30th December 2016
My time backpacking in South Africa regrettably had to come to an end. Never again will it be necessary to have someone tell me elaborate fictional stories about trips to the petrol station just so I can hear their accent for extended periods of time (they were the most beautiful stories I ever heard) and to top it off, it’s just occurred to me that I forgot to have anyone say “pyrotechnics” for me. I started to keep a diary of my trip but I didn’t really keep on top of it so really, this blog is a past-tense elaboration of brief notes I made at the time. It’s slow at the beginning but you’ve got to bear with me, it picks up!
I was greeted upon arrival at the airport by a nice African man holding a sign with my name on it and for the first time in my life, I was authentically addressed as “m’lady”. Rejoice. The nice man took me to the taxi booth in the airport where I met a girl named Laurie who was doing the same trip as me. This is what Laurie’s face looks like:
We were excited to get to our hostel in Table View and meet the rest of the group, only to get there and find that we were the group and there was no leader, so with an itinerary detailing activities for the day but no group leader to even direct us to these places, we began to wonder if our whole trip was actually just some hostels having been booked for us and a schedule we could follow if we wanted. We enquired with the hostel staff and it turned out that our 10 day trip was actually three separate tours, starting on the second day of the trip and other people would join us on the second and third tour.
With no knowledge of which routes possessed the least likelihood of a stabbing, we opted not to follow the itinerary for that day and instead spent most of the day in the hostel trying to make friends with other travellers which proved hard work. They were all part of a voluntary teaching project and seemed disinterested in anyone who wasn’t. We did meet a nice Danish boy who said “hello” and various other words so that was nice and then we went to a nearby department store to see what was going down in there instead.
After a strange day, we headed to the hostel bar to drink the angst away and partake in a South African braai (BBQ) and it was so delicious and we loved it and then after that, we went back to our room to get some sleep but it wasn’t that straightforward. There I was, responsibly locking away my valuables in a locker under the bed but the door was just a wooden flap that opened downwards and I lost grip of it too soon and it came crashing down with the metal lock planting my foot, producing an injury which I would sustain for the rest of the trip
A tour guide met us at the hostel in the morning and showed us how the bus system works (basically the same as the Oyster card system in London) and took us on a tour around Cape Town which mostly involved feeling particularly ashamed. For example, here, there once stood a slave tree:
Black people were tied to this tree by white people, stripped of their identities, renamed and sold as slaves.
Below is a bell in Company Gardens (a nice garden with flowers and animals). It’s a replica of the bells that were rung to signal the beginning and end of the slaves’ working day.
In the same garden there was a man selling nuts to feed the birds and squirrels so we decided to lighten the mood and have a go. After feeding some squirrels and feeling warmed by their tame and friendly nature, I packed the nuts away into my pocket, unprepared for the betrayal that was to follow. As if from no where, one of the rodents appeared on my leg, scratching and biting my pocket to release the supply. Off-guard and unarmed, it was time for me to improvise. In an attempt to deflect the little Judas, I decided to throw a few nuts onto the ground. I pulled out the nuts from my pocket and attempted to begin launching but the situation had already escalated. By this point, a pigeon had heard whispers of a weak target and had swooped over. My plan was unsuccessful. I was Pandora, accompanying the inferno that epitomised Cape Town that day. With arms flailing everywhere and determined wildlife outnumbering me, the bag split and the intended launch became but a scatter. Out scattered the evils onto my chest and around my feet and all that remained for me was hope. The escaped nuts attracted accomplice squirrels and a flock of pigeons and I fell victim to an interspecific gang robbery. This day I learned that no time or pain was wasted on my pre-travel vaccinations.
I’m exposing squirrels for what they really are. Below on the left, we have a “friend”. On the right is the ringleader attached to my tights, staring straight into my eyes, mid loot.
Through all their flaws, I’ll hand it to the pigeons that they’d been a bit more civilised before the attack. Below on the left, I’d coaxed him in with a nut so I could get a selfie and you can tell he knew but he stood there and took it. On the right, he had a prime opportunity to coat my head but again, he was just really grown up about the whole thing.
Anyway, the invasion came to an end when the tour guide came to my rescue and fought off the assailants. We continued our tour through Cape Town and were shown some annoying markets where the stall owners pestered you with the promise of “nice price” for utter rubbish. This is where our tour ended so me and Laurie stopped at a restaurant right next to us and had some food (I had calamari, I’m trying that in every country. It was really good) and cocktails and then made our way back to Company Gardens to feed the animals again but this time with caution. Then we took a bus to a beach somewhere else where we found this man having a really nice time:
Then we went to the hostel bar, made friends with some travellers who wanted to speak to us and went for a night out with them and drank a lot, despite the confirmed wake up time of 7:30 am the next morning for our second tour.
