THE AFRICA DIARIES: SOUTH AFRICA PART ONE
As we crossed the border, my nerves quickly got the best of me.
Lock the doors.
Make sure the bags aren't visible.
Don't even look at people.
From what we had read and been told, South Africa was dangerous, the most dangerous place we would visit on our African overland adventure.
But, over the course of the seven hours we drove through the South African countryside, our fear dissipated and was replaced with an appreciation for the beautiful views surrounding us.
From weird, natural rock piles that form mountains, to sweeping meadows and farmland, our scenic drive ended in the winelands of Stellenbosch.
There, it was hard to maintain the fear that we were told to have.
A university town situated between mountains and vineyards was the perfect start to ease us into our South African adventure.
Have we mentioned that we like wine?
Because the first thing we did in Stellenbosch was visit the Information Center and start looking at wine tours that would allow us to try some of the worlds best from Africa.
We were only going to do the day tour, but then the staff informed us we could do a two day tour and get a better sampling of wine, since the one day tour only took you on one route offered. It did not take much convincing, surprisingly.
If we could remember it, we would tell you more about our wine tastings.
Unfortunately, after a few glasses they all start to get a bit muddled for us.
We do remember our meal though, at Warwick Estate we were treated to a picnic on the grounds that had enough food for four, but we made it work for two.
Even after over 20 wine tastings on our first day, the next morning we were still ready for more wine. At 9:00 A.M.
Maybe we weren't as prepared for the brandy tasting thrown into the mix.
After a tour of the brandy cellars, we were offered 12, 15, and 20 year old brandy. To be honest the quality got better, but maybe hard liquor wasn't the right choice for 10:30 in the morning.
Although an issue for our livers, our increasingly drunken state (no thanks to the brandy) did lead us to meeting some great friends, Paul and Kristina.
In fact, the entire group decided what we needed after our wine tastings was more alcohol.
Seven of us made our way to Oppie Dorp, and ordered starters and a game platter that included crocodile, duck, kudu, springbok, oryx, warthog, and ostrich. It was a ridiculous amount of meat. But the seven of us devoured it in a haze.
But no, we weren't done yet.
Six of us were still standing, though maybe a bit wobbly at this point, and we moved on to a packed bar with live music. Only a couple of us have memories after that. I'm sorry to say, I'm not one of them.
In the morning we checked up on my laptop as we had dropped it off days prior to see if the hard drive could be salvaged.
Considering we were wanting to leave the same day, the only thing worse than the hangover was waiting until 5:00 P.M. for it to finish when it was supposed to be completed that morning.
We made the best of it by loitering around their shop watching YouTube videos and making other customers uncomfortable.
The only thing worse than that?
Walking out to our car and finding another goddamn popped tire.
At this point Lucas was too enraged to even think. It had sat in public parking the whole day, with unpaid "parking attendants" watching it. In our eyes, this was intentional.
When said parking attendant follows you to your car pointing out a flat tire before even reaching the vehicle, then tries to extort you for money to help fix it, it feels somewhat sketchy.
So instead of leaving that morning, we would be stuck in Stellenbosch the next morning too, as Europcar doesn't allow you to get spares fixed. You have to trade in the whole damn vehicle.
And again, we found ourselves with a Toyota Corolla, downgraded for our troubles.
This was a relief in the sense that we figured nobody would want to carjack or steal the car over the SUV. Silver linings!
At least in South Africa, when we drove to Cape Agulhas that day, we were never worried about another popped tire. Thank god for continuous pavement.
What is there to say about the Southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas? It divides the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. It isn't somewhere you'd swim. It has a pretty lighthouse with a historical museum.
Mostly, you go to say you've been.
We did get beautiful ocean views from a quaint little ocean side town, but since we wanted a livelier city to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in, we departed and made the long drive to Mossel Bay to get our green beers at an Irish pub called Patrick's. How spot on is that?
But, the real highlight for me was our next stop. Oudtshoorn.
We had done the safaris; we had had our wild animal experiences throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Botswana, and they were like a dream come true.
The owner of our hostel, Lodge 96, was one of the funniest and most helpful people we met on our trip. Matt made sure we could fit in all the things we wanted to do, with hostel discounts, during the short period we had in Oudtshoorn.
