Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blyde River Canyon

Well, my parents arrived on Wednesday night, and after 2 days of unpacking (so much unpacking!), renewing old acquaintances and catching up on sleep, we left for our holiday on Saturday morning. During our lunch stop, we ran into a group of Americans. In the group was a couple from Hudsonville, Michigan, our hometown! Dr. Dykstra (dentist) and his wife Jan. Such a small world. After talking a bit, the world got even smaller, as we discovered that Jan’s brother goes to our old church (Hi Buteyns!) and her cousin was my mom’s dear, dear friend, Cheryl who recently passed away. 

After that stop, we were on our way again. Our next stop was Pilgrim’s Rest, which was a gold mining town many years ago. The kids were thrilled to feed a pair of donkeys some carrots and then to make things even more exciting, they got to go on a donkey cart ride down the main street. They looked SO CUTE bouncing around in the back of the cart. I am sure there were more things to do in Pilgrim’s Rest, like panning for gold, but we decided to keep moving to our final destination for the day.  We arrived at the Panorama Chalets by mid afternoon, early enough for the kids to go swimming before dinner. The pool here is amazing. It is built into the edge of the cliff and there are rocks in the pool that the kids can climb on. After some time swimming, we came back to our cottage and made some mac and cheese and some s'mores, courtesy of Grandma Willie and her marshmallow crème, hot fudge and box of graham crackers. Yum! Once the kids were in bed, the adults played Skip-Bo, or “Ski-boo” according to Tyson. Then it was time for bed as we were all tired out and we had a big day planned for Sunday.

Sunday morning we headed out to our first stop, Forest Falls. We had the whole place to ourselves. We had a lovely hike, along a river. It looked like we were in a rainforest, just so different from the “Africa” that we are used to. We walked and walked on a narrow trail, with lots of rocky areas and slippery mud. Jori was our little tour guide, saying things like “I’d prefer it if you came this way” or “I don’t think your son should walk here” (to me). If there was an area where a big rock jutted out or there was a slick patch, she’d stand there with her walking stick and point it out to Papa and Gram.

Then she’d run on ahead again. Tyson kept finding all sorts of good “thinking spots” that he wanted to try out, but there were so many gnats that would swarm around our faces when we were at rest, that we tried to encourage him to keep moving and stop thinking : ) Both kids did a great job walking and didn’t complain at all, which was a very pleasant surprise. We walked, and we walked and we walked for about 45 minutes, then we came to a logging road, but no falls. We couldn’t hear them and didn’t know how much farther we’d have to go, so we decided to just turn back. 

Next stop, Mac Mac falls. Here we had to walk down some stairs and on a little path, but the view was worth it. The waterfalls were beautiful and the kids had fun climbing on some rocks while we took pictures. After snapping plenty of photos, we headed out again to Mac Mac pools. This was our favorite stop of the day. There were some natural pools that we could swim in. They were FREEZING, but we were all so hot from our hiking around that we were eager to get wet. There was a rock cliff that people were jumping off of into the pool below. It looked both terrifying and fun. Darin, being the brave soul that he is, jumped first. Then he took the kids up to see if they would jump, but they were both too scared. So I went up to show them how easy peasy it would be, but I was rooted to the spot in fear. It just looked such a long fall from where we were standing to the water below and I am just so not a fan of heights! I made Darin jump again and then I made a little girl, who was probably about 7 jump twice and finally I decided that I really wanted my kids to see a brave mommy in action, so I jumped! And yes, I did plug my nose. It was not as scary as I thought it would be, but the water was SO cold that I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. After I jumped, the kids were both feeling a bit braver and they both jumped off with Darin holding their hands. I jumped a couple more times and then our brave 5 year old jumped in by herself to her daddy waiting below. Tyson was still feeling a bit nervous and another little girl jumped in ahead of him. She then latched on to Darin and wouldn’t let him go, even though he had been treading water waiting for Tyson to jump. He was so tired and the stinking girl WOULD NOT get off of him. He said that he can see why people drown when they go out to rescue someone who is drowning because it is so much effort, especially in cold water. Tyson never did jump, which his little sister had to keep pointing out over and over and over. “I am much braver than Tyson because I jumped by myself.” “Wasn’t I so brave for jumping by myself?” and on and on and on : ) 

After hiking and swimming we all needed a rest. My parents and I slept for a couple hours and Darin ended up taking the kids swimming.  The kids never seem to run out of energy!! After resting up, we headed back out for one more adventure-The Big Swing. This is something that Darin had seen on line and being an adrenaline junkie, he wanted to give it a try. As soon as we got there, I was not feeling very good about the whole situation. The walkway out to The Big Swing was kind of rickety and Darin had read that someone had died on The Big Swing a few years ago, and we ended up on a kind of rickety platform on the edge of a HUGE cliff WITH OUR KIDS. I hated it. HATED IT. I felt like I was going to throw up. The only thing I hate more than being way up high without a high wall keeping my from the edge is having my kids be way up high without a high wall to keep them from the edge! Ugh.

