Sunday, December 27, 2009
But all in all, a beautiful country. Chaz and I have been getting around pretty well, going back and forth between hitchhiking and taking combis (minibuses.) Truly a land without fences, this is what I imagined Nepal to be like: untamable mountains, quaint hillside villages, and simple mountain herders.
Started off by going to Semonkong - home of the Maletsunyane Falls.
Which of course being in the nature of the universe, contains the world's highest (Guiness World Record holder,) of the largest absail in the world, at over 200meters! Basically, imagine repelling off of Victoria Falls.
Needless to say.....Here's me practicing:And then getting lowered into position. A friend that we spent a lot of time with, Andre, decided to abseil with me. He went first, and got some GREAT photos of me scaling the waterfalls, but unfortunately he hasn't emailed them to me yet. Keep in mind, this valley you see is about 230 meters deep. After this, we trekked through the mountains of northern Lesotho, including the larger city of Butha-Buthe (durka durka durka!) And we made our way to Sani Pass, home of Sani Top Chalet - containing Africa's highest Pub, on Christmas Eve.
After this, we HIKED down the mountain, about 8k. Took two hours. My calves still hate me. And then we entered South Africa!
And yesterday we reached Durban. And now, we'll be on our way to St. Lucia very soon, followed by Maputo, Mozambique.
So, to finalize in fun:
Fried and cooked Chicken Feet? Delicious...mostly.
And if you've ever wondered what Santa does the day after Xmas? Here's your answer. He stops his sleigh by Sani Top, Africa's tallest Pub, and gets wicked pissed. Hey, the man's worked all night - he at least needs a drink!!! photo taken the morning of the 26th.
Until next time.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
So yes, I am still alive. For the moment. It took two days to hitchhike with chaz all the way to Maun, Botswana, but we did it. On the verge of the Okavango Delta, its truly a sight to behold. But pictures are worth a thousand words, arent they? So heres a couple thousand words. So everyone knows, I'm currently housed up with another Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana (Gaborone) We're stealing some wireless from a neighbor, so thats how this is all possible.
This is me, in the Okavango Delta. We camped IN the delta for two days. Didn't really see much wildlife, but the view was a blessing all the same. Hippee!!!
Here is Chaz and I in our Mokoro, which is the local term for a dug out canoe. Im the one with the stick, I was Actually (read: REALLY) taught how to drive/steer these things. and let me tell you - its MUCH harder than you think. No wonder all the boatsmen look like they can benchpress a VW. We're filtering our own water in this photo, since that water has things in it that nightmares are made out of. No one tell my mother we went swimming in it. Note to self: Check for Bilharzia.
Sunset in the Delta from our Boat. Wideangle shot. No other words.
And for added pleasure, I'll give you all one last picture of me on my boat! Ahoy mateys! Theres sure to be plenty of plunder this-arr way! Somalia, here i Come!!!
In the next 12 hours, I will leave Botswana, and head for Lesotho via Kimberely, SA. After that, its Durban, heading up into coast into Swaziland. If alls well, I should be hitting Mozambique by xmas.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Early wednesday morning, Chaz and I will set out, and attempt to Hitchhike into Botswana. Our first goal will be to reach the Botswanian city of Maun, very much near the border of the Okavanga delta. if the local backpackers has internet - i'll try to get on for an update.
For those that already don't know, I've decided to write a book about this trip. Over the course of the next 5/6 months, I'll attempt to drink 100 bottles of wine, and keep the corks. I'll make a record of what i drank, how it tasted, where I was, and who i was with. We have already begun, with my last night at CCF
Bottle #1, Golden Kaan, a 2008 Pinotage Red, from South Africa. Drank at CCF with Kate, Rob, Matt, Gail, and James.
1 down, 99 more to go. The book with be titled "100 Corks to Cork," Since Cork Ireland will hopefully be the last stop.
Cheers everyone. And yes, I have a copy of my favorite adventure book with me, The Hobbit.
Nick, December 8th 2009, 4:00pm local.
"It's a dangerous business... going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins
Sunday, December 6, 2009
So the first month or so, Chaz and I planned on borrowing a friends car, and traveling with her around Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Mozambique. Unofrtunately, this feel through.
