(Thursday I was able to attach photos to the bottom of this note)
Our blog page carries the name Devolin Adventures, and Monday I felt like I was on one.
Sunday afternoon we arrived at our accommodations in the Outaniqua Mountains, just north of Knysna, for two nights. The Teniqua Treetops is a small resort with only 8 half cabin/half tent structures perched in the treetops of the South African countryside. Though we are only 20 km from the coast, it feels like we’re on another planet here. Kind of like Blairhampton with bigger hills and tropical plants (and monkeys and baboons and poisonous snakes and spiders…) The views are gorgeous and the setting quaint. Staying here is our family's Christmas present from Doug and June. We are delighted with the gift - thank you!
This boutique resort did not fit our budget, but it did fit our desires. It's unique location was different than our other hotels due to it's mountain plateau isolation. Everywhere else were are staying is in towns or cities, so this added some diversity to our South African exploration. The common room with a pool table, ping-pong, board games and books gave us some fun entertainment as well. The kids are becoming pool sharks.
The big thing to do while at this remote location is go for “walks”. I’ve put this common word in quotes to emphasize that clearly the SA definition of this word is different from home. The comments on resort info is that the “walk” to the river is pleasant and one should prepare to cross the river to reach the trail on the opposite side, and eventually reach the natural pools in the river to swim in. The book stated this was “a walk, not a climb,” i.e. easy to navigate. By any Canadian definition, their book is wrong.
We started down the trail knowing it would be wet due to the heavy rains yesterday. We wore our shoes rather than sandals, and thank goodness we did. The trail to the river started out gently, but the 150m vertical drop quickly became very steep. (By comparison, Sir Sam’s Ski Hill in Haliburton is 100 m.) The rocks, grasses and moss were slippery and we were grateful for the rope to hold as we descended. Despite this extra security, when Barry stumbled a bit above us, I imagined him tumbling like a bowling ball and spreading George, Molly and myself like white, pear-shaped bowling pins on the South African hillside not to be found till a search party was sent out after our bags were found in our cabin the next day after check out time.
I’m a bit like Jane Austen’s Catherine Moorland character taking normal situations and turning them into imaginary horrors, but I could picture nasty injuries and our health insurance company rejecting coverage of our emergency helicopter lifts out of the valley due to a clause that releases them from “stupidity related risks.”
Thankfully we made it to the bottom safely (only a few scrapes and bruises). The river, as promised, was a unique ‘cola’ colour due to the tannins found in the leaves and bark of indigenous trees. Locals say it’s fine to drink out of the river, but we stuck to our travel principles and drank our environmentally unfriendly bottled water. These dark mountain rivers flow directly to the Indian Ocean causing a colourful bleed as they join the coastal waters. It's quite a sight.
As for crossing the river to get to the swimming "pools", we assumed the heavy rains had raised the water level unusually high as we, and another family we encountered, could not find a safe place to cross. It was just too deep, fast and unknown. We decided to walk along our rugged river bank in hopes of making it to the pools, but it became impassable and we returned to the trailhead to enjoy our sandwiches and cold beer. The tranquility found at the river’s edge made the hike worthwhile. It was very pretty with dense summer vegetation, including the orange riverbank flowers that Molly picked to put in our hair.
We started our ascend with a bit of trepidation, once again imagining a family domino effect, twisted ankles, broken knee caps, scrapes and bumps, concussions, as so on. When we made it safely back to our cabin, I stripped off my sweaty clothes and guzzled a glass of good South African white wine to induce the needed relaxation.
I may be exaggerating this a little, but my concern of serious injury in the middle of nowhere is real. We have yet, and hopefully will not, do anything else so physically risky while on our adventure. And no scolding, please. We really were deceived by the resort's info.
The kids are now playing happily in the pool just after seeing a grasshopper that’s about 5” long. Grasshoppers I can handle; button/black widow spiders I cannot. Thankfully we didn't see any of those. Barry has returned from a run he described as perfect (I don’t know how he found the energy after this morning).
P.S. When returning to our cabin we saw what appears to be a transparent mountain. I’m not sure the photo does the illusion justice.
(Pictures may or may not load due to weak internet again. If I can’t post them today, check back tomorrow when we’re back in civilization).