My days here were numbered but it will always hold a place in my heart
23.07.2009 - 15.08.2009 22 °C
I needed to get from Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town, South Africa, luckily for me someone had sent an email to a hostel I was staying at saying that he had space in a people carrier, on the very day I wanted to leave. On the morning of Friday 24th I met Joerg, he was a tour guide who had to be in Cape Town to take a boat load of German tourists on a tour of Africa. Joerg was German himself and a nice chap! He drove and I made him and his co-driver sausage meat sandwiches from the back, we made a good team! We stopped over the night in Springbock a nice little town just over the boarder in South Africa, it been Friday night they went out for a few beers and I treated myself to a Nando's and early night! That would be until they rocked back up at silly o'clock and hit the hay, I thought a freight train was going through the guest house, they both snored like troopers!
For most of my travel through Africa I lived in a tent, now I must get used to sleeping with others in dormitories and shared rooms. I have been know to give out the odd purr when I sleep, though I think this is mainly confined to when I have had a few beers. Travelling through South Africa I found myself in dorms quite alot and whilst I am aware that many men snore, I experienced this during my traveling though the east coast of Austrailia many years ago. What did surprise me was the number of women that now seem to snore! Though this was not an entirely new concept to me, I once shared a room with my friend Oj (name disguised to hide her identity) on a snowboard trip some years ago which resulted in the purchase of some ear plugs! Though I cannot call it a scientific experiment and I am sure there are scientists spending millions of tax payers money on similar analysis of human sleeping trends, but from what I can see it seems that snoring is almost becoming an epidemic, maybe in 100 years time everybody will be at it?
As we drove further south, magically the outside landscape turned from the desert and bland (but still very beautiful) landscape of Namibia to the lush greens of South Africa. It was Southern Africa's winter, this means cold nights and nice and warm days. Contrary to what you might think an African winter whilst it being cold is also very dry, though not the case in Cape Town. Due to it having its own micro climate the winter has oodles of rain! What would be in store for me?
I arrived in Cape Town on a sunny Saturday afternoon and proceeded to Long Street, which is pretty much where all the action happens. Cape Town has a real nice vibe and feel about it, with Table mountain towering above the city and the ocean at its doorstep. That evening sat in the bar Long Street Backpackers, feeling quite tired, not very sociable and ready for an early night I found myself been 'dragged' out to one of the local hotspots Zula, by a pretty German girl called Hanna (well it would have been rude not to)!! A couple of Jagermeisters later and I was ready for a good night out, in Namibia whilst I had the odd beer I didn't really loose my inhibitions by drinking copious amounts of booze! Zula was a pretty good club and had various MC's and even a body popping dance off, it was really nice to see such a mix of black & white South Africans and also plenty of other nationalities, all having a good time! Its all lakka (lakka is the Afrikaans term used for just about everything that is good)!
The next few days were spent climbing table mountain, seeing penguin colonies, road trip to the peninsula cape point, eating game and generally having a few beers in the hostel or one of Long Streets bars. One of the highlights has to be seeing two southern pale whales surfacing below us as we looked out from Chapman's Peak, my first ever whale sighting!!
One of the main activites I wanted to do in South Africa was go shark cage diving, 6:00am on Wednesday morning I was picked up and taken to Hermanus where we boarded a boat and headed the to famous shark alley to see great whites up and close! Now unfortunately for me I only had a few hours sleep and ended up getting drunk the night before! I got in the water saw two or three sharks and then spent the next couple of hours been violently seasick, you can be rest assured I gave myself a jolly good talking to!! Whilst I didn't get the most out of the shark diving we did get to see three southern pale whales and school of dolphins at probably no more than 10 meters away on the way back home! My second whale sighting! The shark cage diving is firmly on my list as a still need to do!
Whilst in Cape Town I met up with a Belgian guy called Jan, he was a good chap and would be the next piece of the jigsaw in my travels and we would spend almost two weeks together!! Whilst in Cape Town I met a real nice group of people and the hostel was a really sociable place, the sort of place you could get stuck at for weeks if you are not careful, we had a good night out on our last night, nice end to a very pleasant few days in Cape Town.
