South Africa

Alas, our time in beautiful South Africa was too short, but we managed to squeeze in a lot of activities in a short amount of time. After entering from Namibia, our first stop was a picturesque vineyard in Trawal wine country. Then it was onward to the southernmost point of Africa at Cape Agulhas, followed by our adrenaline junkies bungy jumping off the highest bridge in the world at Bloukrans. Next, it was time to ride the ostriches in Oudtshoorn, as well as squeeze ourselves through some very tight crevices at Cango Caves (an unexpected highlight), and finally the destination we had all been looking forward to…several days on our own to explore the lovely, cosmopolitan city of breathtakingly beautiful Cape Town which has a little bit of something for everybody. We opted for a day trip to windy Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, and culminated our visit in scenic Stellenbosch, which is famous wine country for good reason. Armed with cases of South African wine, we hightailed it back to Namibia, and have vowed to return to experience more of what South Africa has to offer.

9 Apr: The South African border crossing was a breeze, and just over the border, we picked up a friendly hitchhiker (and friend of Ben’s) named Sas who had a kite board to deliver to a friend. He ended up chatting it up with Robby, who learned that he is a fire dancer who is planning on a five year round the world trip. He gave us some helpful tips for Cape Town and was good company in the back of the truck. We stopped in the town of Springbok for cook group shopping and lunch. The town of Springbok was interesting, with the cars’ license plates decorated with an image of a springbok. For lunch, we split costs with Luke and Dowelly and got smoked turkey/gouda cheese sandwiches, grapes, chips and chocolate for the bargain price of 18 Rand each. Sas got off the truck in a town called Trawal, and we pulled up for our campsite in one of Trawal’s vineyards named “Highlanders”. After hastily setting up our tents, we cooled off by dipping our feet in the swimming pool overlooking the vineyard. What a scenic spot! A group of us decided on partaking in a wine tour, which cost 60 Rand each for a tasting of 6 different types of wine (chenin blanc, blanc de blanc, pinotage, shiraz, sweet rose, michelle…a sparkling rose, and African ruby vermouth) and cheese. It was good fun, and we all enjoyed ourselves. The host was a friendly guy named Sparky (red head, go figure) who gave us a brief history of the vineyard and the wines and set us loose to enjoy ourselves. The boys (Hoff, Dowelly and Robby) made a spicy jambalaya (nicknamed “vino, wieno, beano rice” and it was a great meal for the tipsy wine tour folks who chowed down with gusto. The merry makers continued the party after dinner, heading back up to the bar for after dinner drinks. Tent Wars part III broke out yet again when Katherine and Kendra’s tent was moved (with Katherine inside!) Good times.

10 Apr: Our first morning packing for the new truck and it didn’t take too long to organize ourselves, even with Robby on cook group. We even had time for morning showers! Our 8 am departure was smooth, for a long drive day to the continent’s southernmost point, Cape Agulhas. Everyone swapped seats in a game of musical chairs, attempting to get more comfortable than yesterday’s sweltering ride. It was a picturesque drive, with lots of looming mountain ranges and wine valleys everywhere. The boys discovered that their cucumber and tomatoes had frozen in the coolers (they work a bit too well) so they recommended that everyone buy an alternate meal for lunch. We debated whether to get a chicken/mushroom pot pie or some burgers from the restaurant chain Steers, and the burgers won out but they were absolutely horrible, making us vow that it would be the last time we ever ate from that chain. After lunch, it was a further several hours drive until we neared the pretty sea port town of Cape Agulhas where we had a bit of free time to explore the 1849 lighthouse and walk down to the plaque commemorating Africa’s southernmost point and the straddling of the Indian and Atlantic oceans. We took a bunch of goofy photos before loading back up on the truck for a super short drive to our campsite (within spitting distance of the lighthouse). Sean, Marie, Norma and Katherine roasted up some sausages and onions for dinner, and we were amazed that the temperature had plummeted so rapidly after the sun set. A group of folks hit the nearby bar but we opted to drink some of the wine that we bought from yesterday’s vineyard and relaxed in our tent to get a good night’s sleep.

