North America, Africa · 19 Days · 75 Moments · December 2016

Laura's adventure in South Africa


25 December 2016

Well, that's a wrap! The flight back was easy. It seems much easier to go back in time then it does forward. And if you are a US citizen, I highly recommend you pay $100 and get a Global Entry clearance. It was fantastic! I bypassed a huge line at customs, swiped my passport through the Global Entry machine, and that was it. No unpleasant customs official to deal with. The great vibe I had all through Africa continues. It is my great intention to take this feeling and carry it forward into 2017. I am ready. What a magnificent experience!!!

24 December 2016

It's so much better to get to the airport early. I mosied around, checked in, got some money back on purchases I made while in South Africa, and then still had five more hours before my flight left. What to do? I checked into a premier lounge for $40! No, that's a great price because that included unlimited Wi-Fi, really comfortable chairs, recliners, couches, I can take a shower if I want, and unlimited drinks and food, and an open bar! An open bar! I'm sitting here writing this and drinking a glass of Black Label! It's included! I don't even drink! BIDVEST lounge in O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is the place to go! I am feeling very relaxed right now! I will be doing this from here on out!
My last night in Joburg, I saw the new Star Wars movie, which I loved, and got a good night sleep before returning to the airport to head home. I got to the airport about 10 hours early so that I could use the wifi before traveling 29 hours. I used up the 2 free hours of Wi-Fi right away, but thoroughly enjoyed it. I was talking with my family and laughing at FB posts, when a man approached me and told me that he had been watching me from across the way and said I had the happiest smile and brightest eyes he had ever seen. I was very flattered by this! And then he proceeded to tell me that he was a missionary trying to collect money to buy tickets for himself and his daughter to fly home to Durban for ๐ŸŽ„. Ah, got it! I gave him my last R100. I can't use it where I'm headed anyway. And then he gave me a hug and kissed my cheek. Not sure what that was about, but I think it was good vibes all around. I gave his daughter one of the copper bracelets I got suckered into buying in Zambia.

23 December 2016

Did I mention that my jacket was missing when I arrived to Zimbabwe from Joburg? The bag had also been pilfered through, but nothing else was taken. Actually, my jacket was strapped to the top of my bag. I had to put it under because it was too heavy. I filed a claim in Zim when I realized it was gone, but had to leave as the taxi was there. I was told I would be contacted. I wasn't. Today at the airport, I again went to the office to ask about my jacket. They said they didn't have it, but perhaps I could use the complaint form to file a claim with my travel insurance. They were so nice and I wasn't really too bent about it. Being cold on my way back to the States is temporary. As I was sitting waiting for my flight, writing here in Journi, a man walked up with my jacket, just as I wrote "nice people are everywhere"! See how it came back to me? Amazing! ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ผ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผ๐Ÿ˜ƒโค๏ธ
Zimbabwe was the most expensive part of my trip. $50 to enter, another $50 to exit, $30 to go 9 miles from the airport to town, another $30 to get back to the airport, $20 park fee on the Zambia side, $30 park fee on the Zimbabwe side, plus all the crap you buy from very pesky venders! But, I would say it was worth it! It is a gorgeous area, the people are very nice, and I felt perfectly safe. The venders are aggressive, but in a non-threatening way. I met a really awesome couple from Ireland. He is a Zimbabwe native, she is from Poland. I walked with them to the bridge so she could bungee jump. His camera died, so I filmed it and sent it to them. He also stepped in as I was being hassled to buy bracelets and got me a much lower price. The vender was unhappy. Shame. I also met a another guy from Germany, traveling alone, and we were on the Devils Pool tour together. I filmed him at the edge and will send it to him. Nice people are everywhere! I think they are the majority.

