While we are walking through the forest lives go on. I have a friend whose mother had a very big operation today, another friend whose dad is having an operation tomorrow, another friend who is having a serious consultation with a cardiologist tomorrow, nurses and friends at Olivedale Retirement Village running around taking good care of my mom, Trevor’s youngest going to his matric farewell tonight (looking the most dashing of them all, judging from the pictures).
It does put life into perspective, the luxury of focusing one’s mind on the next 30km doesn’t mean life outside the forest bubble stands still waiting for anybody to re-join.
I used to like and need routine. Sharing my life with Trevor changed that, I am now easily scared by (and bored with) too much routine – change is more interesting.
Though life on the trail has a strong rhythm – get up, eat, walk, eat, walk, eat, walk, sleep, repeat – it never really becomes routine as there are so many different possibilities to each day, and you seldom know what exactly the next day will bring.
Take today – we planned a short 20km for today, allowing us to stay over in a hostel in Boiling Springs to get laundry done, devices charged and re-supply sorted out for the next 5 days. And it is roughly how the day turned out. But the different facets of the day was being revealed only as the day unfolded.
Starting out in the forest we had a pleasant 16km walk (including two good stretches of rock scrambling which I still enjoy, though it does slow you down and I will get to hate it over the course of the next 10 days), a soft rain was falling but not too cold or unfriendly. 4km outside of Boiling Springs it started raining quite hard, and we were walking through corn (dis mos mielies!) fields, stretching as far as the eye could see – I have never seen corn so lush and beautiful!!!). As I was already wet and knew I was going to have the chance to do laundry later I didn’t care too much: the corn needed the rain more than I needed the non-rain. The fields were magnificent but it was raining too hard to take my phone out for a photo.
Arriving in Boiling Springs the rain stopped, the sun debated whether it should come out to play.
We popped in at the ATC regional office and to our delight saw one of the ATC volunteers we had a drink with in Harpers Ferry last Thursday (time flies). After that we went for a beer in The Tavern (interesting how the states have different laws, in Pensylvania it seems the town size gets assessed and based on that only X number of eateries gets a liquor licence: in this town there are 2, one held by The Tavern and the other by a holiday resort) where we bumped into Trust Fund Kid (I still have to tell you about him but not today).
We then checked out the range of goods available from the garage shop (the only re-supply option within walking distance; limited and expensive, I will buy the minimum and top up in two days when the route goes through a bigger town). Went for a pizza (we shared a large pizza but the small guy who aced the ice cream challenge – Tincan – finished the same size pizza on his own) and during the pizza lunch our hiker hostel hostess texted us to get ready for the pick up.
Now the hikers hostels are all soooo different and tonight’s one makes for a good story (good as in interesting not as in positive). It’s owned and run by Lisa, who is a real charlatan.
There was a great review posted about her hostel on our mapping app Guthook (our guess is that she posted it herself). When I phoned to book 2 bunks at $20 per person (which includes pick-up in town, drop off in town and laundry) she offered me the option of a private room for $60 which I grabbed. Meaning we are paying just under R1000 for the night’s stay. This is what it looks like, you can see the unit we are staying in as well as the view, and yes, it is as bad as it looks!
We informed her that we have arrived in town and said we were going for a beer and a bite and she can let us know when she comes in to pick up other hikers, if possible we will go with her then (she is 4km out of town) else we will let her know when we are done.
Just after 13h she sent a text that she will pick us up at 13h30. I replied that we have ordered a pizza but that we were still waiting for it and that we won’t be done by 13h30. She suggested that we ask for it as take away (which we did to not inconvenience her). We had our pizza boxed, paid and rushed off to the ATC regional where she was meeting us, only to be told by the other hiker also staying here that she called to say she is running 15mins late. She basically ruined our “meal out” by rushing us into taking a take away and then didn’t make the time she stated. We had our pizza.standing outside the ATC waiting for her.
At her establishment we had to laugh about paying this much money for such a crap setup, for $30 more we could probably have stayed at The Tavern! She also added $6 for the laundry which was supposedly included. And insisted on cash payments. None of the other hikers hostels did any of this.
The worst however is still to come. Initially she said she will take us to the trail at 7h30 (quite late for us as we start walking around 6h30 and most other hostel owners are flexible enough to do the drop-off run from 7h00) but next thing she said 7h50. Ria told Jozi to move over. I said no way. 7h30 is already later than what we would like and we are not accepting any later. She had the audacity to say that she starts work at 8h00 and if she takes us at 7h30 she will have to drive back. Tough luck – she is getting R1000 to put us up in her crappy trailer in a muddy back yard so she can start work 20mins early or wait in her car.
We need to do a review on Guthook, not to be nasty but to inform hikers behind us that this is certainly not as good as the review makes it out to be.
Not that we are not having fun. We are sitting on our “patio” looking at the chickens and the mud and laughing and planning our next few days and knowing how privileged we are to have been in a tent in the forest, in a pub in a quaint little town, and in a trailer in the backyard of a smallholding – all in one day.
And last night we had no idea how today would turn out.