Admiring my teva tan
Trip Start Jan 05, 2009
29Trip End Mar 12, 2009
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On Sunday, i was supposed to be picked up at 8:30 and got a bit nervous at 8:45 when they were not here yet. Well, they showed up at 9:30 and we were off. Only later would i learn the reason they were late - Philippa wasn't ready. That was a trend for the trip which i didn't really appreciate...
We headed out along the coast and it looked remarkably like California.
Anyhoo, we first went for beer tasting at Birkenhead Breweries. I liked 6 of the 8 beers. The last two were just a bit much for me - especially the one that tasted very citrusy. I haven't figured out why they would let you finish with such a bad taste in your mouth but on the whole, we had a great time and a nice start to the trip. After that, we were off to Cape Agulhas and for those of you who know a thing or two about S Africa, that is the true southern tip of the continent where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Let me just say that the water is the same temperature on either side of Cape Agulhas but the farther East we traveled, the more likely i was to swim.
Before we got to the Cape, we went to the lighthouse and it was so beautiful. For the inexpensive price of 15 rand we were able to climb to the top and to the outside of the light. Are you kidding me?
We drove to Cape Agulhas and were wondering whether there was a plaque to commemorate the actual meeting of Two Oceans. Of course there was and of course i have photos - some with the group and some with just me.
This was our first night of lodging and i have to say that the extra money i spent to have my own room was soooooooooooooooooooooooooo worth every rand. 6 of the 8 of our group were in one room (2 men and 4 women). Manfred and i had our own rooms with our own bathrooms. It was luxury. Plus we had an amazing bobotie for dinner that added to the allure of the backpackers.
One thing about the backpackers was a bit hard though. They had a very cute 6 month old parakeet that really took to me. I was feeding it rice and banana and it wouldn't leave my hand or shoulder. I finally had to hand it over to one of the owners so i could eat dinner but it was so hard to do as i kept thinking of my Phantom. After i retired to my own room, i made the stupid mistake of listening to Phantom of the Opera on my ipod. Dr Tera needed some bird therapy but the music was a bad idea as i was in tears within minutes. i wanted to thank everyone who sent me a note about Phantom. they all meant a lot to me, especially while i'm so far away.
We went into the little Karoo area of SA and this is very hot and dry. I definitely noticed it as i flew to Cape Town from Jo'burg. The vegetation changed quite a bit and we had a lot of water on hand for our drive to the Warmwaterberg Hot Springs. Oddly enough, the 40C pool didn't feel as hot to me as a day that is 40C but i only stayed in there about 5 minutes before i went back to the colder pool.
There was a long drive to the Cango Wildlife Ranch and we closed down the park! After our tour, we were given the option to make donations to the various breeding programs that they have and have "an encounter" with cheetah, tiger cubs and crocodiles. I wasn't convinced that i would do any of them but i really did want to pet a cheetah. How many times in your life can you say that you have done that, honestly?
I paid my 145 Rand to go in with the two adult cheetahs - a male and female - and was a bit nervous that our encounter would end quickly when the female (Gaby) got up and walked away from one of the girls in our group. Instead, they took me over to the male (Ganza) who looked not as relaxed as she had. I was nervous, i can't lie to you. I was the second one of our group to pet him and he was quite mellow by that time. Whew! With theguide by my side, i was able to ask what areas i could pet and i took advantage of them! His head was much bigger than my hand and his hair was really rough. I also pet his side and his purring was like an engine running. It was pretty amazing. At one point, i started to pet his head again and he looked back at me with an open mouth. I froze and the guide took over, saying that he just wanted to play. Yeah, i think this cat's play would be a bit more intense than any other cat i have encountered in life...! When he got up, i was amazed at his size. He came up to my waist and he felt larger than life to me.
After a drink, he went away and Gaby was on the ground purring away. I was able to pet her as well. her head was much smaller than Ganza's.
I do find it ironic that on the day i was doing this, my mom was watching Untamed and Uncut and their bit was about a person who was attacked by a cheetah in an enclosure.
