SUSPENSION FOOT BRIDGE: THEN AND NOW

It was in 1979 that friends visited the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park – as it was called then [it is now part of the Garden Route National Park] – and sent us a post card depicting this view of the Suspension Foot Bridge over the Storms River. The card has faded over time, yet shows the spectacular view of the bridge from the path that winds through the forest.

We had not yet visited the area and were taken by their description of it: We are enjoying this very beautiful place and are sure you would too. Even in rainy weather it is a lovely place to be. We were living in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal at the time and it wasn’t until we were living in Mmabatho several years later that we made our way down there – and fell in love with the place! So much so that we have returned many times – most recently in October last year.

Although this photograph is not taken from the original perspective, you can see how the area has been developed over the past 41 years – especially the footbridge. The original one is still there, but has been augmented by others.

Our friends continued: Unfortunately the Otter Trail is fully booked but we are enjoying the shorter walks. Great bird life!

How right they were too. There are a number of interesting walks along the coastline and through the natural forest that hugs the steep slopes of the mountains. Every time we visit there I am astounded by the number and variety of birds we see – even around the open camp sites. I have written elsewhere about walking the Otter Trail, which I did a couple of years after moving to Grahamstown.

As an aside: the postage stamp on this postcard is 3c. During the intervening years postage has increased to R5,34. Given how dysfunctional our postal service is, I wonder if people bother to send post cards anymore!

FOR MY GRANDCHILDREN

Once you cross the suspension bridge across the Storms River, you come to a very small boulder-strewn beach that boasts a variety of rocks that have been tumbled and smoothed by the action of the waves.

Over the years our four grandchildren have visited this beach and been fascinated by the size, shapes and colours of these rocks – and experienced the thrill of escaping the odd wave that is closer than they had thought.

We have listened to the magical rumble as the rocks roll over and clink together when drawn back by the sea, only to be pushed up the gentle slope by the next wave.

The magic of this beautiful place is best shared with the joy of watching my children, and in recent years, my grandchildren exploring the rocks, laughing as they too tumble over or calling out with glee when an especially beautiful rock / stick / piece of sponge is discovered. They built towers too – choosing their rocks with care. It was not the same without them this time. Instead, I sat on the warm rocks for a while and let my memories float about me, listening to the echoes of their voices and the all too distant sounds of their joy mingle with the splashes of the waves … And so it was, my dear, dear grandchildren, that I set about making a tower for all of you.

Every stone I used came with a memory of each of you – over and over. The tower will have been knocked over with the next high tide that brings waves strong enough and high enough to smooth out and level the rocks again. That does not matter for memories and love are much stronger than those natural forces. So, it was with each of you in my heart that I left this small tower behind – for all of you!

 

MOUTH TRAIL

Here are some impressions of the Mouth Trail that winds through the forest margin towards the mouth of the Storms River:

The start of the Mouth Trail.

Steps made from recycled plastic help one negotiate the steep sections.

One gets beautiful views of the sea along the way.

A first glimpse of the Storms River way below the path.

This used to be the only suspension bridge.

Some interesting information about the bridge.

There is now a series of suspension bridges that enhance one’s experience of this rocky area.

TSITSIKAMMA SIGNS

As you have gathered, we recently spent some delightful days near the Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park, which encompasses the southern coast between George and Port Elizabeth and includes the Wilderness, Knysna and Tsitsikamma. These areas include a variety of mountain catchments, indigenous forests and fynbos areas – all wonderful places to explore.

I have already shown some of the paths, seascapes, plants and pretty flowers. This is a selection of some of the signs – some more welcome than others. This one indicates clearly that one is in a protected zone in which one needs to respect the integrity of the area and not remove any shells or creatures from the rock pools. Fishing is not allowed – and most wonderful – there is noise control! Not that the latter was an issue at all for the camping area was virtually empty during the weekdays we were there, filling up only from the Friday afternoon. It is most disconcerting to camp in a wild area only to be blasted by loud music or the sound of televisions – yes, some people do take their televisions on holiday with them!

Although it was once considered one of the ‘wonder’ materials, it is now well known that asbestos is hazardous and can potentially pose a risk to human health. It was thus pleasing to see that the area formerly housing the Oceanettes was cordoned off as the removal of the asbestos roofing was in progress.

I am not really sure if the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet was used on this site, but the sign was there and I place it here as a reminder.

We have had some very close encounters with baboons during previous visits. This time we only heard them in the forest. Instead of a baboon, we had a close sighting of a vervet monkey.

A most unwelcome sign was this one.

I had been looking forward to swimming in this delightful pool in the company of seagulls and with the waves crashing over the rocks nearby! We were told by some workers that the pool had been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic; others said it had required maintenance; others said it was closed for cleaning – it looked full and very clean; and yet others said it was indeed open but the sign had not been removed! I remained dry.

A PINK BEAUTY

An immediate attraction on our arrival at the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park was this showy member of the Hibiscus family growing on a bank separating the camping area from the chalets on a level above it.

The Anisodonta cabrosis grows along the coast of the south-western Cape as far as KwaZulu-Natal.

The bush was covered with these beautiful pink flowers.

A true ‘pink beauty’, it is also known as an African Mallow.