We received a phone call last night from our friend with the car that we were going to travel with - she recently learned that her brother has some sort of brain tumor, and she's flying back to london to see him. Meaning, she's already back.
Zoom in on the next three days of Chaz and I cranking out couchsurfing requests and looking for PC volunteers from all over.
I'll be heading up to CCF for one last visit. Dropping off a few last things like my laptop, but mostly to say goodbye to some of the best people I've ever met.
Wednesday is the day we're hiking out to Botswana. Setting my watch.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
And I’ll admit – I’ve anxious. I’ve gone through quite a few things in my life so far, but its quite obvious I’ve never attempted anything on this grand a scale before. Because for the first time in my life, I’m experiencing the full weight of stress. Granted, there are reasons. Visas, entry requirements, figuring out places to stay, contacting PC volunteers in other countries, negotiating the Sudan, figuring out the Egypt-Israel-Syria-Turkey route…there’s plenty on my plate.
And now, to show for it, I’ve developed an impressive rash of blisters across my hands. Just the fingers and my palm so far. All the literature I can find indicates a type of eczema, caused by both stress and heat.
Great. Nothing like an itchy plethora of sores on your hands while getting ready…
Peace Corps has us down in the capital almost a week before we’re supposed to, thanks to the national election this past weekend. They would rather have us in the capital and not driving or finding rides during this period.
Which means that right now, I’m not really doing anything. Currently, I’m sitting in my comfy chair in my hotel room listening to Simon & Garfunkle and wondering what in fact, it would feel like to be the last living boy in New York.
Chaz and Natalie are both here in town with me getting ready to depart. Natalie’s mother arrived in a today, Nat will take her out and show her this country for what its worth – Chaz and I are leaving on the 9th, with a car to Botswana. And the trip begins.
The beginning has begun to mold - Chaz and I successfully received our Visas to both Egypt and Kenya. Now just Mozambique and Tanzania... We're heading down to Mariental tomorrow to bond with Eric - and further plan where exactly in Mozambique we're going to meet him.
And oh, at the time of this writing, I've officially finished my two years with Peace Corps. I'm now officially a "Returned Peace Corps Volunteer." - an RPCV. Cheers.
So, 5 days. Here we go.
(Update - hands healed.)
Friday, November 20, 2009
1) Namibia, Nov 2009 - THIS IS RIGHT NOW!!! Chaz and I will start here, soon.
2) Botswana, Dec 2009. Swim in Okavango Delta. Maybe pet a hippo.
3) South Africa, Dec 2009. Try not to die. Drink some wine.
4) Lesotho, Dec 2009
5) Swaziland, Jan 2009
6) Mozambique, Jan 2009, Meet up with Eric and Natalie in Maputo. Travel along the coast, cross the Zambezi River and enter Malawi.
7) Malawi, Jan/Feb 2010: Get schisto in Lake Malawi?
8) Tanzania, Feb 2010
9) Kenya, Feb/Mar 2010, See Kilimanjaro. Probably climb 2 steps. Return later in life.
10)Rwanda, Feb/Mar 2010, Visit Mass graves
11)Uganda, Feb/Mar 2010, Visit Ruth and Embassy
12) Ethiopia, Mar 2010. Avoid land pirates.
13) Eritrea, Mar 2010. Fly across the Sudan to Egypt, hoping to not get shot down. Will probably skip, will leave out of Ethiopia
14) Egypt, March 2010: Cairo. Visit the pyramids. Attempt Sphinx riddle for universal knowledge. Leave for the holy land, Israel.
►THE MIDDLE EAST / EURASIA:
15) Israel- March 2010 – April 2010: Jerusalem and The Dead Sea, part ways with Chaz? Maybe. No idea yet. Go to Meggido, see if I'm the one that starts apocalypse.
16) Lebanon and Syria… Maybe skip - I really want to go to Damascus...perhaps reevaluate later. Say goodbye to Natalie and Heather.
*Maybe talk eric and chaz into going to Turkey, just for Istabul. or Constantinople. What it's calling itself these days. Crazy kids.
17-18) Greece, Italy
- April 2010: Take a boat or fly from Middle East. Eat tons of Feta. Visit Eric's girlfriend in Italy. I'm probably going to drag him to Messina. And Cinque Terra. and Rome....and....well, you get the idea.