22 December 2016

O. M. G!!!!!! What a way to end this trip! I went directly to Zambia to see about Devils Pool. I was told to go to the Livingston Hotel to sign up for a tour. Along the way a tour van passed and I flagged him down. I got in with the group in the van and was dropped off at a tour office. Livingston Island Adventures. I paid $65 and went out with a guy from Germany who was bummed because he booked online and paid $120. We had to hike about 30 minutes to get to the pool. As the Zambezi river is rushing over the falls, there's a section off to the side that has a natural rock shelf and the current is not as strong. That is where you can go and get right to the edge of the falls without going over! It was absolutely amazing!!!!! The river is low this time of year. You can only go to Devils Pool about three months out of the year. I feel so lucky that I was here at the right time!
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. This is actually looking at the Zambia side from Zimbabwe.
At the edge of Devil's Pool! Victoria Falls, Zambia side. Do it! You won't regret it!

21 December 2016

Thank G-d for this mosquito netting! The mosquitoes are going nuts, and there are tons of them on the netting while I am safely underneath. I hope they shut up when I turn the lights off. The buzzing is insanely loud! It was such an uncomfortable night. Even with the netting I was bitten all night. I brought a eucalyptus essential oil roll on and rubbed it all over my legs this morning. It took the sting away. Apparently the mosquitoes come out at night. I will have to try to do a better job avoiding them tonight. I am going to the Falls now. It is so hot and humid. I am wearing a dress because I can't bear the heat in my hiking pants. I have welts all over my legs, so unattractive, but I don't care!
Made it to Zimbabwe. Beautiful country, and I am told it is very safe. However, my winter jacket didn't make it. I think it was taken by the baggage handlers in SA. They also went through my stuff as the straps were unbuckled and my stuff was disheveled inside. Nothing else taken though. The place I am staying is called Mopani Lodge and it is an actual bed and breakfast and the staff is great. But it is hot here! It's Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot. It's humid too as it is the rainy season. Actually, when the wind blows it feels quite fresh, but with no wind, you really feel the heat. My room has no a/c, but there is a mosquito net which gives it a real "out of Africa" feel. The currency is the US dollar and it is quite expensive here. US rates and sometimes more. It cost $30 to go 9 miles! I miss feeling rich in SA! Apparently, elephants roam wild here. There is actually a Look Out For ๐Ÿ˜ sign. I hope I see some elephants on parade.
Air Zimbabwe is a really nice airline. It must be an older plane (although it looks in good shape) because there is so much room to stretch out! Also, they just gave me a newspaper to read and a nice veggie sandwich and a whole bottle of water! The flight is 1:25, so I am surprised at the generosity. I was crammed in a British Air flight for two hours from Cape Town to Joburg, and we didn't get anything. Not even water! I was the very first one to check in today, and I got a window seat in the first row behind first class. 6A. The first class seats are exactly the same as the rest of the plane. Perhaps they just get a better meal? I don't care. I'm happy!
I spent the night in Joburg with a truly negative woman. She was nice enough, but so bitter in everything she said. She didn't even realize, I'm sure. Anyway, she really liked me and we talked (she talked) for many hours. Her wifi was out, and the overhead fan was broken, but she brought in a stand up fan and drove me to a restaurant so I could connect for a bit. Exactly 17 min. The bed was so comfortable though, and I slept a solid 10 hours. Good, because I was feeling pretty run down and stressed since leaving Cape Town. I got to the airport 4 hours early mostly for the wifi, but also to 'reset' by taking it slow and easy. I'm so glad I did. I got my SA phone set up to roam in Zimbabwe, changed $ back to US because that's what they use there, had a nice lunch, and got back on-line. Feeling so much better! Looking forward to having a great experience in Vic Falls!
So luxurious!
Nice!
The sunrise drive was pretty uneventful. I did see a pair of white rhinos way off in the distance, but not much else. Lots of deer. They are the mice to the Big 5's boa constrictor. I headed straight back to Johannesburg after that drive. I realized that i did not get a reminder email that my Vic Falls flight was coming up. With no reception, I could not call or check on line. So from Kruger, I headed straight to the airport. I had all day. It was true - my reservation had been cancelled. These third world middleman sites (wannabe Orbitz), are truly lame. One of these sites also booked my flight to East London and that was $55 down the drain! So I bought a new ticket, same flight but $20 cheaper. It all evens out in the end.

