Relaxing in Wilderness

Hey all! Since Tuesday I’ve been chilling in Wilderness, South Africa. This town sits on the banks of the lazy Touwsrivier and my hostel, Fairy Knowe, is sweetly nestled into the trees. It’s also a short walk to the beach. The hostel actually has several buildings- a small office, a large open area with a bar, and a couple of buildings with living spaces. Everything (except maybe the bar) looks to be older construction. So it all has that worn-but-loved feel. I find it quite beautiful 🙂

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The old house I’m staying in at Fairy Knowe

After settling in on Tuesday, I went for a run/walk through town and to the beach. I chilled by the water for a bit and then headed back. The houses here are both architecturally eye-catching and covered in beautiful vegetation. Ivy and vines hang down from the trees, flowers spill out of planters, and succulents cover the ground. And the birds! Bird watchers, y’all need to come to Wilderness. Five minutes walking on the riverside boardwalk and I saw 5 different kinds of bird. It’s a shame I don’t know more about birds. I wish I had a guidebook, I could spend an afternoon sitting on the boardwalk watching the bids swim across the water and fly against the blue sky. It would be fun trying to guess their species!

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Gorgeous pink flowers seen along the road in Wilderness

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Tunnel leading under the highway to the beach

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Man, I’ve been going to a lot of beaches…

On the walk back from the beach the light from the setting sun was creating the most beautiful colors in the sky and water. The sunrises and sunsets here are really something else. The colors are soft and blend effortlessly into one another. Much different from the Maryland skies where big, bright clouds create sharp contrasts against the sky!

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Sunset Reflections

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I love railroads ❤

Tuesday night I met Kitty, a lovely girl from the UK. She and I hit it off and made loose plans to hike and kayak together over the next couple of days. And we did exactly that!

Wednesday morning was a slow one- I watched the sunrise and then worked on my computer for a bit. After a trip to the market for some food, Kitty and I headed out. One of the employees at the hostel suggested we go to The Cave and see the Caveman. Apparently he needed candles, so we bought some on our way to the beach.

After walking to the end of the beach, we met up with the old railroad track. We followed them along the cliffs, our eyes searching the ocean for signs of dolphins. And we were rewarded! Kitty caught sight of a couple jumping and the next thing we knew there were dozens leaping out of the water.

After enjoying the view, we continued along the tracks and went through a tunnel.

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The best part of this walk was it being along the old railroad track

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Did I mention I love railroad tracks? Cause I do. And I love the tunnels too!

When we came out of the tunnel, we thought we had arrived at a cafe. I thought it was strange, a cafe that was a 15-20 minute walk from the road. But upon further investigation what we had come to was even stranger.

Platforms lined either side of the tracks. To our left was a table with six chairs, a railing, and then the ocean. To our right was a large raised platform in front of a wide cave and then a lower section against the wall of the cliff. The lower section was lined with tables. It made me think of kitchen bench tops. Three guys standing against the tables drinking tea waved and welcomed us. They pointed towards a fourth man who was standing on the raised platform. He gestured for us to come join him. So we walked up to what was clearly an entrance. We had arrived not at a cafe, but at The Cave. And the man leading us inside was the Caveman.

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Entering the cave

Neither Kitty nor I expected the reality of the cave. We though it would be a large cavern that a kind homeless man lived in. But there was much more going on.

The ground was covered in floor boards and walls created various partitions. Sea shell mobiles hung from the ceiling (of the cave) and various constructed supports. There was so much to look at I had a hard time processing it at first. So many colors and shapes. I felt like I had walked into a fairy land or a movie set. It was stunning.

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The Caveman pointed out a donation box and, in an oddly high and soft voice, invited us to walk around and take pictures. He then left us to explore his home.

We walked around the whole place quickly at first, just taking in the big picture. Once the initial shock and awe faded, we started to feel a bit uneasy. We slowed down, looked closer at the impressive collection of colorful artifacts, and understood our discomfort.

(Of course, we did not verbalize our feelings, it was only after leaving that we began to discuss the experience and discover we felt the exact same way)

Masks. Dolls. Dressing table covered in lotions and a hair brush. Impeccably made beds. What I can only describe as a Shrine to the Male Form.

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We walked softly, stayed close together, and took our pictures. For all the creepiness, we couldn’t look away. Eventually, though, it became too much and we walked out of the cave.