19,20) Spain / France
- April 2010: At least Barcelona! May fly through. Want to see Nice, Paris, and Madrid too.
- April 2010 – May 2010: Brussels sprouts. and Chocolate.
- May 2010: Debauchery in Amsterdam. Meet up with Eric's buddy. Probably some of mine too. Go see Van Gogh Museum again. Stare at "Wheatfield with Crows" again for at least an hour.
- May 2010 : Have a pint. Breathe. Probably take advantage of the health system and get a dental exam and physical
- May 2010: Massive Celebration. Swim in Guinness. Play wingman for Eric so he can mack on some redheads. Drink more Guinness. Fly back to the states drowning in debt. Remember to take Guinness home with me.
Go Big, or Go Home.
If you know ANYONE in ANY of these countries, willing to put up with me crashing a night or two, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know. it would help me out SO damn much.
T-minus one week. Jebus.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
"Professor Sangbae Kim designer of the Stickybot and a Robotic designer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Is trying to understand how he can replicate natural animal mechanisms by creating a robot inspired by the cheetah.
The idea is to build a prototype robot from a construction of lightweight carbon-fiber-foam that will then be able to match the cheetah's speed of 70 miles per hour.
Over the next 18 months, Kim and four other MIT graduate students are going to start constructing the prototypes. Starting with a computer model of the robotic cheetah to establish the optimal limb length, weight, gait and torque of the hip and knee joints.
It's an ambitious project. Current wheeled robots are efficient, but can be slow in rough terrains. For instance, iRobot's PackBot, which is used by the U.S. military, can only travel at speeds of up to 5.8 miles per hour."
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Instruments / Applications
- Latex Exam Gloves
- Surgical Tweezers
- Adhesive Tape
- Bandage Scissors
- 2 Instant Cold Compresses
- Single Use Thermometers
Bandages / Wraps
- Sterile Dressing Pads
- Trauma Pads
- Sterile Eye Pads + Patch
- Fabric Bandages
- Ace Bandage
- SteriStrip Skin Closures
- New Skin Liquid Bandage
- Neomycin Ointment
- Equate/Neosporin Ointment w/Pain relief
- Burn Cooling Gel w Antibiotic
- Sterile Swabs
- Alcohol Prep Pads
- Athletes Foot Cream
- Silver Dihydrogen citrate (Chemical)
- Steri-pen (UV light)
Antibiotics + Fever reducers
- Tylenol Liqui-gels
- Extra Strength Non-Aspirin
- Doxycycline (Also my anti-malarial)
- Vigamox Eye Antibiotic
Thats it. Any suggestions would be incredibly useful. Thanks Guys.
Monday, October 19, 2009
To begin us off, I've got the first thing packed. let's kick start this - I've packed my towel. Why? Well, theres a quite a list on the usefulness of towels. In fact, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels...
"A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."
One thing, Down. Next - I'll probably post the current state of my first aid kit.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Dear Future Nick,
Congrats. If you're reading this, you've survived Peace Corps. I'm impressed. Really, not even I thought you would make it all the way through. But you survived it. Since you've heard about Peace Corps for long enough, I'll not be like everyone else and write down what you want to get done, cause let's face it, what are the odds of that? I don't really have any words of encouragement, because now the hard part begins. Grad school? MCATs? Foreign Service exams? If Karen hasn't found someone better than you, at least you have her going for you. Good Luck figuring it out - I'm just glad I'm not you. Cheers,
Man, I'm such a wiseguy - even to myself. My past self is such a dick. I wish I could be like Calvin and go back in time to beat up my former self.
The second thing is that I have a conversation with my father couple days ago on the phone, when I admitted a problem. I think I have an addictive personality.
Me: "Dad, here's the issue, I think I have an addiction.
Dad: How so?
Me: I've always wanted adventure. And each time - the experience gets much bigger and more erratic. First one was Road trip across America with Shannon and Amy. Then came wet caving with Ish and Karen. Then Skydiving. Then Bungee jumping. Then two years in Sub-Saharan Africa. And Now I'm gearing up for another one!! Backpacking and Hitchhiking across Africa.
Dad: Well, you WERE always like that. Whats going to be next after that, you think?
Me:At this rate? The next adventure would have to be.....The Moon
Dad: Well thats....wait, what?!?
