Sorry about how lengthy this blog post is…
This past week or so has been one of the most exciting, fun, and adventurous weeks of my life. I am still not sure what the school break in South Africa is called since it is not spring here right now. We are progressing into winter slowly, but no one ever seems to call the season “fall”. Today is about 85 degrees (so winter!), but the other day it was in the 60s (still not winter…but the South Africans dress in serious winter jackets in this weather). The temperature varies pretty intensely. Anyway, I got back this Sunday from a 9-day vacation (but anyone could easily argue that my whole semester has been one long vacation). This past “spring” break has been one adventure after another while staying at the most breathtaking hostels and farms/camping sites. I had internet for about 10 minutes during three times of my spring break… it strangely added to the amazingness of the week. No one was focused on his or her phone or telling their friends/family about everything they have been doing. Instead, everyone was living in the present. Actually, many of us had no choice but to live in the present since we didn’t know the actual itinerary of our trip (just out of pure laziness of not looking it up). We lived day by day in what I now easily call the most beautiful country I have ever seen. Our spring break included some time on the Garden Route and some time near and in Addo National Elephant Park.
We left for spring break two Fridays ago after my LSCE class. After driving about 5 hours, we arrived in a town called Wilderness. Due to my laziness, and not knowing anywhere I was going this whole trip, I thought the person driving was joking with me the whole time when he said, “we are going to the wilderness”. But, we actually were going to the Wilderness, and it was absolutely beautiful. We stayed in a hostel that was right on the ocean. There were giant windows in our rooms so we could easily see the sunrise over the ocean. On Saturday when I woke up, about ten of us decided to go kloofing—a really popular water activity in South Africa. We all put on wet suits and life jackets and got ready to swim for about 4 hours in freezing cold water. For some reason, all the adult life preservers were to big, so I was given a child’s life preserver. It was pretty funny, but looked really ridiculous. We swam down the river, and walked across rocks (that were very slippery…I still have multiple bruises from this activity), and jumped off cliffs. The highest cliff I jumped off was about 8 meters (and it felt very high). That night we had a South African braai at the hostel and then (through the suggestion of the hostels owner) went to a trance party at a nearby hostel for my friend’s birthday. The whole experience was interesting, and was a great place to people watch. Many of the people were on some sort of drug and were dancing to trance music with a bunch of lights. There were also these crazy looking drawings along the walls. The people there were also from a huge age range—I would say anywhere form 18 to 50. After about an hour or so, I had had enough fun people watching, and tried to leave with a few friends but couldn’t because all the cars blocked us in. We ended up having to stay till about 1 am. We did get a pretty ironic hat out of it all though…some guy was trying to promote his business so he gave us all hats that said “KIR” on it (it stood for “Keep it Random”)—pretty much described the whole night. About two days later we were driving and we saw a KIR bumper sticker on a car.
I woke up Sunday for the sunrise (I actually woke up about 5 out of the 9 days of vacation to see the sunrise). Today we went to an ostrich farm and went to the Cango Caves. The ostriches were really strange animals, but were surprisingly somewhat majestic looking. Their eyes were HUGE, and their feet looked like dinosaurs. We got to take pictures with them and do the typical touristy things. While I really enjoyed seeing the ostriches, the whole farm seemed somewhat inhumane…it just seemed that their cages were too tiny. Although I think this is very wrong, I took the chance I had and rode an ostrich (as my friends and I say here: T.I.A—This Is Africa…and when/where else will I have the chance to ride and ostrich). The Ostrich ran really fast and I lasted maybe 4 seconds before I flew off the ostrich and fell on the ground. After the ostriches, we went to Cango Caves…I chose to do the adventure path (which just meant tinier crawling spaces). The caves were really neat and huge inside (I believe they are about 5 km in length).
Afterward, we drove about two hours to our next destination: Antler’s lodge. This hostel/open land was so incredible. We stayed in really nice hut looking houses and right outside our window was a beautiful pond and a pool. We stayed here for three nights and had campfires, and just hung outside all day. On Monday we woke up for BUNGEE JUMPING! The whole week I told myself I wasn’t going to be able to bungee jump, but I woke up on Monday morning with a different mindset. I was determined to jump off that bridge even though I hated the thought of it. The jump itself is 216 meters…making it the highest bungee jump bridge in the world. Once getting to the bungee jump place, we were weighed, put in harnesses, and were pointed in the direction to walk onto the bridge. The scariest part was walking to where we jump off…it was about a 3 minute walk on gate-like material so if you were to look down you could see how high you are up (and it looked SO high). I looked down once, panicked, and from there on did not look down again until I took my first step of the bridge (and of course panicked again in the air but there was nothing I could do at that point). There was loud music playing on the bridge so everyone was pretty excited—the music helped A LOT. I ended up being second last to go (and had to watch about 15 people jump off a bridge before me). Once I was on the edge, the two men holding my harness yelled, “3,2,1, BUNGEE”. If you don’t jump off, they push you a little so you do. I completely froze and my jump turned into more of a walk of the bridge…my screaming turned into laughing when I realized I survived the first fall. All I could hear was my laughter and the wind brushing past my ears…plus I was looking at the most beautiful scene EVER. It was really an incredible feeling and I will admit that I am very proud of myself for doing it. However, since I am not an adrenaline junkie…I will say skydiving was my favorite out of the two.