20 December 2016

I didn't sleep much in anticipation of not being late for the sunrise drive. I got to the gate in time, and there was another car in front of me. The gate was closed so I waited. The man in front of me was organizing his trunk and I got out to stretch too. After some friendly exchange, I mentioned I was on the sunrise tour. He told me I should be inside then and alerted the guard (who was not at the gate). The guard let me in and I just made it. Again, a little curtness from the driver for being late. Not my fault this time!! No one told me to alert the guard to let me in upon arrival. I assumed they would be out front waiting. Kruger, in general, the website, the staff, and the communication, is pretty disorganized. ๐Ÿ˜• Also, there is an air of more hostility in that area than what I have experienced elsewhere so far. It's more a feeling than overtness. I would not recommend going here alone. Go in a group and have a true SA with you.

19 December 2016

The morning started out just fine, until I got stopped for speeding. The policeman says I was going 83km in a 60 zone. I thought I was fine. It was a speed trap. They had a radar and there were about 5 of them. The fine was R1000 and I was supposed to go to town right then and there and pay it. In the end I ended up paying him R400 to let me go. It was an uncomfortable experience, and I was glad to get past it. Spent the day in Kruger, but got too far away and was late for my sunset tour by 9 min. I'm now on the sunset safari, but the guide really gave me the guilt trip, over and over again! Geez, I'm sorry!
Kruger National Park, South Africa
I drove an hour from my room to the Phabeni gate to speak to someone in person about how best to see the park since I had been unable to get the information I was looking for from friends, the website, or over the phone. The Ranger inside booked me for a sunset and sunrise tour. I'm also going to self drive today until my sunset tour begins, and then continue driving after my sunrise tour tomorrow. I did not want to have to drive an hour back-at night-to the place I stayed last night, so I booked the closest lodging to the gate as possible. It is a hostel. Yes, a hostel! I booked online for a cabin, but when I got here the woman Ellen, who is incredibly nice, apologized that the cabins were all booked, but she had a tent available. Oh dear. It is a tent but it has a bed inside. There are also communal showers but they are private and nice. OK, I'm doing it. All this so I don't have to drive at night which is the only thing that everyone has warned me about. And it was only $11!
Had an easy flight to Joburg, but when I went to get my car, they gave me a stick shift. I paid double for automatic because driving on the left side of the road, and using one hand because I'm looking at my Google maps, is daunting enough. Having to do all that and drive stick was more than I could imagine. I told this to the girl, and she said that she couldn't do anything. She went to her supervisor who said he couldn't do anything. I remained calm and simply told them that I was mostly thinking about their car's transmission. I told them I would probably destroy it since we don't drive manual transmission in America. She returned to her supervisor, was gone for about 25 minutes, and then came back and said he was able to do something. I thought so. So I got in my car and headed to Kruger. I stayed at an Airbnb about an hour outside of the Phabeni gate. I got to my room about 3pm, put my stuff down, took a 15 minute nap, then headed to the gate to make a plan for my adventure.
The driver, Brian, who drove me from Stellenbosch to Constantia was such a nice man. It was about an hour drive, and when I arrived, I was so happy to see Nicole and there were lots of hugs and happiness, that I left a painting I had purchased in Stellenbosch in the trunk of Brian's car. I paid $100 for the painting and I was a little bummed that I might not see it again. I tried unsuccessfully to reach Brian before Shabbat. Finally, motzi Shabbos, I got a hold of him and he confirmed that the painting was still in his car. He agreed to pick me up the next morning at 5 AM and drive me to the airport. Uber would've charged $14 for that trip. I paid Brian $25, gave him my last R50, and the bottle of champagne I got for my birthday. He was so happy! The kiddush did not have a sponsor that week, so I decided to sponsor it in honor of my birthday. The Greens were so happy! Doing all of this, and a really restful Shabbat, made me so happy! Happiness everywhere!!!
My room for the night! Hazyview Adventure Backpackers.