Not going to lie - starting to get nervous. I found this quotation from Mark Jenkins I love.
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
I've been there before. And I'll be there again very soon.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So lets see, since last time, I've become scheduling master, volunteer coordinator, and been handed more and more responsibility. Its somewhat interesting to see how the health care debate since my last post REALLY hasn't changed since July.
So my Peace Corps completion of service meeting was two weeks ago. I'm done... well, almost. I finish here November 26th. After that, well, we'll get to that.
But two years, don't they go by in a blink? The definition of bittersweet - many friends are finishing their Master's - I've hitchhiked across the African Savannah. Friends are getting married - I've participated in traditional medicine services.
Unbeknownst to you, I never thought I would actually have lasted two years. Seriously. Two years without Karen, my brother, parents, and friends by my side? How I made it, I'll never know.
So its becoming around that time where I need to conclude my affairs. I need to start to anding over my responsibilities and duties to other qualified volunteers and staff.
I also need to start preparing...for my journey. Yes, theres another one on the horizon. Its becoming clear to me that neither Karen or my parents have been filling anyone in - but I'm not coming home come December. Not right away at least.
Current plan? Be interested; Be interesting. It looks like Chaz and I may have a ride available to us, and spend some time around botswana, zambia, zimbabwe, SA, Lesotho, and Swaziland. After that, We'll meet up with Natalie and Eric and keep heading north.
This should be fun.
or as my mother remarked, "Please come back alive, smarter than you are right now."
One can only hope.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The one thing that caught my attention today was the demonizing of politicians. While this may be largely in part due to what the networks deem acceptable and relevant for my phone feed, it seems almost every article I read about any politician is negative. Whether it's Clinton, Palin, Obama, Sotomayor...
I'm wondering about the nature we view politicians. We elect them into great positions of power and stature, hoping they change the fabric of our society. Fixing the wrongs and curing the ills they so often campaign about. Sure, you campaign in poetry and govern in prose - but have we become so cynical and impatient as to never view a politician positively?
The majority of news I'm receiving is regarding House and Senate Democrats trying to slip off stage regarding Health Care reform. Talks of Obama "moving too quickly" or hastily. Talks of Democrats moving away from Obama because he is either "too liberal" or that their constituencies are finding out that his plans for success are slow-acting. I'm only 24, with no major background or interest in economics, but even I know that an entire economy (a global one at that,) doesn't possess the power to change overnight.
I figured that out of any politican, Obama would have been the one to galvanize the country together. And yes, he seems to have succeeded past his election date. But here we are, 7 months after the fact with doubts and fears having crept into our culture, with the rats already beginning to jump off the ship before the leaking starts.
I keep finding myself wondering whether or not it's our fault. Have we become so cynical and thirsty for blood we'll just jump towards any negative act for the sake of drama? Can we ever have a politician that we can tolerate for more than the length of our attention spans?
Probably not. It's interesting living a lifestyle that doesn't really give me an opportunity to associate myself with drama that tends to encompass college, family, and high school. Please, if its me and my phone feed, let me know. Let me know what exactly it is I'm missing.
I will just say, regarding the health care debate - I'm confused as to what the argument behind the anti-universal stance really is. Either universal health care will be too good and not give private insurance companies a chance to compete in a capitalist market, or that the quality will too low and we'll have to wait 9 months for doctors and adequate care. Are they really arguing that universal health care will be both better and worse than the system we have now?
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
So I just returned to Africa after three weeks in America. The first week was spent gallivanting around the Maryland/Pennsylvania area. Highlights include the wedding of Nancy and Andrew, which was the original reason I returned home in the first place, the stand-up routine of Steve Gimbel, crashing at Katie’s, and the visitation of Karen’s family and friends. So a word on each.
The wedding was beautiful, with the wonderful bride having designed and made her own dress. Nancy, you looked gorgeous. The service was short and sweet and for the first time ever, I’ve actually enjoyed the priest giving the service. The wedding was the primary reason for my return to America, formulated by a wager with the groom. Originally, no one thought I would actually return for the wedding, so it was agreed that if I were to return home for their wedding, the “Imperial March” from Star Wars would be played as they entered the reception. Unfortunately, they chickened out and ended up using the theme from Boondock Saints. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a fantastic song, one I may end up stealing for me wedding, but its no Imperial March. I think they felt guilty, since I ended up with a dedicated song from the Bride herself, which of course was “Toto’s Africa.” The highlight of my night was probably the DJ announcing, “This next song is from the bride Nancy to a dear friend Nick, who came all the way from Africa to be here, from the country of Na….Nam….Nammmii..” and then had everyone in the room yell “Namibia!!!!” Thanks Nancy. All my love – hope you enjoyed Hawaii.
