Exploring the wilderness in Wilderness
After Cape Town I decided to travel along the coast east of the city... the first section is known as the Garden Route and then as it gets more rugged and rural, the Wild Coast. I spent some time in the town of Wilderness which is a quaint little town nestled between the beach and Wilderness National Park. I stayed at a great backpacker place and explored the area on some short hikes. One to a nice waterfall and another along an old rail line that went right along the beach. The cliffs on the coast are pretty steep here so there were a number of tunnels to go through which made the walk all the more interesting. At the entrance to one of the tunnels I ran into a strange guy who lives in a cave there. I had been told about him...he's very well known so this wasn't a surprising discovery, but his attire was certainly weird: purple flannel pajama pants with dalmatians all over them, a filthy blue sweat shirt and one of those leather-esque hats with ear flaps but it was covered in sea shells that he had apparently sewn onto it (as well as more shells hanging off of the hat attached to strings). When I spotted him he was going through a pile of crumpled newspaper and told me that he was looking for the second half of some kind of instructions for how to make a bouquet of dried poppies. He acted as if he was emabarrassed to admit that he had misplaced such an important document. Hmm.
Apparently the place used to be a restaurant (the only way to get to it would be by train) so the previous tenants had already put in wooden floors and there was a small hut that housed toilets next to the cave. I initially thought the nice-looking toilet house was where he lived but when he saw I was intrigued he invited me inside his actual cave home. There wasn't really a door, but more of a fence type thing with an awning that we passed through. It was surreal... pieces of driftwood, hundreds of wind chimes dangling with thousands of shells, dried palm fronds and lots of other natural things decorated the place in a way that reminded me of a really old person's house (or maybe a horder's place)... down to the cheesy, dirty stuffed animals sitting around everywhere. Every space was filled with something, whether it was an empty beer bottle with a candle in it or an inflatable clown from around about 1973 with haunting, beady eyes. Some of the floors were covered with a black and white checkered lynolium pattern that seemed very out of place. There were 14 beds that he said were sometimes used by homeless people, a kitchen, a lounge, and a room he called "God's room." It reminded me of something pirate-related, straight out of the Goonies movie, with ancient-looking scrolls and massive, leather-bound books. I almost expected a skeleton to jump out of the corner, like in one of those freaky carnival "fun" houses. At this point I started to get a little nervous that this guy was actually a bit more crazy that I first thought. But, even though I didn't have any money to put in his donation box (all I was carrying was my camera), he graciously showed me out and allowed me to take a few photos. It was quite dark inside so I didn't get any really eerie shots (or any of him) but hopefully you get the idea. I continued along the rail line, over a sketchy bridge that seemed a bit too rusty to be walking on, but eventually I made it to Victoria Bay - a beautiful little cove with a handful of B&Bs and luxury homes and a nice beach perfect for surfing. I relaxed on the rocks watching the surfers for a while before heading back to Wilderness the same way I had come.
I spent about a week in Wilderness and had quite a bit of time to chat with the staff and start to catch on to a bit of South African slang. I noticed they would say "Is it?" as I would use "Really?" or "Is that so?" even if it was grammatically incorrect. For example, if I said "I have a bad headache today" they would say "Is it?" in a quirky, sympathetic way. Of course, they would also use it in ways I would such as "It's 5 o'clock already!" ... "Is it?" but that actually makes sense. :-) They also use "Howz it?" instead of "How are you?" Another one I found funny considering my travels so far was their slang for my "mate" sounds like my "china". Apparently there is a term in Afrikans (or possibly another language, that detail I don't remember) that means my "friend" and sounds a bit like my "china" and so it has slowly evolved into that. Off the slang topic, one other interesting thing I learned while in Wilderness... you can buy electricity at the supermarket or even a gas station. You buy a certain amount and when you use that, your power just goes off until you go to the store to buy more. It's the same way with cell phone airtime... pay as you go instead of getting monthly bills like we do.