16 December 2016

Today began with breakfast on the sands of Hout Bay with Tamryn, the wonderfully delightful woman I stayed with for the past three days. Hout Bay is a small village with a very cool vibe, exciting, but quaint and more easy going. So much better than the party atmosphere of Camps Bay. It was perfect for me and centrally located. I then dropped off my car. Sad. We had some great adventures together. Next stop was Stellenbosch where I celebrated my birthday in style. I booked a room at the charming and quaint Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel. Upon entering my room, I had champagne and a huge slice of cheesecake waiting for me as a birthday gift! I then spent 3 1/2 hours at the spa, and bought a gorgeous, couture dress for myself. And a necklace to match! I had an amazing dinner on the front patio, and was serenaded by an African vocal group. The waiter also brought me a glass of champagne, a couple of side dishes, and truffles as a gift. I really wanted this birthday to be special, and it was.

15 December 2016

My birthday dress. I bought this at a boutique store, Nina J, in Stellenbosch. I was walking by, admired a dress she had on display outside, and went in and bought myself a present. Nina makes all the dresses herself and this location is her only store. Stunning, feminine, and unique! I love wearing it and I love the way it looks on me.
Beautiful Stellenbosch, South Africa
Happy birthday to me!

14 December 2016

On the last day of my 49th year, I ended the day watching the sun set on one side, and the full moon rise on the other, from the top of Lion's Head in Cape Town. How absolutely wonderful.
Cape Town at night.
They don't know how to make a margarita in Cape Town. But I drank it anyway and had a great meet up with Beki and Paul. We talked for about an hour and a half and then went on our separate ways. So weird how they are still in my life. Right now I am sitting at the top of Lions Head watching the sun set. There is also a full moon tonight so that should be spectacular too! The hike up here was about an hour, not too treacherous (nothing like the hike up Table Mountain today), but pretty steep. There are so many people up here and that's kind of a bummer. But at least we will all be together heading back down at dusk. The line to the top was like the line up to Angels Landing but not as hairball. Just exhausting! And....correction! The hike down was super hairball! As a 20-something South African responding to my musing as we slowly descended, "Omg! It's way worse going down". "Yah, its f*#%ing scary!"
Top of Lion's Head at sunset.
The Alaskans in Camps Bay!
I got word that Blink in Seaport is a great shop to get African gifts at a good price. I had some time time kill before I met "The Alaskans" for drinks and lunch, so I stopped in. They did have beautiful things, but it was not that great of prices. Ah well, I'm on vacation! They had beautiful dishware that I would love to have but I can't risk them breaking as I still have 10 more days. Sigh. Anyway, I am now in Camps Bay which is a really popular beach and feels very South Beach except the water is freezing!!!! I am sitting at a restaurant called Cafe Caprice waiting for Paul and Beki. It's their last full day here so they are at this beach all day, relaxing. And there they are!!
My faithful steed! I pulled off this parking job in one move.
Today I rode the cable car to the top of table Mountain. And then rappeled down 300 feet! I'm so glad that I took the rope and rappel course at Front Sight, and did the bungee jump, because I wasn't scared at all! It was fun. The rappel is only 1/10 the height of the mountain. Easy. But then you have to hike back up. Not easy! That hike was enough to fulfill my hike quota, but I am going to hike Lion's Head tonight at sunset. I am told it is a popular time to hike during the full moon and the full moon happens to be tonight! I'm there!
Rappelling down Table Mountain with Abseil Africa. Cape Town.

13 December 2016

I left the harsh beach environment and retreated to the lovely forest of Table Mountain, specifically the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Now this is more like it!!! It was so beautiful and peaceful and not windy at all! I just wandered through the park leisurely. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! There was a really stunning stone sculpture garden where various artists contributed pieces. Very cool. Not lame art. There was also a bridge above the tree tops called the canopy walk. It is a beautiful wooden bridge overlooking the gardens with Table Mountain as a backdrop. It was very dramatic and exquisite. Ohhh, I love it here! I am back in my room, tired and sunburned, but so relaxed! I am rappelling down Table Mountain tomorrow morning. First group of the day! I then plan to hike Lions Head. Then maybe take High Tea at the Botanical Gardens!
Canopy Walk at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
I am here now at Sunset Beach and it is a very wealthy neighborhood with grand houses and a long stretch of beach which is public. It is pretty quiet except for the windsurfers. These people are on short boards with a parachute attached. They surf then fly into the air. I tried to watch, but the wind is so strong here and it blows the sand so hard that it actually hurts when it hits you! It's like getting a barrage of little bites. Also the water is freaking cold and the sand is a bit rocky. Another "check" for me. Although this part of Cape Town looks like Hawaii, it is not gentle and warm. It is wild and unrelenting.
African penguins at Boulders Beach
I arrived at Cape Point at the perfect time this morning. There was no one here! But now as I'm leaving, it's packed! Also earlier I had noted that I hadn't seen any Chinese people on my journey, but that was because they are all here! The whole country traveling in giant buses, taking pictures of everything and burping all over the place! I continued on to Boulders Beach where the African penguin nests and rests. There are tons of them! I then decided to head into the city and see what that's all about. I was told to see Sea Point and VA waterfront. I drove through and kept on driving because it looks like Santa Monica. Expansive beach, but buildings and people, and noise, and crowding, and traffic. Check. I like the beach, but a quite, quaint beach. So I continued on to Sunset Beach which I was told by many people not to miss!
I went to Cape of Good Hope and Cape point today. To get there, you have to drive along a road called Chapman Peak Drive. O. M. G!!!!!!! I can't even describe the grandeur. All you can do is gasp and stare in bewilderment. I could totally live here. It was a beautiful drive out to the point. And when you park your car, you still have another 45 min hike to Cape of Good Hope. It is absolutely unbelievable. There are tons of shipwrecks littering the Cape and you can actually see one from the beach! It looks like a lot of crashing waves in one area, but it is the water breaking around the remains. Cool! Whew! I hiked a lot this morning and it is not even noon. I bought a coke and walked down from the lighthouse to my car. I really focused on the delicious sensation of the wind in my hair, the sun on my skin, the burn in my muscles, and drinking a cold coke with nothing on my schedule but me. It was absolute freedom. Priceless!
Cape of Good Hope

