A day up Shit Creek

Intellectual capital – only those who know are allowed to go…

Nobody owns the ocean. But you own the intellectual capital you have earned with your blood and sweat over the years” – David Mangum, from the film, ‘120 Days.’

Now Mangum is one badass mofo. He is the Florida tarpon guide by which all others are measured, complete with a skull anchor buoy (a warning sign to stay ‘the f#ck’ away). In fact, if you haven’t watched ‘120 Days’ are we even mates?

To his philosophy – some places you just have to protect – I whole-heartedly subscribe.

‘Shit Creek’  – a loose name for a collection of streams treasured by a cult of undercover trout lovers – is such a place.

I go there often in my daydreams, escaping to the Forest (always to be spelled with a capital ’T’ as in Daleen Matthee’s works) to walk through dappled light under a canopy of things with names like Mountain Waxberrys, White Stinkwood, Kamassie and the beautifully flowering Cape Chestnuts. The spirits of a thousand elephants ghosting from the shadows, could the chance of bumping into one really be a possibility? At least some signs? Perhaps a ball of dung among the piles of bushpig shit littering the game trail.

I find myself wondering about the jumbos, but also about the buttery little brownies that inhabit the creeks from which, surely, they have had a drink.

Actual missions to the streams are few… They’re far. They’re tough. Conditions and schedules need to line up and then you better pray that the mind-numbingly spooky trout will play ball.

It turns into a story every time. Untold mostly, of course – whispered among those who know only. Those who are allowed to go.

Turn right at the tree with the green leaves
Turn right at the tree with the green leaves

This is a tip of the trucker cap to them. To those who have gone scratching through the underbrush before.

Few (the stories I mean) are quite as epic, and none as beautifully ironic as the first time on Shit Creek.

Or the tale of how we ‘found’ it…

In a weird coincidence of collective consciousness LeRoy Botha and I had been concurrently pursuing the ghostly brownies and bows of the coastal belt between Mossel Bay and Humansdorp. But Shit Creek – the myth – had seen us both spending countless hours on who-knows-how-many streams abundant in small indigenous species, but not so much as a whisper of a trout. Both of us have friends who know where it is (in fact, one is a founding father of this here platform), but you just don’t go ass licking to get gifted spots, you trace your finger up the map and you put in the road- and foot-hours.

“We’re going to find them by blue-lining, bru,” mused LeRoy the day we met. “…not by brown-nosing.”

Remote, pristine and inaccessible – those valleys that have kept the remaining elephants hidden all these years held the tease of wild, once-upon-a-long-ago-Thursday stocked brown trout too. If something that weighs six tons can remain cloaked in there, how not a 13-inch camouflaged fish. At least these have a circumscribed habitat and can’t just up and migrate across the mountains. Or can they?

Back in the seafaring age, the captain’s journal was often the most prized piece of loot when a ship was plundered. It contained detailed information on reefs, passages, safe anchorages and weather systems. It was the intellectual capital Mangum speaks of, in a tangible form.

By much book work and web research, a simple process of elimination and some serious stream time, we had both reached roughly the same spot on the map, at that time. Immediately there was something of an unspoken agreement to join forces.

Now this could easily script along the lines of a Yeti documentary – still a cool story even if you don’t find it, or find it on your own. That’s not how this turned out.

Get the full scoop in issue #8 of The Mission, dropping in a few days.

LeRoy Botha up Shit Creek
LeRoy Botha up Shit Creek

Oh, and you want directions:

At the 375th Poducarpus falcatus hook a left and continue on for 24,5km. You’ll see the trail head behind the ferns. Or you might not. Walk the high trail through the forest all the way to the second fynbos island. If you get to the Turaco nest you have gone too far. As you walk 15 steps in, keep a lookout for jumbos (or at least their dung) they live here. At step 15 turn north by east (make sure your phone’s compass app works offline – ain’t no signal up there). Head down into the valley via path of least resistance until you reach the bushpig shitpile. You are now on the trail and should be able to hear the stream. Easy.

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