We set off from Cape Town on a sunny Thursday morning in our rented Tata car and headed to Stelenbosh to do a bit of wine tasting! As regards weather in Cape Town we were very lucky, lovely sunny days, coolish evenings and no rain. In Stelenbosh we visited three vineyards, I am pretty sure I was just topping up the previous nights alcohol consumption! In every vin-yard there were buckets on the side of the tasting counter, I actually saw some people spitting the wine back out, what's that all about? Unbelievable, where I come from that's just a plain simple waste of good grape. Lucky for us our car had been upgraded to an estate, it was now jam packed with vino!!
That evening we got to Mossell Bay, this is a beautiful little seaside town with a nice little surf community. It was very quiet, in fact only 3 people in our hostel, would this be a sign of things to come? After a good nights sleep we hit the road, next destination Knysna!
The drive was beautiful, passing through forested areas, breathtaking views of the southern ocean from winding coastal roads and quaint little seaside towns. In Kynsna we booked into our hostel and went for a drive to the Knysna head and a look round the town.
As we got back two English girls were rocking up in their rented VW Citi (South Africa's cheap and cheerful budget car), these would turn out to be Vikki and Jen, two medic students and would turn out to be a pair of good old easy going English lasses, who we would spend the next few days with! The girls had driven from Cape Town and were looking for a night out on the tiles, Jan and I were already treating ourselves to one of the chardonnays we had purchased a couple of days before and it was a friday night, so it would be rude not to go for a night out with the locals. Had a good night and sampled both the local dodgy night clubs!!
The next morning we packed up and went for breakfast oysters, whilst I have had oysters before and thought they were OK, these oysters were sublime! I could quite easily see myself having oysters for breakfast every morning....
After breakfast we got back on the road and stopped at the local elephant sanctuary, where we fed, got up close and personal with elephants. The elephants were tame and would let you touch them and feed them fruit, they were all rescued orphans. One of the elephants in the sanctuary had just given birth to the sanctuaries third baby, very cute!
That night we ended up in Plattenburg and once again in a hostel with only two other people in and they didn't even come out of their room, things were quiet on the garden route. We made the most of it and cained a couple more bottles of vino, had a brai and even custard for afters. During my Botswana trip the guide had introduced me to Ultramel, ready made custard in a carton. Whilst back at home you wouldn't catch me eating ready made custard and would often refer to it as muck and always opting for the birds make it yourself from scratch option. Though this custard was good, in fact it was very good and you could say that I got addicted to it! It went down a storm with Jan and the girls...
After a quick look round Plat (South African's shorten all their place names) we headed to the Tsitsikamma national park to do a hike. The hike along the shoreline was beautiful, perfect weather and whilst we didn't see any whales a good time was had by all.
That evening we made it to Jefferys Bay, we would spend the next couple of nights here and even go surfing. The hostel had a real nice surfer vibe about it and was pretty busy, in contrast to the rest of the garden route, Jefferys Bay was bustling with travellers. We would spend the evenings cooking on the brai, eating more custard and finishing the last of the vino off.
We then said good bye to the girls, up until this point Jan and I had spent 5 nights sleeping in the same dorm / room and whilst he certainly did have a little purr to him it wasn't anything to write home about. Over the next few days the purr would increase and mutate into a full on snore, maybe the wine had helped me sleep better. So I was officially travelling with a great guy, but he snored! Guess you cannot have everything!
Jan and I would spend most of the day driving to Bloemfontain, one South Africas national capitals. Bloemfontain was mearly a conviant stop off before we entered Lesotho, though we did stay in one of the wierdest hostels I have ever stayed in, it was an old pump house and the dorms were corrugated metal containers, the hostel itself was a scene straight out of Steptoe and Son.
The next morning we got a early start and entered the landlocked country of Lesotho, straight away we knew it was a far cry from South Africa, it was like entering a time warp. I had heard that you could snowboard in Lesoto so we headed for the mountains, we found ourselves at Ski Africa, a ski resort in the middle of Africa, I never thought that 48 hours after surfing in Jefferys Bay I would be riding a snowboard down the side of a mountain riding real snow, what other tricks does Africa have ups its sleeves?