11 Apr: After a simple breakfast of toast and tea, we were on the road by 8 am. Hoff, Marie and Lars recounted their insane night at the bar last night, with the bartender giving them lots of free shots and beer after they befriended him. Apparently, after the bartender kicked his wife home for the night, he locked the bar door for a private drinking session, allowing them to go behind the bar to pour their own beer and have their own choice of any shots they wanted for free! What a night. Becky’s cook group had to go cook group shopping in the town of Bredarsdorp where they were able to get 72 eggs, 1 KG of bacon, beans, and fruit within the cook group budget. Robby, Dowelly and Luke stocked up on some alcohol before we piled back onto the truck for our drive onward to Bloukrans for the world’s highest bungee jump. Lunch consisted of tuna sandwiches, and we arrived to Bloukrans around 4 pm, just in time for our group (Dowelly, Luke, Robby, Sean, Kendra, Marie, Matt, Hoff) to get weighed in, sign their release forms, and get their harnesses strapped on. They had about 30 minutes to watch from the Cliffhanger Bar while other groups jumped off from the bridge before their group was called to walk across the bridge. Later we heard that the walk to the jump off point was scarier than the jump itself! While our group was flinging themselves off the bridge, everyone else was at the bar watching their expressions on the big screen. It was quite a professional operation with everyone jumping off in 30 minutes. The group was on a high when they returned, purchasing DVDs, photos and t-shirts of their exploits. From Bloukrans, we drove about twenty minutes away to Tsitsikamma’s Storms River Village where we pulled into the Tube ‘n Ax campsite. Becky’s cook group immediately set to work building a fire, cooking up eggs and bacon and toasting bread for a dinner that was well received. Since there were some power points, we decided to hang out by them recharging our gear and chatting with Ben.

12 Apr: Woke up early for a nature walk around Tsitsikamma. Ate breakfast in the kitchen (free tea and coffee) plus an Oasis provided breakfast (toast and peanut butter). Asked at the bar for trail maps for a walk in the forest, headed out for our hike at 8:30 am. Sean, Sara, Pam and Bree were the only 4 who signed up for the ziplines, while Lars, Luke and Dowelly did a bit of mountain biking. Our first hike was the Goesa Trail which boasted a highlight of fern trees. Tim and Norma lagged a few minutes behind us and we found that there was a self-registration form that we had to fill out before entering the trail (to be presented upon demand by the park rangers). We had to tackle hundreds of spider webs which resulted in us grabbing walking sticks to beat them out of our path…it was horrible! We ended up going off the trail inadvertently so we had to back track to get back on the path and were rewarded with a spectacular view of fern trees. Our second hike was a combination of the red and green trails and we headed back to the campsite for a quick shower before our lunch of salad sandwiches. While everyone was waiting for Norma and Tim to return, we downloaded our photos and backed them up on the hard drive. Nancy prepared a lunch for both Tim and Norma, which they ate on the bus as we drove to Knysna. Once in this scenic town, we were given several hours to explore on our own, with the option of hiking to the campsite (Woodbourne) or hop back on the bus for a ride at 5 pm. We were lured in by cheap movie prices (15 Rand for “The King’s Speech”) but eventually agreed to do a bit of sightseeing instead. First stop was the helpful tourist information booth which gave us handy maps of the area. We headed for the waterfront, where we found a store selling polarized sunglasses for 75 Rand each. Pam, Norma and Tim were by the waterfront’s Harbor Town so we said hello and drank our alcohol before buying a tasty ice-cream to snack on. Oysters were next on our agenda, and a colorful Oyster shack with a massive Tabasco bottle on the roof lured us in. Bree and Luke shared a massive 12 oyster dish with us which was lovely, downed with bottles of beer. The bill came out to 153 Rand which was decent value. An overpriced camera store scared us off and we wandered into a used book store where we finally were able to find “The Poisonwood Bible” and get another Jack Reacher novel for more reading material. At 5 pm, we promptly pulled out of the parking lot and quickly surmised that we were lucky to have caught a ride as the walk would have been really long (the map is not to scale!). After several kilometers, we finally pulled into the Woodbourne campsite which was neat, clean and well organized. After setting up our tents and getting hooked up to power, we did a bit of work on the laptops and Robby helped Nancy prepare dinner of stuffed peppers as Ruth and Matt were still in town. Our dinner discussion included bizarre British festivals like the crazy cheese rolling festival which involved an 7 lb wheel of cheese that was rolled down a steep hill with contestants chasing it down the hill. Every year someone breaks bones, twists ankles or careens out of control down the hill and ambulances to carry away the wounded is mandatory. Dinner was awesome…great meal from Nancy with the best rice of the trip cooked up tonight.

