The Garden Route

October 31, 2009  •  Leave a Comment

Its been nearly half a month since my last update....so sorry. I'd say I've been busy, but I really haven't. Its been pretty laid back here in Cape Town, therefore not much to report. 

I had my last classes of the semester last week, only on Monday and Tuesday. 

The weekend before these last (fairly pointless) classes were spent exploring the city with my friend Naomi. 

On Saturday, we did a series of the typical events of Cape Town. First, because it was Saturday, we went to the outdoor farmers market that is just a few suburbs from our houses: Old Biscuit Mill. This market is a combination of a farmers market, where you can buy fresh produce and goods from the local farmers, but also a gourmet food market, where one can find delicious sandwiches, meats, etc. Some of the best food of my life I've found at this market. Also, there are a few shops that sell trinkets, jewelry, and other random objects. Overall its a very cute place, and if you are ever in Cape Town on a Saturday, I highly suggest it. 

After that we made the longer journey down to the City Center to explore some of the markets and finish off our souvenir shopping for friends and family. We ended up visiting 3 different markets, one of which (the Women's market) is run by mainly women, where they use the money to help their families and other's from back home who are struggling. It was interesting to meet and speak to the women as we looked at our handmade goods. One of them was breastfeeding her son while she sold me a bracelet. ha, how's that for culture shock?

On Sunday, Naomi and I did the hike up the mountain to the Rhodes Memorial, which was built for the man who donated all of the land for the University of Cape Town. He's also famous for a series of other things, such as providing the funding for the Rhodes Scholarship. The memorial in his honor has a magnificent view of the city, and we had a nice lunch at the cafe at the top. 

 

Then, as I said, I had my last 2 days of classes Monday and Tuesday. 

Starting Wednesday, Naomi and I left for our long-awaited road trip along the southern border of S'Africa, known as the Garden Route. 

In true Cleveland fashion -- or Brad Cleveland fashion that is -- I had planned out nearly every detail of our trip before we left. I made a couple spreadsheets for our information, researched hotels, prices, etc. I made sure that very little was left up to chance, considering I really didn't want anything going wrong for us 2 white girls traveling alone. 

We left early Wednesday morning, after getting our rental car -- his name is Ned, and he was a red Nissan. The first stop on our trip was the Southern- most point of the African Continent where we got to see both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in one view. I dipped my left toe in the Atlantic, and my right in the Indian -- just to make sure I had really taken advantage of my unique global positioning. At one point Naomi pointed out that our position made us the southern most people on the entire continent. Wow. Obviously there are other places in the world the were more south than us, but it was still a cool feeling. 

We continued on our way to our hotel for the night, which was located in Mossel Bay, South Africa. This is an adorable little beach town, where we had a delicious seafood dinner, while watching dolphins, seals, and surfers all enjoy the Indian Ocean just outside our restaurant. It was quite the experience. 

Thursday, the next day, we did 3 very cool things that one can really only do in S’Africa.

First, we made a visit to the Cango Caves, which are located about an hour’s drive of our hotel in Mossel Bay. The caves are said to be over a million years old, with some of the formations having been started 1.5 millions years ago. The caverns we were in were unbelievably huge, one of which used to be the home to a make-shift concert hall. Our guide demonstrated the magnificence of the caves’ size by singing opera on the old concert stage. I can’t image an engineers designing a concert hall that could magnify the sound like that natural cavern did. We explored about 600m into the caves, traveling up and down, learning about each different formation as we went.

Next, we visited the Cango Wildlife Ranch. This ranch is known for its work with animals to increase their life expectancy and quality of life. However, I was seriously disappointed with the experience. I was imaging a place where the animals were treated with the utmost respect, and the trainers/handlers were well educated people who understood the significance of the each of the animals they worked with. Instead I was given a zoo, run by a group of college students. Of course they had many very cool animals, however they were kept in extremely small cages. In one instance they had two full-grown Tigers in a cage about the size that my dog has at home. You can imagine my reaction.

