Sunday, July 12, 2009

Olifants backpacking trail, part 3

Day 3: A looooong day, with amazing scenery and an exciting river crossing, as well as "toilets"....

At the beginning of the hike, Dave had given us an auger (to drill holes in the soil to go to the loo in), a spade, and the first aid kit. These items had to be divided up by the group to carry, since we would all be using them (except the spade, which was used for clearing the fire evidence every morning). Dave had a very interesting way of pronouncing "auger". It came out more like "Ogre", but the r was rolled a bit. Eventually, the ogre was renamed "Shrek", and the spade, "Fiona", and when someone disappeared with the ogre, and someone wanted to know where they were, they would be told that the person was having a deep conversation with Shrek...But that all came later. That morning, I woke up, and had to go. Now, for those of you who know anything about hiking and the bush, everyone seems to know when you have "gone", (or it seems like it), especially at the start, when people are uncomfortable about that sort of thing. So, imagine how insecure I felt when I was the first member of our group to "go"... After that, I think the girls in our group (there were only three of us amongst five guys) were champions at communing with Shrek. Way better than the guys. In fact, it was almost as if the girls were having a competition to see who could use it the most.... You get the picture!

Anyway, after I had broken the ice about communing with Shrek, and a hurried cup of not-quite-coffee, we set off. After about 2 hours walk, we stopped for breakfast, and another cup of not-quite-coffee. At this point all of us were getting to be quite pro about getting and purifying water, although we still went down to the waters' edge in pairs, and kept a wary eye on suspicious ripples. Also at about this stage, I discovered that hippo-poo flavoured water isn't actually so tasty, and started flavouring my water with game.(The view from our breakfast spot)

Shortly after we started walking again, we discovered that we would be crossing the river... Suddenly Dave told us to take off our hiking boots, tie them to our backpacks, and then gave us strict instructions on crossing the river. Our first crossing was over sharp stones (I cut my toe), to a sandbank in the middle of the river. Just beyond the sandbank, a crocodile was lurking with its head just poking out of the water, and further upstream there was another raft of hippos... I was more anxious about the second crossing, since there was now the added factor of the croc, and after an astounding amount of blood came out of my toe (from a tiny tiny cut), I was being irrationally paranoid about crocs coming to eat me..... There was some comic relief during the crossing, however. This time we were walking on sand, although there was the occasional boulder which we side-stepped. One of these boulders managed to leap sideways into the path of Barry*, who then toppled over backwards... Dave, who was at the head of the group spun round and prepared to shoot the 'crocodile'. It was only when he saw Leah killing herself laughing at the rear of the group that he relaxed, and we continued our march from sandbank to sandbank, across the river.

Our lunch spot for the day was the most picturesque spot, by some rapids. Everyone had a swim (apart from me - I was cold). Lunch was followed by a nap for most of the group, while Dave and I had an in-depth chat about life in the bush, knowledge, trees and careers.After lunch, we walked up to a place where a ranger had built a hide-away for himself. It was one of the most beautiful spots to have a get away. It would probably be insanely hot during the summer (it was hot, and we were there in the middle of winter), but a really gorgeous place. The best part was that it was so hidden that a person directly across the river probably would never guess about its existence, unless they knew exactly what they were looking for!

We set up camp under common cluster figs (Ficus sycomorus), overlooking the river and with a hill behind us. At first, all of the members felt unsure about our proposed camp site, as it seemed to be in the direct path of any animals walking along the river, but as Dave pointed out to Leah, there was an 'animal highway' a few meters behind the bushes. This was another beautiful spot, and we sat on rocks in the river (it was still very very early) and sipped OBS until we got cold. All of us then sat on some rocks overlooking the river, and chatted about inane subjects. Sunset was truly amazing, and I really started to enjoy the night sounds - scops owls, pearl-spotted owls, barred owls and frogs were all in full chorus!
I feel I must mention that supper was something of an adventure. We had over-spiced soya mince (my fault! I've had bad experiences with tasteless soya mince), and crunchy pasta... The added crunch factor in the pasta was included when the lid came off the pot while it was being drained... We didn't have extra pasta, so we scooped it back into the pot, gave it several rinses, tried to get all the grass and leaves out. But I guess Delilah* and I didn't do enough of a good job - every mouthful of salty, crunchy pasta wore down out teeth a few micrometers... Needless to say, it was a meal filled with giggles, as someone would take a mouthful and inadvertently chew right down, followed by some crunching noises and a "Bugger! I've bitten right down! Again!" type of exclamation from the relevant person.

The previous two nights I had heard people snoring, but had been either far away enough for it not to bother me, or been too tired to care, but that night was totally different... It wasn't in a rhythm, or very even, so those among us who were light sleepers got very little sleep. During the night, amidst snores (yes, there were three snorers), we heard lion (not very far away) and hyena.... Thrilling!

End of day 2 (on the hike)!

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