13 Apr: After breakfast we headed for the town of Oudtshoorn to visit an ostrich farm. Our brief tour included a lecture on the uses of ostrich feathers, a visit to the incubators, a volunteer who got to “kiss” an ostrich, and several lucky riders (Marie, Matt, Ruth, Sara, Dowelly) got to ride an ostrich around a rodeo like pen with assistants running behind to prevent them from getting kicked off. We learned that one ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs, and each egg can support up to 200 KG of weight! After the tour, we had a short drive over to Cango Caves, where we decided to join the intrepid group of adventurers (Matt, Luke, Lucky and Bree) for the longer cave exploration where we’d have to scramble through tight crawl spaces…not for those who suffer from claustrophobia! We thought the cave tour was amazing, with the highlight being the chimney and postbox, where we had to really wedge ourselves through to get to the other side of the trail. Our guide told us of a previous incident several years earlier where a rather large lady was told she was too big for the tour. Her husband complained on the grounds of discrimination and she insisted she had the right to go through the cave system. Lo and behold, she got stuck for 10 hours, trapping the rest of her group in the cave while a group of rescuers pushed and pulled and lubricated her body up to get her unstuck from the cave (the rescue bill was a whopping 50,000 Rand). Luckily, no one in our group was too large for the tight spaces! From the caves, we drove towards the campsite Kleinplaas which had a nice swimming pool. A group of partiers headed into town to drink while Becky opted to cash in her free massage coupon courtesy of the secret santa present, which Lucky honored. Nancy and Chris did a tasty chicken and beef kebab BBQ and our last dinner together was fantastic. After dinner, Chris played the trip DVD which was amazing, super funny and with lots of highlight memories! Everyone laughed out loud and loved it…great stuff. Robby joined a group heading back out into town, where they flagged down random strangers to hitch a ride into town (9 people in a volkswagon golf).

14 Apr: We are heading to Cape Town today, finally!!! Everyone was up early and ready to go at 9 am, but we took a detour to last night’s bar in search of Hoff’s camera (he had lost it yet again). Apparently, several people were in on the joke as Chris found the camera in the bar last night, placed it on Hoff and Ruth’s tent, and Ruthie saw the camera lying there this morning. Upset that Hoff had misplaced his camera yet again, she decided to teach him a lesson by hiding it (and giving it to Ben to hold for safekeeping). Poor Hoff had no idea his camera had been recovered, so he went knocking on the now-empty bar’s doors and was contemplating how to hop over the walls, stopping security guards to inquire how to gain entrance when the gig was finally up. Happy with relief but pissed off at Ruthie’s lesson, he stormed back on the bus and we were on our way again. We had a brief stop on Rt 62 in the town of Karoo, where the famous Ronnie’s sex shop is located. We weren’t interested in visiting a sex shop (how random!) but it ended up being a really cool bar, complete with lots of ladies donated underwear strewn throughout the bar area. Lunch was in Westboro where we finally happened upon the first McDonald’s since Agadir, Morocco. Everyone rejoiced and queued for a lunch of big macs and milkshakes, but a corner Chinese restaurant had caught our eye, as well as a fish and chips joint so we broke from the crowd and enjoyed our meal. From Westboro, we had another 90 minute drive to Cape Town where Ben let the folks off at Ashanti first, and then drove Tim, Norma and Pam to Zebra Crossing before finally giving us a ride to David’s B&B just off of Main Street (12 Croxteth Road). After checking in, we walked two blocks to Eaton Square (corner of Wigtown and Main) where our comfortable apartment awaited us. While everyone else took showers for tonight’s farewell dinner, we took off to a nearby store to pick up breakfast supplies and scope out the laundry situation. After getting ready for dinner, we headed out to the waterfront (a mere 20 minute walk from our apartment) in search of Cantina Tequila. Much to our dismay, we found out that the restaurant had closed down three years earlier so we were at a lost as to what was happening for our group dinner. The rest of the group was lingering nearby and we all headed to Ferryman’s, which was a restaurant with a nice ambiance that had reasonably priced meals. Too bad the drinks at the bar were a bit pricey so we limited ourselves to one drink a piece. Robby gorged himself on 1.2 KG of ribs while Becky had the seafood platter and it was awesome to talk to Frans and Mike again. Mike even lugged out his 10 lbs Automotive Mechanics book for everyone to sign their farewells in, too funny! Mike and Frans had befriended a Swiss girl named Nadine and we spent some time chatting to her about her Spanish studies in Ecuador. After dinner, we joined a group headed for the Neighborhood Bar on Long Street for some after dinner drinks. Thankfully the drinks here were cheaper than by the waterfront and we hung out chatting with everyone until well past midnight. When the hard core partiers decided to go clubbing, we called it a night and caught a taxi home.