We woke up to find us having to de-ice the car and travelling along windy mud roads to the remote village of Mokhotlong. People in Mokhotlong walked around wearing blankets and also on horse back! Apparently the blankets were not just for keeping them warm, it also showed others of their social status depending on what was on the blanket! Its quite simple really, we tend to use things like cars, big designer names to show where we stand in society, they use blankets!
Were were meant to go over a place called the sarni pass, but after making some enquiries as to how we would handle the terrain in our Tata, we decided against it! Whilst on our way back, all the fuel stations didn't have any fuel because of the snow over the last few days!! We rolled into the South African boarder post on fumes....... I had visions of us getting stranded!
We spent the rest of the afternoon diving towards the Swaziland boarder and stayed the night in a hostel not far from the boarder. Early the next morning we hit the road again for our fly by visit of Swaziland, first impressions were that the infrastructure was far more advanced than Lesotho and that judging by the 1000's of photos of them, they loved their king and queen. The day was spent looking at various craft markets and generally just driving round the beautiful countryside.
We did have plans to see ghost towns and waterfalls, but unfortunately time run out due to a wrong turning and a subsequent slow flat and a blow out!! At the point of the blow out we were in the middle of a mud road and had travelled through some what I would called the real Swaziland villiages. During my time in most of Africa, when you saw children and even some adults they always used to give me a wave and a big smile. I don't know enough about Swazi history to confirm this, but I don't think white people were very welcome in these villages we were passing through. We would pass children and they would have a look of hatred in their faces and I even saw some kids pick up stones and through them towards the car!! At the point of the blow out Jan was driving and it wasn't until I smelt rubber that we stopped..... God knows how long we drove with the wheel totally flat on such poor road, but judging by the state of the wheel it must have been some time, I think Jan should wanted to get the hell out of there! So we changed the wheel, managed to blow the partial flat tire (with the help of a local combi driver) up a little more and slowly made our way to the nearest village!
After checking all the pressures we hit the road crossed the boarder and spent the night in Neilspruit! I don't think I have ever been so happy to see the hovel of hostel that awaited us! It had been a long day!
The next morning we started the drive to Jo'Burg, my time in Africa was neigh. That afternoon we went and sorted out the car, thank god we had full insurance and then checked into an hostel near the airport. That evening we went to see a show, that was after negociating what seemed like one of Jo'Burgs more dodgy areas! The show, Africa Umoja is about evolution of music in Africa. It gave them an excuse to bang drums, dance, sing and generally provide a very good nights entertainment!
Early next morning Jan gave me a lift to the airport, we said good bye, I settled my dues and let him get off to finish the week or so he had left in Africa!
After spending 2 months in Africa I can certainly say that it will always have a very special place in my heart, the places, the animals and also the people all had something very different and refreshing. The places I visited in general, whilst they have been through hard times they are going places and things are changing! Before I got to Africa I had visions of bright red sand, people living in mud huts and quite a bit of poverty. Whilst I did see a lot of this, you just have to look at some of the many townships that still exist and what the people living in the townships call home! Whilst this is the case you also don't have to look very far to see things are changing for the better. Now whenever people mention Africa I get visons of great fried chicken, biltong, chakalaka, piles of pap, women carry babies and items on their backs and heads, the best sunsets I have ever seen, great music, many languages, women wearing wigs, raging fires, lots of snoring and not forgetting ultramel custard, genius!
I was certainly very sad to be leaving Africa, but also looking forward to visiting slightly warmer climates again and seeing my brother as he is coming to visit me in South East Asia.... As I finish this blog I am sat on a deserted island in Cambodia doing some of my recreational diving qualifications, once again I know I am well behind with the blog, but now I have got rid of r kid I might actually get some time to get caught up!
More photos of Cape Town at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=291728&id=650820432&l=2c3c2c653e, Garden route http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=302443&id=650820432&l=c5cf99b1e4 and more of Lesotho & Swaziland at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=308784&id=650820432&l=5e751534c7