We got off to a good enough start, having easily located the Queen Victoria Street end of the Stanford Wandelpad. (‘Wandelpad’ is the Afrikaans word for ‘Trail’.) A large signboard with loads of information on the front and the back, helpfully marked the start.
You could read up on the White Milkwood trees that play an important role in coastal ecosystems, occurring mainly in coastal dune thickets and forests, and about the Wild Olive trees, whose stems are usually quite gnarled (they were familiar to us from our hikes in Newlands Forest). It spoke about the Grey Poplars, which were originally cultivated for timber and shelter, but which have now been declared undesirable aliens because they invade river banks and wetlands.
You could also learn about the omnivorous Cape River Crab, which play such an important role in recycling of nutrients, and its fellow riverdweller, the Cape Clawless Otter.
There were pictures of birds, including the ubiquitous Cormorants with their curved necks, the not-so-easy-to-spot Spotted Eagle Owl, the different species of Kingfisher, the Common Moorhen with its distinctive red face, and the gregarious little Southern Red Bishop, which call the Stanford area their home.
Very soon, we found ourselves standing at the water’s edge. We followed the path as far as we could to the left, but had to retrace our steps. Unfortunately, we weren’t much luckier on the right either. It appeared that the path ahead was completely underwater.
“Should we take off our shoes?”
“Perhaps it’s just flooded a little bit?”
“I’ll go and see how far we can get, okay?” volunteered my Significant Other courageously, starting to unlace his boots.
“Hang on there… that water looks icy! And once your feet are wet, you won’t be able to put your boots back on. And it looks fairly deep… and we have no way of knowing whether it’s dry on the other side of those rails…”
“You’re right. Let’s see if we can find another path through…”
Alas, there wasn’t. Reluctantly, we turned our backs on the river, and walked back to the large signboard.
We took the next track down to the river. Again, our way was barred by water. And squelchy mud. And reeds. Ok, this wasn’t going to be as easy as we’d thought.
We heard voices – youngsters, teenagers, calling to each other, splashing and wading through the water, balancing on walls and across fallen trees. They were having a grand old time. We decided to head back home, and suddenly realised that they were behind us, calling out to us, “Tourist, tourist, give us money, money.” They’d spotted me wearing a camera around my neck, and we were easy targets.
Suddenly, our tranquil explorative ramble along the river had taken on a different note, as anxiety surged through us.
We realised that we were outnumbered, and that they could easily grab our camera and run. Fortunately, they were still some way behind, held back by the wet terrain. We walked briskly along the road, conscious of the fact that there were many empty-standing houses here and almost no residents in sight. It was with some relief that we reached familiar terrain, with a couple of cars driving down the larger roads, and neighbourly people chatting over the fence. We had no way of knowing whether muggings or robberies happened in this peaceful little village, but we certainly did not want to take a chance.
In the late afternoon, we tried again from the opposite end of the Wandelpad. This time, there were several friendly people out walking with their exuberant dogs, so we joined them on the footpath.
It was idyllic.
And I think I shall let these photos speak for themselves. Sit back with a glass of cool beer and a plate of savoury chips, and imagine yourself sitting on a wooden jetty at the riverside, dangling your feet in the cool water. And enjoy…
To read the next instalment, click on The enchanted forest of Platbos.
Here are the links to all the posts in this series, in case you’ve missed any: