Monday, January 19, 2009

Cape Town, cont.

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……… 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.