When I decided to venture into the Cederberg Wilderness, a region which encompasses some 162,000 hectare (about 625.5 square miles) of rugged mountainous terrain, I didn't exactly stop and consider what Matt and I would do if we got lost.
So, seven hours after our departure from Capetown, I nearly cried when the two of us stumbled upon a small lodging - Sandriff. Pulling our now dust-covered car in front of the main building, Matt could barely release the clutch before I leaped out, bounding toward the front door. We were grinning from ear to ear, a lightness in our step. As we reached for the door handle, eager to speak to humans other than ourselves for a change, my face suddenly fell.
"Closed. Will be back at 3 p.m."
Shaking, perhaps from exhaustion, frustration or dehydration, I retreated back to the car. I couldn't take it. Why did we decide this trip would be a good idea? We were just two naive Americans now at the mercy of Mother Nature. With provisions running low and our panic running high, we debated waiting the hour-and-a-half left before the building reopened.
"We could sleep in our car for the night," I told Matt, saying it more as a question than statement. But before he could respond, a miraculous thing happened. A delivery man (who was also lost) arrived at the very same location. Angrily yelling and banging on the front door of Sandriff, his intentions were to ask for a map and directions to get back to the N7. After a few moments, a face appeared behind the window and we heard the welcoming click of a lock undone.
I don't think I have ever felt luckier in my life.
It's nearly nightfall and Matt and I are wedged between ancient sandstone rocks at the Stadsaal Caves watching the sun sink behind the mountains. We're freed from our backpacks as well as the unrelenting heat. The only noise came from a film crew we found we are spending the night with.
Though we couldn't believe how fortunate we were to have found Sandriff, it would take us another 20 minutes or so to find Kromrivier, where we would sleep for the night.
Kromrivier is a small, isolated farm nestled in the heart of the Cederberg Wilderness. Goats, chickens, horses, dogs and the occasional leopard make their home amongst the people who come to stay or dine at this family-owned bed and breakfast. Today, it is the oldest tourist destination in the Cederberg Mountains and is intended for those seeking rest and quiet. What Kromrivier lacks in adornment is made up ten-fold by the kindness and hospitality of its staff.
With our bags dropped off and our sleeping arrangements confirmed, a sense of excitement, comfort and relief found its way back into my body. Sitting here, surrounded by a landscape millions of years old, I think back on our ridiculous journey and laugh to myself. Travel, I think, is slowly teaching me to measure life in slow breaths and footsteps, not just the thrill of a new destination. There's something primal about this place, the fresh air able to smooth all the rough edges away.
Curious to see how this all began? Click here to readPart One of the story!