Great White Cape Town

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
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Trip End Jun 01, 2011


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Flag of South Africa  ,
Monday, May 2, 2011

No sooner did I arrive in Cape Town did I meet the next amazing person along this journey. As I was boarding the plane from Johannesburg to Cape Town, I noticed a pretty girl looking at me. We kept looking at each other during the flight and once we landed I was heading toward the exit and was about thirty feet in front of her. I started walking a little slower than normal until she caught up to me. After a few minutes of awkward small talk Khosi gave me her phone number and told me to call her the next day because she was willing to show me around town.


The next night I met up with Khosi. Khosi is a black South African -- not that race matters at all, but for the point of this story it does. She took me to Cubana, a lounge where locals go. It was crowded because the following day was a public Holiday so everyone had the night off. The DJ played music from all over the world and mixed in some South African hip-hop. We had a great time and Khosi told me about her life in South Africa. She never had a father, her brother was shot and killed and her sister passed away. She grew up in a bad neighborhood in a bad part of town with an abusive stepfather. She has dealt with racism her whole life. Just about everything bad that could happen to someone has happened to her. However, she is full of life and laughter and currently in medical school. She is six weeks away from becoming a doctor. That is the point where I decided that I would never use an excuse the rest of my life. She is truly an amazing person who just wants to take care of other people. That night at about 3:15am we got into a cab and I asked her: "What do you think about Nelson Mandela?" she said, "I love him, he is like a second Jesus Christ" and I said, "Why?" I was not expecting her answer, but she said, "If it wasn't for him, you and I wouldn't be sitting here together right now".



If there are ever moments in your life you will never forget, that was one of them. I have been to the Apartheid Museums, read Mandela's books, watched the movies, but never felt that feeling before. I am not going to say that I understand Apartheid, but that was as close to understanding it as I will ever get.

The one thing I really wanted to do at some point along my journey was swim with wreat White sharks. Of all the things I have wanted to do in my life, this was number one. The bus picked me up at 8am with about fifteen people in it and we made a three hour drive through the Townships and Sir Lowry's Pass through the Houwhoek Valley and Houwhoek mountains to Gansbaai. The drive itself was beautiful. There were twenty-fice people on the trip, so I assumed we would be in a big boat.

I was wrong. The boat was only thirty-three feet long and had only a small cabin with a bathroom inside. We headed out toward Dyer Island and Shark Alley. The swell they thought had passed apparently wasn't. We quickly found out wasn't over. We were in a tiny boat hitting the biggest waves I have ever seen, most of them we hit sideways. One point I swear I was parallel to the water, I will never know for the rest of my life how the boat didn't capsize. I don't like roller coasters but this was the best natural roller-coaster in the world. Knowing that if the boat capsized we would be in water infested by great whites is a feeling like none other. The boat ride itself was worth the price of the trip; I think I had the biggest smile of my life going over those waves. There was something special about going through that alone that I just can't explain.


Everyone on the boat got sick except for me and two other people. I knew there was no way I was going to get sick but I also knew before we even left, the two other people weren’t going to get sick either. I could just sense something around them that was different than everyone else.

We got out to Shark Alley and they put the chum in the water and some tuna heads to attract the great whites. About thirty minutes later the first one appeared and I rushed to get into the cage. However, putting on a wet wetsuit on while hitting huge waves took a while. I was the second one to get into the cage. The cage itself is small and only holds five people at one time. The first few seconds in the cage I wasn't really sure where to put your feet and hands and a moment of panic hit me. Then the first great white appeared from the depths of the ocean. It’s an unreal experience and there really are no words to describe it. The visibility was great and we could see for about thirty feet. At one point a great white hit the cage and knocked us around a little bit. During the day there were a total of five great whites that came up to our boat. Since everyone on the boat was sick I got to spend the most time in the cage and could have stayed under the water for days. Most people were so sick they couldn't even look at the sharks. They sat on the opposite side of the boat looking at Dyer Island. Everyone gave me their e-mail so I could send them my under water pictures. The best part is watching the sharks come up and then swim away into the ocean as they slowly disappear. It’s a creepy feeling because you don't know which direction they wouls reappear from. They could come from behind or under the boat, you have no idea. My last few minutes in the cage I was on the end and one great white swam past about two inches away from me. If I would have moved my finger I could have flicked it, that's how close it was. On the way back to Cape Town everyone on the bus became friends. It’s hard not to after going through that experience with other people. The tour company provided drinks and people were passing around and drinking wine out of the bottle and the sun was setting perfectly over the ocean the entire drive home. It was another perfect moment.

Over the next couple of days I meet up with Khosi and we spent time at Victoria waterfront. The weather was perfect each day. Since I chose to deactivate my cell phone during the time I am gone, it’s not always easy to coordinate when and where to meet up with someone. One day while waiting for Khosi to show up I was sitting on the steps outside the ferry terminal looking out over the waterfront and a homeless man with a guitar showed up. He started singing but it was hard to make out the words. After a minute I could start to piece together what he was singing, "Don't worry about a thing, Every thing is going to be alright.” Same song Dek was singing in Bali. Again, this time it felt perfect. There were not many people around and he could have sat anywhere but to hear that song at that point was just another sign that I was at the right place at the right time. Once Khosi showed up, we took a bus tour of the city. It took us up to Table Mountain and then around the other side of Cape Town. I didn't really know that there was anything behind Table Mountain but as we came down the backside of the mountain and it was incredible. The sun was hitting the water and we ended up at Campus Bay. It is a long strip of nice restaurants and shops across from the beach with Lion's Head and Table Mountain in the background. We walked around and had dinner on the beach as the sun was setting. I was at the bottom tip of South Africa, which felt like the end of the world, and the sun passed the horizon but it still lit the sky up.

My last night in Cape Town, I decided to go out on Long Street by myself. I started at an Irish Pub across the street from my hostel. From there I walked to the end of Long Street and heard some good music coming out of a bar. I couldn't tell anything about the bar except the music was a mix of hip-hop. So even though it was at then end of the street and bordering a dangerous part of the neighborhood, I walked in. The bar was long and narrow and had about two hundred black South Africans in it. When I walked in I felt the power of four hundred eyeballs on me.  It was like the music had stopped and a huge spotlight was shinning down on me. I was the only white person in the building and felt about ten feet tall. I never felt more out of place in my life. I had about one second to make a decision to turn around and run out or walk in like I owned the place. I chose the latter and ordered a drink at the bar. Over the next three hours I met some of the most amazing people and just about everyone there came up and talked to me, took pictures with me and asked for my e-mail. By the end of the night I never felt more at home. At about 2am I left with some new friends and that's when the night started to get crazy. Probably the craziest night of my life and instead of editing the story and ruining it, I will just leave it at that.

"There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."-Nelson Mandela
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