12 December 2016

I did not go to Cape Point today. I decided to just head to Hout Bay where I am staying for the next three nights. I crossed through on a road along side Kirstenbosch national botanical garden and....OMG! It is breathtakingly beautiful. Lush. Spectacularly lush. The beauty is overwhelming. I'm kind of speechless. I am grateful to stay put for the next three nights. I will be putting in full days, but it will be good to have a base. Tomorrow I will head to Cape Point and maybe a hike. We'll see. This room I am in is great. It's clean and pretty with a giant bathtub. Fruit and water and flowers are on the table for me. It's so girlie! I took a long bath tonight. It felt so luxurious. I actually fell asleep in the tub.
I drove the Whale Route from Hermanus to Gordon Bay. Spectacular! This is called the whale route because there are tons of whales along this coast. However, I am told there weren't many this year. As I was driving along, I saw a beautiful beach so I pulled over. I was going to walk down the stairs when a guy told me to try a different way as there were about 50 baboons blocking the way! They are everywhere here! They are quite comfortable among Humans and assertive. I won't say aggressive, but they just walk right up and take what they want! Arrrrrrrrgh! Two just ran behind me right now!! Creeped out!
Baboons blocking the way down to the beach.
Taking the plunge! Bloukrans Bungy Jump.
Ostrich Riding! Cango Ostrich Show Farm. Awesome!!!!
I slept in until 10am today! I have been really moving since arriving and I am tired! I am talking it easy today. I have spent the morning in Hermanus, a really cute beach town similar to La Jolla in both appearance and vibe. I found a great restaurant and am sitting at a table right by the water. I finally had some protein-first time in 2 weeks I think. I had a great grilled fish called kingklip? It is a white fish and it was delicious. Feeling better now! I am going to head into Cape Town today. I will drive to Cape Point and check out some penguins as well.
Cape Agulhas, the southern-most point on the African continent, is wild, barren, and daunting. It feels so lonely, but it's the lowest point so I had to go there! It is the point where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. I believe that the densities of these two oceans differ, so there is a delineation between them and they don't mix. I have seen photos of what that looks like from above, but from eye level I didn't see a noticeable difference. I enjoyed the awesomeness of being here for a few moments then headed to Hermanus where I stayed the night. The sun was quickly setting and I wished I had booked a room in Cape Agulhas, but I drove the hour and a half as fast (and safely) as I could. I chased the sun west the whole time, so it never got completely dark! I arrived just in time! My hosts were a lovely (tall) Dutch family from Oudtshoorn. How weird is that? I could barely understand them. Lol!
I finished the Cango activities around 2pm, then hauled it down to Cape Agulhas. It's about a 4 hour drive through desert, then gorgeous mountain gorges, then desolate plains. There was no time to stop, but I found a roadside store that sold fruit and nuts. It was run by a tall, stately Dutch woman who packaged the fruit from her orchard herself. I got fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolate covered fruit, nuts, and a coke. It was perfect! She had jams and teas too, but I don't have room to bring that stuff back and I don't want to lug it through Africa for two more weeks. The main language in SA is Afrikaans, which, I am told, is old Dutch. Like Shakespearean English. A modern Dutch would understand, but it would be weird. That's what I hear. Their accent when speaking English (in which they are also fluent) is really strong and difficult to understand. I have to really concentrate. Also, they are big, tall, giant blonde people and that is strange to me.
The Cango Ostrich Show Farm! Beautiful grounds, inviting lobby with tea and biscuits while you wait for your tour to begin, informative tour, and you get to ride an ostrich! All for R100 ($7). Need I say more!
My meal at Two Oceans, Hermanus, Western Cape, SA.
The Cango Wildlife Ranch was a fun and unique experience. And it was so cheap! It's a small little zoo and our tour guide was really knowledgeable and fun. What makes this place so unique is that you can do additional encounters that I have never seen anywhere else at any other zoo. I got to go in and meet the cheetahs! These cats are born in captivity and are trained to be mellow around people. Honestly they are just big slugs. They just laid there and purred as I petted them. Then I went into a cage and saw a crocodile underwater! It was scary at first, but it's amazing how things are not scary when you relax into it. He just looked like a floating log. He did poke his nose through the bars, but I never felt threatened. He has brown eyes when out of the water, but I an opaque film covers them underwater. So cool!

11 December 2016

Cape Agulhas
Croc cage dive!
Cheetah encounter at Cango Wildlife Ranch. I loved this guy!
The place I stayed is called Wilgewandel. It is pretty remote but this is a family run operation on beautiful grounds with outstanding help and service. The room was so quaint and well thought out, and there was incredible water pressure and tons of hot water in the shower. Such a comfortable sleep! I'm having breakfast this morning in their beautiful restaurant. There are tons of people working. Everyone is so nice and they cannot do enough for me. It's like being on the Disney cruise! I have a beautiful spread in front of me of toast and scones and yogurt and cheese and eggs and hot rooibos tea. And it was only $7! I love it here. I feel like a queen! I'm so happy!
I ended up in Oudtshoorn, a strange but cool desert town, in the evening. The drive from the Tsitsikamma forest to Oudtshoorn is about 3 hours at most. And it was the most amazing, gorgeous and diverse trip I have ever been on. There were at least four different ecosystems and terrains along the way. From sub tropical forest, to Hawaii like beaches, to California like beaches, to lush green mountains with windswept, cloudy cliffs, to stark desert, and then high desert...it was absolutely amazing. The proximity of these different terrains is so close, it's like Disneyland and all their completely different 'lands'. I did not have a place to stay when I arrived. But I finally got a hold of a place that advertised it was in Oudtshoorn but was really about 30 minutes further north toward Cango Caves. I was so tired and that 30 minutes seemed really long mostly because I was tired and because the sun was quickly setting. But I found it just as the sun went down and it was only $24!