The next thing was visiting a favorite former professor do standup comedy in Maryland, which was awesome. It’s great to hear “smart people” jokes. I’m debating about writing a short stand-up for my return. ‘Cause hell – the crap here is funnier than fiction. This followed a great night and dinner with friends in Baltimore’s inner harbor, where Karen got me a Guinness and Katie pretended to be a pirate wench. Argghh!!! And prior to all this was visiting Karen’s family and Karine, all of which are wonderful. Karine, you look great. Really. Sorry I didn’t get to see you more. Maybe more next time huh? Maybe I’ll follow you to Lebanon. (*hint)
Ok, so I’ll write up more later, promise. I’m just so very close to lunch, and so very hungry too.
Never a good combination.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Cleo, Luna, Ron, Harry, Hermoine, Amani, Jacomina, Minja, Emma, Livingston, Kayla, Fossie, Darwin, Kiana, Mendel, Little C, Omdillo, Chester, Xena, Anakin, Smartman, Blondman, Padme, Obe-Wan, Bella, Chewbaaka, Leia, Shadow, Cruise, Gremlin, Blondi, Dusty, Sandy, Solo, Nina, Josie, Chanel, Klein, Merlot, Hershey, Nestle, Tolberone, Samantha, and Tempesta.
There you go. All the cats :)
oh, and the babies - Soraya, Quasar, and Pheonix
Monday, April 6, 2009
Now is a VERY busy time of year for the CCF, because this is the time when all the cheetahs need their yearly checkup. For the next two weeks, we'll be processing 50 cats, at the rate of about 4 a day.
One of the poster motto's of the Peace Corps is that it's the Hardest Job You'll Ever Love. It only took a year and a half with a site change to REALLY feel that sentiment.
So before I really get into my research here, I'm still getting acclimated to living in this wonderful place. I've spent time working, playing, and spending time with the cheetahs, volunteering and aiding where I can, and meeting my new colleagues.
Most volunteers here at CCF only stay for a number of weeks, around 2 or 3. Staff is somewhat permanent, including myself. In fact, check this beauty out. They still haven't finished the update obviously, seeing how someone spelt my name wrong and haven't included my bio, but there I am: Assistant Conservation Laboratory Geneticist. I'm beaming.
My first genetics project actually has nothing to do with cheetahs, but white rhinos instead. See, there's a small localized white rhino population in South Africa, numbering about 30 rhinos. Using DNA samples shipped to us but the representative organization, it's my job to figure out who begot who, and who's related to who. Here's where it gets fun - it turns out that the main suspect for fathering up to half a dozen rhinos was shot and killed by a hunter several months back. Not only was he shot and killed, but someone had the audacity to have him stuffed and mounted. Which means now I've been scouring biochem and genetics articles looking for a method to extract DNA from an animal that's undergone taxidermy. Fun, no?
I'm in a good place.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So by the time you read this, I'll already be on my way to the Cheetah Conservation Fund of Namibia to begin my work as a geneticist!!!
When I discover all of my job details and responsibilities, I'll post them in a more thorough form here.
Just for those that read and care, I've been requested this several times, but now i Have it! Here you go, I have two addresses:
the address for packages is:
c/o CCF Bush (Pty) Ltd.
1603 Hatting Street
Tel: 067 304 806.
For letters it’s:
P.O. Box 1755, Otjiwarongo, Namibia
See you guys on the ranch
Thursday, March 19, 2009
SOOOOO last month, my wonderful girlfriend and two college friends came for two weeks to visit the splendor of Namibia. If anyone is interested in reading about our amazing adventure, I'd suggest checking out this blog here. This is the blog of Andy, who you'll discover is a fantastic writer, and a great friend. I can't write as well as him, so it would just be for the best to read the best possible story that you could.
