Now we regret putting the car here…I wipe the sweat from my brow while I turn the steering wheel around again. The effort must show on my face.The front tyres grind under me while I force them yet again the other way. I don’t know if this is a known fitness exercise, but if so I will have mastered it after our journey.
The bull bar pushes the plants and fence out of the way while the spare wheel and back bumper thrust against the wall of cane. Some angry looks and frustrated comments later we finally manage to get out of this tight spot. I quickly run from the scene and inside for a well deserved cup of coffee which I drain like it’s a cold glass of milk.
Ten minutes later and we’re ready to go. It’s the four of us now. Adam and Megan from Canada are fascinated by our trip and like to accompany us for a few Miles Along The Sea.
The four of us have a look at the map. Together we decide to keep following the small gravel roads we can see on our detailed map. When the small gravel roads turn out to be narrow, muddy tracks with tight passages and low overhanging trees I start to worry.
I leave the car on a hill where turning around is still a possibility and follow the track on foot walking between huts and low hanging branches. The track ends on a steep uneven slope which ends in a river. Bare feet I walk through it while the strong current tries to unbalance me several times. The ground seems solid underneath and besides some deep holes I believe the car can do this watercrossing..
Slowly, like a funeral procession, I follow Helga down the hill in the car while she walks in front of me with the walkie talkie to guide me around the largest potholes. Megan is safely on the other side with the camera filming everything. Helga has a hard time getting across the river bare feet. The current is trying to unbalance her too while the sharp, slippery rocks don’t give much opportunity to plant your feet well. I watch her struggle and notice that walking is not going any better than driving. I decide to use my momentum. I pass by Helga and try to read the path through the river as good as I can by myself while I start on the steep part. I miss a giant pothole and the car makes a dangerous sweep to the left, followed by a loud yelp from Helga. I’m being tossed in my carseat while the car balances itself out and slowly start the steep climb up from the river crossing.
I park the car a little up the slope so everyone has time to deal with the earlier fright and the adrenaline rush settles down. This way I hope to avoid a lecture about my irresponsible behaviour…By the time everyone reaches the car there are already a few laughs and giggles about the whole situation.
We barely speak about it later and focus on navigating the route ahead. When we reach the top of the hill it almost looks like someone drew a line with chalk on a green pool table. In the valleys below we sometimes have to look for the roads that from the top were so easily to see.
The line of chalk get wider and wider, people live along side the road and the low rumble of the car makes the cows step away from the it. I think we are all secretly relieved when we reach the tarmac around noon and see the first signs leading us to Dwesa National Park.
A Canadian is not an American. Absolutely not. Not that I’m implying that Americans have no clue when it comes to camping, but when I lived in the States I only met a few people who really camped. They either stay somewhere about 5 hours from home or they are climbers who sleep in their car. But as soon as we park the car the Canadian Adam feels right at home; he browses through our camping equipment, finds the MSR stove and crowns himself as the cook of the camp kitchen. He helps setting up our camp like he does this every day and gathers wood which he expertly transforms into a beautiful campfire. Around the fire he tells us about his nightly hunting expeditions with his father, the solo hunts with bow and arrow, his adventures on a snow mobil in which he had to plow through powdery snow and the days he spent on the ice, fishing. He also tells us that the only way of hunting for moose is to spray yourself with a deoderant of moose urine and not wash yourself for days. And also that it can be a bit scary when you’re alone in a tree when it gets dark, with bow and arrow ,while the forest underneath you comes to life.
They teach us an easy card game and maybe it’s the alcohol that effects our play, but the sober Helga quickly turns out to be the best player with strategically placed, but often painful cards.