10 December 2016

Today I jumped from the highest bungee in the world! Up until my arrival at the grounds, I wasn't sure if I was going to do it. This morning it was clear, and I drove right up. I got there 15 minutes early and tried not to think about it at all. I was the first jump in the day. It's amazing how I was able to not focus on what I was about to do, I just went with it. The worst part is when you get to the edge and you know you're about to jump. I closed my eyes and did a swan dive, and knowing that it was only a five second fall helped a lot. As you're falling you don't feel like you're falling. You hear the wind rush but it didn't feel scary at all. On the recoil I opened my eyes and allowed myself to bounce up-and-down. There's a little bit of hang time as they come down to get you so I opened my eyes and looked at the river below. And then I started laughing hysterically! It was an amazing experience. I feel I can do anything! It was a very empowering.
Worlds highest Bungee Jump. Bucket List! Bloukrans Bridge. Face Adrenaline
Nothing to fear!
View from my bed this morning in Plettenberg Bay. It was a cool, but weird place.
It took three hours to drive from Addo to Plettenburg Bay and it rained the entire time. Heavy rain with fog. That was a shame because most of the drive was through a beautiful forest called Tsitsikamma. From what I could see, there were gorgeous, lush, subtropical trees and at times you could see what I imagine was the Indian Ocean. I wish it were clear! The drive was kind of stressful, because the highway does not have a separate median for most of the way. Having to drive on the left side of the road, in a the single lane, and in rainy, foggy conditions was less than relaxing. But, at least I am feeling pretty comfortable driving now. My room in Plett is unique and cool. I would call it "glamping". The bed is in a hut with three sides. It is in the back of the house and has its own private semi outdoor shower. Because of the rain, the air was very cool, but I had a heavy blanket and the bed was comfy, so I got a great sleep!
I really enjoyed Addo. I spent about three hours driving through the park, and I loved it. I loved not having to complete it in a certain amount of time or having to stick to a particular route. It also gave me confidence for Krueger. I've decided that I will definitely self drive Krueger. It was amazing to see the animals right there in front of you. At one point I was so close to an elephant and he turned and looked at me and started walking toward me which is quite terrifying! But it turns out he was just headed to another bush to continue eating. There are 500 elephants in this park as well as other animals. I saw warthogs, zebras, some sort of deer, and a really strange large bird that walked as if he had a really hard day LOL. There are 10 Lions but I didn't see any. Addo is a gorgeous park with views of the planes as well as the Indian Ocean. Fantastic!

9 December 2016

Addo Elephant Park
Woke up this morning and had a great breakfast with Ken and Desrae. Honestly visiting with them has been the highlight of the trip so far. They're both so nice and helpful and gave me so much information about what to do along the way to Cape Town. I'm headed to Addo elephant park finally. However I saw that there is sand boarding on the way. It says they want you to make a reservation but I'm just going to drop by and see if I can try it. I had just missed the group that went out. They offered to take me solo but it is about $80 and I don't want to do it that badly. But they did give me a souvenir bottle of sand which is very nice, and they also were very nice!. Soโ€ฆ Off to Addo!