The bars were pretty poor but we had a good night. Here is the bathroom from one of the bars:
I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the night panned out but I recall it being good fun other than the parts where I couldn’t hold a conversation in bars where it was too noisy. I always struggle to focus on the conversation I’m meant to be having and I don’t understand how other people don’t. It was good to have the option to just dance instead though, I remember that too. Bars that may as well have just been called a small club.
We were woken up at 6:30 a.m., an hour early and told the taxi driver had arrived early to take us to our tour bus meeting point and we had to leave immediately. This displeased me beyond belief but I can’t say it displeased me more than Laurie who proceeded to be physically sick from the taxi window during transit. They 100% deserved this for the inconvenience but Laurie insisted on paying the taxi driver as well as cleaning the sick off the door which created further amusement for me. The trip was really picking up. I rarely get real hangovers, what usually seems to happen to me is I feel a bit grotty, spaced out and more clumsy than usual but it improves throughout the day so I was lucky enough to appreciate Laurie’s misfortune.
The taxi dropped us at a genuinely swanky McDonald’s where our tour bus collected us from to begin our second tour of the trip. The rest of the group consisted of four old Indians (a couple and their lady friend), four Germans (three youngish girls and an older lady) and the tour guide, GG which stands for “Gentle Giant”. Into the bus we crawled and departed for our three day adventure with the group and there it was: the time for introductions (I never did learn all their names) and Laurie was once again chundering out the window but this time there was a first impression to be made. I felt it was my duty to help a fellow traveller out so I leaned forward in an attempt to hide the image from anyone’s peripheral gaze and I coughed to muffle the sound. It was a success, no one batted an eyelid and they definitely all had them. We really pulled it off and, credit where credit is due, it got around to our turn in the introductions just seconds after the oral explosion and Laurie stepped right up and introduced herself without a single hiccup.
For the first activity of this tour, we went to Cape Point in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve. This is the tip of Africa’s most south-western point and was a prime photo spot. I bloody hate photo spots, they’re just pretty places over populated with a diverse range of inconsiderate tourists.
I confess, we did get a group photo there and I had a really nice time when it was our turn. After the group photo, we walked up a big hill to see a lighthouse and back down again. That was nice and we saw lots of lizards. Winner.
Next, we we took a boat ride to Duiker Island where a large colony of the Cape fur seal and the bank cormorant (bird) reside. Imagining the life of a seal, specifically their restricted movement makes me feel anxious. I imagine their ease of mobility to be like that of a mermaid in a straight jacket but it does contribute to a hilarious display when they all plop off the rocks and splish splash into the water saying “arf arf arf”.
When we got off the boat, I took a photo of a hobo with a drum (it sounded awful) only to realise later that what I’d actually taken a photo of was a small Asian child gliding majestically through the air:
Most of us were later dropped off at a nice looking hostel with putrid smelling bedding in Stellenbosch. The Indians were dropped at a nice hotel, I guess they paid more for the trip or something.
By the fourth day, I was a stereotypical sunburnt Brit. Crimson blocks decorated a pasty white canvas; a fine abstract clockwork mannequin I was.
First off, we collected a new German girl named Franzi and then visited the township of Kayamundi on the suburb of Stellenbosch. The place fascinated me as much as an ant colony: what most would consider inhabitable living conditions (homes made from bits of tin etc.) inhabited by extremely smiley people, all intrigued by the tourists and greeting us all, wandering around singing and having braais with their friends.
The children loved being in our photos. The one on the left from the picture below cracked me on the head with that white thing in his mouth afterwards and ran off laughing.
My favourite part of the township tour was where two little girls who didn’t seem to speak any English belted out from nowhere, “You Raise Me Up” by Westlife. That filled me with joy but I couldn’t be bothered to get a photo of them.
Next on the schedule we had wine and chocolate pairing followed by wine and cheese pairing. Wine and cheese pairing was euphoria for me. My wine and cheese pairing neighbours didn’t eat the cheese so I got 3 x cheese and just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, we left the establishment to witness one of the cheese manufacturers guarding the dairy realm from his watchtower:
After eating cheese until my face was slightly numb, we headed to some markets in the nearby town of Franschhoek where I made my first biltong purchase since arriving in South Africa and let me tell you, it outdid anything you can get in England by a long shot. I can only describe the below as a packet of rare-medium steak flakes:
Then I made friends with two nice men at a food market stall called Migos Grill. I couldn’t find a cash machine so one of them left the stall to walk me there and told me all about his chef travels and then on our return, they both cooked me up a delicious chicken wrap and helped me locate some South African beer. This isn’t the food I ate but it made for a good photo:
That night, we all stayed in Stellenbosch. The Indians were once again dropped off at a fancy hotel while the rest of us stayed in a cool hostel which had a swimming pool outside but sadly the sun was too strong for me to compete with that day so I sat inside until it set while everyone else sunbathed. Later I had braii number two of my trip which was great and I discovered there was a parrot that repeatedly greeted you with a deafening squark that somewhat resembled “hello”. Many of the hostels in South Africa seemed to have pets which was pretty cool but unfortunately none of them were reptiles.
