Clear blue skies welcomed in a brand new day. A steady radiant sun hidden for the past 5 days greeted all & sundry with gay abandon as if it was a long lost friend. But first things first! I had talked both Kurt & Mike into doing a quick 21km run before breakfast & prior to commencing the hike. A work colleague at Monoweld Galvanisers, Danie van Wyk, had challenged me to a duel, a 42km race from Fairy Glen in Pretoria East to the western side of Acasia Park.
Having driven on this road en route to the camping ground, the profile of the hill was already known. In the dim light, it did not appear to be that imposing but the need to change down a gear or two, told a different story. This entailed a steep remorseless incline past a Transkeian Army base into Port St Johns itself & the back again. From prior hikes, I have gathered that both were natural athletes with an innate turn of speed. And so we set out. The pace was a tad under 5 minutes a kilometre but barely so. The pair quickly got into a rhythm; the pace maintained in spite of the steady unremitting incline past the Base. We climbed as the road twisted & turned disappointing at every turn as yet another incline was revealed. Finally at its zenith we whizzed down with Kurt & Mike accelerating to 4 minute per kay & me at 5 & a half minutes per km. The straight into the town drew us in like an elastic band. The first watering table was a lonely tap on the beach; its contents tasting like mother’s milk.
Then the return journey commenced, up the same hill back to the camp site. George was up & about surveying his kingdom & its reprobates, the three fellow hikers who should – according to the world of George – not have run before a strenuous hike. As the three errant schooldays prepared for the hike, the schoolmaster reprimanded us with caustic tongue. None of us seemed to notice George. What was of greater interest was the weather as the sky grew dark as if it represented danger, fierce & menacing as in a Dracula movie. The eerie stillness belied the situation as it enticed a sense of impending doom. Then the winds & the rain struck. The wind rushed across the veld pushing leaves & other greenery before it. Sucking our hats, we stooped forward into the gusts in order to maintain our balance. Progress was futile. With a swish Mike’s rain suit had been vacuumed off his body leaving remnants attached. He stood there shattered as if in a trance unable to comprehend what had happened. In shock, the normal affable Mike, with his quick witted asides, still in a stupor of shock & a loss for words, trudged on uncomprehending.
What could we do? It was unanimous. As four extremely fit people, we were invincible. A few drops of rain & some gentle breezes would not deter us. So we trundled on without an intermission. No sooner had had they started than they abated. Silence prevailed. The winds had moved on to harass some other hapless souls. The sky reappeared, peeping between the clouds, not a brilliant bright blue but a dull matt grey, lifeless & wan. What was the use of talking a break? One rapidly lost one’s body heat & became miserable. Rather plod on without so much as a short halt. After midday, on sighting a resort in the distance, the bravado faded. The closer that we got, the more that the likes of Mike & Kurt became delirious with thoughts of beer & a proper steak instead of dehydrated food. They salivated, they prognosticated about a warm bath & a dozen cold beers. Call it heaven, call it paradise, call it Shangri-La, whatever, as we were diverted off the hiking path like lambs to the slaughter. It drew us ineluctably off our designated course & into the pub. With blazing fire & a paucity of clientele, we are welcomed in like Lazarus being welcomed home. Fortunately somebody had a credit card so the beers & the wine & the steaks flowed.
An ignominious start for four supposedly intrepid hikers, succumbing to their baser desires! Furthermore I was relieved. Kurt & Mike would be my saviour; great guys who just enjoyed the outdoors without all the rules & regulations as imposed by George.
Episodes of The 1988 Wild Coast Trail – 25 year Retrospective Report
The 1988 Wild Coast Trail – 25 year Retrospective Report Part1: The Journey
The 1988 Wild Coast Trail – 25 year Retrospective Report – Part 2: An ignominious start
The 1988 Wild Coast Trail – 25 year Retrospective Report – Part 3: In Too Deep
The 1988 Wild Coast Trail – 25 year Retrospective Report – Part 4: The route march through a swamp
The 1988 Wild Coast Trail – 25 year Retrospective Report – Part 5: The old & the future South Africa collide