The Big Swing was looking a little intimidating, so Darin decided to start out by going on the zip line over the gorge. He had to run off the ramp. He said that was the worst part. I could hardly watch him because in my mind, the cables were about to snap and I could just picture my husband plummeting to his death. But he made it back with a huge smile on his face. Next my dad went, and he had a great time too. THEN my little Tyson, my 7 year old, precious firstborn son, wanted to take a turn on the zip line. I DID NOT want him to, because I thought he would freak out, and I knew it was going to freak me out if he went. Poor kid. He kept saying “Why are you mad at me, why are you mad at me” because I was getting all anxious and mother hen-like saying “Are you sure you want to do this? It might be very scary.” But he was adamant that he wanted to go on the zip line. So they harnessed him up and I clung to the rail and then the man gave him a shove and off he went, over the gorge!!!! Yes, my BRAVE 7 year old, went on a zip line over a 400 ft deep gorge. He LOVED it. His face was just so lit up when he came back and right away he said he wanted to go again. We were all so proud of him. Well, almost all of us. There was one member of our party who was off pouting and crossing her arms over her chest. Any guesses on who that would be? Poor little Jori was too small to go on the zip line and that just burned her up. She was throwing a little tantrum and running away on the creaky walkway, which of course made me get all frustrated and anxious. She kept hiding behind a building and she’d peak out with her arms crossed and give us dirty looks. It was pretty funny. 

After Tyson went on the zip line, he kept telling me “It’s so fun mom, you should go” and once again, I wanted to be a brave mommy. Darin told me that it wasn’t scary and that there was no drop at all, just a little ride across the gorge. So I got harnessed up and ran off the platform. It was kind of fun. I had my arms out and was enjoying the cool air. Then I looked down and it stopped being fun. Have I already mentioned that I hate heights? I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. In 2008 I bungeed off the Blauwcrans Bridge near Knysna, and now I was hanging over a deep gorge on a zip line. After I went across, I had to wait for the guy to pull me back in and I had all sorts of horrible images in my mind of the cable snapping or my harness breaking and I just wanted to be back on solid ground. I got on the ramp and I think Darin could tell I did not really enjoy myself. Tyson kept saying “Why didn’t you like it” like my aversion to heights was a personal affront to him because he loved it so. From now on, I will just keep my feet on the ground, thank you very much! So while I was zipping over the gorge, my dad decided that he wanted to do The Big Swing, because you only live once! So he got harnessed up again and then he swung out over the gorge. It wasn’t a bungee jump, because you don’t really bounce back up. He jumped and we couldn’t see him and then there he was, swinging back and forth above the trees far below us. Darin decided that he also wanted to have an adventure, so while my dad was walking back up (430 stairs!) Darin jumped. It turns out that having to walk back up from the landing point kind of took away some of the fun from the jump. They were both so tired. Darin ended up laying on the sofa in the cottage for a couple hours until he finally felt well enough to get up. So the swing was not necessarily that great. The kids swam again and then once they were in bed, we played more Skip-Bo. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip…


Anonymous said...

I can't WAIT to hear about the rest of the adventure! Sounds like so much fun but I have to admit that I had a stomach ache after reading about the swing and zip line and the jumping into the water! I hate heights, hate them with a passion! I can hardly breath when up high! Way to go Jorin, for jumping into the water and Tyson, way to go for going on the zip line!! Have lots of fun with Papa John and Gramma Willie! Give them lots of hugs and kisses so you can save them up until Grandpa Rick and Grandma Karen come in 9 more months!! Love you all!

Anonymous said...

Yeah for you all.. what fun to read about your adventures.. feels like we are so far apart.. but you are in my heart.. cam has a friend named darren and carson said.. i don't know anyone with that name.. i don't think that is a real name.. and kelsey was like duh.. uncle darrin, and carson said oh thats diffent cuz he's an uncle. love you so.. me

Anonymous said...

Yeah for you all.. what fun to read about your adventures.. feels like we are so far apart.. but you are in my heart.. cam has a friend named darren and carson said.. i don't know anyone with that name.. i don't think that is a real name.. and kelsey was like duh.. uncle darrin, and carson said oh thats diffent cuz he's an uncle. love you so.. me

liz said...

Sounds like such an Amazing Trip! :)

Michelle B said...

What fun - I am so proud of you for doing those things - I don't know that I could say the same thing if it was me! Have so much fun!

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