After the braii, we were taken to watch the sunset at the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. That was fun, we got to watch GG spend hours trying to throw a stone through the window of a boat from afar.
Here he is, he was having a lovely time:
For the record, he succeeded. Twice. It was worth the visit just to hear the delight in his voice when he finally got it in.
Once the sun had set, we went back to the hostel and I grew curious as to what the big deal is with the most North/East/South/Western points of a country. Who cares? In hindsight, the one at Cape Point the day before was ridiculous, “the most south-western” point. Is there a tourist spot in every country for every cardinal point just for the sake of it? I halted that thought, slept and never thought about it again for the rest of the trip.
We had to leave at 4:40 a.m. to take part in caged shark diving. The very thought of this ungodly hour sickened me beyond belief and it turns out I’m an arrogant arse hole when I’m delirious from sleep deprivation. Check out my note from shark diving:
“If I could photograph how great I look in a wetsuit, I would be so happy. All fat is sucked in. My bum looks the best on this boat. Maybe I will ask someone to take a full length photo of me so I can document this and then take one of them for comparison.” What a horrible cow, that’s an appalling attitude. It was a big deal for me to have to present my face in its natural form in public so I was probably just trying to make myself feel better. What really was great though was my weird blonde eyelashes and the little rainbow on the boat. It was just loitering there in the splash back. Check out the eyelashes and rainbow:
The caged shark dive was cool. They put eight of us in a cage and down we went but not all the way. We were bobbing there above the water and then when a shark went past, we dunked ourselves under but the visibility wasn’t great so it wasn’t exactly how I’d envisioned it but it was still cool. I actually got a better view when I was on the boat:
I was on my own for the shark dive. The first four Germans from the group did it too but they all sat upstairs where there were limited spaces. No room for Laura (I was glad of this, I thought all but one of them were rude).
Later on I got my face back, bought a cool, unbranded hat from the men’s section in a Billabong shop to prevent my ridiculous scalp from further incineration and then we went to see some penguins.
The penguins were great and I was intrigued by how ugly they are in real life. They don’t make them look like they have conjunctivitis in cartoons so I learned something new. There were also a lot of cool birds and dassies. Dassies are interesting, they look like guinea pigs but their closest living relatives are elephants and sea cows.
After the penguins, our tour with GG came to an end and me and Laurie were sad. The group had become an odd, diverse and functional little family. We got so many pictures together (not me personally, evidently), laughed a lot and the Indians had taken care of us. They’d fed us home-made Indian treats and fun facts throughout the trip and they’d ushered us to and from the tour bus; it was very sweet and amusing. The Germans were dispensed from the tour bus one by one. Luckily Franzi was last, she was my favourite. Me and Laurie were then dropped off at a hostel in Cape Town and the Indians remained seated, or the Indians were dropped off at a hotel in Cape Town and we remained seated. I forget which. We hugged GG goodbye and made false promises of excellent reviews to follow immediately after. As it happens, I bloody love reviewing so it is genuinely on my to-do list. I’ll get there in my own time. GG was really cool actually, I should give him more appreciation. He was really good fun and he always addressed us with “good morning” at any time of the day when he made announcements on the tour bus (because we were asleep most of the time) and surprised us at random intervals throughout the tour with snacks. He’s ambitious and has great plans which were really refreshing to hear about. I’ll miss GG, he was great.
The hostel we stayed in that night was really lively and funky. Come to think of it, they asked us to leave a review so I need to do that too and I’ll be sure to reflect the bad air con and length of time it took to make me a pizza in their restaurant. It was a damn good pizza but it took over an hour to get to me and Laurie finished hers long before mine arrived even though we ordered together. I think I’ll give them 3 out of 5.
That night, we met a German guy and a Hungarian couple who we spent some of the night drinking with but unfortunately the lack of sleep from my early morning start caught up with me and I was appearing socially awkward/portraying a narcoleptic so I had to admit defeat and go to bed.