Oh, and a very big thank you to all the volunteers that helped us in this vacation. One thing they wanted to see, was how volunteers live and work in Namibia. Since they ended up seeing almost 20 volunteers, the experience was one they won't forget. Volunteers who deserve big thank yous include Dave, Chris, and Eric. Thanks guys to adding to our trip!
Now as for why I've been busy, I should hopefully get a site change soon.
Check out my new job location here. Check out this video to learn and understand more.
Friday, February 27, 2009
I know I haven't updated in a quite a while - but I've got good reason. Rob, andy, and Karen came to visit me. Elephants, Bungee jumping, Drinking, and rolling down dunes.... don't worry, once again I'll talk about it with Photos. But please give me a little time.
Been a little busy, ill try to do it this week. Peace
Monday, January 19, 2009
Start out reading the previous post first.//
Couldn’t help it. As it also turned out, Cape town was a destination hotspot for other volunteers as well. Apart from Namibia, we met volunteers from SA, Botswana, Malawi, and Morocco. (Interesting fact discovered, volunteers cannot congregate in Morocco in groups larger than 5 for the threat of terrorism. Interesting, no?) Well, we ended up discovering several friends and decided to have a nice night for New Years. After bar hopping, we brought everyone home to our balcony to watch Long street light up with THOUSANDS of people dance the night away. It was a great night.
Since Natalie decided to continue to go out with other volunteers until the ass-crack of dawn, Heather and I decided to crash around 3. When we awoke around 8, Natalie was only returning from a night of…something. I got no idea. This resulted in Heather and me walking around an almost entirely hung-over and deserted city looking for pancakes and or milkshakes. Mission success.
Once Natalie awakened from her coma, we decided that the best form of relaxation after a night of empty-calorie consumption was falling asleep on a beach. Here is Heather and Natalie in front of several beaches like Sandy bay, which we eventually had to walk to.
I would like to talk about what we did at the beach, but the nerdiness beyond measure. For the record, Heather also graduated with a Biochem / Mol. Biology degree. So what happens when you mix two science people and tidal pools caused by receding high tides? You get several hours of two very much nerdy and white people standing over shallow pools looking for starfish, sea urchins, and anemones. (Check, Check, and Check) Oh Katie, you can tell Evan and Dr. Jones that I discovered that the Sea Urchins off the coast of South Africa, like those in Greece, are not poisonous. Dammit…Onward!
The next day, we decided to climb Table Mountain, the mountain which squishes Cape Town against the ocean. Long trek made short, it was 4km to the base of the mountain, and almost a 2.4km climb to the top - But well worth it if you have the endurance and resolve. Remember to bring water. The following photo was taken at the top of Table Mountain, with Cape Town below. If you enlarge the photo and look in the upper left of the bay, you can see Robbin Island, where Nelson Mandela was made prisoner. (Didn’t book ahead for a tour. Next time.)
Afterwards, we went to visit the girlfriend of a friend of mine here in Usakos. She lives in the area called The Strand, and incredibly beautiful beach near Gordon’s Bay. Many thanks Lisa! We had a great time.
Next stop on our Cape Town tour was taking a vineyard tour. See, there’s the normal way to do it, and then there’s the volunteer way to do it. Our way consisted of us NOT renting a car and walking for the first 8 hours of the day, getting lost repeatedly, and winding up at a water treatment plant instead of a vineyard (I blame Natalie and Heather for this one…) But fear not gentle companions! We eventually stumbled into a vineyard that had tastings available. Please enjoy the photo of the girls staring longingly at the bottles of wine we all tried and subsequently purchased.
Please note, this was the trip we took where I previously talked about the train. For those that don’t know, we enjoyed our time so to speak, and missed the early train home to Cape Town. Well, that train we missed ended up in an accident – a car had collided with one of the train cars, resulting in many casualities. How many people can say alcohol saved their life? Bam!
