:( I will have lots of stories to tell when I get ample internet time.
Which will be when I go home. In A WEEK AND A HALF.
Haha. I’m not, it’s just that South Africa hates Macs and all the computers on campus have facebook blocked. And I’m just a terrible blogger in general. I miss you! How’s your summer going/are you in Boone?
Aww, that’s great! I wish I were better at keeping it updated, but once I get better internet access there will be more posts:) I love it here, but I only have a month left which is sad. I’m studying Psychology at NMMU. What part of SA are you from?
During Spring Break Part Deux, I went on a university trip to Cape Town, and on the way, we made a pit stop at the Bloukrans Bridge in Tsisikamma, where some of us would do the world’s highest bungee:216 meters -708 feet. Now before I left for South Africa (and the majority of the time I was here) I told everyone that there was no way in heck I would pay good money to throw myself off a bridge. Eventually, however, I saw that everyone was doing it (so I would look like a total square if I didn’t), and realized that a small part of me actually wanted to also. As cheesy as it sounds, I knew that if I managed to willingly jump off a bridge that high,afterward I would feel like I could do anything. The only catch: willingly jumping off a bridge that high…
The 3ish hour drive to the bridge was probably the most stressful 3ish hours of my life. We found out the day before that instead of doing the jump on the way back from Cape Town, we’d be doing it on the way to Cape Town due to some itinerary changes the university made -giving us 5 less days to emotionally prepare. So I sat in the van, listening to some pump up music on my ipod, sweating bullets, and wondering how I was going jump off this bridge without peeing myself (or worse). When we passed the Bungy Jumping -> sign and the driver began to slow, my stomach did about 8 somersaults. But despite being too scared to walk straight, I went over to the cashier and paid the (non-refundable) 690 Rand and got harnessed up.
Our booking wasn’t until noon so we sat in the Cliffhanger Cafe and watched people jump until it was time. There were 5 of us jumping, and we met the guys who harnessed us and they gave us some last minute instructions: dive out with your arms spread, keep your head up so you don’t get a head rush, and don’t worry about having a heart attack because adrenalin (which we’d be feeling a lot of) is the cure for heart attacks. Then they led us down the walkway underneath the bridge to get to the platform. The walkway was made out of some type of fencing and it bent underneath us as we walked. On one side of us was ocean and on the other side there were mountains, and as beautiful as it was, I was afraid that if I looked down, my head would explode. My roommate, Surina was walking behind me and at one point she goes, “Ahhhh! Oh no, I looked down, I looked down!” The only sentence I managed to form was “Wow, this fence is bendy.” When we got to the platform, I was in full on panic mode but good spirits. Luckily, they started blasting music to ease our terror and get our adrenaline going. It was also hard not to be in a good mood because the guys who worked there loved their jobs and you could tell -they did everything to the beat of the music. This being said, I was still very glad I wasn’t the one going first.
We watched as the first few people went (the free fall before the first bounce was about 7 seconds) and got more and more amped. One guy came back up, looking windblown and absolutely nuts, and said, “The first part is HORRIBLE, but then it’s amazing!” I had to see for myself. Finally it was my turn and the guy tied me up around my ankles (I asked several times if he was sure it was tight enough)
and after a quick photo op
(and a quick panic attack)
I was on my way. I hopped up to the edge with a bungee dude on either side of me, looked out at the gorgeous Tsitsikamma and…. 5,4,3,2,1 BUNGY!
Even being the biggest bungee jump, it went by very quickly. By the time I could catch my breath to scream, it was almost over. But I remember diving off the platform and watching the river (which looked life Coca-Cola) spin around and around as I hurtled toward the ground. Before I knew it, I was flying back upward, and this happened about 4 more times before I finally stopped. After a couple minutes of hanging there, laughing and cursing, I wondered if anyone was coming to get me. As soon as I yelled “Is anybody out there??”, my knight in shining armor came, somehow making me upright again and taking me back to the top of the bridge.
So there you have it. I did it, and it was one of my favorite things I’ve done since I’ve been here!
Also…I’ve unearthed the adrenalin junkie inside of me.Next up, skydiving!
