Tag: #friends

Outback: I Will Always Love You…

Two weeks of driving through The Outback have sadly come to an end – I would cry tears but every part of my body has dried up and started cracking…

It’s been hours of driving between Road Houses – looking at the scenery change from light dust to dark red dust, from yellow tufts of dried grass, to great big trees with white bark (which somehow manage to stay so white they look like the guys who invented Oxy Clean practiced on their bark).

It’s been even more hours of sleeping in awkward positions due to lack of a head rest and a full cramped van of 22 people.

It’s been many nights drinking out of the cooler in the back as we chugged along at 60kph, belting out songs at a volume that could be heard and rejected by all The Voice judges around the world, crossing our fingers that we would get to our hostel before morning (pitstops alleviated aforementioned drinking, and came with statements like “it’s a snake!” which struck fear into everyone’s bladders until statements were corrected with “it’s a stick!”)

Predictably, what brought our group together was our shared incarceration in Coco The Van (we love you Coco, even though you did try to ditch us, twice)

Once joined at the hip like a chain gang, we went swimming with Manta Rays, attempted to swim with Whale Sharks, practiced our best “Elephant Seal” impression as we tried to pull ourselves back into the boat….and hysterically laughed over nothing as we snorkelled, and then chocked from inhaling salt water.

We also hiked through gorges, wading through water so cold we all kept our hands up as though keeping our elbows dry was really going to prevent hypothermia, and saying “oh it’s so cold!” as though something could be done about it, as our guide said, “watching you guys is LOLs, I love watching backpackers suffer”

Here’s to a fantastic trip with fantastic people: there is no one else I’d attempt “I Will Always Love You” with (#returnwhitney because we are terrible). And also, no one else I’d let call me Grandma.

If You Ever Need a Good Prank…

If you’re ever in need of something slightly evil, but not evil enough to get anyone super pissed off…may I offer:

The Disappearing Mattress Trick

– find the room of your intended (in this case our Guide)

– remove mattress (in this case a Queen size, supremely comfortable piece of furniture that would make a 4:30am wake up call slightly more bearable) 

– store mattress somewhere close by 

– replaces sheets, pillows and blankets over the frame 

– keep drinking until you intended declares, “alright guys, early morning, I’m off to bed”…and then keep drinking until they come back and ask “where the f is my bed?”

– tell them, with a straight face, “it’s on the roof.”

– be prepared for war to be declared 
To quote one friend “sounds like college.” Welcome to 1999, everyone. 

Is There a James in the House?

If you join a tour Mid-way, you must be prepared for hazing – you are, after all, joining a travelling fraternity full of inappropriate comments, clothes that haven’t been washed in ages and bedrooms filled with multiple people.

When we found out that four people were joining our (now bonded by a virtually broken down vehicle, alcoholic consumption in said vehicle and late night road-side pit stops), we demanded names and the right to Google. 

In our gleefulness at being provided such vital information, we only managed to remember one correctly, a James Walsh – not the easiest person to find on Facebook because, unsurprisingly there are 4 million people named James Walsh. 

We went old school and started yelling, “James?”, “James Walsh?” Around the kitchen (on the assumption that he was staying at our same campsite). Two hours into this gag, Sammy tried his name in a German accent, and we heard and English guy say, “Why are you saying my name in a German accent?’ from a table a way. 

And yes, that was James Walsh, and we were caught. We gave him an appropriate welcome, said that we were excited he was joining us in two days, and then we went back to our rooms, armed with a visual, found him on Facebook and screen shot it to everyone. We stalked him. 

And the next day, when we were all on our Whale Shark cruise, while the rest of the boat was spotting a Blue Whale (biggest animal to have ever lived), Ana yelled out from the top deck, “It’s James Walsh!” – and there he was, on the bow of another boat, looking fully embarrassed as a bunch of people yelled out “James!!!”, at a pitch much higher than “Blue Whale!”

Welcome to the group James, just be glad we haven’t all changed our Facebook profiles to your face and sent you friend requests, yet. 

Manta Ray Snorkeling or Forced Tourist Exercise?

The boat stopped and our guide gave us instructions, “this is the manta ray channel, we’re going to drift down, being quiet, when we get to the part with the current, the boat will pick us up and we’ll do it again, 3 or 4 times.” 

We spent the next ten minutes with our eyes peeled at the water, hoping to see some sign of life.

Just when whispers of “do we get a refund if we don’t see any rays?” were starting to bubble up, the guide yelled “There! Get ready, go!” And we all just lept out like we knew where we were going. We didn’t. 