This was the start of the third tour, a tour on which I’d remember everyone’s name. This group consisted of; our new tour guide who was called Isaac, myself and Laurie, a French guy called Robin, two German friends called Lisa and Klara, an Argentinian lady called Lou, a Luxembourgian lady called Steph and two more English girls called Charlotte and Camilla. On first impression I actually thought Camilla was Eastern European. If you enjoy anecdotes, I’ve got a good one for you: We got into the tour bus and were informed that Camilla was too hungover to introduce herself so I didn’t hear her speak during introductions. We stopped for a toilet and coffee break later (and a feta and spinach savoury muffin for me – bloody delicious. Also yoghurt coated fruit of some description – average) where I bore witness to the strangest response to a hangover I’ve ever seen. I returned from the toilet to a ghostly Camilla slowly declining to the floor, shaking with her hands in a position that resembled a synth player, mid tune. Myself and a passing cleaner awkwardly watched in shock. I was relying on the cleaner to pipe up but it didn’t happen so instead, I enquired “holy shit, are you actually okay?” to which I obviously received no response. Luckily, Laurie appeared at this moment with the offer of water and, to my relief, it became apparent that Camilla was definitely conscious as she responded with “water would be good” in an Eastern European accent. We got back into the tour bus and drove for a while and then stopped at an aloe factory (there seemed to be a lot of aloe stuff in South Africa) to eat in their cafe and socialise properly with the new group and this is where I came to realise that Camilla was in fact from London and just replicates the audio of an Eastern European when she’s hungover.
Great things came from the aloe factory and they were free samples: free samples of bowel cleansing aloe tea and free samples of regular aloe tea. I decided not to take any risks and opted for the laxative free version which was pleasantly surprising. I also got myself some factor 50 aloe sun cream and some aloe after sun lotion for a reasonable price. Excellent.
Next, we went canoeing on a lagoon at Wilderness National Park which is part of the Garden Route.
I really enjoyed it, it was a cool way to hang out with our new group. It was really relaxing and Laurie and I discussed Disney films which is always fun but the joy was sucked from my very soul afterwards when I saw a photo of my back and realised that travelling was turning me into Dumbo himself. My heart was broken in 12, tossed into the abyss. A week previously, I was toned and my clothes fit and by this point I’d been walking around with fat protruding from the seams of my clothes without even realising it. The rest of the day is a blur, I was in a mood but what I do remember is we stayed in a hostel on Myoli beach (actually, I just looked that up on the itinerary) and had potjie for tea which is a traditional South African meal, similar to a stew but prepared differently (potjie is never stirred during the cooking process). I didn’t rate the food itself that highly but it was cooked in what looked like a witch’s cauldron and I liked that a lot so overall, it got an 8/10.
By the seventh day, I’d accepted my newly expanded figure and wore appropriate clothing. Comfort was essential for today’s schedule which began with a visit to Bloukranz Bridge where some of us did the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee jump at 216m. My fellow jumpers had expressed throughout the trip how nervous they were but I was fearless, the least nervous of all but all confidence was immediately withdrawn with one look over the edge of the bridge.
My brain processed a lot of possibilities in the few seconds between standing at the edge and plummeting. I’d concluded that it would be scary but the adrenaline would overpower the fear within seconds and I’d love it. What actually happened was my breath was plucked from my throat, I literally couldn’t breath and I was petrified throughout. At least when the recoil came, I could take solace in the fact that although I felt like I was gradually slipping out of the harness to my death, for a few moments I got to experience taking the form of a human pendulum. I found that hilarious but the feeling was still tainted by intrusive thoughts of the consequences of slipping out of the harness. There were trees and a river below so it would be more of a gradual, vegetating series of bends and cracks than a clean splat. The actual experience had its benefits and I’d probably do it again but there was no denying that I hated it the most out of everyone who did it. I was almost transparent by the end of it.
Waterfall zip lining at Tsitsikamma was a nice cool down that I knew I could handle. I was the first to have a go on the first of eight zip lines and having literally just been instructed on how and when to break, I unintentionally didn’t break at any point and made my entrance to the other side crashing into the mat at full speed, causing the instructor to plead with me to break next time. I was fine. Zip lining was a lot of fun and to only my delight, the walk between each one involved steep hill climbing. I’d been craving exercise the whole trip, especially since seeing my jellied back. The others were unimpressed with the surprise workout and this created a delightful moment: one of the non-English ladies (I forget which) said “maybe this was in the little letters”, referring to “small print”. I love it when stuff gets mistranslated or literally translated, it’s one of my favourite things about travelling. Once, my grandad was talking to my brother’s Korean mother in law via Google’s translation app and he told her “we’re all crazy in this family” and she responded with “I’m sorry to hear that” and it turned out it’d told her my family are all clinically insane. I will never forget that moment of quality entertainment.
Anyway, I liked zip lining a lot. It was fun and it was pretty.
The brown water is due to tannin content leached from the surrounding vegetation, it was perfectly clean and it even came out the taps in some places.