During spring break 3 friends and I rented a car and took a road trip to Coffee Bay, a tiny beach town in the Transkei, which is about 7 ½ hours away. It took us longer to get there because we didn’t have a GPS and there were about 2 signs for Coffee bay…so naturally, we were convinced that we were lost most of the trip. Also, the driving was intense. When it was my turn, I hit an enormous pothole, absolutely soaking the poor lady standing next to it, stalled out 6+ times in the middle of an intersection, and repeatedly failed to remember that we drive on the left side of the rode here in South Africa –it didn’t help that it rained the entire time and the roads were riddled with gigantic potholes. So after what was basically a long, terrifying game of Mario Kart, we pull up to The Coffee Shack, our hostel, and suddenly it was all worth it. A lady greets us and gets us our free “welcoming drinks” and shows us to our dorm room, where two German girls were already staying. There was a bar, hammocks, a big common area with a TV and newspapers, and meandering donkeys.
We ate a traditional Xhosa dinner, watched African drummers and mingled and then crashed early. I didn’t sleep well that night, and still wonder how the others did. Our room was packed –there were six people in beds, and two people on the floor because their tents flooded. People were coming in and out of the room at all hours of the night, and at one point a lady comes in requesting our presence at the bar for tequila shots (we didn’t even lift our heads). The icing on the cake, however, was the person drumming outside our window all night. At first, I was pretty pissed that I wasn’t sleeping, but I reminded myself that it was all part of the hostel experience… and at least it would make a good story.
The next morning, we got up and had a bountiful breakfast of peanut butter toast and explored the area around the hostel.
We were eagerly pursued by ladies selling beads and got suckered into buying bracelets, and then it was time to leave for our hike –we were going on a guided hike to the Mpuze Cliffs for the day along with some Norwegians, Germans, and South Africans. We hopped into the shuttle and got dropped off at the cliffs with our guide, Jerry, pieces of wood, a grate, and a huge box of Toasties (delicious grilled cheeses on crack), which the Toasty King was going to cook for us while we were hiking.
The first obstacle we hit on our hike was a river that had magically appeared overnight because of all the rain. We had to take off our shoes, roll up our pants, and wade across the slippery rocks in one connected line, holding on to each other for dear life. It was a pretty comical sight.
We climbed up steep, muddy hills (I slipped several times, of course) and down even steeper ones. Eventually we got to the rocks right on the water and had to race the tide to get to the caves.
We went through one cave and into another (it had some serious cave stank going on) and then went back to the starting point to eat our Toasties…they were so good that I snuck another one when I thought the guide wasn’t looking. When we got back to the hostel, it was late afternoon. We were exhausted, but instead of taking a much needed nap, we treated ourselves to homemade ice cream and explored the quirky little shops, whose owners were nowhere in sight. On our way home, we came across some fellas that got right to the point, telling us they had “Shrooms, things for us to smoke, and no wives.” So the rumors about Coffee Bay were true…but don’t worry, we just laughed and kept on walking. For dinner, the Coffee Shack gave us free potjies (I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced “porky”… and for good reason). A potjie is the delicious result of putting a smorgasbord of food items in a big pot and letting it sit there for a few hours –you could call it a South African Crockpot. That night, we drank cheap wine, played every card game known to man, and failed epically in the Killer Pool Competition. Then we did some wheelin’ and dealin’ with the Coffee Shack employees to see if we could get a guide to take us on the Hole in the Wall hike the next day –everyone we knew who went to Coffee Bay talked about it and we wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. We succeeded and then decided to scamper off to our beds –thankfully, I slept like a log that night.
The next morning, we got up and had another peanut butter breakfast and met our guide, Silas. We began the 3 hour hike to Hole in the Wall, and not 2 minutes in, we run into this guy:
He told us that the world is changing, starting from “The Miracle Den” (which was by Mark’s house…?). He then leapt between my friend and I, making a loud whooshing noise, and ran off. Yep, the rumors were definitely true. For the next 3 hours we hike alongside the cows while Silas tells us all about the people and animals of Transkei.
Quite a few kilometers and several falls later, we are in the town of Hole in the Wall at what I assume was a backpacker lodge. There, we eat lunch, chug ice water, and sprawl out in the grass. After ample recovery time, trusty Silas leads us to what the town was named after –you guessed it, a big rock with a hole in it. It was a very cool, quiet spot and totally worth the hike.
