To recap quickly our 4×4-powered story, after buying a car in Jo’Burg and trying in vain to register it to our name in Gauteng province, after scaling some amazing cliffs in the majestic Drakensberg Mountains, after climbing the dizzying Sani Pass and spending a few days roaming and picking up hitchhikers across the peaceful Kingdom of Lesotho, we arrived in sunny PE (Port Elizabeth, in Eastern Cape province of South Africa).
Coming back to PE was very special. We were finally reunited with our brother-from-another-mother Bernard after 6 1/2 years. But someone was missing from the picture; sadly in the meantime we have lost the amazing wonder-woman who was Sharmyn, and her sunny memory made our reunion even more emotional.
We had arrived at Bernard’s less than 24 hours before we’d ring in a New Year. The plan was simple: throw some camping gear in the truck, get meat and proper South African wine, firewood, our tekkies and the swimming shorts, and prepare for a little adventure. The place of shenanigans was no other than the wild Baviaanskloof, where Bernard’s friends were already supposed to have arrived from all corners of South Africa.
When we parked at Kudu Kaia, the base for the night, the others were already out exploring the string of natural pools hidden inside the canyon. Word was that our jolly gang was waiting for us with rolls and drinks at pool no. 4. After hiking the rocky trails so typical for Baviaanskloof, swimming though cold waters, climbing ropes, scrambling through waterfalls, and bouldering over well, boulders, we found them at pool 9.
Know that when South Africans say “we’re gonna have a little adventure”, they mean it. We love this special breed of people who enjoy breaking a sweat and ignoring a bruise here and there and who cannot resist jumping into lakes and driving through flooded rivers. Our kind of people. Of course than at the end of this awesome day, when we gathered around the braai, everybody still had their biggest smiles on.
Another short word on South Africans. We love that not only are they up for anything, but at a braai you’d be hard pressed to find a conversation that is not interesting or positive. We feel that as Romanians we have so much to learn from them, from a nation that is dealing with complex cultural, political and economical issues, but where few people complain or focus on the negative. It’s what you chose to do what makes you. It’s the love you give what feeds you. The little things. Maybe we should stop being so focused on our horrible drivers and crumbling infrastructure and inept politicians and start appreciating the safety and peaceful environment we live in, the fertile land that lays unused, and just let other things color our day. Rant over.
The epic New Year’s Eve in Baviaanskloof nNature Reserve ended very early, as we were spent. We crawled into our tents for a good rest. The next day we drove through Baviaanskloof, to return to Port Elizabeth in time to learn that even Bernard’s dogs had been partying. ?
For us, another party was about to begin. Jon’s birthday. But if the day started with candles and a “he’s a jolly good fellow”, it ended in the hospital. Very, very displeased with your party planning skills, Jon! ?So what happened was that while the boys were working to fix the exhaust bracket, Jon accidentally injured his right hand with the angle grinder. ?We can tell you that they don’t serve neither champagne nor cake in emergency rooms, and even if it’s your birthday nobody has time for anesthesia ? to set before they stitch you up.
To smoothen up the recovery after the Baviaanskloof trip and the unexpected birthday visit to the ER, we took the Romanian Patient to the best fish and chips in town and to see a bewildering motorcycle collection.
The New Year’s party in the Baviaanskloof was even more consequential than that. If the logic and geography dictated that after PE we should continue the route west, everyone, but we mean EVERYONE we talked to had something cool to say about the opposite direction. The Wild Coast. It was like a conspiracy had been designed to make us turn back many hundreds of kilometers, but what good is a journey if you are not open to the opportunities? So the decision was made. We fixed that exhaust bracket in an exhaust shop, got the radiator cleaned and had a full service, then obtained the necessary permits to explore the trails of the Wild Coast, and pointed the car east.