Monday, September 22, 2008

Wilderness 19th-21st Sep

My original plan was to go to Knysna rather than wilderness (because they have a brewery and there is a guided tour) but I was warned off going there as it was 'dead'. So I came to Wilderness instead which has proved to be a very good decision. I stayed at the beach house backpackers which overlooks the beach (ok there is a road, a train track and some houses in-between but you can definitely see the beach from it (I am sitting looking at it now). The place is run by an Irish woman from Cork but she left there when she was quite young so has no Cork accent at all (Orla will be disgusted at that!)


Before I even put my bags down I asked about Paragliding and was told that if I wanted to I could actually do it that very afternoon. So at around 3:30 I and two Germans were taken along the coast to some sand dunes where we did a tandem paraglide. I have never done this before so had no idea what to expect. I got kitted up while the instructor got the paraglider ready. Then we took off from a tall sand dune, went 50ft sideways, and crashed headfirst back into the sand! After we had clambered to our feet and I had brushed off the sand from my butt and teeth we tried again - this time successfully (with a couple of scares involving lifting feet over thorn bushes). Once we were up in the air we went along the edge of the dunes getting more and more lift until we must have been about 200m up. It was all very tranquil and not really scary at all. The only slight problem was that I had failed to hoist myself completely into the seat so was effectively being held up by a strap around my groin - slightly restricting to say the least. After 20 or so minutes it was time to go back to our launch site but the wind had died down so with at least 100m to go we came (thankfully gently) down to earth. I then had to struggle back over the sand to the car while my instructor unencumbered by my weight was able to get his glider back up in the air and float back by himself (pig!).

That night after going for a brief walk with the two Germans into the village to see a food fair which consisted of about 3 stalls and a woman doing Karaoke we came back to the hostel and sat by the fire with the other backpackers. Everyone was talking about the unusual coldness for this time of year ill prepared for it (obviously they did not know about my jinx!)

Canoeing.(oh why do I do it!)

The next day the two Germans (still can't pronounce their names properly!) and me went canoeing up the river that is near Wilderness village. When I say near I really mean about 2 miles away which we had to walk in order to get to the canoe hire place. Once there we hired out two two-man canoes with me in one and the 2 Germans in the other. They were big stable canoes with a middle section between the two seats where you could put your belongings in watertight containers. Going up the river was fine - we took our time and after about 40 minutes of paddling through some really nice scenery came to a sandy bank. From here we could leave our canoes and follow a track up to a waterfall. The 'track' turned out to be an elevated wooden walkway (not very rustic at all) which after 30 minutes leads to a waterfall which had about a 5m drop. After seeing the waterfalls at Enkosini all I could say was "Is that it! I could piss higher than that!" The Germans were even less impressed as they had been to Victoria falls as part of their trip.

We walked back to the canoes and then started our return down the river. After about 20 minutes we came to a section which had had a slight cross wind when we were coming up - nothing to be concerned about at the time. Only now the wind had picked up and instead of going with the wind we were going against it. The Germans managed to get their canoe through it reasonably easy - which left me in by myself in my large 2 man canoe.

Every time I tried to paddle against the wind it just caught the front of the canoe and forced it sideways and backwards. The whole front of the canoe was acting like a sail and as much as I tried I could not move it forward. I then had what I thought was a good idea at the time - paddle from the front rather than the back. So a clambered into the front nearly capsizing the canoe in the process - it actually wobbled so much that it took on some water. But I was in the front and kneeling down I used all my force to paddle the canoe as fast as I could forward. Unfortunately I had failed to realise that at the front of the canoe you have little or no steering so the wind just caught the back of the canoe and I ended up in an even worse position than I was before. I had to get to the back of the canoe again. So rather than try to stand up I decided that I would sit on the mid section and then gently slide back into the rear seating compartment. The gentle slide became a backwards tumble with my feet stuck in the air and my arse on the water filled floor. I was able to lift myself back into the seat and start paddling again. In the end I used a corkscrew type navigation to get me through the worst of the wind. I would paddle over to one side of the river, turn the boat downstream, and paddle as fast as I could against the wind until the boat was caught and pushed sideways and backwards. I then let the wind turn the canoe and back paddled it round so I could start the process all over again. With each corkscrew I went forward about 10feet until eventually I got to a calmer part of the river.

The Germans in this time had merrily canoed far down the river. At the time I was thinking that I didn't know what their surnames were but I bet it must be Kuntz! To be fair they did wait for me down river and there was nothing much they could have done to help me.

After arriving at the hire place we all hiked back the 2 miles into town. After pizza at the backpackers I ended up having an early night and had to take pain killers to help me sleep as I was so sore.

Things I have learnt: A two man canoe is called a two man canoe because it is for two(fit)men - not one unfit overweight Irish guy!

Next stop Mossel Bay


No comments: