Alright I get it, Cape Town is pretty perfect. Even though I imagined the city to be incredible, I didn’t expect to fall for the place as hard as I did. I definitely underestimated it. But as I head down the coast of South Africa, and dive into the Garden Route, I realize that I’ve underestimated the whole country. But can you really blame me? The only brochures we see of South Africa advertise one of three things: Cape Town, Kruger National Park, and the townships. It’s easy to assume that South Africa is nothing but a wildlife rich national park and a couple cities.
Today I’ve arrived in the town of WIlderness. It’s like nothing I’ve seen in the brochures of South Africa, nor is it the least bit what I expected to find in the country. This village is settled along a tranquil lagoon squeezed between miles of perfect beaches and a dramatic range of hills. Cheery and, dare I say, cute, Wilderness is calm and, befitting to its name, it is tucked into a perfect bit of natural wild.
From town, a healthy web of trails lead into the forest, along rivers and through bits of temperate rain forest. Withing the trees, a wealth of bird life chatter their ever-singing song. As I cut through a darkened bit of forest, an awkward pair of geese trumpet their discontent of my intrusion and flap violently off in the opposite direction. A top a tree, a grey woodpecker hammers at the red wall of a proud tree trying to pierce the forest’s canopy. Gazing patiently from a sturdy branch above the creek a giant kingfisher is perched.
The trail drops to the shores of a lagoon perfectly reflecting the trees above it. A cord is strung out across the waters and a tiny floating platform is attached. I pull my way across on the hand-drawn personal ferry. As I reach the other side, I jump the last step and land on a soft bit of moss and then bounce up the stairs ahead.
Though it’s the early afternoon, the board-walked trail feels dark and at times is ominous. I have this bit of wilderness to myself, and when the birds choose to dull their voices it can be desperately quiet. The fall of a branch, the wave of the wind dancing through the leaves, or a dik-dik makes my heightened senses hop.
The path carries me along the wall of a tilting canyon wall and past trees clinging desperately to the cliff’s incline. As I bend around a corner the sound of a splash of rushing water slaps my senses. The forest gives way to a chasm of erratic rocks and weaving waters. A fall tumbles from a ledge and into a pool of turning waters. A light mist tickles the air and floats among the winds.
I climb, hand and foot, to the top of the modest waterfall and look down into the valley below. Part of me wishes that the world could see the beauty, tranquility and energy of this little train outside of Wilderness. But on the other hand, I’m more than happy that today I have it all to myself.