I do

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
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73
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Trip End Oct 25, 2010


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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Sunday, December 13, 2009

I don't know how I managed to run into this much trouble in the short time I stayed at Coffee Bay, but I did..
First at Hole in the Wall, yes, you must have heard of it, and yes, it is gorgeous.
A group of us walked there, from Coffee Bay. A steep trek and I was not in optima forma. Our sweet guide Lundani? kept coming back for me when I trailed behind and that's when we had the most interesting talks. He wanted to know anything and everything, while I was trying to save my breath for yet another climb.
Eventually I told him to go ahead with the rest and I found myself accompanied by three local kids, solemnly walking beside me, keeping an eye on me. Bless them.
By the time I arrived everyone had conked out, lying in the grass with a drink or a smoke.
The beach was empty, I fancied a swim and took off by myself. The sea was perfect; smooth and delicious. I swam towards the rock with the hole, slowly, letting myself slip into a trance, completely relaxed and one with the waves.
Till something nibbled at my toe, I pulled up my leg, turned around and saw, to my dismay, I'd somehow drifted far, far away from the shore and recalled the scary story Lundani just told me about saving a foolish English man at this very spot.
I had to get back, and fast. But no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't moving forward. The waves now engulfed me; I came up spluttering and gasping for air, disorientated - I started to panic.
Now was the time to cry for help, but my voice wouldn't carry across the noise of the sea and no-one was looking anyway.
I stopped swimming, I was exhausting myself, and noticed I was getting carried sideways and backwards. So I began to swim sideways, with the current, hoping it would take me to the rocky stretch that runs from the beach towards the hole in the wall.
Luckily it did, though I got slapped onto the stony shore a couple of times before I managed to get up and out, and make my way back to the camp. Rather sheepishly now, hoping no-one would notice my cuts and bruises. But Lundani was rushing towards me, laughing, 'Are you all right?' Said he had seen me struggling and was wondering whether he should jump in or not. The water was rather cold.
Oh well, so much for love.
 
No hard feelings and I was already excited about our next outing. Another long hike, this time to some caves, I forget the name, but it was an easier walk. Beautiful too. Mind you, when I say easier, I don't mean less dangerous. Even the goats were extremely cautious, leaning heavily against the cliffs as they ungainly clambered down. The same narrow paths we followed, slippery and treacherous.
 I was fearless, honestly, loved it, I was right up in front with Lundani.
He went to investigate the end of a cliff, a tricky corner you have to manoeuvre round, and beckoned me to come. The others were still at the cave but I was eager to continue.
'Look,' he said, 'Look at the waves, these are freak waves, coming from two different directions. It is impossible to pass now.' And I moved up close to look down at the crazy waves, rising up, crashing about. We were standing on a narrow cliff edge, our backs to the cold, wet wall that was built up of razor sharp layers of stone. Suddenly he turns to me with a wild gesture but, too late, at the same moment we are caught by a massive wave, smashing us against the cliff, completely soaking us and our gear, but still standing.
Thank god. We were all right.
The group stood watching, horrified, and I called: 'It's ok, we're just wet.' Then someone spoke in an authoritative voice: 'I'm a doctor. Hold your arm up high, I'm coming to you.' I looked down and saw my arm was red with blood, dripping to the ground. I hadn't even noticed.
There was a bit of a fuss, the guide had a first-aid kit, I was bandaged and we made our way back.
Wet, shivering from shock and cold, but somehow exhilarated; what an adventure!
Of course I should have got it stitched, as told, but I thought it wasn't that bad and anyway, I'd be home soon. By the time I saw a doctor it was too late so now I have two big scars to remind me to take better care.
Yes. I should.
The day after I was to leave round noon and feeling melancholy. I decided to stay near the Coffee Bay beach, walk around, take some photos. There's a wide sandy beach just over the hill from the Coffee Shack, or you can make your way around the cliff, climbing over the big boulders at the bottom. I asked the receptionist how long it would take. 'Not long, not long, and about the same time either way.'
Oh, I should have known by now, African time, African time.
I went across the hill first, taking longer than expected, but I was dithering and taking pics. The beach was deserted, amazing really, how could I be the only one wanting to be there?
Walking towards the sea, I kicked off my flip-flops about 20 meters before reaching the water, and waded in. It was heavenly but  I couldn't swim because of my arm. So sadly, I paddled back, and noticed my shoes floating by. I managed to grab one (and right now I wonder where the other ended up.)
Still, that should have told me something. Like the tide was coming in. But no, totally oblivious I started making my way back, over the rocks and stones beneath the cliff. To my delight I happened upon three teenage girls singing gospel songs to the sea, giggling they scarped when they saw they had an audience. Happy memories.
I wasn't making much progress, one shoe - some stones were sharp, a useless arm and a small backpack. Chilly in the shadow too, but it was a challenge.
About half-way to the point, where you go round and walk about the same distance in the other direction, to reach the Coffee Bay shore, I looked up to see two lads sitting on top of the cliff, listening to a transistor radio. It crossed my mind to ask them how long it was still to go, but remembering the girls, I thought I'd just leave them be.
That turned out to be a bad decision.
I clambered on but I wasn't liking it any more and somehow the turning point wasn't getting much closer. Frustrated I stood still, looked around trying to master the situation and to my absolute horror I saw the swelling sea had almost reached me.
Dear god, which ever way I went now, back or forth, I wasn't going to make it. At that moment in time I was convinced this was how I would meet my death. I didn't see my life flashing before me, I didn't even think of my loved ones - my strongest feeling was that of utter surprise. So this is it?
Well, obviously, it wasn't.
The boys - pray they were still there, I could probably make it back to them. Now the adrenaline was rushing though my veins. I jumped and scrambled over the rocks, feet getting caught, getting cut, I didn't care.
 I found them and screamed for help. Two astonished faces peered over the edge. 'Hurry mama, hurry. You are in danger,' they called.
Ja, you're telling me? They started to run, beckoning me to follow them to a place where I could climb up. Crying out all the time: 'Hurry, you must go faster. Please mama, faster.'
Don't ask me how I got up the cliff. Protrusions I could hardly get a grip on, slippery, too far apart, hauling myself up by my injured arm, breathless and sobbing.
I made it. Still don't know how, but I was ready to believe the angels carried me.
Those boys, my saviours, walked me back home, a secret path over the hill, now unperturbed, the radio pressed to their ears as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
They had just saved my life. What can I say?

I will go back to South Africa, to Coffee Bay, and my greatest wish is to find those boys, maybe talk about what happened and thank them again, from the bottom of my heart.

Not hard to understand why I love it there. I do. I really do.

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