even though Sheryl was trying to sleep in her bed not more than five meters away. God I hate hostels.

All four of us vacated the premises in the morning and moved to the other side of the village to a different hostel. This one was a lot less unpleasant, but was just plain weird. The owner and her daughter were stiff and hostile from the moment we arrived. We were never quite sure why, really. Some places just have a strange atmosphere to them. We spent the day walking on the trails in Wilderness National Park (if you can call them trails - half of them were wooden boardwalks). We were horrified at the entrance fee for the park (60 Rand each - about CAD$7.50) for foreigners, and tried to get in without paying. We got called back to the gate and told we had to pay. The woman at the gate charged us the resident’s rate of R10 each, though - the only reason I can imagine being happy to be mistaken for a South African. Marleen and Wessel rented a canoe to go up the river to the waterfall in the park. We made it there on foot before them and when we saw them approaching, hid behind a rock and jumped out at them making monster noises. We fully planned to hide their canoe in the bushes on the way back, or to lift it into a tree, but when we got to where they’d left it there were four canoes there and we didn’t know which one was theirs, so they had a lucky escape.

That night the grounds of the hostel were crawling with mosquitoes, and there was a seemingly permanent guest of the annoying smelly blond dreadlocked variety, but we were able to have a nice fire that night. The others all went to bed early and I stayed up chatting with another guest, Robin - a director and choreographer from Montreal. She was a cool and interesting person, and because of my peripheral theatre experience in a former life we knew some of the same people and vocabulary. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye when we left in the morning, so I hope she keeps in touch.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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