On the tour, we walked the elevated walkway over the large cat section and saw lion ("normal" and white), tiger (senegalese and white) and cheetah (cubs and acults). They were all incredibly beautiful animals. The white tigers were just so stunning (even if they are native to India and not SA) that i took a lot of pics of one of these cats. One was pretty fixated on all of us and our cameras and i waited behind to get more shots of him in the late day sun. i leaned over the rail a bit so i could get a photo that didn't have the barbed wire fencing in it and he stared at me some more. He got up on his haunches and started to move toward me. Even if i was 15 feet above him, i walked away from the area immediately. I was so scared. I have to tell you that at that moment, i had a completely different perspective on what happened at the SF Zoo a year ago. I'm not entirely sure they were taunting the tiger after all. If one is hungry enough, and you are interesting enough, it will move toward you. That had my heart racing more than the huge male lion near Kruger did!
We started off the day at the Cango Caves and they were as incredible as i had imagined them to be. When you enter the cave, you are in a huge "room" that they used to have concerts in until some people went into the farther parts of the cave and broke off pieces of the stalactites. Why do people do that?
As you descend further into the cave, you see even more amazing formations. Some were stalactites and stalagmites that met halfway up to the ceiling of the cave. One was 275,000 years old. By far the most fascinating was the 1.5 million year old formation that looked like a set of organ pipes. It was so tall that i was dwarfed by it easily. Both of these formations were in the second room and that was my favorite.
We didn't have time for the ostrich farm yesterday so we went today. In Oudtshoorn, they are all about ostrich farming. Mostly, they do it for meat but there is also a market for leather and eggs. Feathers are not as huge of a draw as they were in the 18th century but there were plenty of streetside vendors selling dusters in all colors.
That night we had ostrich steaks for dinner and i was not impressed. Mine was really tough and chewy. I went to bed hungry and after my disappointing burger at lunch, i can say that this was a bad food day.
In the afternoon, 7 of us had to wait for one woman who wanted to bungy jump off of Bloukrans Bridge. It's the world's tallest bungy at 216meters and let me tell you that it is horrifyingly high. When i saw the first person jump, and saw the camera angle from the top of the bridge, all i could say was "there is no way in hell that i would ever do that". Yup, that is so not going to happen in my lifetime...
I was excited for the morning activity today. We ziplined at Tsitsikamma and it was sooooo much fun! I've wanted to do this for a while and in the last Amazing Race, they had to zipline and i was so jealous. Well, now i have done it for myself and would do it again in a heartbeat. We took 8 lines over the forest and the river. Wow wow wow, it was so fun!
At the first line, no one wanted to be the first to go so i finally said "i'll do it". I don't know if everyone realized that my screaming was actually "squeals of delight" or not but i do know that they could hear me hooting and hollering in the parking lot. Hahahaha. The feeling of flying was uber cool.
Jeffrey's Bay is a surfing mecca in the Eastern Cape. We had the chance to go shopping at all of the surf shop outlets and i was shocked to find that in the middle of summer, they had very few board shorts that would fit me. It was a bust at Billabong, Roxy and Quiksilver but at RipCurl, i hit the jackpot. Happy day!
Afterward, i joined the group at the beach and found the Indian Ocean water to be much nicer than the water in Table View. It was downright refreshing after my walk down the beach (where i found abalone shells to add to my worldwide collection!).
I was shocked that everyone rallied to be out of the lodging by 6:30am. It was a miracle and i was delighted considering we were trying to get to Addo Elephant Park early enough to drive with Maudy before 5 of us wanted to go on the game drive with one of the rangers.
On our drive, we were able to go off road which was a bonus! We came across a herd of 9 elephants (including 2 babies of less than a year old that were the cutest things ever). They went off the road and were heading to a watering hole. Since we were with the ranger, he knew just where they were going - Killarney Dam.