After our activities, we were dropped off at a hostel right on the beach at Jeffrey’s bay where I had one of the best meals of the whole trip. South African hostels were amazing, loads of them provided proper meals like a mother would make at reasonable prices. I had seasoned chicken stuffed with feta and spinach with mashed potato and butternut squash. It was phenomenal. I went to sleep a happier person that night.
The entire trip was intense. The eighth day gifted us with a 3:00 a.m. start. We drove to Addo Elephant National Park where on arrival, we were presented with a “Dung Beetles Have Right of Way” road sign. That alone made the 3:00 a.m. start worthwhile, that’s hilarious. We went on a 4×4 safari with a ranger which was so cool. We saw lions, buffaloes, warthogs, zebras, tortoises, elephants and some other stuff. Apparently it’s rare to see lions and we actually saw two cuddling cutely until a buffalo wandered over to investigate and then the lions advanced on him and he ran away. He knew not to mess. That was so cool. After the 4×4 safari, we did the safari again in the tour bus so we could spend more time taking photos. The camera on my phone is rubbish but I did the best I could both times:
Afterwards, we returned to the hostel in Jeffrey’s bay. It was a beautiful place but concerning that we’d been advised not to take any valuables outside at all and not to leave the hostel after 6:00 p.m. for safety reasons… with that in mind, we left early to find some tea and I did something that I rarely do; I ordered a vegetarian meal. I got a blue cheese, pear and walnut salad with a wine based sauce and it was one of the nicest salads I’ve ever eaten.
This is where we ate and Camilla made my photo look trendier so I was happy about that too:
After tea and a little wander on the beach, we had a nice game of beer pong and I got monumentally trashed. It was great and I finally got to put my limited German language skills into practice. I worked my charm on a hot German guy by greeting him with “Ich liebe meine Schnecke” which means “I love my snail” and we got chatting and it turns out that I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years. It’s actually pronounced “shnecka” and I’ve been saying “shneck”. I must have looked so silly but now I know for future.
The rest of the night was a blur, I was probably really loud and annoying or something.
Yet again, I’d somehow awoken without a real hangover which was highly convenient as it was the day of our visit to Cango Ostrich Farm, the activity that had sold the entire trip to me. It was a very interesting experience and I loved it so much. I learned that the ostrich is basically a disproportionate species who’s evolution process can only have ceased prematurely. Their brains are smaller than their eyes, they have wings but they can’t fly (although they do have other uses) and you’re not going to believe this: they don’t have teeth so they have to eat stones so that the stones can break up food once it’s in their stomach. Eating plastic or anything like that can kill them but they aren’t aware of this so if it’s in among the stones, they’ll eat it anyway and probably die. It’s no bloody wonder their population is decreasing, they’re ludicrous.
I like ostriches. Here are my favourite photos from the ostrich farm:
After chilling with the ostriches, we went to the restaurant on the farm where I had ostrich salad and it was one of the most delicious meats I’ve ever eaten. It was cooked to perfection, the sauce was amazing and there was even a layer of cheese.
The gift shop was great too but unfortunately I can’t collect things whilst backpacking. The ostrich feather duster has now made its way onto my list of life purchase goals which previously only consisted of a nice letter opener, a magnificent globe and a large, black morion quartz crystal cluster.
After a cracking morning at the ostrich farm, we went to Cango Caves. Spare a thought, I’m determined to take part in every activity I have the opportunity to but there’s no denying that I’m rubbish at all of them. A pattern was truly forming and on this occasion, I persevered with the wrong exertion. I found out a little too late that we were supposed to have specified when we were still in the tour bus if we wanted to do the shorter version of the cave tour (one that didn’t include potential entrapment). I almost stayed in the cafe instead of doing the tour but decided just to do the tour and turn round and come back if I didn’t like it. I went to the toilet to physically and mentally prepare myself. I was not having a nice time. I convinced myself I was just being spoilt because the tour options weren’t initially made clear so I sorted my life out and hurried back with a positive frame of mind. I totally had this. I entered the cave and it truly looked fantastic, it was so cool. One step forward.
