Thursday, March 31, 2011

“Live your life for this moment because this moment is your life”

new photos on facebook:

First Album on Facebook (first half of the trip)

Kruger National Park Pictures!

This year is going to be a tough one to beat.  In the past 13 days since turning 21, I have driven across South Africa in a 19 passenger overland truck, gone bungy jumping off of the world’s highest bungy, been to some of the most beautiful beaches and towns I have ever seen, swam in the Indian ocean, and been to one of Africa’s most famous national parks. 

I could probably write a book about these past 2 weeks, but I’ll try to keep it short. 

My 21st birthday was incredible.  I spent the day on the beach at Camps Bay, the first time I have ever been to the beach on my birthday in my life.  It was a perfect beach day and it was totally worth skipping class and service… you only turn 21 once!  Then my fantastic housemates and I went out to a bar down the street for a St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser with tons of raffles and games.  It was definitely a good way to get the night started.  Next we went into Cape Town to go to the Dubliner, the big, two story Irish pub in town, which was packed to the brim with green beer drinking, vuvuzela blowing, imitation Irish people.  It was tons of fun, but all the celebrating made the 6:30 wake up the next day a little difficult.

The next morning, we all piled in to our home for the next 9 days, a huge overland truck with 523,000 kilometres (about 325,000 miles for those of you who aren’t on the metric system) on it, which would (hopefully) carry us across South Africa ultimately ending at Kruger National Park.  We began our journey with a largely uneventful full day of driving, arriving in Knysna, our first stop on the Garden Route at around 4 pm that day.  We went up to the viewpoint, where we had our first real view of the Indian Ocean, it was incredible and all I wanted to do was go for a swim, but it was getting dark so instead we swam at the hostel when we got back.

Saturday morning we woke up and went for a morning walk to the beautiful Knysna waterfront and then hit the road for our next stop: Face Adrenaline Bungy- the Guinness World Record’s highest commercial bungy in the world.  We walked out onto the Bloukrans bridge to the tune of pumping techno music and a huge dance party that ultimately ended in us jumping/being pushed off of the bridge- not your average dance party.  I had no worries about it at all…until I was all harnessed up and standing at the edge of the bridge with my bare toes hanging over the edge.  “5,4,3,2,1…BUNGY!” and I was gone.  Flying through space- one of the most surreal feelings in the world. It felt just like it does in dreams except I wasn’t sleeping.  It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world. 

Next, we all piled back in the truck for the drive to Cintsa, to stay at Buccaneers backpackers on the Wild Coast.  It’s called the Wild Coast for a reason: it is virtually untouched except for a few backpackers and houses sparsely scattered along the miles and miles of beachfront.  We didn’t get to see too much that night, as we arrived pretty late, but we woke up early then next morning and went for a long walk on the beach and I also went for my first swim in the Indian Ocean.  It felt so good to get into water that wasn’t freezing cold, like it is in Cape Town.  We went back to the room and found the biggest spider I have ever seen in the bathroom.  It was the size of my face. So I had a photoshoot with it.

We left Cintsa for the drive to Coffee Bay, another stop on the Garden Route.  We turned off the main road onto a roughly paved road that we had to go extra slow on because the Transkei Big Five (cows, donkeys, goats, sheep, and horses) were EVERYWHERE.  We were officially in rural Africa.  There were definitely more animals than cars on the road during our two hour drive to the hostel.  We arrived in the teeny town of Coffee Bay around 4 and we checked into our rooms at Coffee Shack and went to the beach.  It was a little cloudy and then the sun started coming out as it was setting, making a rainbow over the water and a beautiful red sky opposite it. 