15 Apr: Got a tour at 9 am for Robben Island. Took advantage of a laundry service and combined all of our dirty laundry for a wash, which weighed a total of 8 KG for 117 Rand. Took photos of the waterfront before going to the Gateway to Robben Island. The staff seemed a bit unorganized and it was well after 9:30 am before they even started screening passengers for embarkation. For some reason, the machine to scan in the electronic tickets was down, and it kept giving everyone an “invalid ticket” response, but the staff let us on anyway as it was a computer malfunction. The boat was already filled to capacity and they weren’t allowing anyone to board the upper decks for photo opportunities. Since Dowelly was a bit hungover, he appreciated the opportunity to lie down and rest a bit. Poor Bree was feeling a bit seasick and we had a rough boat ride out to the island. Once on the island, a pee stop put us at the end of a long line onto the buses for our tour of the island and we managed to squeeze onto the last 3 seats of a bus, and Bree, Lucky and Dowelly were given a bus of their own! We were quite jealous but thankfully, there was a photo stop where we were able to get off and swap buses for the less full one which allowed us to take better photos and have a bit more breathing space. The highlight of our tour was the guide of the prison by an ex-inmate who gave us a first hand account of what he went through whilst imprisoned on Robben Island. The entire tour of Robben Island took us a lot longer than we had anticipated, and it was well after 2 pm by the time we were dropped off back at the waterfront. From there, we took a minivan taxi for 120 Rand up to the Table Mountain cable car, and than faced sticker shock when charged an additional 180 Rand for a return trip for the cable car ride. The views were phenomenal and it didn’t matter where on the cable car we stood as it spun around in 360 degrees, offering everyone a glimpse of the waterfront and mountain top. It was super windy at the top and we had been warned beforehand that if the alarm sounded, we had to return back to the cable car asap or else have to walk back down (no refunds given). After a quick 90 minute walk around the top, we barely heard the last echoes of the alarm sound before we hustled back to the cable car for our downhill ride. Not a moment too soon as we noticed that the infamous table cloth was already sweeping down the face of the mountain, looking quite picturesque but it must have been a nightmare for the folks caught atop the top of the mountain. The taxi drivers were overcharging for a ride back down to Long Street, so we opted to walk down and it only took us about 30 minutes to reach Checkers where we bought nacho ingredients for dinner and looked in vain for a blender for Sunday night’s party. Meanwhile, Lucky and Robby went in search of a travel agent to book our Cape of Good Hope day trip from Cape Town and they returned with tickets in hand for all 5 of us for a price of 545 Rand each. Unfortunately, due to the inclement weather, we were unable to partake in the phenomenal great white shark dive, which cost only 995 Rand including transport! Next time we are in Cape Town, we will absolutely take advantage of that offer. Since we only had two apartment keys, we split into two groups with Luke, Bree, and Robby heading back to the apartment with groceries while Becky, Dowelly and Lucky went in search of a blender to no avail. Back at the apartment, we had a delicious dinner of nachos and completely pigged out on guacamole, sour cream, cheese and salsa…yum. We had to do a bit of interneting so we headed over to David’s to check email before crashing for the night.

