Jo'Burg to Hermanus, South Africa
Dec 7, 2008
|Hey everybody. I am hanging out at Banana Beach in South Africa currently. I have had an amazing first week going from a big city to the mountains and now down to the beach.
I flew into Jo'Burg on Friday and Joan from Bob's Bunkhouse came to pick us up at the airport. This great older couple have opened their house to backpackers and that is where I stayed for two nights in Jo'Burg.
The first night Brian and I explored the area around the house. It was quite diverse, but we managed to have some fun shooting pool (the pool balls are a lot smaller and the side pockets are flared out funny) and meeting some asian 'dancers' at a couple of different bars.
The second day we ate lunch at a great Portuguese restaurant. That night we got a cab to a cool lake front commercial development called Randberg. We had a nice dinner and then went to see Body of Lies with DiCapprio and Crowe. It was a good flick and was set in Arab counties, which we had just left just we got a kick out of some of the scenes.
After that we caught the Bazbus (bus system that offers hop on hop off bus rides between Jo'Burg and Cape Town). There are hundreds of towns and ports to stop and spend days in then you just call and schedule your next ride to the next location. Brian and I have a full month to work our way down to Cape Town. I hope to spend at least 10 days in Cape Town.
So our first stop brought us to Drakensberg. A beautiful place set in central S. Africa surrounded by the Drakensburg mountains. The Ampitheatre where we stayed was like a great western ranch set on 1000 acres complete with bar, restaurant, pool, pool table, hot tub, sauna, nice rooms, etc. We had tons of room to roam and the first afternoon we just hung around the pool and got to know some of the other backpackers.
I have gotten hooked up with a great Israeli girl and a couple from Australia that have been awesome to hang with. The first day Brian and I went our seperate ways. I went on an incredible 12 km hike to the peak of the Sentinel and to the 2nd highest waterfall in the world. The pictures and scenes were amazing. The hiking was quite challenging but would prove to be the best of my life.
That night had dinner at the Ampitheatre and watched a beautiful sunset seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
The next day brought on another hike with my new friends plus one more. We had 5 great people to hike and decided on a 14 km hike through the National Park. This ran along the Thumkle Stream and provided some amazing hiking scenery. There were some great waterfalls to take in along the way. This hike was even more adventurous than the previous one. It had ladders to climb that went 100 ft vertical up the side of rocks. Vertical climbs where your foot and hand grabs were on tree branches growing along a rock. To top that off there were packs (hunderds) of baboons jumping all around as you made your ascent.
Drakensberg was tough to leave, but after the exhausting hikes I was ready to chill on the beach for a couple of days. I am at Banana Beach right now and about to take my first surfing lesson.
Have had issues uploading pics with the internet connection so will be adding some great ones from Egypt and S. Africa as soon as possible.
12/7/08: I have finally made it to Cape Town. Brian and I fly out on the 11th so will have a few days to explore. I have so much to update that it is a bit overwhelming but will be giving it a shot soon. I was able to get some photos uploaded from Egypt and the first half of my South African adventures. There will definitely be some more to come. I have been quite adventurous the past few days with the highest bungy jump, safaris, and great white shark cage diving. It has been amazing! Will share some stories soon.
12/9/08: There has been so much going on since I last wrote in Umzumbe or Banana Beach. I really dont know where to start. From Banana Beach I headed South West along the coast about 3 hours to Port St. John. The Jungle Monkey was the backpacker I would stay at for the next couple of days. It has a great party set up in a jungle setting but only a 5 minute walk to the beach. The first night there was a good raggae band playing at the hostel. After the band I decided learning to fire dance would be a good idea. This is where you have a chain in each hand with a ball on the end. Of course trying this for the first time it only makes sense to have them lit on fire and several cocktails in your system. After some basic maneuvers I got confident enough to lose control and hit myself on the leg, cinging the leg hair on my thigh and turning the right side of my shorts black.
The next day went on a lazy river cruise with some people from the backpacker and saw some cool fish eagles in action. After that Brian, Kristen (Charleston, Harvard) and I accompanied Louis to a village in Magwah where he had acquired some land. After stopping from groceries we made a 70 km in the back of a 61 Land Rover truck. The last 20 km were off the paved roads through a maze of crop fields (mostly maze and black tea). Upon arriving at the 500 person village we dropped our food for lunch promising to return in a couple of hours. We went to a 144 meter waterfall, then walked up the river a bit to swim. We then headed back to the village and had a great authentic meal of pop (ground up maze) with potatoes and vegetable stew over it. During lunch some of the local children came and spontaneously broke into song.
