13-17th April 2016
South Africa was a fully pre-booked destination for me. For the most part because friends, family and housemates had warned me how unsafe the area could be. I didn’t want to believe it but I thought it best to be safe.
As soon as I got the local bus I met another guy who was obviously travelling (the backpack gives it away). He had a similar backstory to me, which made me feel slightly less special, and we decided to hit the Waterfront together before my overnight bus to J-Bay. It was immediately obvious how good the exchange rate is for us here when we got a fantastic meal, with drinks for a couple of pounds.
This was a lovely upside-down iced hot chocolate gourmet milkshake (for less than £1!)
Week one was surf camp at Jeffery’s Bay (famous for hosting the annual Billabong World Tour Competition). After an overnight bus I was not prepared for what was about to become a fantastic party week.
As soon as I arrived, after a morning beer which helped meet some of the guys, they hooked me up with some surfing gear and I had my first lesson.
We learnt to get up on the board “after the break” on the white foam of a wave. When I see photos it looks like such a small achievement but the feeling is just exhilarating when you get up on that board successfully.
After an epic lesson we celebrate with tequila shots. A few hours in the sun and the beer pong table is set up. Some other brits have just arrived. I quickly find out what happens if you get white-washed!
I wake up in the morning with someone in my bed, somehow without a hangover, leaving only a massive ear-to-ear grin on my face which only gets bigger when I look outside and take the view in.
>> Beer. Surf. Tequila. Sun. Beer pong. Sleep. Repeat.
## Horse Beach Run
The only thing which broke up our daily routine was a 2.5 hour horse ride down the beach (for the incredible value of only £20!) This quickly became my favourite experience of travelling to date. My little sister is the one that got me into riding lessons in Edinburgh. It paid off.
The ride took us through acres of greenery, followed by sand dunes as far as the eye can see, right through to a pristine beach where we had a chance to race the horses and let them get some exercise.
## 18-25th April 2016
As with everything else, I hadn’t a clue what to expect for my first organised tour. I had my backpack, had just got off the overnight bus back to Cape Town, cleaned myself up in the Town Hall bathrooms and was sitting in a petrol station hoping I had the right place. I still couldn’t figure out how to make international calls on my (supposedly) international phone so I really hoped this was the place.
With perfect timing, the Earth Stompers bus cruises around the corner. Out jump a group of people who all seem to be similar ages to myself but slightly cooler I think to myself. I go around, shaking hands and introducing myself, whilst simultaneously forgetting their names as soon as they say them.
Off we went. First stop was to see the penguins at Betties Bay on route to our first backpackers hostel.
After some wine tasting, where you can buy a 6 bottle box of wine for less than £5(!), we head over to Cango Caves.
A natural underground area with rocks that have crystallised as water levels fell over the years in South Africa. The adventure route took us into all sorts of nooks and cranny’s which makes me thank the heavens I’m not “big boned” or anything like that!
We stop off along Route 62 to pick up some gourmet milkshakes (yummy!) from some very hip shops. I start to click with one of the many beautiful girls that is on the tour. At this point I can’t tell whether it’s sexual attraction or just that social click you sometimes get as I’m really enjoying her company. She has a boyfriend so nothing will happen and I think maybe it’s best to keep my distance whatever the case may be. We’ll see how that works out! Finally, we pop into a lovely ornament store where I meet my match.
On the way to the next hostel we come across some crazy ostriches (apparently they’re all a bit crazy).
When we arrive at the hostel I’m shocked to bump into two people I had met the previous week at Island Vibe in Jefferys Bay. Small world!
Today we head off to the Wilderness National Park where we kayak through the water and hike for through the park. Immediately, I suggest that me and Nelle (the girl from yesterday) should kayak together. Somewhat (ok, totally) exaggerating my great canoeing experiences in Cambridge we agree. It seems I couldn’t even keep away for a day!
When the Kayaking is finished and we start the hiking I decide to hold back from some of the group though so I can appreciate all these new sounds my ears have never experienced before. Crickets, birds and odd noises fill the air and I appreciate a moment alone with them.
When we reach the top we picnic next to a lovely waterfall. It seems that no one is going to jump in. Someone asks me if I’m going to. Am I? Well, I haven’t come all this way NOT TO. I take off my top and jump in. It’s cold. It’s great. A short while later three more of the braver ones come and join. Only one of the girl’s jump in, Mekan, and she’s so much fun to be around. From that point on, every second with her was a blast. I don’t know why I hadn’t really noticed her before then. We splash around. We laugh. We slide in. It was great fun!
Matteo has been lovely, taking a load of action photos.
As it starts to spit down with some rain we head back. Ready for round two of kayaking.
Before the day ends we make it to the point where the Indian ocean meets the Atlantic.