Here is my Bungee Jump Video: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ3FOIz7SO8&feature=youtu.be
Following bungee jumping, some friends and I went into town and got some lunch and walked around Knysna waterfront. That night we hung out around the campfire and gave everyone spirit animals. I got a sea turtle because evidently I am an awkward turtle (although, I like to take that as my friends indirectly saying I’m really funny). However, the following day we went to monkey land, and my sprit animal was changed to a lemur when everyone realized how big a lemur’s eyes are.
Tuesday was the first day of April…I cannot believe that I have been here for so long! I thought it would have been funny to jump of a bridge on April Fools day, but we missed it by one day! April Fools day isn’t really a thing here though. Today we went to monkeyland, which was SO awesome. The monkeys were so cute and were everywhere. After the lions I saw later on during the trip, the monkeys were my second favorite animal (and right behind that, the zebras). After monkeyland, we went to Tenikwa, an animal awareness center and saw cheetahs, Jaguars, etc. For lunch we went to a wine farm (of course), and then went to Knysna Elephant Park. We got to feed the elephants and take pictures with them up close. The elephants were kind of weird feeling—I didn’t know they had hair all over them. But they were still really awesome and huge looking.
On Wednesday we left the Garden Route for Addo National Elephant Park. After driving for a while we arrived at Avoca River Cabins (half way we stopped at Tsitsikamma National Park to each lunch and walk along long suspension bridges). As the name suggests, we stayed in awesome looking cabin/huts right on a river. Some friends and I swam in the river for a little even though it was pretty cold outside. Afterwards, we all ate dinner and went to bed pretty early. On Thursday we drove to Addo National Park and went on a safari. We saw lions, elephants, zebras, etc. The lions were my favorite because they are so majestic and beautiful (and are my favorite animal!). We also saw multiple elephants block the rode, which was funny. After Addo, we drove to Jeffrey’s Bay—a really famous surf town. Jeffrey’s bay reminded me a little of the California coast—really nice houses and a relaxed atmosphere. We went to the billabong outlet store and since we are officially past our halfway point, everyone is beginning to look for souvenirs.
On Friday we left for Swellendam. Halfway through the drive we stopped at Mossel Bay (Or how they spell/stay it in Africkans, Mossel baai) for lunch and to walk around the beach. After about 6 hours we arrived at our “camping site”. We didn’t sleep in tents, but we slept in little cabins that looked like tents. They had holes all over so bugs could move in and out as they please. Luckily, I didn’t have much trouble with the bugs; instead Kelsey (who I shared the cabin with) and I just dealt with some really loud rodents in or very close to our cabin. It was really pretty creepy and they were really loud at night. There was nothing I could do though, so I just would go back to bed every time the rodents would wake me up. On Saturday, we went white water rafting. Kelsey and I were in a boat together. For the most part the rapids were not too difficult…but by the end my arms were really sore. Afterwards, we got to drive in the back of a truck (which is 100% legal here…everyone does it, even on highways). We stayed in Swellendam for 2 nights, and I think it was my favorite place I stayed. Even though there were rats or something in my cabin, and I had to sleep with three jackets on because it got so cold at nigh, the view was absolutely beautiful. We stayed in the middle of nowhere and there was just farmland and mountains all around us. There was a river as well…it was all so scenic and serene. I felt like it was the perfect way to end my amazing spring break. The peacefulness of the area gave everyone some time to reflect on all the adventures we went on in the past week.
On Sunday we began to drive back to Stellenbosch. We stopped in Cape Agulhas (the southernmost tip of South Africa) where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. From there we drove to Hermanus…a really cute town known for whale spotting’s. We did get to see a whale…pretty neat. Some friends and I are planning on returning to Hermanus for Easter break… I am so excited!
I dreaded coming back to my schoolwork on Sunday, but I was happy to stop living out of a little suitcase. The past week was undoubtedly one of the best weeks of my life. As of Sunday, I have only two months left in South Africa. I am done my classes in about a month, and from there will have a couple weeks to travel. Thinking about all the amazing memories I have made so far is almost overwhelming, but also so incredible.
I have a 1.5-hour presentation on constructivism for LSCE this Friday, and I have a paper on racism due for LSCE next week—probably the most amount of homework I have had since I have arrived. On Thursday is International Food Evening, and for some reason decided to sign up for a table without knowing how to cook. On Sunday, I am hiking Table Mountain with some friends.
Thanks for reading this ridiculously long blog!
Until next time,