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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

"Please drive carefully" - Day 345

A message from our next Airbnb host, Mercia, popped up which included: “Please drive safely". I wondered why she wrote that?

We said a very warm farewell to Shirley, suggesting she visits her family in the Cape when we get there. We’d so love to see her again. Now looking forward to our next stop off. Beforehand though, we were visiting the Royal Natal National Park for another trek, stopping off for an early lunch.

On the way, we saw a young lady standing under a pink umbrella hitching a lift. I showed her where we were going and she hopped in. Despite being shy, I found out that Nondumiso, a nurse in a maternity ward, had just finished her shift, after helping deliver 9 healthy babies that night. She was on her way home for 5 days rest. We arrived at the café and said goodbye. While waiting for lunch, suddenly she turned up and asked to borrow a pen. Cut a long story short, we discovered she had hitched on the wrong road, wanting to go to Ladysmith where we’d come from (at least we’re not the only ones who go the wrong way!). We invited her to lunch, Tim tried to put on her phone (No room or store app), and we had a nice chat. She is one of 9 children, 8 girls and 1 boy! Crikey. We do hope she got back ok.

After looking at the various treks we could do with a young man at the Visitors’ Centre, we chose the circular Tiger’s Fall walk. He took one look at me and suggested we went clockwise rather than the usual anti-clockwise. That meant we would have a gradual incline and a steep descent rather than a steep incline and a gradual descent.

After half an hour on this so-called gentle incline, I was exhausted. Red-faced, and not from any embarrassment, I carried on, trying to focus on the plants and scenery rather than the pain in my knee, my heart pumping and ribs aching from breathing so heavily. I am so unfit. We had only walked 2km and Tim decided to have a quick look down a different route, so I carried on alone. By this time, the path was flatter, phew, and I came across a wooded area. It was a bit spooky walking through there on my own, especially as I suddenly remembered that the leaflet stated baboons may be seen. I had visions of the guy we met in Japan who had been surrounded by three angry baboons and didn’t want to experience this for myself. Funny what goes through our minds?

Eventually, I reached Tiger’s Fall. Water was spilling over two huge horizontal rocks above into a deep pool, Massive boulders were across, stopping the water from flowing down the ravine, so I’m not sure where the water was disappearing to. I sat relaxed, with one eye out for the baboons. After a time, Tim arrived, photos taken and we carried on our walk.

The next section was lovely, in the shade and another steady incline to the lookout rock. What an amazing view. The path then changed from rock and compressed soil to concrete. You would have thought this would be easier, but it was so steep that it was like having our brakes (shins) on all the time. Now, if I were a mountain goat, it would have been fun skipping down it. Sadly, those days are long gone.

We eventually arrived at the Cascades with water flowing gently over large flat rocks forming natural pools. Foolishly we hadn’t brought our swimming cosies with us, so toe dipping was the best we could do. Who am I trying to fool, I doubt very much that I would have gone in, even though it did look very appealing. The water would have had to have been at least 10 degrees hotter for me to get my body in!

We arrived back to the carpark, signed out the register (again, all very organised) and on our way to Clarens, driving past the massive Sterkfontein Dam, seeing a black-backed jackal and zebra, and then driving through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. Now I know why Mercia said, “Please drive carefully”. Oh my! As well as the most beautiful sunset of every hue from the palest yellow to saffron, burnt orange to violet red the rock formation was incredible. We had to keep stopping to soak in the atmosphere and, of course, to capture the moment on our camera. One time, there was a massive rock structure standing on its own. We stopped for more pictures and then Tim spotted some Blesbok Antelope. What a treat. We haven’t seen these until now.

The journey continued, the road twisting and turning around these massive sandstone cliffs. We still hadn’t reached the Golden Gate. Would we before the sun had set entirely? It was incredible to see the sun rays reflecting on the rocks, giving them a beautiful golden glow. What timing! Anyone would have thought we had planned this!

And there was the iconic site of an enormous sandstone cliff, triangular in shape with layers of different rock. Elliot Mudstone from the wetlands around 200m years ago, a layer of Clarens Sandstone when the area was a desert, then a buildup of calcium carbonate from water moving through the sandstone. An eruption of a volcano caused molten lava to heat and compress the sandstone layer underneath, turning this into quartzite. Finally Drakensberg Basalt, just a mere 183 million years old, again from the activity of a volcano. Hey, there’s a geologist in me yet!

We finally got to our Airbnb in the dark with Tim driving safely, as instructed by Mercia. She greeted us warmly and showed us to our lovely home for the night. A sweet combined lounge and kitchen with a mezzanine bedroom. Wonderful.

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