Now, in Africa, the phrase “lift back included” apparently means hitchiking. At first I thought this was a joke, but then Silas began his Hitchiking 101 lesson, and let me tell you –hitchiking ain’t easy. The cars that passed by either said no or laughed at us. Just as I was contemplating walking with a limp, some of Silas’ friends stopped and picked us up (on the condition that we paid them 15 Rand). We all crammed into the back of their tiny pickup and enjoyed the 20 minute ride back to the Coffee Shack while jamming to Enrique Iglesias.
When we got back, we hunted for fresh veggies for dinner (there were none because it rained too much) and cooked pasta. After dinner, we were entertained by a Zimbabwean named Hamish, who was absolutely obliterated because it was his birthday. The only actual interaction I had with him that night was checking to see if he was alive (he was sitting at the bar passed out and drooling on his packet of biltong) and him staggering up to me and declaring “You aren’t as hot as you think you are” and staggering off. The Coffee Shack gave him a free bottle of champagne for his birthday and insisted that he gave a speech –he lifted the bottle in the air and let out a “UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNGH,” and everyone cheered. Then, we sat and watched for awhile while he and his friends cooked a pig head over the fire and then decided we should get to bed. We had to get up early for the long drive back to PE, to which we made it all in one piece.
Awww, I miss you! Sorry I’m bad at communicating. Haha. At first, I didn’t want to go bungee jumping at all, but all my friends were doing it, so I sort of forced myself to. I definitely was having a panic attack in that picture, but I ended up loving it! And yes Which Which sounds amazing… I was actually thinking about our adventure there yesterday. Mmmm. How have you been, missy?
On St.Patrick’s Day weekend (yep, I’m that behind on my blog), I went with a group of of international students to Addo Elephant Park and Scotia. Both are a little over an hour away from PE. Still exhausted from the previous night’s adventures, we piled into a minibus with Bradley, the same guide who took us on the City Tour during orientation week, and jetted off to Addo. It was not much of a success –we saw plenty of elephants, but they were so far away that Bradley had to point out that the boulders we were seeing were actually living,breathing things. We did, however, have the world’s best salads for lunch and stop at a really pretty overlook/quirky little museum.
Then we set out for Scotia, which was about 30 minutes away and we had a much better time there. Not only did we get free coffee and cookies, we also got nerdy green ponchos and blankets to keep us warm in the open aired vehicle. We saw Rhinos, one of which itched her horn on our car (while my roomie, Surina, snoozed in the seat behind me), and got very up close and personal with some lions, making for some epic pictures. After the ride, we sat by the fire (those of us who forgot to remove our ponchos nearly spontaneously combusted) and ate an enormous dinner and with full bellies/camera memory cards, we headed back to Annie’s Cove for St.Patty’s Day celebrations (that’s a story for another time).
The next day, a group of us went to one of the townships to help our friend Bantu (who happened to study abroad at UNCW last year:) with a soup kitchen he was holding at his house for the neighborhood kids. First, we went to the Shop-Rite to buy veggies for the stew we were making and fruit for the kids to snack on while they wait. From the Shop-Rite, we walked to Bantu’s house, met his family and then go down to business. My jobs consisted handing out grapes to the kids, and chopping vegetables and later popping then into the food processor. After this, I went across the street and sat down with a group of little boys –the majority of them just looked at me like I was crazy, but one little guy joked around with me and jumped on my back. Then several little girls came over and for the next hour, I got my hair braided and tried my best not to look like I was in excruciating pain. I attempted to ask them a little about themselves, but my Xhosa is limited to “How are you?” and “It’s hot outside,” so we ended up just talking to each other in our own languages and pretending to understand.
So following the hairstyling, piggy back rides, and numerous photos(the kids loved getting their pictures taken and playing with my camera), we went down the street to Bantu’s neighbor to buy some homemade Ginger Beer and then got ready to serve the kids. Several men were waiting around for food as well, but we had to tell them to wait until all of the children had gone. I found this particularly difficult emotionally, as one man repeatedly handed me his bowl and asked for food, referring to me as “ma’am,” and I had to deny him. This whole day was one of the many humbling and eye-opening experiences I’ve had here. These kids have next to nothing, yet they still play and laugh like they don’t have a care in the world –I on the other hand, can get put in a nasty mood when Facebook won’t let me upload my pictures.