The guide had said “That way!”, so we went That Way. Then it changed to This Way and back to That Way. From the boat (who was not making an effort to pick us up) it must have looked like a beginner’s senior water ballet class: a bunch of uncoordinated people who couldn’t follow directions that kept popping up to say “What did he say?, I can’t hear anything” and “I can’t see anything, can you?” 

My friends (I have friends! They arrived from LA to rescue me from dorm life! Everything is better with friends) caught on early and said “alright, slow down, we are know what you’re doing and we came here to relax.” Having just gotten off a long flight, they eventually made their way back to the boat, filled with the belief that this was a scam, there were no manta rays, it was only an excuse to laugh at the tourists attempting aqua aerobics and make them work a bit for dinner. 

Twenty minutes later, and at least one dinners worth of calories burned, I did manage to see a manta ray – it was huge, and it buggered off pretty quickly when it heard an approaching pod of people coming to get it. 

As we all piled back into the boat, the driver asked everyone if they had seen it, about half of us put up our hands. “To those who didn’t see it, at least your friends did”

(I promise I was not paid five dollars to say that I saw a ray)

Adult Water Aerobics Class

The South Africa Round-Up

After two months in South Africa, it’s unfortunately time to say goodbye (for now).

I really don’t want go (My flight is in 11 hrs and the contents of my bag are still strewn around my room, all of them in denial that they soon that have to do the march into the bag).

When I arrived here I felt like a kid on the first day of middle school: would I be able to make friends? was my backpack too dorky? (yes, it attaches to my bigger bag, so it matches it in a “I bought matching luggage so I would always be able to find it” kind of way), would I be able to get around JoBurg by myself (all research basically said, “Stay Inside! If you go out, you’ll get robbed! and raped! Maybe just watch TV instead), were my clothes okay? (on the list to now replace – my jeans, I hate the jeans I brought).

It took about a week for me to get my travel legs – I still hadn’t quiet realized what I had done in deciding to take a full break from work, from regular life. Suddenly going from hundreds of work emails a day to none had left me without an identity; I walked around in a bit of brainless haze (but did not get robbed or raped).

But then, I started volunteering, and travelling and meeting people. I was out in the fresh air, my allergies went so berserk that I hacked out multiple lungs, but my body was so happy that it had no problem growing them back quickly (wherever I end up, the one thing I know is that I need nature)

I’m travelling alone, but over nine weeks, I haven’t spent one day alone: when the Overland group was in Lesotho we went stargazing/ tried to see who could count the most shooting stars – 8 of us crammed onto one pretty small rock and chose to sit like sardines in a can instead of spreading out. There are all those famous quotes about how the journey is more than the destination, which are all certainly true, but the journey is really only fun (for me) if you get to share it with people you love. And I have found so many people I love on this trip.

Highlights:

Countries visited: South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

Injuries: cut above my eye from chopping firewood, bruised ribs from sandboarding, pulled muscle from slip n’ sliding

First Sightings: Black Wildebeest, Springboks, Nyala, Blesbok, Meercats, Jackass Penguins, Cape Mountain Zebras, Waterbucks, bunch of really cool grasshoppers

Learnings:

  1. In French, the song is “The Lion Dies Tonight” (which is why the village is peaceful)
  2. To properly drink Rooibos – add a lot of milk and sugar
  3. You Say Tomato, I say Tomato: a couple of things South African’s say differently – Samosas are Samoosas, and pick-up trucks are bakkies
  4. Walking around barefoot is the best, until you look at the underside of your feet
  5. South African airports are fantastic: food courts have table service where they bring you real pots on tea in real mugs, real silverware and real salt and pepper shakers.

Tonight I leave for New Zealand and I have that same anxious feeling in my stomach – how is it going to measure up to this? I know I will meet some absolutely amazing people, but it is so hard to say goodbye to the amazing people here – to all you guys (around the world), I will wear you on my heart forever. Okay enough cheese, I should brush my teeth and have some tea.

IMG_20170301_083944

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Views Lead to Beautiful Goodbyes

img_20170217_114326

Our Overland Tour has ended: Cape Town to Joburg, 20 days, 4200km, 24 people, 1 truck.

Most of us met in early February at 6:30am in an office in Capetown, there was free coffee and tea, lots of handshakes and “where are you from?”s. Our three guides wore their uniforms and loaded our bags into lockers at the back of the truck, “can I get one for a short person, please?”

We ranged in age from mid 60s – low 20s, came from 7 countries and besides all speaking English pretty well, we didn’t know if we had anything in common.

