PANORAMA: Boontjieskloof

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We’re out here, and this is just the beginning.

Day 2 : The straw-covered, dusty floor of the Boontjieskloof Hut reminds me of a barn, but tonight it will be home. Outside is windy and there is a chill in the air. Somehow being inside this rudimentary shelter gives me comfort, like I’m half in the bush and half back at home. But this home has lizards, mice, and birds as its usual tenants. I see them scurry and flutter away, surprised at my presence, and realize how temporary I am here.

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I’m still getting used to the Cederberg. Its quiet, windy, and open. “Open” as in vast, available, baren, and lonely. I’ve never spent much time backpacking outside of forests — with their tall canopies and cool shake. This environment seems less inviting, more survivalist.

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This shelter also gives me a focal point, an anchor, to hold on to in such wide open spaces. Maybe I feel like there is too much freedom given too quickly as we wander into the mountains. By taking shelter here I can retreat into a box, separated from wild expanses, and choose to enter or retreat as I wish. For as I walk the next 25 days in the mountains, how many more times will I get to choose?

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The history of this hut is seen through the scratching of names on the walls, the bricked-in massive fireplace (really wish that could have been opened) and the scorched wood evidence of fires out of hand (I think I understand the bricked-in fireplace now). The wind whistled through the holes in the window and the gaps of the roof all night. And I think I spent most the night half-awake listening for the sounds of things that might be scurrying towards the food tucked deep into my pack.