Of course, I have been spoiled with my experiences in the Delta of Botswana, and Chobe National park. Oh well, such as life, one must take it as it comes (right dad?)

Finally, our third activity of the day was incredible: Ostrich riding! I never thought that in my entire life I would do something so ridiculous, but of course I did. When we arrived at the Ostrich Farm, we were led to a side-pen where many of the Ostriches were kept. Then, basically without any hesitation, the handlers were encouraging us to hop on and give it a try. Just like that! There was no safety lecture, no seat, etc. Just “go ahead”. And so we did.

I made the mistake of wearing shorts, and will now have scars on my thighs from the inside of the Ostrich’s wings – however, I can’t think of a cooler way to get scars. As we slowly walked around the pen, I couldn’t help but look up at the bird’s head, with its eye peering back at me. It was extremely creepy knowing that this bird could kill me easily, however I somehow felt safe.

I really appreciated the time I had after riding them as well to take their picture and just be in the same area as them. I dubbed myself the Ostrich whisperer after spending about 10 minutes just talking to the birds, and eventually getting one to come close enough so I could pet it.

On Friday, our 3rd day, we started off by doing a canopy tour of the Tistsikamma National Park of South Africa. This was a series of zip-lines from one tree to another, throughout the whole forest. It was a cool experience, however not what I expected. Because we were so high off the ground, I was expecting it to be more of an adrenaline rush than it actually was. Instead it turned out to be more of a relaxing tour of the trees than a thrill. Oh well, still a wonderful time.

After that, Naomi and I took Ned (our car) into the park itself and did a little bit of hiking around the mouth of the Storms River. Here there is a large suspension walking bridge that you can use to cross the river, however it would shake and wobble like you wouldn’t believe. We had a nice time hiking, and laughing nervously while we tried to make it across the many bridges, and back.

Finally, and most importantly, at 3pm that day we did my favorite activity: elephants!!

What amazing animals J

We traveled for just a few minutes to a place called the Elephant Sanctuary, where we could walk with, touch, and ride elephants.

This was easily one of the best experiences of my life. I remember that my cheeks hurts afterwards because I had a smile just plastered on my face throughout our entire tour and interaction with the giant beast.

During our walk with them, we walked in the typical elephant fashion, where their trunks were linked with the tail of the elephant in front. Also, we could hold onto their trunks as we wondered down the path. However, we didn’t hold the trunks in the usual fashion – on the side, where there is thick leather and cracks. Instead our fingers were held out behind us, and the elephant would place its trunk in our hands – meaning my fingers were in its nose! I pulled my hand out after the walk and my 3  middle fingers were covered in black elephant snot.

I loved it! Elephant snot on my hands? How much better can snot get?

We learned all about the parts of their bodies, and were able to touch different areas – like the rough leather on their back, skin that is 3cms thick, the soft part behind their earlobe, rough heel and elbow, etc. The coolest was when we could feel the hair on their eyelashes and tail which felt a lot like wire. It was extremely tough, as if it was a mix of plastic and metal rather than a natural thing.

Riding the elephants, of course was shocking as well. My guide, who was sitting in front of me while we rode, kept reminding me to hold on. “I won’t fall off! I promise!” I just kept responding. In my mind, a giant elephant was much easier to stay on than a running ostrich. Especially because the elephant moved very slowly, taking its time to make the lap around the field J It was so much fun, and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to do it again!

 

Finally, yesterday (Saturday) we headed back to Cape Town, which totaled about 6 hours of driving, with very few stops. Luckily we had stopped at a grocery store to stock up on food, and therefore were able to make the trip much shorter.

It has been a wonderful week! I wish I could share it will all of you…just please promise me, that if you EVER get the chance to look an elephant in the eye – do it. Don’t think, just do it. And make sure you remember what that beautiful brown eye looks like.

God knows I’ll never forget.

Until later,

19 days until Minnesota.

333KEC


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