On Monday we woke up early and went down to the beach to continue sleeping.  We left the beach at 9 after a morning swim in the crystal clear water and went to get breakfast at the Kaleidoscope Café, a cool little hippy restaurant with fantastic food- it was also one of the only other places we could go to eat besides our backpacker, because the town is so tiny.  Then we went on a 10 km hike to Hole-in-the-Wall, a little island right offshore with a hole through the centre that the waves go through and create a rough white-water area.  We swam out the island, climbed on to it, and jumped off into the water, where you had to swim like crazy to prevent getting pulled back inside the hole and bashed against the rocks.  It was awesome.  We got a ride back to the backpacker from the staff in a big open-air safari truck, so we got to see more of the rural communities.  Our guide, Joseph, who grew up in the area kept us informed of the rituals and beliefs of the people in the area.  He also explained that his English is so good because he learned from the backpackers passing through.  Two words he used a lot were “Wow” and “Awesome.”  I realized he probably picked those up from the backpackers who have that reaction to everything they see at Coffee Bay.  Those are definitely two words that came to my mine a lot during my time there.

We headed to Durban the next morning after another morning swim.  We drove through the day and arrived in the big city, which seemed much bigger considering the last place we stayed only had about 10 buildings in town.  We spent the night in a cool “Real-World-esque” backpacker.  We were right down the road from the aquarium and waterfront- the closet thing to Disney World that I have seen yet in this country.  It was pretty awful to go from the least developed beach town ever to the most commercial place that I had been in months.  Durban’s beaches redeemed it though.  We went to the beach for a swim the next morning and the water was crystal clear and warm with perfect waves for bodysurfing.  After the beach, we headed to the Indian market and saw a whole new side of Durban.  There is a huge Indian population there and we walked through the markets with huge arrays of spices, curries, and goat heads for sale… It was interesting to say the least.

Our next stop was Johannesburg.   We did a pretty boring tour of all the cultural sites but I learned a lot.  We stopped at the Soccer City Stadium, built for the World Cup, followed by the Walter Sisulu memorial, the place where the Freedom Charter was drafter by Mandela and others.  Then we went to Soweto, the largest township in the country.  We visited the Regina Mundi Church, which played a key in the apartheid resistance movement, mainly through student uprisings.  We were shown the broken marble altar, and the bullet holes in the ceiling, which bear testimony to the inhuman acts performed by police during the uprisings.  We also visited the Hector Pieterson museum, homage to a 13-year-old boy who was the first student killed by police during the peaceful student protests.  Our final stop was the apartheid museum, which chronicled the history of apartheid from its early beginnings and ending in Nelson Mandela’s election as president.

After Joberg, we started our trek to our final destination- Kruger National Park.  Upon arriving and settling in to our thatched roof bungalows, we all jumped into the truck and went on our first game drive.  We saw vervet, baboons, kudu, and impala- a mildly uneventful game drive compared to what we saw during later drives.  We returned to camp by 6 because that’s when they lock the people in and the animals out, and had a big braai with everyone.  On Saturday we drove and saw kudu, waterbuck, warthogs, many different birds, hippos, zebra, giraffes, rare klipspringers, snakes, lizards, and a tortoise.  We also saw three of the Big 5: the Cape African Buffalo, white rhinos, and elephants.  After the sun had set, we went on a night safari with two huge spotlights to try to spot the nocturnal cats (lions and leopards).  We were not successful in seeing them but we did see an African Civet (little cat), 2 hippos out of water, and a pack of hyenas. 

The following day we saw a bunch of the animals we had previously seen, as well as vultures, chameleons, wildebeest, guinea fowl, and the almost extinct Southern Ground Hornbill, which is very inquisitive and therefore is killed easily by people and other predators.  Our guide, Jimmy was so knowledgeable about the plants and animals in the park and really helped to make the experience more informative. 

If you’re still reading this, congratulations! You have now read about the important parts of my trip… If not, I don’t blame you. That was much longer than I intended it to be.  My mom and Steve are also in Cape Town this week so sorry for the delays in photos/ blog posting etc.


Knysna Waterfront

Bloukrans Bridge
The Big Jump

Cinsta Beach

Tarantula the Size of My Face in the Bathroom

Bull Crossing the "Highway"

Coffee Bay Rainbow

Shellfish Harvester in Coffee Bay

Hike to Hole-In-The-Wall



Our Home 

Hungry Hungry Hippo

Elephants Crossing the Road in Front of Us

Hyenas on the Night Safari


Hey Mister

Map of our Route

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