The Monkey Tracker

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Africa, Waterval Boven, Monkey's and Pumba!

The journey to Africa began with a series of highly unnecessary and time consuming flights. You see the original plan involved us stopping in Egypt and Kenya but these had to be cut because of all the chaos there. So we still flew through Cairo, where a series of dodgy passport recordings and constant shuffling from one arbitrary room to another left us highly deranged and confused. Eventually we escaped though and even managed to see one of the pyramids from the plane. Yep Egypt and the pyramids ticked and we didn´t even have to leave the airport.

After another few flights and a long bus ride we were greeted by the legendary Gustav. Gustav took us to our glorious home for the next few weeks, a climbing lodge in a small village called Waterval Boven!


Nomad had decided that we should visit Boven after seeing a random photo of a climber next to a waterfall. Turns out it was a good choice and this place was a climbing paradise with hundreds of awesome routes and a really great setup with the climbers lodge 'Roc n Rope'. This lodge had it all. It was fully equiped house and we had it all to our selves. We highly recommend you come stay with Roc n Rope if you want an African adventure.

Gustav and his Wife Alex run Roc n Rope Adventures, its a climbing school, gear shop and lodge. They are super friendly and helpful and have all the beta you need for an awesome time climbing in Boven. It is easy to get there from Joberg also using the citybug bus service. Check out the Roc n Rope website for more info:

Gustav and Alex love climbing and we actually met up with them in Thailand at the end of the year. Their son also gave Beric a run for his money playing chess and slack lining!

Steve and Beric quickly discovered the local butcher and it was soon clear that this was the best shop in the world! T bones for $3, lamb chops, a far superior version of beef jerky called Biltong and dried sausages called Dry Wors became our regular diet. Real caveman like just the way it should be. We haven't seen nomad eat meat since we can remember so he missed out, he has been living on some sort of strange carrot diet.

We were lucky enough to have the butcher cook us a traditional meal one day called Vetkoek and mince. Basically a bread roll with mince on it. Vegetables and salad where slim pickings you see:

There was a mysterious fish and chip shop window we went to a lot and a post office that reminded us of Garbutt.

  Across the road from the lodge was the old peoples home, they were either trying to keep people out, or trap the old people in. We weren't sure :S

On our first day out climbing we were guided by Jan AKA the Edelrid Man. Jan works at Roc n Rope and has been on all sorts of adventures around the world. He even spent six months on the most remote island in the world working with rare birds.


The Edelrid Man makes the best beer in Boven and plans to start his own brewery soon.

The old keep the beer temp constant with the sleeping bag trick:

Zimbabwe are screwed man! it costs some $200 000 to buy a square of toilet paper. Inflation there was up in the millions so they scraped their currency and use US dollars now:

The Edelrid Man took us to a crag where we quickly learnt about the unique aspects of African climbing. You see climbers share the cliffs with troops of baboons, you have to be careful not to grab a big pile of stinking baboon crap when you reach for that nice jug...

While on a tricky lead Beric had an encounter with an angry Red Tail. This thing would come out of nowhere and swoop with great speed straight for his head narrowly missing each time. A few rocks in his pocket provided some defence but the bird won that round and we retreated to a different climb. This is beric on some heinously hard blank climb:

Beric abseiled down to a baboon poo ledge and took some Stella shots of Steve on his project (Monster grad 29). Now that's a bomber anchor set up if I ever saw one:

Beric decided to wander into an African hair salon. He came out looking like this:

It was quite an experience actually. I (Beric) was exposed to manya crazy event whilst in this salon for some 5 hours. Firstly, the salon was next to a liquor store and had many drunk men venturing in to mess around with the ladies. Next was all the African women with their afro's gossiping. I can't reveal what they told me, but they speak alot about sex. In fact, the lady doing my dreads openly told me she was going out the back for a minute to masturbate. I waited patiently with my head coverd in 'twist n loc' while she proceeded with her mission.

It's also a good time to mention that approximately 80% of the African women in the province have AIDS. The highest in South Africa. In fact Edelrid man told me that half the men believe that AIDS is a myth, some sort of conspiracy made by the government. The Mozambique president has a new wife every year, heavily promotes promiscuity and allegedly raped a HIV positive spokeswoman working to create awareness on the issue. Yep, aids certainly is a huge problem in Africa and unfortunately it will be near impossible to solve.

Population growth is another major issue here. The insight I gained from the women in the salon, is that all the woman desperately want to get pregnant. they believe the more children they have the wealthier they may potentially be, as there is a baby bonus, and the children will work and look after them.