Our first activity was feeding the elephants at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. African Elephants up close are massive. That sounds ridiculous when talking about elephants, but they are the largest species of elephant. They are the literally the largest species of the largest land mammal in the world.
Those elephants you see in the photo above? Not even full grown.
After taking photos with the elephant we were feeding, the guides got the elephants together and volunteered me to take a photo with all three. Being first, I wasn't expecting three massive trunks to drop on my shoulders. The weight alone was enough to push me over, and the roughness of their trunks and the bristles on them were not what we expected.
After our elephant encounter we rushed back to the hostel to grab swimming gear and clothes for the rest of the plans we had that day. We had forgotten them that morning. Since Matt had a full day planned for us, we grabbed our entire bags and rushed off to Meiringspoort waterfall, with its 9 meter deep swimming hole.
As we got closer, the road seemed to carve into the rock until it was completely enveloped in towering boulders.
While I took photos of the beautiful scenery, Lucas jumped off progressively higher platforms of rock into the pitch black water.
And, before dark could settle in we made our way back to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge for a dinner overlooking the waterhole and a few animals at dusk. That was the day I found out ostrich fillet is one of the best steaks I've ever eaten.
Completely full and ready for bed, we went back to our hostel, grabbed our bags from the trunk and ran into Matt.
"You have your bags?" he asked us.
When we confusedly said yes, he explained that when the housekeeper went to clean the dorms and saw our missing bags, they had thought they were stolen. While we swam, took pictures, and gorged ourselves on delicious steaks, he had been dealing with police and wandering the town with his dog to try to find our thieves.
It was even a chore for him to get a police officer, as the entire force was outside the city dealing with gang violence in the townships. So there is the scarier side of South Africa, but even then it was unrelated to our experiences.
We felt terrible, but Matt reassured us by telling us only nights before a thief had stolen phones through the window of the dorm room. They caught the culprit thanks to GPS tracking on the phones, which had put him on edge when he saw the bags missing.
Once again, our bad.
The next morning we went to Chandelier Ostrich Farm to eat an ostrich egg breaky, and further antagonize the ostriches by riding them afterward.
I'll admit I felt a little bad eating ostrich fillet, ostrich eggs, and then forcing them to carry me around, but it was absolutely awesome.
Two farm workers helped me up and placed me on the back of the ostrich, with no saddle. At this point it still had a sack over its head. They told me to hold onto the wings, removed the sack, and it absolutely took off.
We spent the entire fifteen second duration of me bobbing up and down in the pen laughing our asses off, and then it was over.
But the fun wasn't.
During our breakfast we had dined with baby giraffes keeping us company, and after my ostrich ride we were taken back to where they were, and now they were hungry! The choice of pellets or bottles was obvious: we were bottle feeding baby giraffes.
We wouldn't have thought we could fit more animal excursions into our time in Oudtshoorn, but that day we went to Cango Wildlife Reserve to visit the interactive wildlife exhibits. We visited the enclosures for crocodiles, pygmy hippos, meerkats, and all the big cats.
And, when we ran into our friends Paul and Kristina again, we all decided to do our crocodile dive together as well.
They hoisted our cage up, swung it out over the croc water, and submerged us up to our chest into the water with Freddy and Jason. We spent our time getting as close to the crocodile under water and above, without putting a bit of skin outside the cage. Our guides even showed us what would happen if we made a mistake, by tossing a piece of meat at us, which Jason made easy work of in milliseconds.
We said goodbye to Paul and Kristina afterward, but not for the last time. We had plans to meet up for dinner later.
Before leaving Cango Reserve, we revisited our favorite enclosures, and stopped by the bird cage where Lucas opted to feed nectar to the little devils.
I literally cried photographing and videoing the birds as they became more confident, and more aggressive. My personal favorite was the bird who sat on Lucas's shoulder pecking at his ear.
You can understand why I decided not to give it a go after.
After a full day of animal encounters, we met up with Paul and Kristina for dinner at La Dolce Vita, planning our upcoming adventures on the Garden Route to make sure we would see each other in a few days time. We weren't ready to say goodbye for good yet.
With so much to do in South Africa, it can't be condensed into a single post. The next day we would start the Garden Route, and we had many more adventures still to come.