Then they turned out the lights to show us how the cave looks naturally (pitch black). Two steps back. I found myself subconsciously practising pranayama, even after the lights were switched back on. I maintained this for the rest of the tour but I told myself that was humidity induced. We went into the next cavern and deceit plagued my mind. I was having a great time, it was so beautiful and I just couldn’t wait to get to the next cavern. Maybe I’d even get through some of the tight gaps you’d have to slide down on your belly to get through. WRONG! I was having the worst time and it was time to accept and turn back but I was fruitlessly determined. We got further into the cave and it was getting smaller, or we were all getting bigger, but that wasn’t the issue. Claustrophobia is far too mainstream for me, Cleithrophobia’s where it’s at. Cleithrophobia is a phobia of entrapment but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a confined space and confined spaces are fine so long as you can exit freely. The possibility of being trapped has always made me uneasy but on this day I learnt I have a genuine phobia (self-diagnosed, obviously. Self-diagnosis is a thing now. I’m not trendy enough for claustrophobia but I certainly want an edge.) As the ceiling got lower, this indicated that we were approaching tight squeezes. I was trailing further and further behind the group (the people from my tour bus were way ahead) until we got to some narrow steps. Some nice German guys suggested I go in front of them so that I wouldn’t be on my own at the back. I started walking up the stairs in front of them, despite my anticipation of what was about to come. I took a few steps up and saw someone in front of me struggle as he climbed through a hole to get to the next step and that was it, I was done. I spun around on my step and walked back down again and said something boring like “I can’t do this”. The nice Germans said some encouraging words like “oh go on, you can do it!”. I must have been more stoical than I’d realised up until that point. My heart palpitations escalated but I managed to consider and empathise with how awkward they were about to feel. I bloody well knew what was coming. I couldn’t translate their conversation but it resulted in one of them standing next to me telling me he would wait with me while his friends summoned the tour guide. I couldn’t see who but I knew I loved Germans and I knew I wanted to tell him how much I loved my snail but by this point I was shrieking like an infant banshee with every inhale so conversation wasn’t really flowing. My hands began to tingle excessively until they were numb and then I found them compressed to the walls of the enemy cave, maintaining my stability. After creating a scene for long enough, the mystery saviour sat me down and talked to me about stuff for ages until we came to the conclusion that the tour guide wasn’t coming back. I then pulled myself together enough to look at him and exchange names. Tobi, lovely Tobi. I don’t think I could have endured this encounter with someone more suitable, he was my favourite person in the whole wide cave. Still under attack, I managed to composed myself enough to walk. I apologised profusely and suggested Tobi rejoined the tour but he walked me all the way out of the cave holding my hand. We waited at the cafe and talked about travelling until the group came back. Absolute hero. He can have a piece of my panic ridden heart. Forget the Shnecke, ich liebe mein Held.
After an eventful day, we were dropped off at a hostel in Oudtshoorn where we had braai number three of the trip, the greatest one of all. This one included ostrich which was cooked beautifully. We drank a lot and Isaac the tour guide brought us marshmallows to toast on the fire outside so we got some biscuits and constructed some variation of s’mores. I’m not a huge fan of s’mores but I do enjoy making them. After that is when the aforementioned series of fictional petrol station tales took place so all in all, the ninth day was one of my favourite of the trip. Even the cave experience was worth it just to have have experiences such kindness in the end. Lovely Tobi…
Once again, I had no right to wake up hangover free but I did and once again, it was highly convenient as our day began with a visit to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge to feed and walk with elephants which I’d been really excited about. When we arrived, it turned out there was also a huge lake full of turtles and fish which was a bonus. The elephant walk was really relaxing. Feeding the elephants and cuddling their trunks was a lot of fun too but my favourite thing about the experience was the bottom of their feet. They were the same colour and texture as the rest of their body and they looked so squishy. I think it would have been worth a few crushed fingers to touch them but unfortunately there were health and safety procedures in place.
They let us rub food on the elephants’ tongues then cuddle their trunks which was great but they discharged rancid smelling brown water all over my dungarees which I normally don’t wash for ages so I had to give it a premature wash which vexed me a little but it was worth it.
I was lucky enough to get to dance with an elephant, as pictured below. I couldn’t believe we remained in sync, it was so surreal.*
Next we went to Cango Wildlife Ranch where we saw loads of animals, including (I like incorrectly pluralising words with “i” so I’m going to give it a shot) flamingi, ring-tailed lemi, cheeti, pigmy hippopotami, liae, a singular white tiger, torti, crocodi, sni and at the end I saw a great big peacock loitering around the gift shop.
I liked seeing the cunning crocodiles the best but they were clearly conspiring against me, look at them. Especially second from the right, someone ought to wipe that smile off his face.
At the end of our guided tour, we were free to roam and had the opportunity to pet some of the animals for an additional fee but I couldn’t be arsed. I hadn’t realised until we got there that diving with crocodiles was an option so I didn’t bring suitable attire which saddened me but I was over heating anyway. The heat also deprived me of a face painting opportunity as I feared the outcome would be some kind of Daliesque, sad looking lion. The place was swarming with children, I’d have haunted their dreams for years to come. I went to the snake house instead while my fellows petted cheetahs.
After Cango Wildlife Ranch, Isaac surprised us with a wine tasting experience to end the tour with. It wasn’t paired with any food but in lieu of that advantage, the wine was all sweet. My favourite. Mostly ports and dessert wines, such deliciousness. I’m all about the savoury food but it’s another story where beverages are concerned so this was a real treat.