Over the course of 3 weeks we broke down every barrier (when you willingly surrender your playlist to strangers you know you’ve crossed into territory that has rarely been broached by even serious boyfriends) and did things we wouldn’t want our parents to know about, played like kids on the coolest playground ever (South Africa), and unabashedly acted like fools in a way that wouldn’t even be reserved for our best friends. It was like summer camp from an 80s movie, totally magic and hard to explain to anyone else.

When you get a tour with a group as special as this one, you not-so-secretly wish your life could be like this forever: walking barefoot outside (and in malls), singing terrible songs terribly and very loudly (“Save Tonight”by Eagle Eye Cherry being the highlight), showing everyone your disgusting feet, an endless stream of inside jokes (“Beautiful Views”, “Spoil your eyes, Guys”, “Thankyoooo Ruiiinnn”, waterfights, “Optional Activities”, Brutal Fruit, “Lost? Stick to Your Guide”, “that sweating feeling”, springboks, “The Lion Dies Tonight”), hours learning words in other languages (Krankenwagen, schmetterling, madala, intombazane, umfana), and playing cards while you look out the window to the landscape that almost calls out to you, asking you to stay.

People that you didn’t know 3 weeks ago suddenly accept you for all your faults (lack of rhythm, lack of direction, the need to climb trees and playgrounds, being terrible at playing President, cellulite, having a useless playlist that consists of “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack and Paul Simon’s “Graceland”). You end up feeling more like yourself than you have in years, you can’t stop smiling at yourself and everyone around you.

At the beginning our guides said that we were a travelling family and by the end we all wished we could be some form of a travelling singing band that never got off the truck (no one else should really ride Ramone anyways, he smells of all our sweat and no one would appreciate his leaky roof half as much as we did)

And now it’s over and I’m more than a bit heartbroken, but being heartbroken sometimes is a good thing, because it means that you had something worth being heartbroken over, which so rarely happens.

To everyone who just got off the truck, you are the bestest best and I’m so glad we met – let’s never forget each other, let’s never forget this feeling and let’s stay in touch.

#purehappiness

We are having…A…Good time 

HOLOLOLOLOLO (If I ever hear that, I’m answering)

 

overland-trip-clement-and-the-truck
Not my picture, but I’m borrowing it from the group

 

 

 

 

No Matter How Old You Are, You’re Going to Break (little) Rules

​Sometimes adventure tours get struck with bad weather:

We went to Lesotho (the highest country in the world) and all we got were stamps in our passports.

We went to the Drakensberg Mountains and all we could see was a golf course that looked like it belonged in England.

It rained so many buckets that previously dubious damn levels are now above 100%. (Luckily we made plenty of rain day memories that far outshine any hiking)

And then finally, the rain stopped long enough for us to arrive in Swaziland.

We stayed at Mlilwane, a place where the animals (herbivores) graze freely and move around the kilometers and kilometers of hiking trails.It was real life Jurassic Park without the predators- and it was our playground. 


We went mountain biking and broke every rule.

Our guide, now familiar with my lack of coordination and adult-like sensibility sensed possible trouble. He frequently tells me “to hold on, becareful, please don’t climb that tree”. This time he started with “please use the back brake and use both hands on the handle bars” it is unclear whether he really thought I didn’t know how to ride a bike…

Ten minutes in, the three of us, only one in decent shape and none of us experienced bikers decided to take a path marked “Do Not Enter: Steep Inclines”

“What is a steep incline?” Asked my Swedish and Swiss compatriots. 

“Something we will probably have to walk the bikes up…” I replied. 

Having not had any exercise for the past four days made us eager and foolish….(also, we couldn’t really read the map)

“We made it to the top, but there is a slight problem” said the Swiss compatriot (and the one in decent shape)

 (note: made it to the top means that I walked the bike at least halfway)

“Did you say there was a slight problem?”

“we have to climb a fence” (map reading error)

“Okay, let’s take a vote, I’ll go with the majority” pronounced the Swede (Swedes are always fair)

And so it was that we heaved three mountain bikes over a fence, tresspassed onto a private residence, walked into someone’s personal space (an elderly man drinking a beer who looked like a crotchy character from a Hemingway novel) and asked for directions.


And then, at the top of the hill (I really want to say mountain)


“Oh shit, the rain is coming ”

And we booked it down got lost again, booked it down some more (using the back break the whole way, as per instructions and amazingly did not wipe out) and got wet enough to wash away the sweat and tell everyone our story as though we knew what we were doing the whole time.

Absolute pure happiness is getting lost with people you want to get lost with.

PS. This is the same group of people that also got kicked out of the ocean when we were in Durban because the lifeguard didn’t think our version of “body surfing” was plausible as a “safe method of not drowing”