Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day 110 - Plettenberg Bay to Nico Smit's farm in Baviaanskloof, South Africa

RobT: We left our nice little backpackers paradise, Amakaya Backpackers Hostel in Plettenberg Bay around 9 am and headed east along N2 toward Bloukrans Bridge for my appointment with insanity - 216 m (708 feet).... the highest bungee jump in the world.

 Fitting the backup safety harness

Before the jump...still smiling

RobC:  Just in case you were wondering...I was not about to pay USD 100 to jump off a bridge. There may have been a time in my remote past when I thought that might be a cool thing to do, but nowadays I am happy enough when I can get out of bed without too many aches and pains. :-)  (RobT edit: The bungee jump may be the answer to straightening out any of your aches and pains and giving you the extra inch you need to touch the ground while on your motorbike)

RobT:  I wasn't really nervous until I walked along the catwalk to the jump site under the bridge.  The catwalk was made of extruded sheet metal so you could see all the way to the river.  I guess they try to weed out the wimps, but at that point they have your money. It was a very professional operation, to my relief.  When it was my turn, they wrapped a couple of what seemed like thick heating pads around my ankles .... over my pants!  I'm thinking this can't hold, I'll slip right out of this contraption!!  Then they wrapped a strap around my ankles (on top of the "heating pads") and several loops between the ankles, reassuring me that it was going to be okay while explaining the engineering behind how the tethering mechanism works.  I guess at that point I had to believe these young workers.  They stood me up, help me hop to the edge of the abyss and the count down from 5 commenced.  With a little nudge I was into a free falling swan dive 216 meters above the river.  What a rush!!!!  The fall was deathly silent, the wind rushed past my face, then the bungee engaged and the G forces took over.  The deceleration was intense.  The rebound was equally intense.  After several oscillations I was at a stand still, hanging upside down, looking at the river a couple hundred feet below.  It was all so smooth.  I waited for a few moments until a guy came down to unhook me, yes, unhook me and latch me to his harness and haul me back up to the bridge.  The worst part was hanging upside down with the blood going down to my head.  Of course, I bought the video and photos.  WILD!!  Got one up on you sis.  :-)

Top of the arch was the jump point.

 Doesn't look like much of a hold, does it?

 These rubber bands better hold!!!

After the jump we headed to Baviaanskloof, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a nature reserve northwest of Port Elizabeth.  It offers camping facilities in the midst of baboons, monkeys, rhinos, kudu and leopards.  You could make it as rough as you'd like, all depended on how far into the park you were willing to travel.  We were riding the entire length of the reserve.  The road started out fairly tame which we thought was good, as our motorcycles were overloaded with gear and we didn't need anything very challenging as these bikes were top heavy and hard to manage. In the first portion of the park the road wound around the jagged hills, then climbed and descended several hills winding its way up until you reached the top  This section of dirt road was more like a trail, the top a mud pit.  Once we got through all that, the road descended one final time into the valley floor where it criss-crossed the river several times before we exited the park and were on nice high speed gravel road.

Road to Patensie.

Warning signs posted at the park entrance.

We only saw baboons and some Kudu.  There were also supposed to be leopards and rhinos.

Parts of this road reminded us of the Death Road in Bolivia.  Apparently, a rhino fell off one of these cliffs 5 years ago.

The road started out smooth enough.

Parts of the road were quite messy.

No kick stand ... the bike is standing on its own two wheels.  Funny, I had asked the attendant at the gate what the road was like .. "it was in great shape."

RobC navigating his way through the mud.

One of MANY creek crossings through the nature reserve.

RobT emerging out of the water.

RobC heading into a long stretch of water.

This crossing wasn't that bad .... really ....

We had big plans to make it to Willowmore for the night, but ended up taking an interest in all the farm lodging and guest houses advertised along the road through Baviaanskloof.  We ended up staying at a place run by Nico Smit and his wife. It was dark and we rode up his lane to his farm (1400 acres) not knowing what to expect and it just so happened that he himself had just arrived home from a day in town. Nico's place was nestled in the rocky hills and at the end of a gorge which you can hike up if you like.  Talked to Nico for a while, he served us a nice lasagna supper and showed us our guest house.  He also had an incredible border collie.  This dog could retrieve a ball from the complete blackness of night, from anywhere you threw it.  Incredible!  And what hospitality from Nico!

My roommate for the night ... I ended up sending him back into the wild.

Nico Smit's farm with our guest house in the background.

The guest house during the day. This farm has its own canyon to the left of the rocky hill. Incredible place.

RobC:  A  word must be said about the incredible hospitality of the Afrikaners. Wherever you go people have guest houses or extra quarters and are happy to invite you in, offering you lodging, food and help. And when you leave, they invariably give you their contact information and tell you that if anything should happen along the way, to be sure to call them and they would be more than happy to come and help us out.

One other observation. To us outsiders/visitors, the segregated residential areas for the blacks and the whites and the fact that all lower level employees are black and the bosses are white is very obvious and a little shocking. Yet, within the context of South African history, and some of it within the last 20 years, we are reminded not to pass judgment on the situation here (especially as visitors). It would probably take many years of living here to be able to fully understand the interaction and communal life in South Africa.

1 comment:

  1. Rob, I suspect that the hospitality of the Afrikaners is similar to the American west. As wilderness areas were settled, people were dependent in some instances on neighbors and even strangers for their lives. It made helping others a way of life. If I ever were in a situation where I needed help from a stranger, I'd rather be in Wyoming than New York City.