I said the last tour group were like a little family but they were distant relatives compared to these lot. We all had an individual cuddle at the end and everything. Here they all are, here’s the evidence that I really did make some friends:
As part of the 10 day trip me and Laurie booked, we had accommodation booked for one more night at our original hostel so we were dropped off there but I’d left my stupid idiot phone in the tour bus, even after scanning the bus twice to see if anything had been left… My phone case is bus seat camouflaged it turns out so I’ll have to be more observant in future. Laurie went in to ask the staff to call Isaac and at this point it turned out that there was a function going on and we’d been relocated and dropped off at the wrong accommodation. After some panic (probably just from me), it all worked out. The hostel owner drove us to the correct location which happened to be a family home (regularly used for the hostel’s “overflow”) meaning we got a real shower, real beds and silence. Isaac turned up shortly after with my phone so everything was great. I booked my accommodation with Laurie for my next two nights in the country and we planned to meet up with a few others from the trip over the next two days.
*Disclaimer: unfortunately I didn’t really dance with an elephant, it was just a well timed photo.
The day began with a trip to Table Mountain with Laurie and Charlotte. Table Mountain is one of the seven natural wonders of the world (not to be confused with the seven actual wonders of the world, they’re not that good). We took a cable car up the mountain (I’d always wanted to go on a cable car) and then planned to do a 45 minute walk on the mountain but we got lost along the way. We bumped into some other lost British tourists, some of the very few Brits I’d seen the entire time I’d been in the country. Look at them all, looking at their maps while I idly stood by documenting the occasion.
They gave up hope and headed back but we ploughed on through until our 45 minute hike became a three hour hike but it was a lot of fun. Laurie flattered me with compliments on how little she’d compared me to a flagpole until I went and did this:
Water was scarce on the mountain and I was foolish enough not to bring any supplies but Charlotte and Laurie shared theirs with me so I felt looked after, a feeling regularly required to reassure me that people care. We made our way back talking of memories passed: previous jobs, people who didn’t deserve tips and such and then I remembered I’d had a baby in my backpack for 11 days. It was time to reintroduce him to the light of day. I sat him on about seven different rocks before I got a photo I was satisfied with.
I bought him from Archie McPhee’s famous toy shop in Seattle, U.S.A when I was in a massive mood. I bought two as gifts for people at work but they hated them so the orphans were re-homed around the office multiple times, mostly between myself and Phil the service desk manager. We hid them in various places around each other’s desks. One day I returned to my desk to find only one of the babies. I was negligent and didn’t bother to put out a missing child report and it wasn’t until the day I left work to go travelling that the missing baby resurfaced. Phil enquired as to where the second baby was and I had to confess. He told me to open my umbrella so I obeyed and out tumbled baby onto the floor. I scooped him up and it was at this moment I vowed to prove myself by taking the nameless infant and showing him the world.
After taking a cable car back down Table Mountain, we took advantage of the Hop-On Hop-Hop City Sightseeing bus tour service which I really liked. South Africa is such a beautiful place that you honestly don’t even need to be doing anything to have a good time, I was more than content just driving around but this had the additional bonus of headphones which filled your ears with facts about the places you were driving past and you could hop off at any of their bus stops to explore the area and then hop onto the next one.
After the bus tour, we met Lisa and Klara for food and cocktails at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. We went to a restaurant called Quay Four where I had my first experience of calamari steak which really wasn’t as exciting as it sounds, it was just a larger piece of calamari that wasn’t battered or in the shape of a ring but it was part of a seafood platter which was overall bloody delicious.
After tea we carried on drinking really good cocktails so it was a perfect end to my night, that was of course until bed time came and some noise polluting drunk in the bunk above me clambered into bed, hurtling with every movement but I quietly accepted what was probably karma and fell asleep eventually.
We got up early and took a ferry to the infamous Robben Island, most well known for the past use of its maximum security prison used to segregate and punish over 3000 (mainly) political prisoners during their fight to end Apartheid. If you’re yawning then screw you. Three of those prisoners went on to become presidents of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and current president, Jacob Zuma. Take that, racism.
Here is Nelson Mandella’s cell:
There were multiple tour busses to take the groups around the island but we drew the short straw and ended up on a French tour bus which was particularly late collecting us and all the information was translated into French before we’d had chance to process it. The entire tour was rushed and we missed the ferry to return us from the island. A smaller boat was sent so we did make it back and I would still recommend the tour as I’m confident that we were just unfortunate in our experience and this isn’t a common occurrence but just be prepared if you do plan to go. The receptionist handled it well so we’ll hand that to them. I enjoyed seeing the island and exploring the prison so it wasn’t a wasted trip, it just could have been quite a lot better but this is information for Trip Advisor so I’ll end my review there.
