It's Saturday morning and I'm sitting in the car park at Delta Environmental Park having just dropped off Aobakwe, my 9-year-old boy for scouts outing and I have no clue what to do with myself for the next two hours. Out pops a thought, " maybe I should blog, been a while anyway, newbie-blogger or not. So here I am with my iPad flat on the grass with my legs crossed and fingers ready.
Let’s slide back to Tzaneen Hike. So there I was, booked myself with a group of hikers from Pretoria, two of which I’ve followed on Instagram for a while now and been meaning to hike. Welcome and Kea affectionately known to many as Dee. They invited me to join the Magoebaskloof Hiking Weekend. Shall we call it hut-hopping to paint a picture? Granted I couldn’t join the first day, had my cousin’s wedding that Saturday.
Did I know these guys? Nope! Trust them? Yes, I am that trusting, I can almost hear your little voices popping in your heads, "she trusted these guys?", so yes I did! Sometimes you have to be that trusting to make the journey that much exciting and extra special. I live by this rule: unless you give me a reason not to trust you, I will continue being a very trusting soul, not everyone out there is evil, live a little, come on!
Anyway weekend hike meant hikers had to park and sleep at Woodbush hut to start the hike Saturday morning for the 13km hike which “apparently” turned out to be 18km towards Waterfall log cabin where I was to join them Saturday evening. Look this was not a slack-packing hike, it meant hiking from one log cabin to the next all the while carrying your belongings and food on your back. I left Joburg around 3pm, bought reinforcements the guys had asked for, and, hear this, I felt a little important because they had asked me to bring supper for that night. I was on the road for about 5 hours straight when the sun set in front of my eyes. It was pouring and I evidently met up with an accident on the snake like road in Magoebaskloof, a massive truck had splashed all the logs it carried all over on the road, blocking the R71.
Cars were diverted into Tzaneen to enter the same road from the other side and into the Woodbush Plantation which is where I was going. The guys were already panicked out and possibly annoyed by this time I thought. Its 9pm, they are starving and I was a clumsy-newbie no show. I was embarrassed, I had never met them and a lot was going on in my head but never a voice that said agh just give up. This Aquarius heart doesn't understand giving up unless the body alerts the mind otherwise.
Finally arrived at the plantation gate, the amazing oh so gorgeous rain forest I've heard so much about but goodness it's pitch black so I see none of this. Sent my location as proof of my where-about but honestly at this point I wouldn't trust me either.
The plantation was huge with hectors for miles so Waterfall log cabin was another hour or so drive inside in the wet and muddy gravel road. I was alone, the trees were tall, it was drizzling and the path was thin, all I could see was light from my car. I won't lie there were times I thought can I just get there already. I didn't panic, look I watched Bear Grylls, Ben Fogle, Naked & Afraid and all these amazing programmes on Discovery Channel long enough to know I needed to remain calm, to just be one with nature and somehow nature will hear me and no harm will come my way. An hour into the plantation and I was just not getting to the Waterfall hut, then just before 10pm I met up with an unfortunate situation of trying to take a hill past muddy gravel road. Tried a couple of times, called the guys who tried to help telephonically but it was at this point where night would fall on me, rubber rooted so deep in the mud, I was stuck in the swamp. I watched as the moon slowly showed up, drops of rain gently fell on my window and so did the night. Feeling a little defeated I switched off the car lights… then in seconds I remembered the words of Franklin Roosevelt “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. All is well I whispered, in the middle of the rain forest, plantation so tall and congested, you’d swear a wild animal would appear any moment but within a few minutes the voices in my head had lost power for it was them I had to conquer.
I followed the normal process as one would when faced with the same challenge anywhere near civilization. My insurance, bless them, arrived 7am to pull out. Yes, yours truly froze her butt out and slept in the forest. I'll tell you this much, the forest is a harmless place unless you tamper with its peace.
Meeting the hikers for the first time that morning was amazing and since our constant communication the previous night. I felt part of the family already and they were so warm and welcoming. Lifetime bonds were formed there. All I know is I didn't want to talk about the night thus taking the focus and missing the point of the amazing weekend we were about to have. The forest was beautiful. It was green, drizzly and peaceful. It painted a picture of a mini Eden I’ve so often heard about in Sunday school. Another world altogether. Walking through the forest by foot felt homely. My first day (their second) was a long hike but the laughter and stories shared made me the happiest hiker that weekend. We shared more stories around the campfire that night and laughed some more.
Leaving the forest the following day my heart throbbed painfully, it was like leaving a piece of me back there. But that was not the last of it. I promised myself to return again.
Twitter - @Lermon
Pictures by @Leera_1 @Deenthate @Tsakane.Manganye @antsib75