Things have only been on the upswing since the failed mugging attempt and the 3-week booking schedule of the huts in Limpopo. We’ve been based out of Graskop in the Mpumalanga region for the past week staying at a great hostel. We did day hikes our first two days then went on a 3-night backpacking trip on the Blyde River Canyon Trail, followed by a short day hike this morning and then back to the hostel in Graskop.
It feels good to get out hiking and the backpacking trip was very easy as our packs were light (we left stuff at the hostel) and it wasn’t too far in between huts. The trail was fairly well marked, but not well maintained. It was very overgrown and there were various intersections that were confusing. As opposed to the huts in Limpopo you had to book three weeks in advance, we had the trail and huts entirely to ourselves (and possibly the ghost in the third hut). Our views were wide open as we traversed open prairies with huge rock outcroppings. The second day we slept right next to an awesome canyon complete with waterfall. We got to the hut just before a big storm and it was nice to watch it rain from a dry locale.
Last night we were at Old Miners’ Hut, and again had it to ourselves. We got there early in the afternoon and had a leisurely afternoon reading about Swaziland and Namibia (trying to plan ahead). We went to bed early and were awoken sometime in the night by a massive thunder and lightning storm very close by. The hut we were in had quite a few other rooms and the wind from the storm kept slamming the doors; that sound combined with the loud thunder and eerie brightness of the lightning strikes through the windows made for the perfect situation to lie awake and let your imagination take hold with thoughts of ghosts or other guests were didn’t know about.
This morning we did a short day hike into part of the canyon. The trail was steep and slippery after all the rain last night so we opted not to go all the way to the bottom. We got back to the hostel in Graskop before the rains hit again, and tonight we splurged on a room instead of camping, and I’m happy for it as it hasn’t stopped raining since we got here.
The weather overall has been quite nice with lots of sunshine. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s been downright HOT. Luckily this area is high and seems to have a relatively constant cool breeze. We started our days here in short sleeve t-shirts to accommodate the heat, but our bodies are not coping well with the sun. Doxycycline (malaria meds) can have many, many side effects, the first of note being increased sensitivity to the sun. I got an immediate bad burn to the back of my neck; possibly I’m still not accustomed to my short hair. We both got burns on our arms. While on a 4-hour day hike we applied sun screen before leaving and then twice more on the hike and still ended up with burns on our arms and hands. We left for the backpacking trip worried enough to switch to long sleeve shirts despite the heat. (Anne’s side note: Yeah, I wore full-fledged khaki shirt and pants and looked like a moron to keep the sun off and I still had horrible side effects. Of course, it could have been my body rejecting the khaki…) On the second day my bottom lip was sunburned and swollen. I was getting weird, severe headaches for days at a time. We were both drinking a decent amount of water, yet were hardly peeing (and anyone who’s been on a road trip with me knows this means there is something awry). Back at the hostel we googled side effects of doxycycline and sure enough, we have them all. This kind of sucks since we have a year’s supply each... I may give it another week and go from there.
We left for our day hike around 7:30 this morning and on the way to the trail we saw about 10 different baboons ranging in size from big male to tiny baby. It was awesome!!!! Then we saw some vervet monkeys later in the day. My first wildlife beyond lots of frogs, lizards, one snake, and a mongoose. Also we saw a blue tailed swallow, which is a rare and quite lovely bird. (And should qualify us as highly skilled birders.)
Tomorrow we head to Swaziland! Unless the minibus connections don’t really work out and then who knows!