Exploring Gondwana Alive’s new “Village to Village” Trail product on Cape Town’s South Peninsula.
“A journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step”
This is definitely the case when walking a trail. Although I don’t know how many steps I’m going to take, I know two things: 1. I know my end destination and, 2. It’s going to take some time to get to get to that end destination. However, for me the excitement and true experience on a trail lies in the unknown, what happens between that first step and that last one.
And the first step on this journey was just outside the Slangkop exit, a spot between the Ocean View and the Soetwater/Witsands crossing. We are starting where we left off last week. My thoughts just before that step can be compared to a somewhat turbulent sea, a cloudy sky with storms raging and big waves bashing against the rocky shore. There was just a lot going on but with each step I took it started to calm down. You could see the sun just starting to penetrate the clouds, the waves starting to show the rocky shores some mercy but the small out of place plastic bags, papers between our beautiful Fynbos was like the howling Northwester and it just feeds the waves against the shores again.
It is at the Witsands Dunes where I felt the storm raging again!!!! Beneath the beautiful man-made dunes lies an old dumpsite – an unfortunate legacy from the sixties. The dump has been breached on occasion in the past, resulting in tons of plastic washing into the ocean where it presents a huge danger to wildlife – they can become entangled in it, swallow it, think they are full and starve to death! The thought horrifies me, but I soldier on taking step after step trying to get myself to be one with nature. The sight of community stewards dragging brushwood and planting it to build and stabilize the dunes, is somewhat reassuring – at least an effort is being made to contain the problem. You can find out more about the innovative Brushwood Project on www.keag.org.za
When I hit the rocky shores just past Witsands beach it starts to happen. I start getting that feeling, that “breath deep, close your eyes and let go” of all lives little stressors. You’re in your safe place now!!! The evidence of human disturbance is still there but being wedged between an “undisturbed” sea and mountain can bring a sense of calmness that cannot be explained. Imagine the choice: Look left, mountain. Look right, sea and infront this beautiful view of the two becoming one in the distance.
In the walk to Misty Cliff beach I get lost in the scenery around me, the sound of the seahitting the rocky shores, like relaxation music some people only get to experience on those ”I want to clear my mind” cd’s. Closing in on Misty Cliff beach you get the sense of the small village embedded in the mountain. Lovely little weltand seeps, next to clear rock pools which invite you to swim and the paw prints of the elusive Cape clawless otter are the small surprises Misty Cliffs offer but nothing more overwhelming than getting on to the rocking shores just past the beach and looking up to the mountain feeling like you are in a 3D movie. At this point you feel the mountain closing in on you. I’m snapped out of my ”trance” by the sight of a Kingfisher bashing a fish against the rocky shores. The beauties of nature, simple rules – survival of the fittest, eat or be eaten!! Something this Kingfisher is surely following.
The day’s walk starts to draw to a close when we get to Scarborough. Our first welcomingparty, a beach filled with mussel shells that has accumulated over the years. A few minutes’ walk and were on the main beach. Where some surfers are get reading to hit the water. The Northwester providing some good swells (the swell comment makes me sound like a surfer, which one day I’ll definitely be).Walking along the beach we make our way to a milk wood patch, walking through it we finally get to the village and walk, past wetlands onto a dirt road, past the local houses and suddenly a right through a white wooden gate surrounded by white walls. We enter the peaceful Zensa Lodge!
We are welcomed with drinks and introduced to the friendly owner, who’s partner did the walk with us. Outside, the place has a farm feel with chickens walking around and the ”dutchy type” cottages – inside it is about simple comfort and style, peace and relaxation. The sauna and Jacuzzi are an added bonus. Its tucked away, somewhat hidden, contradictory to the other houses in Scarborough. This is the time to exchange our experiences of the walk but for those who know me, I’m silent, processing the walk. Thinking about how blessed I am to experience these sights and sounds with all my senses and thanking God for the ability to be present during the experience. After drinks I make my way to my room. The all-white room is calming, relaxing, peaceful, the absence of a TV and a beautiful mountain view adds to the atmosphere, which is almost an extension of the walk. The decor is minimal, with small pieces which add a bit of elegance. It’s time for a hot shower and a little time for relaxation before dinner, which will be @ The Hub.
