Tag: #overlanding

Beautiful Views Lead to Beautiful Goodbyes

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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)

 

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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”

Running Away Like a Scared Cat

St Lucia, South Africa: estuary town, must enter by bridge 

Population:

Humans: 1000 

Hippos:800

Crocodiles: 1200

You know that feeling when your parents tell you not to stick your knife in the toaster?  While that is good advice, you just keep sticking the knife in anyways – mostly to see what happens.

And so it was that we found ourselves running from a hippo.

Before you get all excited this not a story that requires medical treatment, it’s more a story of cowardice / being sensible.

St. Lucia is a small town that gives way for hippos, mainly because the hippos almost outnumber the people and hippos can be mean suckers. Recently a guy came across one and it chomped off his leg, just cause. 

At night, the hippos sometimes roam the town (there are a couple of good restaurants, a grocery and a liquor store of interest) and kind of like that toaster, you’re not supposed to go looking for them, but you can’t help yourself. 

Round about 10pm  a couple of us, our torches and our flip flops took a walk down past a sign than says “beware of hippos at night” and to the bridge where they cross. 

The advice was always, “if you see one, stay far way” obviously, if that could not be helped, we were prepared to run as fast as possible with our flip flops. (Note, hippos can run at about 40kph, far faster than anyone wearing flip flops)

We had gone looking the night before and had not seen a one, so we were a bit cavalier. And then, when we were about a third of way across the bridge, we saw one at the end. Our torches weren’t really good enough and we were unsure of the direction it was headed, so two of us, adrenaline pumping,  (and I will claim that I heard someone say “run!”) Started running back the way we came- this is probably terrible advice and while “fight or flight” is a good thing, usually with animals it is dumb. One of us stood in the middle, unsure of what to do because our fourth member actually ran  toward the hippo. 

This may not be the Marines, but we still leave no man behind (plus, we would be in so much trouble if we returned sans one person) and so we all walked across the bridge and followed the torch light that was headed towards the hippo (now on its way to the water).

“What the F are we doing?” Was definitely the theme of the next five minutes (thoughts on whether my travel insurance covered “went looking for a hippo…”), until we met up with our fourth member who said he had seen the hippo from ten meters. 

Ten meters is probably the length of a baseball pitch. It’s nothing (even though I couldn’t throw it)

Obviously if he had survived, we needed in on the action and so we asked him to show us where the hippo went. 

He led us to a security guard who had a flood light and we all went down the water to find a hippo that didn’t seem bothered by us at all. 

So, just like the toaster, sometimes you use a knife and do something stupid, but it turns out fine anyways. 

Giant hippo chompers

War: What Is It Good For…?

The problem with war?

Escalation.

A tiny bit of name calling leads to a drone strike which leads to a napalm bomb and then pretty soon everyone is at a nuclear standoff, half debating pushing the button while also worrying about mutually assured destruction. 

The drone strike hit two days ago: I was sitting in the front of the truck, happily bobbing along in the seat between our driver and one of our guides, peering out the window looking for elephants. All of a sudden, I was hit with a cold burst. An ice torpedo was sliding down my back. While it was about 95F degrees and felt nice, war had been declared. There was no going back, every action begets a bigger reaction. 

A couple hours later, when the hunt for elephants was cooling down, the guide who let loose the ice torpedo turned around, reached into the truck to try and steal someone’s chocolate. Any good act of war needs a reason, and I had one in theft. I needed to defend my fellow travelers and protect their chocolate, so I opened my water bottle and poured water all over the backside of the offending guide (mainly all over his butt). 

This lead to several jovial complaints of “not fair”, “my pants were filled with sand and now it is really uncomfortable wet sand”.

I was promised there would be payback. I did try and point out that escalation is a bad thing, if I got pushed in a pool, what was going to be my next move? Ensuring their room was full of mosquitos? Flooding the room? 

Cut to today, where I fell straight into a pretty great trap. 

Mistake number one: when someone tells you, “hey, make sure you leave your phone behind because you don’t want it to fall out while you’re on the swing”, you probably shouldn’t trust them. Since when has a phone ever fallen out on a swing. However, at least I got a heads up about the phone and still own a functioning phone. 

Mistake number two: not being aware of surroundings. This is so amateur, when war has been declared, one must always be on guard. 

Mistake number three: probably don’t mess with the guy who is in charge of the cooking and knows where the big buckets are. 

There is a video, which I may post later, but in slow motion, picture me walking up to the back of the truck to put something back, everyone watching on the sidelines knowing what’s going to happen, one guide ensuring I was on the left side of the truck, me not looking up, and the other guide dumping a whole bucket of water on my head from the stairs. 

Truck, the next morning at 6am

In conclusion- one epic revenge needs to be planned, and overlanding is the type of traveling perfect for big children like me, especially because the whole reason I was at the back of the truck was to get some oil to fix a creaky swing.