FIVE MONTHS IN CAPE TOWN

MY SOUTH AFRICAN ADVENTURES AS I INTERN AT AN AFRICAN DEMOCRACY INSTITUTE IN CAPE TOWN

I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.

lewis carroll, alice in wonderland

i thought this quote summed up my experience in africa perfectly. i can’t believe time flew by as fast as it did! it was definitely the best five months of my life :) thanks for following me through it all!

xx

-aud

last days in cape town

both my roommate christie and i were leaving at the end of may, so these past two weeks have been a sentimental frenzy of trying to do all the things we either hadn’t do yet or wanted to do again.

i finished work on friday after a great send-off. i’m really going to miss everyone at the office!

we went to the hope street farmer’s market for the last time for some spring rolls and the best brownies on the planet. we even wrote in the visitor’s book and someone even replied :)

we went up to the roof one last time to enjoy the view of table mountain and the city.

we hit up charly’s bakery for some of the best chocolate cake in the world.

we went to a nearby pub for one last malva pudding, too.

christie flew out on the 30th and i’m headed out tomorrow night. packing up my life here in cape town has honestly been depressing. i’m looking forward to being home, but at the same time, i want to stay here forever. i’m going to miss everything about this place!

one last sunset:

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 17 and the return to cape town

on day 17, we drove the whole day back to joburg. it was a really long drive, but such a pretty one. we arrived at the Johannesburg inn, reluctantly unpacked the truck and had dinner together.

one of my only souvenirs from mozambique:

the next day, we had breakfast and said goodbye. we were all really sad and it was a sad ride to the airport. i flew back to cape town and snagged a window seat, so i could see table mountain coming in. shockingly enough, cape town was cold and rainy when i arrived.

i only had one day left with my roommates sarah and becca before they left cape town. then two new suitemates arrived in the next few days: megan and melinda. here’s a roommate picture:


i met with my friends emily (who is leaving this Tuesday) and may to have ‘afternoon tea’ at the mount nelson, a really ritzy restaurant. there was a fantastic buffet and endless kinds of tea. it was sooo good!

i also discovered a new farmer’s market called the ‘cape quarter’ market!

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 16

getting into two separate 4x4 vehicles, we set off for a small zulu village where we visited a school. the group of kids sang and danced for us and were absolutely amazing. they really wanted their pictures taken afterwards but we only had time for a couple.

we then walked into the village to talk to the traditional healer/witch doctor. men and women had to sit on opposite sides of the small hut. the healer was sitting on the floor with her apprentice and she scattered her ‘bones’ which considered of shells, trinkets, bones, and old pieces of jewellery. we were permitted to ask her one question each and she would analyse how the ‘bones’ were scattered.

we then drove into the hluhluwe reserve for an all-day game drive. in my opinion, it was better than kruger (which is south africa’s most famous reserve). it was one of the prettiest places i’ve ever been and there were loads of animals. we saw so many up close and in action. on the way home, we caught a fantastic sunset. then we made our last dinner together and were so sad about having to leave tomorrow to head back to johannesburg.

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 14 and 15

we were served a buffet breakfast on the dock of the catembe gallery hotel…a big difference from the corn flakes and bread breakfasts we were used to. there were a bunch of sailboats out on the water.

once the truck was packed, we headed down an extremely bumpy dirt road with potholes that size of cars. we drove about 2 hours until we reached the gates of the maputo elephant reserve. since the sand was so thick, we had to let air out of the tires.

and then we started driving. through trees. again. and this time, it was worse. the trees were thicker and the insects were even more plentiful. however, it might have been the most fun and memorable part of the trip. we stopped for lunch near a small lagoon that held a bunch of hippos and a very helpful sign that warned against swimming in the lagoon because of crocs.

it was a 5 hour drive to the ocean, where we were going to camp on the beach. we parked the truck in the middle of the dirt road since no one was ever going to drive by. we all headed to the beach, which was completely deserted and just beautiful. there were also crabs everywhereee. we played some crab-catching games and i got snapped by a crab on the back of my leg!

we set up camp, made dinner and sat by the campfire.