The herd got to the watering hole and their drinking was frenzied at best. They were all sucking up as much moisture as they could and watching them drink what is in their trunk is quite amusing. They look off balance and awkward but their trunk can hold up to 10 liters of water so its an efficient system. I felt like i was having a Frans Lanting photo moment as i watched them. The light and background were perfect but their reflection in the water was what really sold it for me. I took about 60 photographs and was super excited that a few of them have the babies in view. Most of the time, they were nursing under their moms as they drank. After about 10-15 minutes, they calmed down and started to sleep. Surprisingly, one of the females laid her trunk on the back of another member of the herd. I have never seen that before and apparently it's to take a load off. Their trunks weigh around 100kg (220#) so i can understand why they do this. I could have watched them for hours. I love elephants so this was a little slice of heaven for me.
Reluctantly we left them behind to continue our game drive. We didn't see a lot and we were the victims of some strange rivalry between rangers. These two guys were fighting at the watering hole since the more experienced guide didn't want to have us in the same area. Well, when he saw the lions facing off with the water buffalo ( a true Nat Geo moment), he didn't call us to tell us to come over. I was shocked and annoyed. Really boys, can you not play well with others? At least the other half of our group who was in the van got to see us and tell us all about it.
Oh and as much as i adore Christine from our group, she screams really loudly when she sees animals. This is a bad idea when you are trying to watch and not scare the wildlife. The lion took particular interest in her. She was screaming and moving in the van and he was fixated on her. He got up on his haunches and Maudy said "close your window now". She had no idea what reaction she was causing and i'm glad i wasn't there to witness it.
In Port Elizabeth, i bought my very own wooden giraffe and i'm quite excited about it. I've had my eye on one since the start of my Cape Town trip, and this one was really well made. It was larger than any i could have gotten in Cape Town for the same price and the olive wood matches my furniture. Bonus!
We had a power outage during dinner but amazingly enough, the local casino was working on some serious generators. No one inside would have known that the surrounding area was in darkness. I found this to be surprising since some local hospitals probably didn't have this resource available to them. Hmmmm.
This is the day i was looking forward to most on the whole itinerary. We drove for hours to get to the Crags Elephant Sanctuary. Here you can walk and feed elephants. Are you kidding me??? They have 5 females and one male on site. 3 were saved from culling in Kruger where they were constantly breaking down fences and causing trouble. 3 were saved from a circus in China. The Chinese couldn't get the paperwork together so the elephants came to Crags to live until maturity (at age 25) when they can be returned to the wild.
It's hard to describe the level of excitement that i had about my upcoming elephant encounter. For 275 Rand, it seemed like a monster bargain. There's no way i would have missed it though and i'm still surprised that 3 of our group didn't partake.
We were all happy that Christine was not on the elephant encounter when the guide reminded us that elephants have keen hearing and screaming could cause them to trample all of us. It was very hard to control myself but i did manage to keep it in check and let out one small squeal as i walked Jabhu.
We started our encounter by feeding Tandy, Jabhu and Marula. They are fond of pumpkin so we all grabbed a few chunks and put them in their trunks. They were quick to get it to their mouth so they could eat more and more. I loved the interaction with Tandy. She's the tuskless female of the sanctuary.
I was in the first group of 3 people to walk the elephants. One of the guides had my camera and took some incredible photos. (very happy!) I put my right hand out, with my palm up, and Jabhu put her trunk in my hand very obediently. We started walking and i was in total disbelief that i was walking an elephant. I kept looking back at her with a huge smile on my face and her handler was telling me to walk faster or she might walk on me.
In the forest area, we all got a chance to touch the elephants. I was torn about who to have my up close and personal encounter with but i had fed Tandy and walked Jabhu so i needed to meet Marula, the matriarch. She's 17 years old and just beautiful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFimA6A5AJY After this i rubbed her side and not only is their skin tough, it has a lot of hair on it. The hairs are about 1.5 inches long and they aren't bunched together but placed about 2-3 inches apart. It was like a hand massage while i rubbed her. Marula was so patient with me.
We spent the night in Wilderness and the beach was really nice there. It was a good end to our trip since we had a lot of driving to do the next day.
Where I stayed