The Tsitsikamma Park is my favourite place in the world, though Lord Howe Island is a close second. It is ‘just’ a beach to some but for me it has magic. The cabins and Park office huddled against the fynbos covered cliff, the sound of skiet rok (shooting rock) where the ocean continues to crash against the rocks, the pathways in the dense underbrush in the gulley’s and slopes, hidden tunnels of green safety, the sea mist hanging over it all. This place is alive. It breathes. I can feel the seas power here like no other place. And then there is the personal history mentioned two days back.
Ailine was keen to be down on the beach for sunrise. The web had 6am as gate opening, so we were there, but it has changed to 7am. David tried a track but that was blocked so we returned for the excellent breakfast.
I had four main things to cover; a walk to the swing bridge over Storms River, walk the short blue duiker trail, watch skiet rok, and walk some of the Otter trail.
The bridge walk is fairly strenuous but only about 1km long, mostly on board walk, but it is up and down along the cliff edge. The swing bridge is substantial, now part of the Dolphin trail to the east. We saw a blue duiker nibbling leaves, not a common sight. I crossed to the bay on the east side watching the waves crash on a shore littered with pebbles, boulders, twigs and sticks. But bus loads of people arrived disturbing the peace as they rushed for the selfies before moving to the next view in their limited time. I later counted 10 busses and 500 people at least. In the mid 70’s visitors were few, perhaps 20 at any time. The original restaurant burned down and has been replaced with a marquee on the rocks very close to skiet rok, spoiling the view. Some pollution was evident behind it too. However Ailine and I spent a lot of time shooting the wall of water coursing over the rock, a difficult thing to do as the big waves are infrequent and easily missed. The jagged slate sheets provided shelter for a variety of aquatic life in the past – what remains is a mere shadow.
To get away from the crowd, I climbed the blue duiker trail to the cliff top, through the tunnel of green trees on the edge, up timber steps and rocks, emerging into the sunshine in the 2m high fynbos. Flowers were not as abundant as they were on our visit in the 70’s, but still good to see. Here one only hears the sea roar and the wind swish – or a bird twitter.
We had lunch at the marquee, stopping briefly in the shop, where a venomous tree snake was spotted in the vegetation next to the path. Then David and I started on the original Otter trail, now the Waterfall Day walk, commencing just below the entry gate. The waterfall is said to be 3km taking 3 hrs return. We started but David ran ahead while I savoured the walk slowly (my legs still feeling the climb two days back) till I reached a long section of boulder hopping. I cannot believe we crossed that so long ago with four kids and packs. I doubt I could do it now. David returned, 45min each way.
We left at 4, stopped at the Storms River motor bridge (1954) for David to play with the drone, and where two Swiss girls asked for a lift to PE as the bus had not arrived. Lemon Tree Lodge suggested a place next to the yacht club for a meal. We found it with some difficulty in the harbour – a dodgy area. The place is a fisherman’s ‘club’; it was very rowdy but the food was cheap and good served by an energetic articulate Xhosa. An interesting small place upstairs, about 25 people. It reminded me of ‘The Great Gatsby’, as an air of despair hung over it. The glimpse of a young white man begging at traffic lights may have coloured my view.