the next morning, i woke up, unzipped our tent, and saw the sunrise over the ocean. it was the best sunrise i think i’ve ever seen – pictures don’t do it justice! then at breakfast, we had a vervet monkey run up and steal a biscuit and then run away again.

we had to drive all the way back to the entrance of the reserve, so it was another 5 hours of trees. once we left the reserve, we drove on a terribly bumpy and uneven sand road to the mozambique-south africa border. we were later told that the truck could tilt 23 degrees before tipping over and we had tilted over 21 degrees.  we passed through the border (where the mozambican authorities confiscated all fruits and vegetables from us, except for our carrots for some reason) and entered south africa. we were shocked to see that ahead of us was…a paved road.

this was south africa’s kwazulu-natal province now and the landscapes were stunning - rolling, grassy hills with acadia trees and tall grass. we even saw a pack of 7 giraffes on the side of the highway.

we arrived at the drifters’ zululand lodge which was located near a town called hluhluwe (pronounced ‘shoo-shoo-wee’). it was on a game reserve and had a large open but sheltered eating area and small wooden tents. a few of us went for a walk and saw impala, kudu ,and  blue wildebeest. we started hearing an odd animal sound and quickly made our way back to the camp.

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 11-13

the next day we went snorkeling again, this time to try and see a whaleshark. we didn’t end up seeing any, but we did see a dolphin in the distance and snorkeled on a reef that had endless kinds of fish.

the rest of the day was a beach day, and later that night we watched the sunset, made dinner, and then went to the beach to see the stars and the plankton. i didn’t know this, but the plankton made the waves glow a light blue colour. also, if you splashed the water, you could see little glowing spots. it was really cool!

we had another free day. most of us spent the day on the beach, where we watched fishermen haul in a net that was over 1km long. we actually bought a barracuda from these fishermen for dinner. one barracuda fed 13 of us with some left over!

we were up before sunrise because we had about 10 hours of driving ahead of us. we were on our way to the capital, maputo. we passed through a lot of rural villages and then eventually went into the city, which was probably the poorest city i’ve been in to date. the roads were filled with people selling everything you could imagine. we actually got a bit lost in the city, so we got quite a tour.

we finally arrived at the ferry to take us across the bay to catembe, a small fishing village where we would be staying. once we got the truck onto the ferry, we all sat on the top of the truck for the ride over.

once we arrived at catembe, the roads became extremely rocky and bumpy, to the point where a seatbelt wasn’t enough to hold you in your seat. we made it to the catembe gallery hotel, however, and it was like a diamond in the rough. i even had my own room! it had a pool, a restaurant, and a deck with great view of maputo and a bar. 

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 9 and 10

the next day, we took snorkel gear and went on a dhow trip (traditional sailboats that are everywhere in mozambique) to one of the islands of the bazaruto archipelago. it was an amazing trip. the water was so blue! a fire was started in the middle of the boat to boil water for tea and coffee and cook us lunch.

once we reached the island magaruque, which was just a beautiful beach with no one on it except for about six people. we went snorkelling and came back to shore for lunch of fresh crabs, kingklip, salad, bread and rice. we stayed for the afternoon before sailing back to vilankulos, where they popped popcorn on the boat for us!

on day 10, we left early to drive to inhambane. we stopped at the tropic of capricorn (marks the most southerly latitude where the sun can be directly overhead) for a quick photo.

once we arrived at the area to take a dhow over to inhambane, the truck was immediately swarmed by about a dozen people that began fighting with each other for who would get to sail us across the bay. our guide finally just pointed to a green dhow and said we were going to go on that one. it was an old boat with some holes in the sail, but we arrived in inhambane in 40 minutes or so. we explored inhambane a bit and then headed to where we were going to be staying for the next three nights: jay-bays.

jay-bays was just a few casitas on a remote beach with a dive shop and a restaurant nearby. there were hardly any people there. eva and I got our own casita, which we were ecstatic about! we spent some time on the completely empty beach (and discovered that the sand squeaked because of plankton) and we all ate dinner at the restaurant, owned by a french woman who was delighted that some of us could speak french.

