September 15, 2001.
Storm's River Mouth -- Stunning
Storms River leaps out from under you as you drive the N2 West along the coast. On minute you're cruising flat fields of green beside some short but imposing mountains, the next second you're whizzing out over a bridge that spans an impossible drop of hundreds of meters down the Storms River. You're about a mile or two from the ocean, and suddenly you realize you're also hundreds of feet above it. On your left is a dirt road leading to the entrance of Tsitsikamma National Park down at the Storms River Mouth.
The national park service has built a number of cabins, trailer hookups and "oceanettes" – basically stacked cubes of one room with a kitchen and several single beds that can serve as a base for a family of group of students to enjoy summer fun in one of the most beautiful natural settings I've seen. We stayed in an oceanette for about $40/night, well worth it when you consider that includes breakfast for two. The waves pounded the rocks in front of our balcony, and the sunset was the single most amazing color spectacle I've seen in years, if ever. It went on for hours – from orange to pink to red, back to orange, heading into purple, and then ending with a gentle yellow-blue before it faded into twilight.
It's a good time to point out that I brought a huge amount of film to the country, some color, some black and white. What I found was that, more than any other place I've visited, South Africa is a place that demands as many different medias to record it as possible. For starters, everything is in wonderful color, and black and white doesn't do justice to anything you want to photograph. For those things with great textures that you could use black and white for, it's not enough – you need to feel it, to touch it. A picture of an elephant's hide doesn't let you know that it feels dusty, and you'd never guess that ostriches are hot to the touch, like a warm cinnamon roll. Then there are the sounds. Everything has sounds, from the people's accents, to the waves to the birds to the marimbas we bought. And the motion as well – still photography doesn't let you know how ponderously a rhino moves and yet how fast they can disappear into a clump of bushes, nor does it show you how the ocean changes when a whale's just underneath the surface. And the smells, and the tastes, and the way daylight fades into night, and the feeling you get from a cup of South African tea – there's really no harder place to capture in words, pictures, video, at all – there's a tremendous amount of South Africa that comes from standing on the land here and looking at the horizon and feeling the strange warm wind blow in your face. I hope that, as S.A. continues to develop and adopt new technologies, they use them to document as much as possible and in as many ways as possible all the tremendous richness of experiences that so many have never sampled.
For one thing, a picture of the sunset here won't reveal how many damn flies there were in our oceanette. These weren't American flies that have the common sense to make a noise as the whirr around, either. These were small, silent, annoying flies, the kind that seem to like to land in your eyelashes and then just sit there, or fly in front of your nose just as you inhale in some sort of insect kamikaze mission. There were zillions, all on the window outside the oceanette until we opened to door to the balcony, at which point they all suddenly switched to the inside of the door and proceeded to bug the hell out of us.
The next day, we took a brief hike down the coast to a suspension bridge, and Susie did some sketching while I read a book. We then hopped in our car and headed to Knysna.