Later this night, we met up with another volunteer who unknowingly became our fourth traveling companion, Chaz. Chaz is one of my closer friends in Namiba, who also happened to be in Cape town for holiday. This vacation he turned the big 4-0, even though he really looks 30. For his bday, another volunteer and I took him to a Turkish bath for several hours of sauna-ing and a hang out in the steam room. Back to the story…later this night, we met up with Chaz for his bday dinner – the nicest Sushi place in town. The only thing I’m going to say is that we each spent more money on that one meal than we typically do on a week’s worth of groceries at site. Yummy. That night, I was invited back to Mama Africa to perform again with the band. Let me just say after two years, my relative pitch was shot to hell and aborted the idea of playing Happy Birthday for Chaz. Oh well. The previous post contains a photo of me playing the congas, where its obvious I look better than last time.
And we’ve come to the end of our Cape Town Vacation. Or rather, the Cape Town section of our vacation. As you will discover, as we did, one cannot ever doubt the kindness of strangers. But we’re not there yet. Oh no, not yet…first we had to leave Cape Town. Since we knew of previous volunteers in South Africa, we knew enough that hitchhiking is the area was a) INCREDIBLY dangerous, as well as b) Unlikely. But what the hell. We decided to throw our luck in with the lot. Here we have our sexy roadside models, Heather, Chaz, and Natalie attempting to flag down a passerby.
As it turns out, even though Chaz is one of the biggest teddy bears you’ll ever meet, his piercings and tattoos make him look thuggish. Like me, people are inherently intimidated by his looks. This resulted in Chaz and I hiding in the bushes while we made in the women work.
Our hike home turned out to be just as interesting as the rest of the vacation. Since we knew that we were going to attempt to hitchhike home, we took the time into consideration and attempted to hike out several days earlier before we would give up and shell out N$1200+ for the Intercape. After three short hikes, we were picked up by a couple heading to Namibia, and agreed to take us as far as Noordoewer, the town on the Namibian / South African border. We got there by dark, and as it turned out, they knew a friend that owned a fairly pretty campsite on the Orange River. Good Day number #1.
Good Day #2 started with a simple conversation. They offered us to take us as far as Keetsmanshoop, a fairly large city in the south if we wanted, OR………to accompany them to Fish River Canyon, one of the natural wonders of the world. Look it up on Wikipedia. Its second only to the Grand Canyon in America. Instead of hiking throughout the canyon, we decided to drive along its edge, peering at the wonderful colors and depths. Once again we were surprised, and were invited to stay at a private game lodge that happened to be owned by the grandfather of one of our hosts. A private aviary, pool, and braai area. A fantastic night, with an amazing sunset. Too bad I forgot a photo. Dammit. The next morning, we were given yet another choice. If we chose, our gracious hosts would drop us off in the town of Mariental (eric’s town…bout two hours from Windhoek,) or if we wanted………..to accompany them to Sossesvlei. This is another one to look up on Wikipedia. Sossesvlei is the oldest desert in the world, with its trademark Red Dunes, caused by the slow creep of time and the following oxidation on the sand itself.
It took us about a half hour to climb this damn thing. But if I can get the video to upload, I’ll show you the only way to go down one…and no, unfortunately we didn’t bring anything to sand board down on. But before we got to the dunes, we stopped and decided to have breakfast at a private lodge about an hour from the Dunes. Breakfast was lovely, an all-you-can-eat buffet, English style (Coffee, bacon, cereal, eggs, ham…) As we were leaving, Chaz turned to a photograph of a cheetah on the counter and remarked how beautiful the animal was. The lady behind the counter replied with, “Morris? Oh yeah, he’s a cutie. He’s out back if you want to play with him.”
Okie dokey.Morris and me. Now I can write a book
I have about a hundred photos of the cheetahs and wish I could post them all. I will say it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. First of all, these were “babies,” less than two years old. It didn’t matter that when they purr, they sound like diesel engines set on idle. It’s a bit weird to have a VERY big kitty want to fall asleep on your lap, when you know this animal is the fastest in the world, and able to snap your neck like a tooth pick. But otherwise, a FANTASTIC experience. Oh, and for future reference, if you KNOW you’re allergic to cats, then petting cheetahs isn’t a suggested idea. Just throwing it out there.
Well, I’d like to say that the rest of the way home was eventful, full of adventure and danger, but alas, the remainder was an easy hike home. The trip was incredible, and was only made better by the fantastic company. Hope you enjoyed the story and photos.
Hope everyone had a Fantastic New Years. I did. C’mon, how many people get to say they hitchhiked more than 1000 miles, into and out of one of the most dangerous countries in the world? One Love.