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Sunday 3 August 2008

too short sojourn at Tsitsikamma

the trip nearly ends and despite all the gorgeous landscapes we saw for these almost 2 months, the insatiable desire to want more, to go and meet unknown lands is still itching. And during this African escapade, one of the elements we involuntarily disregarded was the hiking. Essential component to live at the pace of the nature and the people we meet on the way and we call out to share a slice of life.
The otter trail in the Tsitsikamma national park- a 5-day coastal trek – in some way gives us a few regrets. We only walk 3 hours on this track and feel the urge to go more ahead. In the ocean, down below, a colony of dolphins play with the shapely waves. Rare appearances of humpback whales force the stop ; we admire their mighty jets of water which split the surface. They go back and forth with caring little about the onlookers sitting on the rocks. Onlookers we'll remain until we're back at the car park.

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After the coastal landscapes, we head for the Bloukrans bridge. An ordinary bridge thousands of vehicles take every day. But underneath the road activity, between 2 blocks of reinforced concrete, the bridge has its hour of glory. A world title at stake, the one of highest bungy jump in the world. 216 m of pure adrenalin.
The approach, with the sensation to have the feet in space, depicts the background. Then we arrive on a large concreted platform. Guardrails surround all the area except in one place... Shortcut to join the bottom of the valley. The wait seems interminable and somehow stressful looking at the face of the other harness-equipped mad people. That's my turn. The staff kits me out and put me at the edge of the parapet, with the toes beyond. It's high... Very high. Masochistic feeling of paying too much to be in this awkward position. The arms held-out, short of breath and the look towards the horizon. I throw myself. The drop seems endless, maximum rush of adrenalin. A few unique seconds of indescribable joy.

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Thursday 31 July 2008

trekking in Lesotho

Since we came back in South Africa, our route mainly criss-crossed the Kwazulu-Natal province. This area, the Zulus are native from, collects inestimable underwater and inland jewels. To complete our Zululand panorama, we leave the coast to the Drakensberg heights, a mountain chain overlapping the Lesotho border. A country entirely encircled by South Africa. The Sani Pass in the south part sounds good. We drive to meet it but for the occasion we leave our car downhill and hop on a more suitable 4x4 vehicle. The hairpin bends draw a track which zigzags upwards the valley. The proeminent rocks dot the road. The car swings. 40 minutes to cover 8 kilometers. The Lesotho border closes the ascent. A barren land swept by a wind which lashes our faces.
We begin our short hike up to the Hogson peak. A 360-view promontory. At the foot of the hill, the track which splits the valley up to the Sani Pass, all around the desolate and serrated rock of the Drakensberg. Plain, massive and motionless. We feel far from the profusion of colours, the vivacity and delicacy of the coral reef we had as background a few days before. Thus, we can sum up the ends of Kwazulu-Natal. One day sunbathing close to the ocean and the next one wrapping up warmly to struggle against the cold of the mountain.

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Saturday 26 July 2008

on the earth and into the water at St Lucia

How to reconcile the visual hunt of terrestrial sometimes antediluvian-looking animals with the urge of putting on a mask and a snorkel to spy on the submarine critters and all of that within the same day? South Africa possesses the answer and haven't finished to surprise us on its diversity.
We arrive in the village of St Lucia where we land up in a great guest house called Blou house backpacker. At the bottom of the garden, mongooses argue over the passion fruits the vervet monkeys have wasted.
St Lucia and the eponymous lake draw a large estuary – the largest one in Africa – propitious for wildlife. Birds and mammals live in this park, encircling the lake. The savannah vanished and trees grew up. In spite of the change of habitat, a variety of animals succeeded in adapting. Rhinoceros, kudus, leopards, zebras and wildebeests took up residence in this luxuriant land. The avowed goal of the park's managers is to recreate the former waves of animals migrations when wildebeests and the others ran away the Lebombo mountains to move towards the wetland of St Lucia.
Before getting in the park, at the end of the estuary, the owner of the guest house has promised us hippopotamuses. Better to trust local people than the paper guides, he wasn't wrong.

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following this starter, we dash off to cape Vidal, 35km from the village. The owner, him again, announced this thing to us: « on the way to cape Vidal, you'll see every kind of animals including rhinos, as soon as you arrive at the end of the road, you slip mask and snorkel on to see colourful reef fish before driving back to St Lucia ». His speech sounded like the tempting caption of a tourist brochure. And yet, he was right again.
Underwater:

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and a few hours later, on the earth:

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St Lucia, one of the good finds of our South African journey.

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