I didn’t really have a job in the whole serving process, so I channeled my inner camp counselor and tried to keep the kids in an organized line. I was very unsuccessful, so after a while, I gave up and sat down with a little girl who had a stroller carrying her teeny tiny, very sick looking puppy. This was another thing that struck a chord with me, but I’m not entirely sure why. I think it was seeing such a young person trying her best to take care of another living thing.
After everyone had been fed, we packed everything up and hopped in a Combi headed back to Annie’s Cove. I’ll always remember this day, and look forward to going back here again.
March 10thish, 2012
I don’t know what time we woke up, but it wasn’t 5AM and that’s all that mattered. We were headed to the Nkoro Lodge at the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which bordered Kruger National Park. The drive was scenic and quite nerve racking because we were driving on bumpy,rural dirt roads almost the entire time. We passed through some tiny villages with small shops and colorful huts with straw roofs. The people were out and about, and almost all of them waved to us as we drove by. After driving forever on what seemed like an endless dirt road, we pulled up to the Sabie Sand gate around 10:30. The Nkoro lodge was very different from Satara -it was dead quiet, the rooms were ritzier, and there were no raving monkeys, just a tiny sulking dog and a Wildebeest named George.
The weather was gorgeous, so we lazed around by the pool until lunch was served –Chef Paul laid out an array of cheeses,pasta, and juices for us and I scarfed down everything. After lunch, we met our safari guide, Cedric, a tall, tan, blonde, cheerful fellow who wasn’t so hard on the eyes either. We were leaving for our afternoon/evening ride at 4, so we sunscreened, hydrated, and hopped on the massive open aired vehicle for our next adventure. Cedric talked on his radio and told us all sorts of random facts, while the tracker, Norman, looked for any signs (tracks, broken branches,etc.) of big cats. At one point they caught wind of a Cheetah in the area, parked the vehicle, and went venturing off into the woods with rifles (just in case) while we anxiously awaited their return.
They didn’t end up actually finding the Cheetah, but that whole ordeal as exciting enough. The cats must’ve been in hiding while we were out, but we did get up close and personal with a Rhino.
People believe that a Rhino’s horn has all kinds of medicinal properties and is an aphrodisiac. This being said, Rhino poaching has become such a problem in Kruger and the areas around it that the military is involved, and if a poacher is spotted, it is legal to shoot them…and with good reason. We drove around the reserve watching the sun set and running into Jackals, Wildebeest,Elephants, and Warthogs (or Pumbas as I prefer to call them). Oh and I had my first official sundowner. When we got back to the lodge, the torches were lit and an extravagant dinner (compliments of Chef Paul) was waiting for us. The eating venue was an enclosure of tall sticks, and that combined with the torches gave me en eerie sensation that we had been dropped into the King Kong movie.
After eating a delicious South African meal that any vegetarian would cringe at, we decided to turn in, as Cedric would be eagerly knocking on our door at 5AM to wake us for the morning ride.
* * *
At 5AM on the nose, there was a knock on our door and either Mom or Molly stumbled over to answer it. Good morning,Cedric.
On our morning ride, we found some lions!
It was a pack of 4 lionesses and Cedric knew their life story, something about being rejected from the pride and running away with their grandmother –for some reason, the idea of a grandmother lion cracked me up quite a lot. After stopping for a coffee break (“Don’t get to close to the water or the croc will get you!” says Cedric cheerfully) and running into our usual African wildlife friends, we were offered to walk back to camp instead of drive. Talk about an easy way to end up on 1000 Ways to Die. But we decided to go for it –we lined up behind Cedric with his rifle and Norman with his machete and were on our merry way. Much to my dismay, we didn’t run into anything too out of the ordinary, but we did see the track of a Black Mamba, one of the most poisonous snakes in Africa. We also came across a Dung Beatle and about a million piles of poo of various shapes and sizes.
Although we didn’t see any big animals on our walk, we did make it back to camp alive and just in time for another delicious meal, which was something to be thankful for. Then it was time to begin the long trek back to Johannesburg, where we would spend the night and then I would fly back to PE while Mom and Molly went to Cape Town.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of the Kruger Saga.
Now I am only behind of my blog instead of very behind.
And then it’s off to Cape Town!
Spring Break 2012, engage!
(I’ll finish the Kruger Posts someday)
I’m alive, Brucey! I miss you.