Of all the monkeys in the world, the baboon is definitely the sexiest. Sure, some people prefer orangutans, and gibbons certainly have their charms, but baboons really know how to turn on the charm and flaunt their simian sexiness. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful ‘boons loitering by the side of the ride as I’ve ruised through South Africa, so I headed to a place that’s crawling with the cute critters.
The Tsitsikamma National Park clings to the rugged coastline between Plettenberg and Port Elizabeth, and is a stunning part of the world. There are windswept beaches and dense forests and hiking trails galore. It’s a truly remote area, but there are plenty of comfortable cottages and lodges to sleep in, restaurants and shops, so it would be a top place to stay for a night or a week. Hell, I could see myself moving there if I met the right baboon.
The most popular walk in the park is the Suspension Bridge Trail which, not surprisingly leads to a series of suspension bridges. It’s an easy one-kilometre stroll, but takes in some stunning coastline. But that all pales into insignificance compared to what’s at the end of the trail – a whole beach full of baboons! The place was absolutely crawling with the sensual beasts, and I raced over to check them out.
It was a unique feeling to be walking amongst the proud primates in their own environment, instead of in a zoo. I guess it’s how foreigners feel when they see kangaroos in the wild. They were climbing through trees, eating food and rooting each other only metres from where I stood. Walking with animals, rather than staring at them in cages, is such a special thing to do. I found it to be a truly unique and awe-inspiring experience, and just another example of why Africa is such a magical place.
Unfortunately, the serenity was spoilt when an obese Russian man named Igor (his identity given away by his unappealing wife, who kept on squealing, “Igor! Igor! Igor!”) trundled across the suspension bridge whilst shouting, “Boonba! Boonba!” I’m not sure whether that’s the Russian word for baboon, or if he just fucked up the name because he’s a dunce, but I suspect the latter. He blundered onto the beach, waving his arms around and trying to chase the poor monkeys, who started screeching at him.
Bloody Igor was ruining the day and I was worried he’d scare off the ‘boons, but they weren’t having any of his shit. The biggest monkey let out a high-pitched shriek and baboons poured out of the trees, surrounding Igor and causing a massive commotion. Igor’s first reaction was to wet his pants; his second was to race back over the suspension bridge while screaming “Boonba! Boonba!”, and almost causing the rickety structure to collapse into the clear blue waters below. What a dickhead.
Oh, and the baboons have the ugliest blurters I’ve ever seen – and having worked at The Picture for the best part of a decade, I’ve seen some crook arses. Seriously, someone needs to get those monkeys a few tubes of Rectinol.
I ended my extraordinary trip to Tsitsikamma with a hike along the mountainous Blue Duiker Trail, which took me through dense forest that was full of birds and looked almost identical to the National Parks back home. Seriously, when I looked around I could’ve been in Girrakool (actually, that would’ve been a good thing, because I could’ve headed home to get some fresh undies. I’ve been rotating the same three pairs for a fortnight and I’m getting funny looks). It was a very pretty walk, and no one else was along it, so it really felt like I was out in the wilderness.
The park also offers the 44km Otter Trail, but it apparently takes five days to traverse and I’m politically opposed to otters, so I gave it a miss. There are comfortable cabins at regular intervals along it, so I’d definitely like to come back and conquer that trail one day. With so many breathtaking places, South Africa is a country that would take a lifetime to explore, and every single moment of it would be a joy.