After the previous day of quarrying rock for the foundations of the ramp an excursion to a local waterfall is just what the doctor ordered, but it did mean that any hope of a lie in was gone. We set off from the commune at eight am, Cecile deciding she was too ill to join us. (She was reluctant to come because she couldn’t afford to split the twenty two Dollars that the boat cost to hire with us, and felt uncomfortable coming for free – although we insisted she was more than welcome. Enter miraculous phantom illness.) The boat was moored in a part of the village which I hadn’t visited before, and wouldn’t choose to visit again; the streets were very dirty and houses quite decrepit, a poor area of the town I concluded. We found our vessel for the day and to say she looked sea worthy would be an over statement, but we were only going on a river so I’m sure she would be fine; after Poun had bailed the water that had half filled the hull that is. Precariously we climbed aboard the extremely narrow boat (the houses that lined the river had their commodes detached from the house and perched over the river, making a very suspicious, smelly and sloppy river bank – something you certainly wouldn’t want to fall into anyway!) and tried to get comfy on the blank that I assume was supposed to be a bench.
Everybody aboard we set sail with Cebolas, A.K.A ‘Captain Jack Sparrot’ (Sparrow) at the helm, and spent the next forty minutes cruising the Andong Tuek River soaking in the beautiful mangrove and forest scenery and of course the sun. Turning off the main river down a tiny estuary the navigating evidently became more difficult, as Cebolas bounced us from one river bank to another – Poun and Rothna having to get out and push at quite frequent intervals - but we got there eventually. We all had to wade a short distance as the debris in the small stream of water made it impossible for the boat to pass, the river bed was covered with a thick layer of rotten leaves and foliage which released a foul rotten egg smell when it was disturbed, so with nine of us wading through the stink was terrible. We reached the foot of the series of waterfalls and after a short climb arrived at the pool for our first stop, Mackie and Simon both had difficulties on the very first set of rocks: Simon completely losing balance and falling in a horizontal position whilst trying to supply Lucy with cigarettes AND her inhaler (her chest was probably hurting and she couldn’t decide which would relieve the pain); and Mackie’s main problem being ‘she couldn’t get up them!’ so decided to take her own route which proved to be beyond reason and ultimately much more difficult.
As the climb got progressively harder Kenha, Tu and Mackie stayed at the first pool whilst Cebolas, Poun, Rothna, Simon and I went on – which was a good job, seeing Mackie and Kenha struggle up the first set of rock I don’t think they would have made it back alive if they had gone any further! Another stop of note was a heavy flowing section with a deep pool, this meant you could dive and jump in and sit under the falling water for the closest thing you are going to get to a power shower in Andong Tuek, if only I had brought my soap! The grand finale was a waterfall about thirty feet high with an almost sheer rock face, although we managed to scale it just long enough for a photograph; and then it was a jungle trek back to the boat. The jungle trek was fun but comparatively brief, it had taken two hours to scale the waterfalls and took twenty minutes to get back down, only stopping to peel the various leeches off my feet and legs.
The final stop of the day was The Floating Rock, the ‘old people’ as Cebolas called them say that this massive rock in the middle of the river diminishes to the size of your wrist by the time it hits the river bed, I suppose ill have to take their word for that…A temple had been built on the rock for a purpose we were unable to obtain and whilst the Khmer prayed we splashed around pretending to walk on the water (as most of the floating rock was just beneath the river’s surface causing us to emulate Jesus). Another forty minutes on the river soaking up more sun than scenery and we were back a ‘docks’ of Andong Tuek; having thoroughly enjoyed the day and hiding from more exposure to the sun we all rested until tea.
We had a monster of a lie in today, it’s tiring work this travelling malarkey you know, by the time Mackie and I had got up and showered Larissa was back from her eleven kilometre run. I know, sickening isn’t she. After breakfast we headed to Tsitsakamma national park- the weather wasn’t great but was perfect for hiking, which is what we were about to do. (Unbeknown to Mackie) Our taxi driver told us that to get to the waterfall we must follow the trail and then climb over the rocks. After twenty minutes of walking we spotted some rocks and began to traverse them, despite the fact the trail seemed to continue parallel to them. Thirty minutes later, maybe covering a distance of a thousand metres we thought “Bugger this!” and shoved our way through the dense foliage back to the trail. A little further down the trail and we understood what the cabbie had meant, the trail literally hit a wall of rocks which we climbed –much to Mackie’s enjoyment. Soon enough Mackie had had enough:
“Fuck it. I don’t give a shit. I’ll sit here and wait for you to come back.” Mackie squawked whilst sparking the obligatory cigarette up. Larissa and Lene tried to persuade her to continue, offering to carry her bag etc, but I knew the lady was not for turning so carried on with the hike. Literally fifty more metres and there she was, although it took us a while to persuade Mackie that we weren’t just pulling her leg. The water was bloody freezing, but I was determined to climb that damn waterfall if it was the last thing I did, and thanks to slippy rocks it nearly was! Kat decided that she would join me.
[Mackie: OK, so in the end I believed them, and hiked the rest of the way to the waterfall. Well to say I was not impressed with what I saw especially after the hike to see it, would be an understatement. Unbeknownst to be lene was currently filming, and caught my ghetto stromp on camera, Great. I didn’t know I was such a finger waver]
If I haven’t already made it clear I don’t really think a lot of Kat: she never took her purse or money anywhere; was always slow to repay money she had borrowed (often having to be asked more than once); she never helped with cooking or washing up; rarely added anything interesting or funny to the conversation; and owned far too many waistcoats for my liking. Bearing that in mind I think you will agree that I deserve a medal for biting my tongue as the following events unfolded. As we changed into our swimming gear I noticed a clump of hair protruding from Kat’s one piece. (I say it was Kat’s one piece but of course she had borrowed it from Lene not having brought one of her own) And then my eyes had been opened and I could see for the first time. Bushes of hair everywhere armpits, legs and forearms; I just thank god that her back and arse crack were covered because that would have been too much. I’m all for feminism and I appreciate she had been in Africa for a while, but really to flaunt it so brashly is not on. I later advised Lene to burn the swimming costume because anything could have been living in the rainforest of Kat’s minge.
That night we drank the last of the Stellenbosch wine (Mackie and I had finished ours in Stellenbosch but we had our trusty goon sacks) and played a couple games of Mo. The most complicated and exciting card game in the world, which Anna won consistently as she was the one who had taught it to us a few weeks before, although that didn’t seem to put a dampener on her victories