We continued down the tracks towards Victoria Bay, discussing the experience. Shivers ran up and down my spine as I realized just how weird the place was. I began to feel even more creeped out, so I changed the subject, thoughts of the Caveman softly walking behind us, hearing our words, filled my mind. I looked behind me and saw no one, but my logical mind could not reason with the uneasiness I felt. We walked faster.

The feeling of being watched eventually faded and I became to again soak in the gorgeous ocean views and general railroad aesthetic that I love. We descended down to Victoria Bay in the most roundabout way, walking along a fence on a path I would barely classify as a trail. Once on the beach we enjoyed our lunches and ice cream, chatting about life and dreams, the way two newly met travelers often do. It’s wonderful how a mutual desire for connection opens up conversation and creates space for honesty.

 

We eventually headed back to Wilderness and our hostel. After the long day in the sun, I drank some tea, read a bit, and retired early.

The next morning (Thursday), Kitty and I packed bags for kayaking. We hired a two man sit-a-top kayak from the hostel and paddled inland along the Touwsrivier. The water was calm, only birds and our paddles breaking the surface. We oo’d and aaw’d over the tall reeds, the soaring mountains, and colorful wildlife. With only the sound of our gently splashing paddles, a peaceful mood filled the moments. My breathing was deep and slow without the need for focused attention on it’s rhythm. Again, we talked about our stories and hopes.

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Taking a water break

We came upon a point where the kayak could no longer continue so we beached our boat, grabbed our things, and began hiking. Our feet freezing cold from the water and shade, we voiced our silliness for leaving thicker layers at the hostel. When we found a sunny patch, less than a meter long, we stood still in the light and talked until our feet felt some bit of warmth again. It wasn’t long after our break that we reached the waterfall.

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Again, I am loving the sun rays. Also, the waterfall looked much bigger in real life. 

We found the perfect place to eat lunch, took the obligatory posed pics and shots of the water, and unpacked our food.

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Glamour shot!

We sat and enjoyed the scenery for some time. Kitty napped and I read. Two young men showed up and began scrambling over the rocks. We watched them climb rocks and build up the nerve to step from one ledge to the next.

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Selfie with Kitty 🙂

The trip back to the hostel held the same peace as the morning.

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Gentle views on the trip back

After enjoying some tea and changing into dry (and warmer) clothes, we walked to the beach with another girl. The time in the sun tired me out however, and I headed back to hit the hay.

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I love the sunsets on this river ❤

Friday morning I packed up my things and checked out of the hostel. Leaving my bags behind the main desk, I joined Kitty and two other girls at the hostel for a walk to the beach. As always, it was fun to chat with and get to know other travelers.

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Beach selfie!

Since I needed to catch the Baz Bus, I headed back while they continued their walk. I read and tried to convince the internet to allow my phone to download some Netflix shows.

I rode the Baz Bus all the way to Cape Town, where I met up with the wonderful Liaan. My next post will talk about all the fun Cape Town has been. I’ll write later, xoxo

 

Storms River Adrenaline

So after the safari I headed from Port Elizabeth to a little village called Storms River. I stayed at Dijembe Backpackers, which is such a cool place. You can just feel the good times from previous guests ooze out of the walls.

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See that white fuzzy thing? That’s a goat. A goat that looks like a sheep and acts like a dog

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After arriving on Sunday, I mostly chilled and read what people had written on the walls. I took photos of some of my favorites

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A French girl, Emanuelle, was also staying there. We played some pool (with me failing hard core- I’m awful at pool) and then planned several activities for the next day.

I also borrowed a bike and rode to the market to get some food. Beautiful village!

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We woke up Monday morning and packed our bags for a long day. We then headed downstairs to take advantage of the free pancakes (well, we had to cook them ourselves, but still. Free food!)

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Cooking free pancakes!

Emanuelle taught me how to flip the pancakes by tossing them in the pan. I’m super proud of this new skill 🙂 🙂 🙂

We then hopped in a shuttle (more of a taxi, really. But they called it a shuttle so who am I to change the name?) and went to the Tsitsikamma section of Garden Route National Park. We were dropped off at a parking lot on the thin bit of land between the mountains and the sea. After applying sunscreen, we started hiking. We went mostly along the coast, occasionally going into the bush (or jungle? It seemed pretty jungle-ey to me).

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In the bush, everything was shades of green, the ground was moist, and the vegetation so thick with trees and vines that we couldn’t see more than a few feet off the trail most times. I felt like I was in Tarzan. Especially when we saw baboons running along the rocks beneath us.

