Monday, May 2, 2011

Damp glampers find a blue sky

Our 'glampsite' at Kol Kol Mountain Lodge.

Last week we went ‘glamping’ in the mountains above Bot River, which is the new word for glamorous camping. That means a semi-permanent tent with a nice big bed and a white duvet, an outdoor hot tub and – most importantly of all – a three-bar gas heater.
Because it rained and rained. And then rained some more. Followed by snow on the highest peaks. The ‘glam’ in ‘glamping’ was disappearing as fast as a sunray in a downpour and we were rapidly becoming far more damp than glam. It gets worse. We found a pack of cards and were reduced to playing rummy. My husband Jan drew the line at snap, even though I suggested strip snap. Someone has to stay rational.
But it was all worth it, because on the sixth day the sun came out and danced shamelessly over the fynbos as if it had never been away.  We strapped on our boots, packed in a flask of tea, built a king-size sandwich that would last a day and got out.
My fellow rummy player and explorer.
We had the whole world to ourselves. Soon we were over the borders of Kol Kol, the farm where we were glamping and heading further and further up. We couldn’t get close enough to that spotless blue sky. A few days before we had forced ourselves to set out for a waterproofed walk in the rain and had got to the top of the same ridge in a galeforce wind with an icy horizontal rain cutting through us. Now it was a different place: friendly, warm and stretching out around us into far dusty-blue horizons.
Rocky outcrops sat white in the fynbos, towering up like deserted old mansions. Not a smooth curve in sight. Nothing could ever stay smooth in a wild place like this with its raging winds, freezing rain and scorching sun. But not today. This day, the sixth day, was a peach. We walked and walked, eventually hitting a sandy jeep track that pulled us towards a hidden gorge. We knew the way home, but had no idea of the way forward. We let our feet find the way in this free place beyond people and guide books and it was wonderful.
Winter's first oxalis purpurea.
Long strands of restios waved in the wind and new tufts of bright-green, red and pink fynbos stuck their heads up in the recently burnt veld.
Then suddenly, in the middle of this valley, three figures emerged in the distance. Like two aboriginal songlines our path and theirs finally met in the middle. One man had a sturdy walking stick and a dog like Lassie and called out, “morning!” His name was Simon and he was the owner of this universe. Theoretically we were trespassing, but fortunately Simon seemed to enjoy the fact that we were enjoying it so much too. “Follow that path over there for the best views,” he pointed out. “It doesn’t seem right that someone should own a place like this,” said Jan, as we walked off.
Common Pagoda (mimetes cuculatus)
We followed Simon’s instructions and suddenly there it all was. Below us was the entire Houwhoek valley, from the Houwhoek Hotel on the left to the huge Steenbras dam wall on the right. Green squares of apple orchards and round blue dams filled the long valley between two mountain ranges and the N2 cut through it with its shiny steady stream of cars.
We found a spot out of the wind to have lunch, and I turned until I could sit and look at the big mountains above us. I far preferred the big untamed world up here to the ordered pretty one far below.

Even so, it was nice to eventually walk down one last hill and spot ‘our valley’ down below, cradled by mountains with ridges like long arms. Before us the ochre farmland and stubby hills of the Overberg bleached into the furthest range of deep blue mountains and what would surely be the next wild universe.
Things I found lying on the ground: a shard of a teapot, a porcelain duck's head, three everlastings, a piece of an anthill, three burnt leucadendron cones and a small piece of wood.

1 comment:

johnynrockers said...

A friend of mine just emailed me one of your articles from a while back. I read that one a few more. Really enjoy your blog. Thanks
Damp Away