8 December 2016

OK, something with very heavy wings just buzzed into the room and landed with a thud in the corner of the room. I am just going to pretend it's not there...๐Ÿ˜ต๐Ÿ˜ณ
Port Elizabeth is on the coast. Duh. Right now it's overcast and windy but warm and balmy. There is the familiar smell of desert rain in the air. It's kind of desert here, not like Mojave Desert, it's a bit more green. It is 4:00 PM and the day is kind of shot. I have a great room here; private off the main house with a kitchenette, bathroom, and bedroom. House is in a safe and beautiful neighborhood. I took a nap for about 45 minutes and only had time to go to the grocery store for some supplies for tomorrow. Ken, the host, took me to the store as it was closing (8 PM), and I got what I needed. Then for the next three hours we talked about all kinds of stuff and it was fascinating and fun. He is an atheist and doesn't believe in chiropractic, yet we had great conversation that was respectful, interesting, and enjoyable. How refreshening that no one got bent out of shape!
It was already late in the afternoon by the time I got my car, so I did not go to the elephant park. I'll go tomorrow. I had a bit of a headache so I decided to find my Airbnb. I spelled the street name wrong, so I end up going to a different location, but eventually got to the right place. Thank God because this place is really nice. The first place I went to was super sketch. Anyway my hosts are truly lovely people. Again I have a whole separate guest house to myself, I just made myself a cup of tea (which makes everything better), and now I'm going to lie down and try to recuperate a bit. At least I got a lot of practice driving. Scariest part is making a right-hand turn from the left-hand lane. I just have to concentrate a bit. Also everyone was really nice even though everything kind of went wrong. And I ended up buying a bunch of Dead Sea products that I didn't need from a very talented Israeli kiosk salesgirl in the airport. Noooooo! How did that happen????? ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ’ฉโœก๏ธ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ’ฐ
While waiting for my new flight, I went to Avis to explain that I could not pick up the car in EL and ask them to change it so I could pick up in PE. The girl seemed to understand and I thought it went wellโ€ฆ No. it turned out that the girl in JHB had cancelled that booking and made an entirely new one. Problem was that I had already paid for the original booking. It taking so long to sort it out that I ended up just paying for the new booking and I will have to discuss with AMEX to reverse the charges on the first one. Ah well...
Well, the first minor travel screw-up happened today. I got to the airport for my flight, and realized that I had booked it for November 8 instead of December 8. After scrambling around a bit, I discovered there were no more flights to East London today. So, I bought a flight to Port Elizabeth. It's the place I was going to end up tonight anyway, so really nothing changed, other than I will miss the drive from East London to Port Elizabeth. I changed my car rental to PE, and then I will just head straight to the Addo Elephant Park. Ah well, everything happens for a reason. For example, because I missed the flight, it caused me to bump into a shoe shine guy who asked if he could shine my hiking boots if nothing more than to help him out. I did it. I'm not sure my boots are even supposed to polished. But it was only 30 rand which is like $2.20. He was so appreciative!

7 December 2016

I was going to go out into town today to see a museum or something, but I felt pretty tired so I decided to rest. Suddenly I heard thunder. One single clap of thunder. It then continued to thunder for about 30 minutes with no rain, but now it's coming down hard! How wonderful. How perfect! The thunder was so loud, it sounded like the track on Ambience. Going to lie down for a bit. Falling asleep to the sound of rain is one of the best feelings I know. Slept for an hour and a half but made myself get up even though I feel so out of it. It's 4 PM now. I am going to try to stay up for another four hours and then get a good sleep. I am going to venture out and get a decent meal. I leave for East London at 7 AM tomorrow.
So far everyone is so nice. Customs was delightful. I was greeted with smiling faces, I felt welcomed. Such a nice change from the US! I am so excited to be here!! As I was walking through the airport, I was smiling like an idiot. I just can't stop smiling! I bought a cell phone and three gigs of data for $110. That's not bad because now I have an unlocked cell phone that everyone in my family can use for international trips. Also I have piece of mind that I can communicate when not in Wi-Fi. The girl at Vodacom in the airport set up the phone for me completely. She added all the apps and she was absolutely wonderful. She and her coworkers were speaking Zulu to each other. What a pretty language!
I got to haggle over taxi prices with the taxi "captain", and I won! I knew the price of the fare going in. Another taxi guy revealed the price to me and I confirmed on Uber. But this guy started negotiations by doubling it, but I ended up getting what I wanted. It was a very friendly exchange. We were both smiling and laughing, and in the end I gave him a hug. Such good vibes! And, hey!, they drive on the wrong side of the road! So weird. Hopefully it won't take me too long to get it.

6 December 2016

Boarding now at JFK. I haven't allowed myself to get too excited about this trip as there was so much to focus on prior to it, but now I am thrilled! I am looking forward to amazing adventures and nice people, perfect weather, and perfect timing everywhere I go. I'm off!