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 7 and 8

continuing on “plan b”, we drove north up the coast on mozambique’s one highway. it was unlike any highway i had ever seen, however, with potholes, people, children, goats and chickens everywhere. i even saw a goat strapped to the top of a truck.

we went to a town called massinga and then turned onto a small dirt road and had quite an experience driving through palm trees. we finally arrived at a little place called bonito bay, which was a place that had “casitas” (small wooden houses) situated right near the beach. though we had arrived without making any sort of reservation, they had no one else there and we were given a couple of casitas.

there was a pool and a restaurant/bar area where we had dinner and stayed up talking to the dive master and owner there. there were also lots of palm trees, which they warned us to be careful about because of falling coconuts.

in the morning, we went on what proved to be an interesting snorkeling/SCUBA trip. the boat was like an inflatable raft where we sat along the edges, put our feet in foot straps, and held onto a tiny string. the ocean was incredibly rough and the driver went really fast over these waves that had to be 4x the size of the boat. that part was fun!

we found our snorkeling spot and jumped off. that was the moment we began feeling seasick. we didn’t stay in the water very long, but we did see a manta ray.

once we headed back to shore (by running the boat onto the beach), we packed up and headed north to vilankulos. we stayed in a hostel called “smugglers”, which also had a restaurant/bar. we had dinner there and played some pool.

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 5 and 6

in 2 days, over 12 hours, we traveled a total of 73km (45 miles). that’s how bad the roads were!

on day 5, we were allowed to “sleep in” until 7:00am. we had breakfast, packed up, and discovered that the truck was full of spiderwebs and spiders and all sorts of insects. we cleaned it out as much as possible, and then set off back the way we came.

we drove through the trees again until we reached a camp called aguia pesqueira, set on the massingir dam and completely void of people. there was a toilet and a somewhat functioning cold shower, though!

we had a relaxing afternoon. the location was beautiful. we walked down to the dam, even though there were crocs and hippos around. later, we made a fire with a dead thorn tree and cooked lamb potjie (south African stew) and even had some marshmallows around to roast.

on day 6, we continued driving southeast on the non-existent roads until we reached the bridge of the massingir dam. the road then became paved but still full of potholes. we drove through several rural villages where the kids would initially run away from the road with shocked looks on their faces, then turn around and grin and wave at us.

we headed to a campsite in praia do bilene, situated on a lagoon. we were happy to be out of the bush for a while. there was a wonderful, deserted beach, palm trees, and a grilling area.

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 4

we were notified that the limpopo river in mozambique was not crossable due to late rains, so rickus brought out a green book with the label “plan b”. it was filled with maps of africa. we had to decide on a different route and were on “plan b” for the next 6 days.

packing up the truck, we drove through kruger on dirt roads for about an hour before reaching the south africa-mozambique border (this border post can only be accessed by 4x4 vehicles because of the road conditions).we passed through south africa just fine, but then had a timely process of getting visas at the mozambique post. we got through eventually. border patrol was really curious about the US passports, asking, “do you know obama?”

once we entered mozambique’s greater limpopo transfrontier park, that was when the fun started! the main road was a small, dirt road. after 20 minutes, we turned onto a smaller, torn-up dirt road that led us straight into the trees. we had to roll up the canvas windows of the truck because the branches would tear them up.

it was the craziest, most intense driving ever. we drove through trees (lots of them had thorns) and bushes and rivers and mud and sand. we actually crashed into 3 trees in order to continue on because the truck couldn’t clear them. the amount of debris in the truck was ridiculous – leaves and branches everywhere.

and insects. they were everywhere and they were huge. we had neon orange spiders, praying mantises, stick bugs the size of my foot, roaches, ants, and tons of insects i didn’t know existed. i probably killed 200 insects this trip.

there was absolutely no sign of civilization out here, except for one small, traditional rural village. the people there stared at our truck (it was really big and had all sorts of branches sticking out of it) and then waved enthusiastically.

we did this for about 3 hours before we stopped in an open area for some lunch. then we got back in the truck and kept going for another 2 hours. it doesn’t sound too fun, but we were all having a blast! we reached the area where we going to camp, which overlooked the shingwedzi river that held quite a few crocs.

we quickly noticed that between every tree, there were spiderwebs that held huge spiders. between every tree. and there were lots of trees. so eva (my tent-buddy) and i set up our tents in the only treeless spot.

we made a fire and dinner and discovered that there were scorpions around and huge spiders other than those hanging in the trees.