16 Apr: We got up for breakfast before our 9 am Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point Tour and were picked up by Alexi from Far Out Adventures. Alexi was a fantastic guide, full of enthusiasm, excitement and zeal as he shared his love of Cape Town with us in a furious slew of insightful tidbits as we drove along the coast towards Hout Bay where we had 45 minutes free time to either take the boat ride to Druiker Island to see the seals or else wander around looking at the various souvenirs for sale. We checked out a local guy feeding hungry seals fish while dangling the morsels from his mouth and strolled around, but due to the extremely high winds, sand was blowing everywhere making it a bit unpleasant for our camera gear. After everyone returned back at the meeting point, we loaded into our van for a ride on Chapman’s Peak, which is a stunning road hugging the cliff while offering stunning views of the scenery around. We drove onward to Simon’s Town where a colony of jackass penguins settled at Boulder Beach. They were quite cute with their braying (exactly like a jack ass hence their name) and nesting with their new born chicks. We loaded back onto the van for a drive to Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, with a buffet lunch at Buffelsfontein Vistor’s center. Alexi was quite funny and kept chatting with us and getting to know everyone. We were amazed that he had already memorized our names even for a short 1 day tour. We posed at a sign at Cape of Good Hope and were almost blown away. Thankfully Alexi had forewarned us so we walked around “cowboy” style and even then, could barely keep ourselves standing upright. From Cape of Good Hope, there was a short hike to a lookout point, and we stopped to look at the adorable “Dassies” which are related to the elephant of all creatures, even though they more closely resemble a fluffy rabbit. From the lookout point of Good Hope, we had the option of backtracking to the van for a ride over to Cape Point, or hike the path over towards the lighthouse. We opted for the hiking option, despite the tremendously windy conditions. The views were spectacular although we had to struggle to stay on the path at times. At the base of Cape Point, we were accosted by a bunch of hungry baboons looking for a food handout. Since we had been forewarned by Alexi, we didn’t bring any snacks with us but saw two boys with sandwiches in hand being chased by the aggressive animals. The lighthouse at the top of Cape Point offered great views, but the dangerously windy conditions made it difficult to ascend and descend safely. We literally felt like the wind would either blow us off to our deaths or else cause us to misstep and hurt ourselves severely. Luke managed to chat up two girls enroute to the lighthouse and by the time they descended, he had already taken photos with them and gotten a phone number for a date later on tonight. Some of the more adventurous boys opted for the 10 KM bike ride but we skipped out due to the high wind velocities they would have to contend with (last week a girl was blown off her bike and broke her arm). Alexi chatted us up on the ride back home and at our request, dropped us off at Seapoint where we were in search of Checkers for a blender. Alexi was under the impression that Shoprite used to be Checkers but we found out that it was a further 5 minute walk away where, success, we finally found a blender for tomorrow night’s party. On the walk back home, we (Dowelly, Luke, Bree and us) stopped by Mama’s Kitchen for a delicious Chinese meal, with a cheap set menu for our meal. After stuffing ourselves silly, we strolled back to the apartment and Luke, Lucky and Dowelly hit the bars of Cape Town on Long street for a late night out.