I also discovered that they do not actually even cut hair in this salon. They have a hair menu which included uber classics such as:

- Da Bradz
- Corn rows
- Them Platz

They were all lovely people that we met and we had the pleasure of watching a choir group preform gospel songs in Gustavs back yard. They were practising for a wedding. There is quality footage of me dancing and singing a song with them which will never be released..

In addition to bum hair you need to habits to back it up. My clothes are so dirty these days they stand up like cardboard..

The reason Waterval Boven is world famous is because of a classic photo taken of someone climbing a bright red cliff in front of a waterfall. Needless to say, we had to climb that thing and replicate that photo.

 Beric living his life:

Steve being a Steven:

While Steve and Nomad were climbing the waterfall route, I (Beric) had abseiled over the edge of a cliff to take some shots. As I came back up the rope and stepped over the edge of the cliff top I heard a loud aggressive BARK. I thought it was a rabid dog at first. I nearly fell backwards over the cliff! I looked up and realised I was surrounded by about 50 baboons. Some of them were really big and would have stood eye to eye with me. These things have big fangs and are very strong. A fight with them would be certain death. I took out my leatherman. Took a deep breath. AND RAN. As fast as I could. I found Steve and Nomad and told them the baboons where coming. Steve and I got the cameras and crept up a hill to take some distance shots of them. A word of advice to our monkey clan friends. If you encounter wild baboons or monkeys, don't stair them in the eyes, show them your teeth or stand on anything higher than them. They take this as a challenge you see.

Some brief history, South Africa was under a Parte in the early 90's. Black people were suppressed and forced to live in divided town ships between the white and black people. The parte was abolished in 1994, however many of the towns in South Africa are still divided. This is the case in Waterval Boven and the 'Black Town' as the local refer to it, was very shocking and confronting to see for the first time. It really fits the stereo type. Picture a hillside of corrugated iron shanties, chickens roaming through garbage and young children kicking raggy soccer balls. We walked through the 'black town' on a number of occasions. The first time was on an arbitrary mission to locate a mysterious bakery. This bakery was no French Patisserie, just White bread and scones.


Other times we walked through the black town was to get to the waterfall cliff. On these walks we kept of valuables well out of sight as the people are extremely poor and hence opportunistic. However, in general they were all very friendly and would wave and smile. Unfortunately if you turn your back though, BAM goodbye backpack. This leads us to Joberg, we didn´t visit as we don't like cities and we deemed it too unsafe anyway. Word is you have to drive through red lights at 200km an hour and travel in convoys. We also hear that Britain sends their Paramedics to Joberg to get desensitised to trauma injuries.

One of the scariest things we did this year was walk through the train tunnel near the waterfall cliff. It was the only way back to town from the climbing area we abseiled into. Our only other option would have been a steep dangerous scramble up a cliff.

The tunnel was a few hundred meters long and became extremely narrow in the middle, and pitch black of course! The trains come about once an hour. In the event a train comes you have to lay flat on the ground against the wall apparently and you will survive. We didn't want to test the theory and I highly doubted it would have worked in the middle section. But we took the gamble and made our way through as quickly as possible.

In the middle of the tunnel my senses went wild, my eyes were darting everywhere looking for any places to hide if a train came. My headlamp flickering on the black railway stones. Occasionally there where little corners which I kept in mind in the event I had to retreat to them. We were running and I could feel my heart pounding hard. The whole time I was anticipating a dreaded train whistle to blast through the tunnel.  But we made it through all ok  Jan told me he once got to the exit just as a train flew around the corner. Lucky man.

The Mozambique refugees and nomads like to use this train track to illegally migrate to South Afirca. They walk for hundreds of km's along these tracks.

Our Joberg friends Gareth, Desiree, Monica and Anna disagree though and kept trying to convince us to visit. After surviving Mexico and Venezuela we weren´t taking any risks though, we also thought it was too dangerous after we walked around the corner one evening to meet Desiree at Monica's car and this is all we saw:

 We spent a few days climbing with these new friends and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

On one of our final nights at Waterval, we received a delightful surprise from our friend Gustuv. Three amazing and beautiful girls from Spain turned up to stay at our lodge for the night. That's right, it's our lodge. Over the three weeks we became possessive of our lodge..
The girl's were interesting and kicked our ass's in pool. Hola amigos! Te echamos de menos! espero verte pronto ;)

We are working on a movie but Steve's laptop with our software died in Thailand. So no movie yet. We will put it up later on when we are finished rock climbing our arms off :D

In between climbing in South Africa we went to Krugar national park to do a 3 day Safari. Krugar is Only 2 hours from waterval boven and features Mustafa, Rahfiki, Pumba and Malaria. This will be in the next blog so stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. You know you are in another country when your hairdresser openly tells you she needs to take a masterbation break. Epic haircut by the way and nice blog entry.