Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lovin' Life in South Africa.

(Alternative title: "Sorry America, never coming home")

It seems that South Africa is becoming a part of me, or I suppose I’m becoming a part of it.  Sixty degrees now feels like the arctic, and I recently discovered that my whole life has been spent running on “Africa time.”  While I’d love to believe that I’ll be back here again (absolutely applying for post-grad!) the reality is that I don’t know where my life will take me.  With two months left in this wonderful place, I wish I could slow time down, but I can’t, so I’m going to try to see as much of South Africa as I can before that!

Last week I went on the Garden Route, which is a MUST if you’re ever in SA.  Our wonderful AIFS resident director, Hestea (more commonly known as Mama H), set everything up for us, so all we had to do was show up and enjoy the trip!  Our first day we visited the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn, where we squeezed through some pretty tight spaces with names like Devil’s Post Box, and the Coffin.  After the caves we went to see some ostriches!  Sadly, we weren’t able to ride them as the recent rain would have made it unsafe for both animals and humans.  It was still neat hanging out with the funny-looking birds.  Their eyeballs are bigger than their brains!  One bit me on the shoulder just as we were about to go to…
FAIRY KNOWE!  Our backpacker’s lodge in Wilderness (yes, the town is called Wilderness).  We stayed there for two wonderful nights!  I spent most of my downtime drinking tea and playing Scrabble with my roommates, next to the awesome outdoor bar (yeah I know, who drinks tea when there’s a bar?  I was sleepy from all of our activities!) 
Where we stayed - the oldest building in the area.
 Like KLOOFING!  In Afrikaans, kloof means canyon, and kloofing is when you put on a wetsuit and lifejacket, and basically go whitewater rafting down rapids and such – without the raft!  It was such a blast.  We’d also climb up cliffs, and jump back into the cool water below.  It was a six kilometer trek that we made swimming, sliding down rapids, and sometimes hiking along the bank of the river.  It was honestly one of the best things I’ve EVER done.  (Hey Dad, another reason you should come to SA, you’d LOVE kloofing!)
Jumping off a 5 meter cliff!
Just floatin' around with Halie.  Photo Cred: Shana Glen!

As soon as we got back to Fairy Knowe from kloofing, Ginny, Brooke and I had to quickly change and meet David to go horseback riding!  The horses were all beautiful, although my horse, Nicky, was kind of a jerk (maybe he didn’t like when I called him Nicki Minaj?).  I almost fell off while trotting, which had the potential to be traumatizing, but Ginny and I took it slow after that. 
"Horse People" as Mama H called us. Sounds like a weird mutant.

The next day we went to Knysna and shopped at the waterfront and in town for a few hours. It was absolutely beautiful.  Then we went to KNYSNA ELEPHANT PARK.  I’m in love with elephants.  They’re amazing.  We fed them and hung out with them, and our guides told us their stories.  After the elephants we headed to our home for the next three nights.
I love the way they eat!
Proof of an Elephant Kiss!

ANTLER’S LODGE.  This place was AMAZING.  Our program treats us so well!  That night we had dinner in the beautiful barn/theater on the property.  When we woke up the next morning, we headed to Bloukran’s Bridge, to the highest bungee jump in the WORLD (and second highest due to the recoil!).  I enjoyed a cup of coffee and watched many of my friends throw themselves off the perfectly good bridge.  I think those of us watching and taking pictures were more nervous than the jumpers!  I was nauseous the entire time.  Luckily they all survived, and loved it, but I’m perfectly okay with my decision to stay on the ground.  That night the whole group went to an Italian restaurant named Enrico’s, right on the beach, as the sun was setting.  Have I mentioned lately that I love my life?
View from my room...I'll take it.
Our room, with some extra beds squeezed in.
Eeeee the bridge!

The next day we went to the beach and swam in the Indian Ocean!! Yay!  Later that day we went to a big cat sanctuary.  I got super close to a cheetah (Hey Addie, I heard you thought I was too close - don’t worry she’s been around people her whole life…I had more to worry about from those ostriches!).  We learned so much about the cats, like that when cheetahs are born they resemble honey badgers, which keeps other animals away from them.  I’ve never realized how beautiful leopards are – or how incredibly dangerous they are.  Next we went to Monkeyland, which was AWESOME.  My camera battery died so I don’t have any pictures, but I seriously considered breaking away from the group and getting lost so I could spend a few nights with the monkeys. 
Friends and the Indian Ocean, great day.
She's alive, just snoozin'.
Leopards are so pretty.
Caracal - love his ears!
Hope you like animal pictures - meerkattttttt!

That night we had a talent show, and the birthday boy James was the guest of honor.  There are so many people on this trip that will NEVER forget their 21st birthdays!  Who knew our group had so much…talent?  My personal favorite was probably watching my roommate Hallie teach Mama H how to drink like a man. 

The next day, AIFS was heading home to Stellies, but Corie and I stayed for an extra couple of days with our friend Liz, at her grandmother’s house in Wilderness.  It was incredible, so relaxing and the place was gorgeous.  Her gran is the sweetest person ever!  The first day was eat, sleep, repeat.  The next we went to Knysna, because Liz didn’t think we saw enough of it.  She was RIGHT!  We went to the waterfront again, then to an island, then had a little picnic in the forest, then went to pick up one of Liz’s friends in a “slow town” called Sedgefield and walked along the beautiful, overcast beach with him.  That night Liz taught us how to cook chicken pie and malva pudding – two South African favorites!!

The Heads in Knysna. In love.

Can you think of anything more peaceful?

Ready for dinner cooked by the Americans!

The drive home was beautiful, and part of it was where the video for Coldplay’s Paradise was filmed!  Great song and video, give it a watch/listen HERE! :)
As we started to drive past familiar vineyards, under an incredible double rainbow, Liz asked us how it felt to be back in wine country.  Corie and I looked at each other and together responded,
“It's good to be home.”