 

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 2 and 3

we went on a morning bush walk in the balule game reserve. the guide showed us the animals’ activity during the night and told us a lot about the habits of different animals. we saw impala and zebra, and also encountered a tarantula and a millipede.

we reached a certain spot where there was a pile of dried impala poo. the guide told us to pick one up, put it in our mouth, and have a spitting contest. at first, I thought it was a joke, but he was not kidding. i came in second.

we had brunch and then drove out of balule to stock up on groceries for the next 6 days since we were literally going to be in the middle of nowhere. we then entered kruger national park and drove about three hours to our campsite. the drive itself was a game drive – we saw all sorts of animals. the roof of the truck opened up in the front, so about 5 of us could stand on the freezer and look out the top. stefan even brought his beer up there.

our campsite was fenced, but right outside the fence was a big watering hole. we saw elephants, hippos, and hyenas. we set up our tents, made a campfire, cooked dinner, and heard the hyena’s odd cackle-call throughout the night. the insects were also 10x their normal size here!

the next day, we woke up at 5am for an early morning game drive, came back for lunch, and then set out in the afternoon for another drive. after we made dinner, we surprised linda with a chocolate cake since it was her birthday. we left the leftovers out for 10 minutes before a thick-tailed bushbaby came and started eating it! when we caught it, it had chocolate all over its face and paws. it ran up a tree and just looked at us. we all wanted to take it with us :)

here are lots of animal pictures: elephants, giraffes, hippos, zebras, blue wildebeest, kudu, impalas, a grandpa bird, baboons, guinea fowls, a croc, and a lion footprint

mozambique transfrontier adventure: day 1

so i packed my two backpacks and my sleeping bag and flew to johannesburg, where i was picked up and brought to the drifters lodge (the overland safari company). people have told me different things about johannesburg, but the impression i had was that it was definitely a city-city, sort of brown and gritty with people and bikes everywhere, even on the highway.

the drifters lodge was really nice – i had my own room (and my last real bed for quite awhile). there was a small restaurant, too, and the 12 of us on the tour met each other and had dinner. there were three swiss-germans, two germans, an american couple, three norwegians, and a south african guide. everyone was so great!

the first thing rickus (the guide) told us was, “this is not a holiday; this is an adventure”. another drifters worker was surprised we were going on the mozambique transfrontier tour, saying “that’s the…well, most dangerous trip”. regardless, we were all excited.

we were introduced us to our 4x4 truck that we would be traveling on for the next 17 days. Her name was ‘nelly’ as in ‘nelly there’. there was a big freezer, a cooler, luggage and food compartments, a reinforced roof, and low-range capability.

we got up at 5:30am to start our journey. we drove through south africa’s mpumalanga province, which had some beautiful landscapes. we stopped at the old gold mining town of ‘pilgrim’s rest’ for lunch, and then drove down a very long, dirt path with some dodgy bridges to get onto the highway. we stopped at the blyde river canyon, the 3rd biggest in the world. i’d never seen a canyon before, so it was pretty amazing.

we descended the ‘escarpment’, entered the balule game reserve, part of the greater kruger national park. once we entered, it was a long and very bumpy dirt road. just on the way to our camp, we saw elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebra, and warthogs.

our camp actually had permanent tents, a nice roofed eating area, and an open deck situated near a watering hole. we made dinner and then set out for a night game drive.

i had a too-close encounter with a water buffalo later that night. i came out of my tent and heard some branches cracking about 5 feet from me and when i shined my flashlight, i saw the reflection of a pair of eyes. since i had my camera around my neck, i took a picture and saw that it was a big water buffalo. not sure if it was the right thing to do, but i ran away!