17 Apr: Today was a free day around Cape Town, yeah! We decided to hit the Victoria’s Wharf at the waterfront as they had advertised free internet, but it was not to be as the free wifi service was down. Instead, we overpaid for internet at 50 Rand/hour which was surprisingly slow, and then bought some lunch goodies at Pick n’ Pay for a picnic by the waterfront, getting accosted by hungry sea gulls in the process. After lunch, we hit the cinemas and caught the movie “The Eagle” which was entertaining. After the movie, we hit a bookstore to stock up on some reading material and headed back to the Pick n’ Pay for more party supplies for our night of cocktails. With the first round of guests arriving at 6 pm, we hurriedly ate an early dinner (leftover BBQ chicken) and greeted Mike and Frans when they arrived promptly with gifts of wine, a breathalyzer, and a cocktail book in hand…it was great seeing them and chatting them up before the rest of the rowdy partiers arrived. The rest of the gang arrived around 8 pm bringing lots of cocktail and shot ingredients. Robby made his classic passionfruit mojitos with mint leaves which went over well. Kendra brought her purple/green shot ingredients along with shot glasses. The night got progressively crazier and crazier with everyone drinking an insane amount of shots and drinks. It was a great last night party with the original Trans Africa gang (everyone made it but Tim, Norma, Pam, Sean, Sara, and Nancy and Chris), and everyone had a blast. The night resulted in two hookups (Lucky/Tarryn and Bree/Neil), lots of bed jumping, Becky trying to play hide and seek under her bed, and dozens of funny photos. Great night!

18 Apr: Thank God for Dowelly who had the foresight to purchase breakfast ingredients for the morning after hangover cure. He whipped up eggs, bacon, beans, sausages and toast…awesome! It was a slow moving day as we all were feeling the after effects from last night’s partying, but we managed to get some business accomplished when we headed over to David’s for a bit of internet/print/scan action. After returning back to the apartment, we helped Bree carry her gear over to her new hostel as she was leaving for Stellenbosch later this afternoon and leaving her heavy gear in storage at the hostel. The rest of our day was spent exploring Long Street, with its fascinating collection of quirky bars, hotels, shops and sights. Becky had read a positive review of “Blue Valentine” so we decided on another cinema experience today at the Labia Theater where tickets were reasonably priced at 30 Rand a piece. A late lunch was had a St Elmos which prepared delicious pizzas for a reasonable price. After the movie, the sun was setting and the bums of Cape Town came on with full force, begging, wheedling and threatening us for money. It got to be a bit annoying and Becky finally had to get really vocal with one persisted bum whom she mistakenly thought to have said that he had a knife! Arriving back to the apartment unscathed, we packed up in preparation for the second leg of our Trans Africa trip, the 17 week trip from Cape Town to Cairo. After a dinner of hamburgers, we did a quick P90X cardio workout before calling it a night.

19 Apr: It was an early morning as we had to be at the Ashanti by 7:30 am for departure. Robby made omelets with salsa/guacamole and toast for breakfast, and we lugged our backpacks and remaining alcohol from the party down the street where we managed to hail a ricky for a ride to Long Street. Since he was confused as to where we wanted to be let off at, he dropped all his other passengers off first and than chauffeured us directly to the Ashanti, charging us only 10 Rand a piece….bargain. It was a sad goodbye and we hugged Mike, Frans, Ruth and Hoff goodbye. It was a short drive to Stellenbosch’s Stumble Inn, where we were reunited with Bree and Neil. Becky was still feeling the aftereffects from the previous night’s party, so she skipped out on the wine tour but Robby paid 350 Rand and visited the following four vineyards: Simonsig, Fairview, Duwey Donne, Solmsdelta. He had a good time but was a bit disappointed to find out that the individual wineries could be visited at 25 Rand a piece for a wine tasting, so the tour was vastly overpriced. Becky meanwhile enjoyed herself in pretty Stellenbosch, strolling around the picturesque town with a tourist map in hand and ticking off the main highlights. When the wine group returned at 5 pm, we headed off for dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant before linking back up with the rest of the group at Dros, where we had a few drinks and enjoyed meeting the new people on our Trans trip. It was a late night as we didn’t reach the Stumble Inn until about midnight.

20 Apr: We took early morning showers and had a healthy breakfast before our 7 am departure. It was a full drive day with a truck lunch (yummy salad sandwiches!) and fuel stops on our zooming ride back up to the South Africa/Namibia border. Robby was able to stop at the VAT office to get a refund for his camera purchase in Cape Town and several other members of our group also took advantage of the 14% cash back offered at the border.

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