As our first post, we thought we would introduce ourselves through the Striptease hike, on which Dan proposed earlier this year with some travel info on the places we went to provided. As told by Jordan.
It was the long weekend at the end of April and if there is any excuse to explore, we take it. We stayed in the Tsitsikamma area, not too far from our home in Port Elizabeth. We found a great deal on Booking.com to stay at Armagh Country Lodge and Spa. A central, easy-to-find and quaint place with a delightful restaurant on site This is somewhere to stay again. The staff were very friendly. During the one dinner service, we complimented the butternut and orange soup. This was something we were not expecting to enjoy as much as we did. Our waitron passed on our feedback to the chef and shortly after we received a printed copy of the recipe. This was unexpected but reinforced the family atmosphere of the place. There was also a spa that many guests were utilising. The restaurant and spa are open to the public and not restricted to the Armagh Lodge guests.
We have become regular visitors to the area and surrounds. Our goal is to try something new each time and for this voyage, we decided on The Striptease Hike at the Tsitsikamma Lodge and Spa – clearly signposted, off the N2. It is not a well-known hike but it is most definitely a gem of a find.
The ~5 km hike takes you up the Kruis river to a series of rock pools: Pebble Pool, Honeymoon Pool, Cataract Pool, Halfway Pool, Bikini Pool, Topless Pool, G-string Pool, Bottomless Pool, Boobs Pool, Fantasy Pool and Kaalgat Pool (Kaalgat is a South African term meaning naked). The striptease idea is that hikers follow the pool name as an instruction, i.e. in the Topless Pool you go in topless; the Bottomless pool means bare bottoms only; Kaalgat Pool means skinny-dipping. The hike was moderate, with some strenuous sections but very manageable. You are often climbing along the rocks bordering the river. There is a shorter path back (~20 minutes) to the Lodge as the hike is a loop. The river water was described to us as Coke-Cola coloured, and true it was. Don’t let this detract from its beauty, the water was fresh and clean. This hike is one of many freely available around the Tsitsikamma Lodge.
After signing in at the Tsitsikamma Lodge reception, we made our way through the pine forest, down to the river. Maps are provided at the reception – we forgot to take one and instead took verbal directions. Although we have geography based degrees, we got lost before we even started the hike (something fairly typical for us as Geographers as this wasn’t the first time ): be sure to follow the blue spray painted blobs on rocks and trees along the way! The distance between the pools was about 15 minutes, some shorter and some longer. We swam in the Honeymoon pool (one of our favourite pools) and picnicked at the Halfway Pool. Throughout the hike, I was in and out of the backpack, whether I was getting plasters, snacks or sunblock. Dan was also watching what I did but always seemed to brush it off, laughing at my clumsiness or constant need for food.
We eventually reached the wondrous Topless Pool. Admittedly, our nudist-confidence levels are low and we weren’t planning on stripteasing with random hikers about. Surprisingly, we were the only hikers around even though it was a spectacularly sunny day Instead of following the pool name instruction, Dan suggested we skinny-dip already. So we did. Lying in the cool water with the gorgeous forest surrounding us was truly sublime. This fast became one of our favourite hikes as we are both nature-lovers; both holding one of our postgraduate degrees in Environmental Water Management. The setting of the river and forest was a perfect piece of heaven for us.
Dan got out and went to the backpack under the premise of taking photos of us in the pool. I wasn’t too keen on this idea and so I turned away from him. Sneakily he had somehow hidden the ring in the backpack. This was why he always watched intently what I was taking out of it. He re-entered the pool with this most magnificent engagement ring, saying the most heart-warming things. I was crying… probably ‘ugly crying’ – it’s a family trait He chose to propose in nature, with us as our most raw-natural-beautiful selves, in a setting that spoke to both of our souls. Just the two of us present. A representation of our love: loving each other as we are, for who we are, and not for what we have
After some time, in the dizzying joy, we got out of the pool and started redressing. Dan says “hello” as if greeting someone and I look at him with the facial expression of ‘yeah nice try but I’m not falling for that trick’. Much to my embarrassment fellow hikers appeared, greeted us and swiftly moved on. They probably moved on quickly because they saw my surprise and immediate blush. For me, the situation was a simple example of the old adage ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’. It was a small step out of my comfort zone but I entered into a new life chapter with my incredible partner, in one of the most special moments of our lives
This is us. Welcome to the voyage!