 

garden route: tsitsikamma national park and bungy jumping

we arrived at our guesthouse in the tsitsikamma national park, which was situated in storms river – a tiny town. our time here was quite rainy, but we did a canopy tour (ziplining from tree to tree), went to ‘monkeyland’ and the world’s biggest aviary, and visited storms river mouth.

the most exciting thing we did on the trip was bungy jumping from the bloukrans bridge – the highest bungy jump in the world (708 ft)! my dad and i were harnessed up and we walked with our 11:00am bungy group across a grated bridge that runs underneath the main bridge to the platform (this might have been the scariest part because you could see 708ft down). my dad was the first to jump and i was fourth.

the bungy is wrapped around your ankles and then they bring you to the edge, tell you to put your toes over the edge, hold out your arms, and shout “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, bungy!” and then you jump off as far as you can. the feeling was amazing! there were about 5 rebounds, where you were pulled upwards by the cord and dropped again. you then dangle upside down for about 60 seconds until a man comes down, latches you on to another cord and pulls you up. absolutely amazing!

on the way back to cape town, we got stuck in traffic but got to see an amazing sunset over table mountain and the surrounding mountains.

though it was a bit of an odd feeling to leave them, i flew to johannesburg to start my overland safari tour while my parents stayed in the cape town area for a couple of extra days.

garden route: stellenbosch, wilderness and knysna

i’m back! it’s been a crazy and intense and amazing month of traveling. there are lots of photos and stories, so i’m going to break it down bit by bit in different posts.

on april 3rd, my parents arrived in cape town. we immediately headed for stellenbosch, which is about 30 minutes outside of cape town and a huge wine area. we stopped at the vergelegen wine estate for lunch – great views and yummy food!

we checked in to our guesthouse, which was really nice and filled with antique decorations. they even served morning tea with a freshly-cut rose! we then went over several mountain passes in the franschhoek area and saw the sunset. we had dinner at ‘kalfi’s’, where we had some great traditional food and i introduced them to my favourite dessert here: malva pudding.

the next day, we headed to a town called wilderness, which was a quite an appropriate name for it. the vegetation was very thick and green and jungle-like. we settled into our guesthouse, and the next day, we set off on a canoeing adventure up a river. my dad fell off his canoe and into the river :) we then crossed the river on a little pontoon and walked to a waterfall.

we also explored the wilderness beach, saw a land formation called the ‘map of africa’, and enjoyed some very good seafood at a restaurant called “the girls”.

the town of knysna was the next stop. here, we took a ferry and went on a 4x4 drive up a hill to see the famous ‘kynsna heads’ which were so so pretty. we then walked down, took the ferry back, and stopped for tea at plettenburg bay, where the view was fantastic.

traveling africa for a month!

hey guys!

i’m off to go explore south africa’s garden route with my parents until 10 april, and then i’m off to go on my overland safari tour in south africa’s more easterly regions, mozambique, and swaziland. i’ll be out of contact for the whole month, but when i get back, there will be tons of photos and stories, i’m sure :)

the garden route:

activities: bungee jumping from the highest in the world, hiking, wine tasting, canoeing, canopy tour with ziplining, scenic drives

safari map:

here’s the itinerary:

Day 1: Johannesburg - Bushveld Camp

Departing from Drifters Johannesburg Lodge at 06h30, we head for the spectacular scenery of the Mpumalanga province. We will visit numerous sights including the pioneer gold mining village of Pilgrims Rest and the Three Rondavels that tower over the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Late in the afternoon we descend from the escarpment to the Lowveld area where we overnight in the comfortable DRIFTERS BUSHVELD CAMP within the Balule Game reserve part of the Greater Kruger National Park. After dinner we will enjoy an open vehicle night game drive..

Day 2: Kruger - Bushveld Camp

Arising with the African sun, we set out on foot in this “Big 5” reserve for a lengthy walk. Our tracker will attempt to show us animals in their natural habitat and to give us some insight into the art of tracking. We return to camp for a healthy brunch and a swim before packing up and moving on to the world-renowned Kruger National Park – widely acclaimed as being Africa’s most successful Nature Reserve. We will spend our time here game driving in search of the many animal and bird species that inhabit the area, and will camp two nights in the Park’s rest camps.

