Backcountry of Marloth Nature Reserve

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I wake up to get my first good look of where I was. Forced off-route last night and now improvising, I’ve stumbled into the backcountry of Marloth Nature Reserve.

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The clouds that forced me from the mountain ridge still brood not too far above my camp, but at least the wind and rain have dissipated. This was the second consecutive sleepless night in the mountains. Last night’s wind and rain forced me to remain half-awake, always ready to grab a tent fly about to blow away or move from a flooding puddle. My deflated sleeping pad just adds to the soreness of my body. My back feels it is made of the rocks I sleep on.

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After leaving my tent it didn’t take long for me to find a great stream to collect water and bathe. The best water I’ve found since Montagu! But where there’s lots of water, there’s lots of vegetation. As I begin to hike through the valley along the side of my route I encounter lots of thickly vegetated water-crossings. They swallow me. In some places I cannot see my feet or other times the sky.

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Without any visibility to navigate, I navigated the above water crossing by the sound of the water running over rocks. Hike towards louder water because the water is more shallow and likely to include rocks to cross with. Keep a straight line for a quick crossing, not a perfect crossing. And dive right into it — there is no time to be shy about crashing through the reeds, vines, mud, or bush here.

After the water crossings I passed through an area recently burned in a fire. You can tell from the flourishing small plants and obvious erosion from exposed earth. Little flowers and leafy plants are always the first to recover. Walking is easy here, other than the mud-slicks that can slide out from underneath your feet.

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Then I came to the burnt skeletons of protea bushes endlessly covering the valley. The above photo is not difficult to walk through because the vegetation was still young and small when it burned. It was immediately after this valley, pictured below, when the bushes were much larger and much more difficult to kick through.

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I followed a track leading the ridge again as the sun broke through clouds. Once again to the top of the ride, this time with even more amazing flora.

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Looking back. It’s hard to see where I started just a few days ago. My walk today started on the near-side of the furthest peak visible.

Looking forward, my walk today ending at the opposite end of the valley seen towards the left side. This afternoon proved, backcountry walking doesn’t get any better than this.

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