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So many pretty flowers!

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I love the red and white on these rocks against the blue of the sky and the sea

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Seriously y’all, it was JUST LIKE Tarzan

We eventually turned around and headed back to the parking lot. We ate a quick lunch outside the stall for Untouched Adventures, who we would be doing our next activity with.

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Lunch views

Once full, we geared up and met with a guide to go kayaking up Storms River. We picked the perfect time to kayak- there was no one else in our group! So we got our fantastic guide Tate all to ourselves.

We kayaked across the ocean just a bit and then headed into the mouth of the river.

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The mouth of the river- there’s a bridge going across it that baboons like to hang out at.

The walls of the canyon rose above us, covered in moss, mold, and vines. I was in awe the entire time. Eventually we reached a point where the kayaks could not continue. So we jumped on lilos- thick, red inflatable rafts that we just laid down on and paddled with our hands. We went a bit further up the river,, walked around some col rocks, and then headed back to the kayaks. Near the kayaks was a cliff that people often climb up to and then jump into the water. So we did that too 🙂 It was a short jump, maybe 3 or 4 meters. But the water was cold and refreshing. I was most certainly awake after that!

While kayaking back, we saw a bunch of White Breasted Cormorants sitting on the rocks and drying their wings. And beneath the water we saw countless stingrays.

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Emanuelle and I, post kayak & lilo trip

Once back at the parking lot, we dried off, changed into dry clothes, and hopped on a shuttle to our next stop- a bridge. A very very tall bridge. Which we jumped off.

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1, 2, 3, BUNJEE! Photo credit: Face Adrenaline South Africa

So, bunjee jumping is cool, and I most certainly enjoyed myself, but I don’t need to do that again. Nope, I am good. But glad I did it once 🙂

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Before the jump! Photo credit Face Adrenaline South Africa

Not gonna lie, I cursed for the entire first and second drop. At that point I tried to relax my body and focused on my breathing. Basically, I turned into a puppet.

We jumped off the Bloukans Bridge- at 216m high it is the highest commerical bungy jump in the world and the largest bridge in Africa. Face Adrenaline kept us safe and took these great photos and videos! The staff on the bridge are really fun, energetic, and professional.

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After the jump. Photo credit: Face Adrenaline South Africa

And after that exciting event, we headed back to our hostel. Because we signed up for kayaking together, we got a voucher for a free pizza at the pizza place in the village. We borrowed bikes and rode to the restaurant/bar and had a very delicious pizza. A group of six French guys wandered in and ended up sitting with us. Emmanuelle really enjoyed the opportunity to speak French again! We hung out with them for quite a while. I even learned some French! The hard part, of course, is remembering it the day after… Anyways, the evening ended at our hostel, my playing guitar and one of the hostel staff, Ziggy, playing a djmebe. We jammed until 1am and then I had to call it.

Damn what a great day. Pancakes, ocean, jungle, baboons, kayaking, jumping off cliffs, jumping off bridges, pizza, new friends, and music. People, life is pretty awesome 🙂

 

 

South African Safari

That’s right y’all. I went on a safari ^_^

On Saturday, my first full day in South Africa, I joined a guided tour to Addo Elephant National Park and Schotia Private Game Reserve. It was a small tour, just myself and three other young women. So that was really nice, not being in some huge crowded tour bus.

Addo National Park was started in 1931 with only 22 elephants and 2270 hectares (about 8.8 square miles) of land. Today, it boasts over 600 elephants and 164000 hectraes (633 square miles). It’s conservation efforts have also expanded to protect a variety of species, resulting in reintroduction of animals such as buffalo and lions. And boy did we see some elephants! Before we even entered the park we saw one on the side of the road. And we saw many many more throughout the day

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I actually wrote down every thing we saw so I wouldn’t forget. Here’s my list:

  • Elephant
  • Vervet Monkeys
  • Red Heart Beast
  • Warthog
  • Zebra
  • African Buffalo
  • Black Headed Heron
  • Kudu
  • 2 Cheetahs lazing about by the Red Heart Beast carcass they took down earlier in the day
  • Eland

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After Addo we headed to Schotia for lunch and then more safari. We went to a private game reserve because national parks in South Africa can only reintroduce species that were historically present. A private reserve, however, can have animals that are adapted to the conditions in the area but weren’t necessarily there naturally. I think there may also have been fewer restrictions, by which I mean in Addo we had to stay inside the car all the time whereas in Schotia we were in an open air vehicle and got out to walk around a bit.

