Tag: #southafrica

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

 

 

 

 

Wine Tasting in South Africa: Have a Couple of Bottles 

7p: wine tasting starts, we’re given a glass of “first fruit” which does not mean, “please cleanse your palate with some juice first”. Instead it means, enjoy this fruity wine before you enjoy 8 other wines and forget how to get home.

7:15p please continue to enjoy this wine with a small platter of cheese that can be shared amongst ten of you. If you get a piece of cheddar consider yourself satisfied and full until dinner at 9p

7:30p explaination of the history of champagne and something called “lees” which is pronounced like “lice” and is apparently dead yeast. Bubble stuff is poured.

7:35p Sauvignon Blanc time

7:40p time to compare two other white wines. Run out of glasses, start using old champagne glasses and lining everything up to look like a wine cargo train.

7:45p time for some Merlots

“A man is like a red wine, you have to stomp on them and keep them in the basement until they turn into something you like” – everyone applauded when our wine presenter gives this factoid

8p realize that dinner still hasn’t been served and all you have to drink today is four cups of tea, and about eight glasses of wine

HOW CAN YOU HAVE A WINE TASTING WITH 8 GLASSES AND ONLY TWO PIECES OF CHEESE? WHERE IS FOOD???

Napkin Notes, Note: “i like cheap wine”

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

When Everyone Smells Like A Wet Dog

Just in case everyone thinks I am being driven around in the lap of luxury…Or, if anyone needs to feel good about sitting at a cosy, temperature controlled desk…

Four days ago it was so, so hot. We spent hours and hours in the truck and even came up with a new song, “I can feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, the SWEAT is all around us, and so the feeling grows…” (“Feeling” later changed to “mildew” to adequately express the stickiness)

Then we danced (possibly a rain dance) and it started to rain, and rain and rain and so far it hasn’t stopped for 15 mins in about 72 hours.

Right now the inside of the truck is so wet (parts of the roof leak: I spent a good part of yesterday sitting on a wet seat that alternated between being steamy and being pure wet) it smells like a wet dog is wearing a wet wool sweater. Much like a subway car that is a bit off, if you sit in it for a while your nose adjusts to the stew of 15 humans who haven’t done laundry in a while.

Thankfully we are currently staying at a fancy place with fancy amounts of hot water and lovely bath tubs. 

Tomorrow we head to Durban….

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.