From the Wild Coast to the Sunshine Coast, with a bit of fever in between
The day after Larry and Alyssa's departure in early April Dave and I headed to the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape. Ever since hearing Alyssa rave about the five day hike (though she brags how she did it in four days, mostly barefoot) from Port St Johns to Coffee Bay, we knew we couldn't leave South Africa without completing this trek. And did it meet all our expectations! This hike is along one of the few remaining unspoilt coastlines in the country; it's mostly inaccessible by car. The village-based accommodations were very comfortable, and the group we attached ourselves to was friendly and welcoming; but it's the amazing coastal area through which the trail passes that makes it so special. We spent the first two days with our own guide, but hooked up with another guide and his group of 5 for the last three days. It's a long story (and one typical of South Africa), but having reserved the guide months in advance proved to do more harm than good. In the end all worked out well and we had a terrific time. The hike is 60 km and for close to a quarter of it we hiked along the beautiful sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean. Otherwise we climbed green hills for wonderful views and walked through small Xhosa villages, spending the nights in a rondavel belonging to a villager who hosts trekkers. My favorite day was the third; much of it was spent walking along the water, where local fishermen were casting from the rocks. It's the middle of crayfish (lobster) season, so we bought several, plus some zebra fish, for an incredibly low price, which our guides carried until we stopped for lunch at a nature reserve. They then cooked them over an open fire, and we had our most delicious seafood lunch. It's not hard to understand why the Wild Coast has become one of our most favorite places.
The fever referred to in the title occurred upon our return to site after the hike; and it takes on two forms. The first was the hectic, feverish activity we came back to at our NGO. Clients returned the same day we did, and the place was abuzz with construction, rearranging of furniture and shuffling of offices. This is the most movement we've seen in our entire time here! And we're not sure why, but it continues even until now. The other fever hit us about a week after we returned. Both of us knew we weren't feeling quite right, but it wasn't until I got a text message from one of the young Germans with whom we had hiked that we knew it was more serious. He asked if we were feeling ok because the three of them were at the emergency room getting tested for several things, including tick bite fever. Our own visit to the clinic the following Monday morning verified this. Indeed, for the next week we experienced almost every symptom connected to this fever. Five days of antibiotics took care of it, but it wasn't a pleasant week.
The day we were finished with our treatment, our NGO closed for another week. This was only two weeks after being in session following Easter break. Three national holidays, including Freedom Day celebrating 14 years since democracy, occurred that week, meaning most people headed for holiday, including us. I know it seems like we are gone more than at site, but I honestly think it's because I write more about holidays than work, since work is typically the same from week to week.
So we headed back towards the ocean, further west this time, to Jeffrey's Bay, on the Sunshine Coast just west of Port Elizabeth. This time we rented a car and picked up a couple of friends along the way, meeting other friends in 'J Bay'. Eight of us shared a house that belonged to the co-worker of one of the group, and we had a splendid week. Every night was an eat-a-thon, with different people cooking each night, except for the night we went out for a wonderful seafood dinner. The beach there is beautiful, with soft perfect sand, amazing shells, and its calling card – the home of the perfect wave and the supertube. No wonder this is the surfing capital of the continent and home to an annual international competition. One day we drove to nearby Tsitsikamma National Park where we hiked a difficult 3 km along the rocky coast to a waterfall, and returned. Another day some of us visited Addo Elephant National Park, but decided it should be renamed Addo Warthog Park. The mere two elephants we saw should have warranted us a refund of our entry fee! But there was no shortage of giant warthogs; the park itself was worth the visit, with its green rolling hills and valleys.
A two day drive back to Polokwane, after dropping off our friends along the way and putting over 3500 km on the rental, ended almost two weeks ago. Last week at work was the same continued frenzy, and there is no sign of it slowing. Dave was able to have our NGO buy a new computer; he's been teaching our financial administrator who is anxious to learn. We both just got assignments to prepare business plans for separate projects to request funding from the government. And I am excited to get back to the library. While Larry and Alyssa were here we spent time at the shelter with the children, showing them some of the new books that Beth had just received. They are so excited; and I look forward to spending time there reading to them and helping them with schoolwork. It was great to get back after Easter break and find that they had used the library in my absence, and kept it in good order. Soon Beth and I will be adding some puzzles and word games to the book collection so they should enjoy it even more.
For now we are really enjoying the perfect autumn weather; the days are sunny and warm, with blue skies and degrees in mid 20's C (mid to upper 70's F). This makes for very comfortable bicycle riding (still riding almost daily to work), fast line-drying of clothes (hung out each morning), and great sleeping temperatures. But I am not letting myself forget that last year at just this time we had 3 days of bitter cold, when we wore every layer of clothing we had and weren't able to take our hats or gloves off all day. I'm just hoping we don't have a repeat of that.
So now we're down to our last few months, and we think that's one of the reasons our assistance is being sought after at work so much more now than before. We approach COS (close of service) with mixed emotions, but the closer we get the more we look forward to returning to family and friends in the US. And I guess that's the way it should be!
"Ubuntu ungamntu ngabanye abantu"
"People are people through other people"