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Our ride for the afternoon & evening

After driving around and seeing many wildebeest, antelope, elephants, and zebra, we stopped at a termite mound. Apparently they’re a great source of protein!

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My list for what we saw in Schotia is suuuuuuper long. There were so many different animals! And they all coexisted- antelopes and zebra all in the same fields to improve their safety. Here’s the list of what I saw:

  • Wildebeest
  • Red Antelope
  • Water Buck Antelope
  • Zebra
  • Inguni Oxen
  • Guinea Fowl
  • Brown Antelope
  • Nylaa Antelope
  • Kudu
  • Termites
  • Giraffes!
  • Elephants
  • Spring Buck (National Animal of SOuth Africa)
  • White Rhino
  • Reedbuck
  • Buffalo
  • Mountain Reed Buck
  • Sable Antelope
  • Lions!
  • Blesbuck
  • Spring Hare
  • Baby Crocodiles
  • Hippo

Sooooooo yeah. I saw a lot! Here are some pictures and videos I took 🙂

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Zebra!

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Giraffe! We got out of the vehicle to walk closer to these guys. Super cool!

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White Rhino!

While watching the lions I kept thinking of Dash and how much he loves “Daddy Lions.” I tried to get some photos and videos to share with him, hopefully he enjoys them 🙂

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Pretty much the whole day I kept thinking “Is this real life?” Scuba diving felt like The Little Mermaid and this safari felt like The Lion King. And it was just amazing.

More in a bit y’all, I think this is enough for one post. Sending love ❤

See Ya Later ‘Straya

Well folks, it’s done. My time in Australia is over. And after 30+ hours of planes and airports, I’ve made it to my hostel in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Before I talk about anything else, I got to say a few things about my time in Aus. In case you didn’t notice, I had a wonderful time the last 4 months. Yeah, there were tough times, but that’s life and would’ve happened anywhere. I met wonderful people and saw amazing things. I mean, how awesome is it that for months my morning runs included kangaroo sightings? And that I spent my days playing with the two cutest little boys? And all the great sights- the Grampians, Great Ocean Road, Tasmania, etc. And let’s not forget diving along the Great Barrier Reef!

Goodness knows I couldn’t have done all of this without the kind and generous people who gave me a helping hand along the way. There are too many people to list, but you guys know who you are. I appreciate you, truly. I hope to one help wandering travelers as y’all have helped me.

There’s a week of stuff in Australia that I still have to post about, so expect that in a future #ThrowbackThursday post.

I want to quickly mention how fantastic my flights between Sydney and Port Elizabeth were. First I flew 14 hours to Abu Dhabi with the airline Emirates. Now, I always just book the absolute cheapest option, without paying much attention to the airline. And I had never flown Emirates before. Little did I know, they are a “Luxury Airline.” And boy, did I feel it!

First of all, I was the only person sitting in my row of three seats. It sounded like my seat mates didn’t show for the flight, but whatever the reason, I was able to streeeeeeeeeeeeetch oooooooooooout 🙂 I lifted all the arm rests and laid across all three seats. And I’m short enough to make that work. I was so comfortable, I slept for 10 hours with minimal disturbances.

We also got 2 meals and several rounds of snacks/drinks. Lemme tell you what, the entire time I was wondering if First Class felt this good!

After a 4 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, I hoped on another Emirates flight to Johannesburg. And would you believe it, the middle seat on my row was empty. And then the kid who was sitting at the aisle seat moved to seat closer to his friends (big school group traveling together) and, yet again, I had a row to myself. Livin’ the good life over here 🙂

When I landed in Johannesburg, however, it was time to run. Literally. I had less than 90 minutes to get from my plane to the next. Doesn’t seem too hard, expect that I also had to stop at immigration, pick up my checked bag, go through customs, and re-check my bag. Not an easy task. Involved quit a bit of running. But I made it! And so did my luggage! I got some help from a porter, without whom I likely would have missed the connection. And then just a short flight, 90 minutes, to Port Elizabeth.

Whelp, I’m quite tired. I apologize for any gross grammatical/spelling errors. Maybe I’ll come back and actually proof read this later. But now now, cause sleep.

I’ll check back in later y’all xxoo