I love day trips. I would say I see them as little escapes from the routines of city life, but I have neither much routine in my life, nor does Cape Town, in its natural beauty of mountains, oceans, and forest, haunt me with much city-ness. But day trips are still the way to go to guarantee epic fun, and so off I went this past weekend to Crystal Pools, a series of waterfalls and rock pools about an hour outside of Cape Town.
We started the day bright and early, driving through to Stellenbosch, a predominantly university- and wine-based town, and visited their Saturday morning markets to fuel up for our hike-and-swimming adventure later that day. I love morning markets as much as I love day trips, and they seem to be popping up all over Stellenbosch and Cape Town, filled with colourful people, organic fruits and veggies, yummy dishes of all kinds, and a bunch of other material items I usually pass on my way to the food sections. Yes, I love food too (I’m just full of loves today!). So after a scrumptious bacon-and-egg roll and a crazy healthy ginger-carrot juice at the one market, and a lovely scoop of Ice Cream Ninja’s Brown Bear (the best ice cream invention ever – a delicious scoop of chocolate ice cream, mixed with chopped-up Rolo, brownie, and cookie dough, and smothered in the most amazing chocolate sauce in existence. No jokes. If you haven’t discovered the magic of the Ninja, please do check them out and get cruising to the nearest store!) and a pomegranate juice at the next, it was time to head off to explore the mountains.
The only problem was that none of us actually knew where the Crystal Pools were. We knew which road to be on and that the hiking trail would start right after the first bridge, but, other than that, we were lost puppies on adventure. We found the bridge soon enough, but had less luck with the trail, so we were faced with giving up on our dream and just heading to the beach instead, or being real explorers and just start walking along the river towards the mountains in the hopes of eventually reaching the magic pools. Not being quitters, we decided the latter. In retrospect, starting our walk at one in the afternoon was a little silly as the sun sent its scorching rays down to boil us as we were hiking uphill in half a million degrees heat.
But, oh, did that trek make finding that first pool heavenly! There really is nothing like stripping down to your swimwear and jumping into the icy cools of a natural pool after an hour’s exertion in the sun. The pools really are quite something – mountains and rock faces going up (or down) on all sides, black cold waters going down into unknown depths, and waterfalls splattering from the pools higher up! But Patrick, who you’ll remember from my ocean explorations, an avid rock climber as much as he is an ocean dipper, decided that climbing up the rock face to the next pool would be a great idea, so off he went, leaving Jason (his brother and one of my best friends) and me to follow at our own pace.
And so we went up for the next three hours, journeying from pool to pool, sometimes walking around on the trail if the cliffs were too steep – and slippery – for us, sometimes climbing up along the waterfall, until we made it to the final pool, dark and mysterious as the rest. There really is something quite magical – and eerie – about Crystal Pools. It was a very quiet day, with few other people around and no animals to be seen (though baboons are known to frequent the area) and we were surrounded by nature. The pools themselves, cold and dark, hinted at untold secrets. How deep did they go? What was down there? I saw one little grey fish in the last pool, but, other than that, nothing. Jason and I both swam into a tree in one of the pools (and I had a few run-ins with underwater rocks I couldn’t spot) and Patrick pulled an entire dead tree out of another, and I can only imagine what else is down there.
If we’d had more time, I would’ve loved to explore the area a little longer and climb a little higher, but we had tickets to The Imperial Ice Stars’ performance of Sleeping Beauty on Ice that evening at the Artscape Theatre, so we enjoyed the eeriness of the pools for only a little while longer until we turned back to make our way to the car and back to town. But perhaps one day we’ll go back to find out what else is out there.