Geocaching can be hard work!
CACHE ME IF YOU CAN reads "...no driving, parking or walking directions..." - that's an invitation to be adventurous! I was invited by Andrew who is my son and the strongest member of the jakl+hide team to do this cache. Me being the old and weaker member of team simplr. (The other members of our teams were all out-of-town, so it was just the two of us.) While Andrew runs full marathons before breakfast, I prefer to stay in bed till lunchtime. Anyway, I thought I was good for a few hours of hiking.
We set out by car, looking for a road that would get us to within 500m of the cache (satellite images showed a road) but were met by a locked gate 2.5km from the cache. We then drove to Van Stadens River mouth, Paid the R30.00 each as day visitors and decided to do the nearby Pinky cache before this one. But after walking for well over a km and seeing that this cache was 7km away, we agreed that it will be much better to find a shorter route.
I suggested that we try approaching it from the West, so we drove to Gamtoos River Mouth only to find that that was ever further away than Van Stadens. So thus the plan was now obvious - park by the locked gate and walk the 2.5km. We got started, climbing through the fence at just after 1pm. After walking about 1.5km we came to a fork. We chose what looked like an easier route to the beach - even though less direct. After some hills and another km we reached the sand dunes. So far so good, but we were still more than a km away from the cache.
The sea was far away and so we decided to head straight for the cache across the dunes. This was our second mistake. There was no walking - it was climbing up while being pushed down by avalanches (I don't even remember going down the other sides), over and over until I was totally exhausted. While Andrew seemed to be enjoying the stroll, I was literally crawling up the dunes and had to stop to rest a few times before reaching the cache. The last, and maybe biggest dune, rewarded me with my first encounter with "singing sand" - a low-pitched hum when creating an avalanche with my hand. The last stretch to ground zero was flat but rocky and my legs were so weak that I only just made it. Fortunately the cache was quickly found and in perfect condition - wrapped in the ragged cloth. We both signed the log and I added a ribboned bead.
I would have loved to have walked the 7km along the beach to Van Stadens at this point, but our car was parked elsewhere, so, after resting for 15 minutes while Andrew went scouting for a suitable route, and looking at our options on the satellite images, we decided to make our way through a shorter route that crossed a couple more dunes and 150m of thick bush. But I was starting to get cramps in both legs and had to go slowly and rest often. All the while I was thinking about the sun that was sinking towards the horizon and wondering what it would be like to spend the night on the dunes. Cell-phone reception was patchy but we could get signal on the higher areas - so calling for a helicopter crossed my mind as well. Andrew was very patient with me but told me afterwards that he had also though about calling for a rescue. Getting up the last dune was the worst. I was pulling myself up by grabbing tufts of plants that I could find. At the top of the last dune it looked downhill all the way except for a stretch of thick bush. And after so much sand the bush looked inviting. And is was not too bad. But there was another sandy slope ahead. I crawled up that one in constant pain, but desperate to avoid an embarrassing and costly rescue, and also hoping the the batteries in my headlight would last if I needed to use it.
Finally, at the top of that last hill there was just a 100m of thorny bush to get through before reaching the farm tracks. I hardly felt the thorns that were scratching me - it was down hill and easy. It did not take long and we were walking on good pathway with less than 2km to go. That's when we approached a small herd of cattle. The biggest bull looked straight at us and started walking towards us - I said "don't make eye contact" and we carried on walking. (It was a choice of that or chasing after it brandishing our hiking sticks.) The bull lost interest in us and the rest of the walk was uneventful. The sun had set by the time we got to the car and we breathed a sigh of relief to see that it had not been stolen.
Any regrets? None at all. Would I do it again? Never! I believe that if we had taken the shorter route at the fork we would have done it in a shorter time - albeit with more scratches.