Day 3: Kruger National Park

This entire day is for viewing animals in the Kruger Park from our well-equipped vehicle. We will search for the “Big 5” today. Camp the night.

Day 4-5: Mozambique Transfrontier Park

This morning, we cross the border into Mozambique. At this point the road becomes a bush track which we will follow, venturing into the heart of the wilderness. The area that we traverse over the next days is the Mozambique side of the Transfrontier Peace Park and is privileged to have remained virtually unexplored by humans. The bush is exceptional, and offers areas of exquisite natural beauty and wildlife.

The diversity of the flora ensures some of the finest birding in Africa. We will spend two nights camping wild, exploring both on foot and by vehicle, and enjoying the serenity of the wilderness. Road conditions are rough and river crossings numerous, clients will be expected to assist in difficult sections, but for those seeking true adventure and unspoiled Africa, there are few areas that compare with this.

Day 6-7: Banhine/Zinave

Leaving the Transfrontier Park, we make our way across the Limpopo River and into the heart of the Banhine/Zinave wilderness region where we will spend two nights wild bush camping. We will attempt to traverse some of the Zinave Park, once renowned for its abundant wildlife. Few people have visited these areas in the last two decades.

Day 8-9: Vilanculos

Leaving the wilderness behind us, today we pass through the many vibrant and bustling villages en route to the coast. Our next stop is Vilanculos - on the shores of the warm azure Indian Ocean, overlooking the Idyllic Bazaruto Archipelago. We spend two nights here in Casitas, situated literally on the beach.

We will enjoy a traditional Dhow trip to the islands and will have the opportunity to snorkel along a reef in this marine reserve (this trip is dependant on weather conditions). One night we will enjoy a meal at a local restaurant.

Day 10-12: Inhambane

Moving south along the coast, our next stop is the ancient trading port of Inhambane. Clients will enjoy a trip across the bay on a traditional Dhow while the guide drives around to meet them in town. We spend some time exploring and visiting the bustling local market before continuing to our DRIFTERS BARRA BEACH CAMP under the Coconut Palms on the beach.

We will enjoy three nights in relative comfort, staying in Casitas at this camp. During our time here we will relax, snorkel, and soak up the sun whilst exploring the deserted beaches that Mozambique is so well known for. On the last night we enjoy a catered meal (own expense). Those who wish to have the options of scuba diving or horse riding on the beach (own expense).

Day 13: Maputo

Well relaxed and sun-drenched, we continue down the coast to the capital Maputo where we spend some time driving around and exploring this once grandiose city. Maputo boasts a Latino culture of street cafés, music and bustling markets. We spend the night in a comfortable hotel. Tonight we will eat in a local restaurant, sampling some of the local seafood (own expense). For the brave, Peri–Peri is a must.

Day 14: Elephant Reserve/ Swaziland

It is with new excitement that we venture back into the bush. Driving on sandy tracks we wind our way south to the Elephant reserve where we will spend the entire afternoon exploring the coastal flood plains and surrounding forests in search of these larger than average African elephants. Somehow, during the war years these elephants survived by moving down the Futi channel into South Africa, it is one of nature’s miracles that they have now returned in large numbers. We will camp the night..

Day 15-16: Zululand

Returning to South Africa today via the Ponta do Ouro border post, we enter the area once ruled by the famed Shaka Zulu. We will spend two nights at the DRIFTERS ZULULAND CAMP, a rustic camp in the sand forest on our private reserve adjoining Lake St Lucia near Hluhluwe. During our stay we will enjoy game walks through the forest, experience an open vehicle game drive in Hluhluwe National Park and will visit a rural Zulu school which Drifters sponsors through the benefits of tourism.

Day 17: KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg

Our journey today takes us through the heart of Kwazulu - Natal, we will pass many rural Zulu villages and some spectacular scenery en-route back to Johannesburg. We arrive back at the DRIFTERS JOHANNESBURG LODGE in the late afternoon.

talk to you in may!

-aud

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