MARCH 31, 2021 : Last week we arrived in South Africa to visit with our daughter Sharone and her family for Passover. She asked me, COVID-wise, what I would feel comfortable doing during our stay here. The answer was hiking outdoors.
Sharone has a bucket list of places she wants to visit during their time in South Africa, and the Mountain Sanctuary Park was on her list. This is a park, mostly for camping but has some log cabins to rent, in an area with several day hikes. Sounded good. The place is meant to be for relaxation – no Wifi, questionable cellular reception, no televisions or radios allowed. Only quiet.
To accommodate this, I left my laptop at home. Will I survive two days without internet? I informed the family and friends that I usually communicate with daily that I will be off the grid for the next couple of days. Not to worry.
After a two-hour drive from Johannesburg, the last few kilometers on a dirt road, we reached the Mountain Sanctuary Park – truly in the middle of nowhere. We checked into our log cabins – Sharone and family had one cabin and Mark and I had another. Separate cabins near each other.
Our welcoming committee was a family of monkeys. They really were a welcoming committee, because they soon disappeared, and we never saw them again. At one point, I heard granddaughter Adi scream – a monkey went into their car. We had a monkey sitting on our open car trunk as we unloaded our suitcases.
After a quick Passover lunch (matza, matza and more matza) we headed out for our first walk – to the slide pools.
In the brochure of the Mountain Sanctuary Park, they mentioned not to expect well-marked trails. This was not an exaggeration. The trails were not marked. They had given us a map, but that did not seem to have enough information to follow. We found trails in the bush that seemed to go in the direction we needed, but never really knew if what we were following was the correct way to go. Not an easy situation for someone like me that needs everything minutely planned. As we hiked, the view was spectacular – very African. Wide expanses and mountain backdrops.
It was only when we heard water running, that we could affirm that we had walked in the right direction. We finally reached the stream – a narrow stream of water in a valley of large red rocks. Beautiful! There were several small pools, often connected by slippery rocks that were perfect for sliding. We choose a pool with a small slide for the young kids. After 30 minutes of walking in the hot sun to reach the place, the water was cold and refreshing.
It was quite idyllic to be there, in the beautiful setting having fun in the water. No WiFi necessary here.
We returned to the log cabins mid-afternoon. Now the challenge began. Can we hang out without internet? Mark went to take an afternoon nap (would not have happened if there was Wifi) and I read a book. This was the first book I actually held in my hands in many years (usually I read only using Kindle on my laptop).
At dinner time, we went to Sharon’s cabin to eat our evening meal – more matza. After dinner, back in my cabin was when the strong WiFi longing hit. I had already read so much that day and did not want to read any more. I was wondering what was happening in the world. What Whatapps did I miss? Did I get any email? Turns out we had a weak cellular signal that came sporadically in the cabin. Mark had a phone plan and I did not. He created a hot spot for me to connect. I painstakingly tried to get my messages and email. The connect icon kept turning, and after may attempts some communication came in. It was painfully slow, it was frustrating, but it was there. Turns out, it was good that I received my messages – a package had been delivered to my home in Israel and placed at the front door. I was able, after many attempts, to Whatsapp my neighbor to ask to pick up the package. So the answer is no – I did not survive without internet. Am totally hooked – I confess.
After a good night’s sleep, we packed up our things and checked out. Although we had left the cabin, we were permitted to stay on the premises for the day. We decided to hike to the West Pools – another stream with pools, this time in the southwesterly direction (yesterday to the slide pools, we hiked to the east.) Once again, the trail was not marked. The highlight of the walk was when in the distance, on the ridge of the opposite hill, Sharone noticed some movement. We made out some giraffes in the distance. Wow.
Eventually we found the stream and a lovely pool for wading. The way to the pool was very slippery and son-in-law Amit needed to help us one by one reach the pool. Once in the water it was very enjoyable. Another idyllic spot.
From there it was back to the camp and lunch at the picnic tables near the camp swimming pool. We then went swimming in the cold water. Fun.
Moral of the story – when busy outdoors, no WiFi needed. Once inside, withdrawal is not so easy.
Bye Bye Nice Place.