Saturday, November 10, 2007

Swellendam and a Waterfall

Baz bus again today, and I meet Luca, an absolute stereotypical Italian (in all the best ways). He, Eleg, a Russian, and myself are all heading to Swellendam, a town a little inland, dating back to 1776, backing on to the mountains, and supposed to be a very pleasant spot.

The third most photographed sight in the Southern Hemisphere

First we have to get to the Baz Bus, and the mad Percy (of Percy’s Tours) takes us there. There’s just one hostel in Swellendam, and it’s run by the friendly Andrew and his wife. We’re in the dorm, and it seems to be just the two of us.

We go for lunch at the Old Gaol, a short walk away. Luca is very hungry.

I have a chicken pie with greek salad, Luca the venison pie with sweet potatoes, the latter of which he’s not overly impressed with. Liquid provided in the form of a pleasant local Sauv Blanc.

The spot is beautiful, sitting outside in the gardens, though it’s very windy, and the menu board comes down on us a couple of times before I dump it on the ground. The girl serving us, Elouise, invites us out to join her and her friends in the evening for some drinks. Wednesday night is going out night for the youngsters of Swellendam apparently!

The plan now is to go for a swim and walk. Behind the hostel is the Marloth Nature Reserve, covering the run up the Langeberg Mountain Range, some of the peaks reaching 1450m.


This will be an epic journey of discovery. We need strength. We have it.

So we pass the lake that we’re supposed to swim in. It looks rather dark coloured, a bit like tea, from all the tannins running off the forests into the water. Still, clean, and water lilies around the edge, so not a bad place for a dip. Some effort first though, as we climb through the forest to the Duiwellsbos (Devil’s Bush) Waterfalls. The problem is that, having had little rain for some time, the ground is dry, and the waterfalls are in fact several boulders with a small trickle running around their edges. We carry on up till the going gets tough.

When it gets too steep to continue sensibly, we follow the side of the steep valley up, from where we have a nice view back over Swellendam.

Going up is, as usual, much easier than going down, and thanks to my grip less Crocs, or possibly my incompetence, I fall on the way down, bumping down painfully several metres before grabbing a shrub that breaks my fall. Attention, cries Luca. Only further down at the bottom do I realise I’ve lost my sunglasses. Back up again!

Finally out, we reach the small dam, and I walk round the edge, looking for the best spot to jump in, i.e. somewhere relatively easy to get out! What are you doing, queries Luca, you’re not really going to swim, are you? Oh yes! There’s some weed at the edge, but the beauty of Crocs is that I can wade in without worrying what’s beneath my feet – I only need to worry about water snakes going for my ankles! Lucca thinks I’m mad, and holds my clothes from going in with me (t-shirt still makes it).

Home and cleaned up, we meet the Swedish family who are sharing our down, four girls and a chap. They’re all very friendly and nice, and invite us to join them for dinner. I contribute my bottle of Middlevlei Cab Sauv, and we eat fish fingers, potatoes and spinach, with some Korean chilli sauce. It’s good!

We do however have a somewhat heated debate about South Africa, Johannesburg and the Townships. These guys are all staying in Jo’berg in the townships, and are really positive about the life there. It’s good to hear another point of view, as the vast majority about Jozi is very negative, much with reason.

Afterwards, we head out together to meet up with Elouise and her friends. So how do you know all these people, I ask her, beckoning to her friends on the sofas. They’re the only young people in this village, she replies. Yep, I guess that would work.

The night finishes in the infamous last-resort bar named the Saloon.

Smoking hasn’t been banned here yet, so it’s pretty horrendous. On request I get the Suicide Song put on (Beautiful girl, you make me suicidal, suicidal etc), the one everyone knew the lyrics to in Stones in Clairmont! Luca seems to have collected the phone numbers of half the girls in Swellendam. We call it a night, leave, and everyone has a lift back except the very beautiful Sofia and myself, who have a lovely walk home under the starry sky..

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