Later we went on another hike. Then while Louis prepared dinner we walked around to play some soccer and throw the frisbee with the locals. Upon returning to Louis mud hut, where we would stay the night, the place was filled with 10 children dancing and beating on drums. Wow! I was really impressed by the talent and rhythm these kids have.
After returning back to PSJ from the village we caught the Baz Bus on to Coffee Bay. Coffee Bay is a great town right on the Indian Ocean. We would stay here 4 nights and have a great time. Well I would at least. Brian was a bit sick this whole time, so I was in charge on keeping the party going. Kristen, Steve, Matt and Tarryn were all here as well so that made it more fun. These have been our running mates for the past week or so. I went on a cliff and cave hike one day, where we hiked through caves and then jumped off cliffs into the ocean. Then Tarryn, Steve and I made a 7 hour hike to The Hole in the Wall and back. This may have been the most beautiful hike of the trip so far...definitely the most physically challenging.
From Coffee Bay it was on to Chintsa. We stayed here two nights and I believe this may be my favorite place so far. It was in Chintsa that I saw my first whales of the trip. Upon a morning beach walk I looked out over the ocean to see what I thought was a whale breaching. A few seconds later about 15 other Humpback Whales confirmed what I thought I saw. This place is almost like a Disney movie. It is so beautiful and then you see monkeys everywhere, dolphins, whales, and the list goes on. There were some great nights of partying here as well. We still had our core group of friends here and managed to add a few.
In Chintsa I realized I needed to get down to business on checking off the to do list as our days in SA started to dwindle down. After a stop over in Port Elizabeth for the night it was on to Storms River. Before I even knew what was going on I found myself getting harnessed for the highest bungy jump in the world. A suspension bridge carried cars over a 700 + ft gorge. Having tapped the bottle of rum a couple of times on the drive over I surprisingly wasnt too scared. I think more adrenaline than rum helped me get over the edge and pludge towards the Earth from 709 feet. The experience was simply amazing. I have always dreamed of being able to fly and for about 6 seconds I got to see what that really felt like. Looking back thinking about the jump I get a little freaked out but have no doubt that I would do it again given the opportunity.
From Chintsa it was on to the Garden Route Game Lodge. This was a very posh game reserve. Arriving that afternoon Brian and I checked into our plush private chalet. We then got ready for a sunset drive through the game reserve. 9 of us loaded into the Defender 110 and over the next two hours saw elephants, buffalo, lions, wildebeasts. impala, giraffes and on and on. The highlight came when we came a female wildebeast giving birth. That night we had a great dinner then passed out early. The next morning we were set for a 7 am game drive. We saw a mix of the same animals only they were more active today. The highlight this time was when a lioness gave us a mock charge, even scaring our guide a bit.
That afternoon we went into a cheetah park on the reserve and got to get up close an personal with the fastest land mammal.
We caught the bazbus later that day for Hermanus. That night in Hermanus we went to a great sushi restaurant then over to the Gecko Bar. There was a huge 20 something crowd there for 3 great Cape Town bands. The music really was good and we partied with a bachelorette party til about 2 am.
At 6 am the next morning we were up quite groggy for our 6:30 am departure to Gaansbai for great white shark cage diving. It was about a 45 minute drive. The group we went out with has been featured in several discovery and animal planet shows. After a brief summary we were on the boat heading 15 minutes off the dock. Yes 15 minutes off shore to get in the cage to see great whites. Within 5 minutes of docking we the chumming began to work and we had 3 great whites circling our boats. Waiting my turn I hopped into the cage and got the show of a life time. The sharks had been quite docile until they spotted me in the cage. The bait was thrown out and seemingly out of nowhere a 14 + ft great white slammed jaws first into the cage. We locked eyes for what seemed like a full minute (although maybe 5 seconds). I was literally within 6 inches of this beast. As it rolled off the cage to the right its tail fin slapped the cage to ensure it had given me my moneys worth. After letting everyone go again I was back in the cage for another show than rivaled the first. This was such a great experience. I have even more respect for these animals than I did before.