When we got back, we consoled ourselves with some photography. I imitated a Hulk fan when in actual fact, I’ve never seen or read anything relating to the hulk and have no interest whatsoever but I think I pulled it off.
Then I put myself in the body of a morbidly obese person. I like putting my face in stuff that makes me look like other stuff. It wasn’t the best but it was the only opportunity I had the whole time I was there.
And next from the archive of photos from past failed relationships, here’s one of me in the elbow of seal, also in London a few years back:
Back on topic – afterwards, we went to a market where I found the coolest necklace I’ve ever seen and really wish I’d bought. It was a bloody washing line, look:
We went to the food section where we bumped into Klara and Lisa by complete coincidence so that was nice and I had the mother of all kebabs: ostrich, zebra, warthog and crocodile meat on a skewer. Crocodile was my favourite, it was like a cross between squid and chicken in both taste and texture. Very nice and I felt like the plotting crocodiles from Cango Wildlife Ranch had got their comeuppance, although I never did prove my suspicions. Charlotte had bought some mopane worms so I had a try of those which were surprisingly not that bad, although I could only stomach the little ones.
Later on we met up with Lisa and Klara again and one of Charlotte’s friends called Ellie who she knew from an elephant sanctuary trip she’d been on and we all had tea at a fancy restaurant with this view:
After tea, we said our final goodbyes to Lisa and Klara and the rest of us went for a night out. I had limited funds for drinks but still succeeded in reaching my limit thanks to the generosity of others. It was a top notch night to end my trip with and I went to sleep more than satisfied that my adventure around the world was off to a cracking start and sad that this was my final evening in such an amazing country.
I woke up disoriented, with horrific breath, a full face of makeup, fully clothed and alcohol still lurking in my system. As per daily procedure, my first operation was to establish location of all valuables but to my horror, my purse was absent from it’s assumed position. I deployed and initiated “Mission: Locate the Treasury.” I checked everywhere: the bed, the floor, the bag I took out with me, my suitcase, my backpack… it was in my bloody backpack which was padlocked shut in bed with me and the key was in my bra. The conclusion being that I’m actually pretty smart when I’m drunk. I don’t even take those precautions sober (I do take precautions, just not those ones).
After sorting myself out, I said a sad goodbye to Laurie and jumped in a taxi to the airport for my flight to Thailand. I’d been advised by hostel staff that a taxi would be about 200-250 rand so I kept 290 to one side, thinking that was sensible but I noticed the meter approaching 290 about 10 minutes away from the airport. I asked the driver to drop me off there but he was yet another very nice South African and he took me all the way there for 290. That is a nice taxi driver.
When I got to passport control, I was authentically addressed as “m’lady” again for only the second time during my trip. I’d forgotten all about that affair and I was somewhat disappointed, it had made me feel involved and sophisticated and I’d assumed it would be a regular occurrence throughout the trip. I had a lot of time on my hands so I took a leisurely and distrait walk through the terminal in search of coffee and it was at that point I realised that my current state was apparent to the public. Some airport shop staff asked if I was lost, to which I responded with something along the lines of “no, just hungover and looking for coffee”. The one who would soon befriend me gave me directions to the cafe but I went to toilet first with the assumption that I’d retain the information, however, that was not the case. I walked backwards and forwards until I gave up and took refuge in a lounge area where I was reunited with my friend-to-be. His name is Ethan and he does exist, I have photographic evidence:
I enquired again about the cafe which turned out to be directly in front of where we were when I’d first asked. Fantastic. I got myself a coffee and returned to the seating area with Ethan and that is where our friendship formed, we’ve even validated the friendship by connecting via the popular social media platform Facebook. He went back to work after his break and then along came another airport worker for a conversation about instinct and what we’d consider negative and positive qualities about ourselves. He told me I should experience sexual encounters with various nationalities on my travels and then he left to go for a nap. It was about that time that I blinked and went back to the cafe to get some food before my flight. As I was awaiting my food in the cafe and leaving a negative Trip Advisor review to express a hardship I’d just experienced with the staff, Charlotte appeared and my muesli followed so I got to end my trip with one of my favourite leisure activities: a dinner date. I almost inhaled the food, plate and all in fear of missing my flight but it was still nice. I said goodbye to Charlotte and then I made my way back to the shop where I’d first met Ethan (right next to my gate, conveniently) to say goodbye again. As I walked away toward the queue, he called my name again. I turned back and he asked “…are you flying premium class?”. I was not. “The economy class queue is around that corner”.
And there ended my adventure in South Africa and began my adventure to Thailand.