Stories of The Hub were shared on the walk, a place where locals meet and hang out! Its pizza night @ The Hub on Wednesday’s and for those who didn’t know it was the birthday of one of my mentors, Ivan Groenhoff! The Hub definitely lived up to the hype. It’s a small place but that adds to the atmosphere. Simply put, small, comfy, warm !It reminded me of our family get-togethers ,where the kids hang out in the bedrooms and the grownups sit in the living room. Returning to the lodge after a great pizza dinner, I spent a few hours in ”the bungalow” at the lodge infront of the fireplace kept company by the owner’s dachshund, before retiring to bed after a really pleasant day.
Day 2 – The Journey Continues
I woke up the next morning without an alarm @ 06:26, which was really surprising because I’m so used to the sound of my alarm forcing me to wake up and having to drag myself out of bed but that’s the reality when surrounded by mountain and sea. Your body wants to get up and experience its wonder. Breakfast was in ”the bungalow”, which was shared by two other guests and the owners. Once again it was like they welcomed us into their home and their personal space. With my stomach filled, we had to set out on our day’s walk.
However, it was raining outside and I’ve had some bad experiences with rain when hiking and I found myself irritated with every step and drop of rain that I felt. The thought of walking for hours, soaking wet was not what I was looking forward to and in my mind I envisioned the end destination. A hot shower!!A step, a hot shower, another step, a hot shower (that was the mantra) but mother nature has a way of knocking sense into people. That’s what I realized when the view of Scarborough opened up the higher we got up the mountain. It was like I got a little slap on the back of my head by Mother Nature and I just imagined her telling me ”you’re irritated by the rain but experiencing this magnificent view”? At that point, the irritation was gone and I didn’t mind getting wet, it was all about enjoying what the environment had to offer.
The mountain walk was definitely different to that of the seaside one. We got to a point where the mountain drowns out the sound of the sea and the birds become our little singers, it felt like our own private performance. We even had some sunbirds trying to impress a female. I got the sense the birds in the mountain like to perform when they have guests. The mountain cave we passed on the way to the peak reminded me of a time when life was simple. I thought of the early inhabitants who may have called this place home. O how things have changed!!After almost two hours of walking, We were rewarded with other magnificent view. Look left, False Bay. Look right, the Atlantic Ocean. Infront, Cape Point!
It’s in these moments when you feel humbled, small and realize the power of walking, exploring nature. These moments when whatever your dealing with, whatever is occupying your mind, be it work, personal relationships, that bill that needs to be paid, that task that needs to be finished or whatever is occupying our busy and rushed lives, become a mere drop in the ocean and you watch this drop fall into the big ocean and disappear and all you see is a calm and peaceful ocean. As our journey of a thousand steps started to draw to a close, I walked feeling rejuvenated, empowered, feeling that I can really accomplish anything I set my mind to if I approach it in this calm and peaceful manner. A feeling I wish everyone can experience.
End of the Walk, It Never Really Ends
At the end of my journey I did get that hot shower and want you to experience this with me. So close your eyes ,well you can’t close your eyes and read, but imagine its raining outside with the wind blowing and you standing outside in this weather with soaking wet clothes and removing your clothes but not feeling the cold rain on your skin, instead piping hot water!! Yes, I had an outside shower in the rain but with piping hot water surrounded by trees and plants. The best shower I’ve ever had!
In closing, Rim of Africa has a saying, “We can’t protect what we don’t know”. So I would like to encourage people to go out, walk, explore, find natures little gems like a lizard bathing in the sun, a beautiful Protea in full bloom, sunbirds competing for a female, drinking fresh water from a mountain stream, swim in a mountain fountain , witness and track otter paw prints on the beach and more. You go tick off your experiences/encounters with nature and, in this process, educate yourself to the plight of our environment. It’s calling you to preserve, protect and most importantly, respect it. I promise you once you take your first step on that journey of a thousand steps through untouched, undisturbed, pristine wilderness, you won’t stop walking.
Until my next journey, I’m Etienne and ”I WALK”.
If you like exploring and want to get involved visit the Gondwana Alive website at (www.gondwanaalive.org) to find out more our forthcoming Village to Village exploratory trails in September and October. You can also contact Gondwana Alive at 0604554723 or send an email to email@example.com
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