After defying death and bouncing back up to the bridge we head over to see the suspended bridge before going to bed for a night at Addo Elephant park, ready for a game drive in the morning. The lads; Abdi, Kong and Stefan, start up a game of poker and kindly catch me up with the rules again. The guys are all so different but it’s been a hilarious experience hanging out with them.
The game drive gets on the go. We’re all taking photos at animals that are so far away. Unbeknown to us that we will later delete all these photos as we get up close and personal to a lot of them
One of the ladies has to pee. We’re another hour away from returning. There’s nowhere to go but venture into the lions’ nest. We’ve only spotted 2 lions. That means there’s another 4 in the park. Somewhere. Anywhere. We all wait apprehensively.
Our second game drive of the days lets us see some elephants. The beauty of having such knowledgeable guides as Cindy and Ferne means you don’t miss out on all this stuff! When I say see some elephants I mean see some elephants. Right in front of us.
Today’s turning into a bit of an emotional day. We wave goodbye to some of the guys from the group. After spending a few days and nights together I feel quite close to everyone. One of the lads, Stefan, reads a really sweet goodbye poem about Backpacker’s Dreams which is very touching.
We hug goodbye. Stefan gives me his jacket because I’ve lost both my jacket and cashmere jumper along the way. Such a closet sweetheart!
Back in the car. I end up chatting to Neele again. It’s the best conversation I’ve had whilst travelling. We talk about everything and nothing. Reminisce on the past and ponder about the future. I end up telling stories I’ve barely told anyone before. She opens up her heart and holds a riveting conversation (even whilst I sing Hey Jude over the top of her, she keeps going). I already know I will keep contact with her after I leave South Africa.
Once we reach the hostel, it’s right on the beach. There’s wood fire pizzas and cocktails in jam jars. There’s another person from Island Vibe here too. I’m set for the night! We finish eating and start chatting when my phone pings. My second year uni results are in. Do I check them? I can’t not. I sneak away whilst opening it up. I passed? Woo, I passed! I check by how much. I got a first! 93%! A first by absolute miles. I ring my family. I hit up Facebook. I hug everyone I know and everyone I don’t. Tonight’s going to be a party!!
We have a brilliant night and some family friends even make it over. I’m so excited I tell them the news immediately. With them is their adorable son and I absolutely relish the chance to talk about Minecraft. It really makes me miss the little guys back home!
As the night goes on people start to drift to bed. Neele decides to stay up as her taxi leaves super early. I have a shower, change into my PJs and declare that I’m going to bed. The bar has closed but when I go over to say night to the lady from Island Vibe, the bartender gets me a drink. I guess I’m staying up a bit longer. The bar tender goes off as well and I’m left sitting with a charming lady who I had met a week ago. We decide to go down to the beach and…. Spend some time there.
It was a lovely night and an end to a week I’m never going to forget.
I wake up early to see Neele off. She says I should go back to sleep. I feel a pang of guilt for saying I’m off to bed the night before, then immediately staying up in someone else’s company. I know that I’ll miss having her around so much, I try to savour the last moments and leave a good lasting impression. Soon after she leaves I ring her (finally worked out this international phoning business!) to hear her voice and make sure her journey has worked out ok.
If I needed some waking up, my wakeup call was very soon to happen.
As we arrive back in Cape Town, one of the ladies, Nienke, very kindly offers me a couch to stay on. Saving me another nights expenses and allowing me to book in Paragliding without feeling at all guilty about splurging. People are so generous when you’re traveling.
Another emotional day as we say goodbye to more people. Starting with Silvana and Marisa who I had the pleasure of spending a lot of my time at the beginning with. Roaming around looking for a whale in the distance and some creatures we thought were penguins but definitely weren’t penguins it turned out!
Myself and Nienke head to a local place for breakfast. The food’s fantastic and I admire how much she has this down. Living in another country and really making the most of it. She’s so independent and self-sufficient and that’s such an attractive quality. Having met so many people like this now, I know I’m going to be so picky when I want to settle down with the “right person”. Attractive, independent, worldly, smart, confident, I want it all.
Having checked into a new hostel and feeling like a seasoned traveller already I head to the local laundromat. I immediately start chatting to Diana, a local who’s also getting a load of washing done. She works in advertising but has a desire to change the world. She seems fascinating and I suggest we go grab a drink whilst we’re waiting for the machines to finish. I ask her loads of questions and feel so privileged that people just let me into their lives.
To end the night we all meet up, along with someone I met in hostel and invited along, for some farewell pizzas.
I grab my bags and head up Signal Hill. Time to come back down it.
South Africa is the first place I missed as soon as I left. Was it the people, the activities, the country? I’m not quite sure. I know that I miss it though.
Good bye Africa. Hello 26 hour plane ride to Australia.