A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

Jeffreys Bay

Jeffreys Bay

The township tour was really interesting, pretty rough though that the people living in these tin sheds have views of these huge mansions along the beach. We went to a traditional herbal medicine woman who showed us what she uses and what it treats, also popped into a shabeen bar for some traditional beer but were pretty quick to leave there....I think the men inside had been there for a loooong time. There were some better developed parts of the township where the homes were brick and larger. There is also a recycling project there that uses a points system for the kids in the area to collect rubbish, and when they get a certain amount they get toys or even a bike. The guy from the hostel that took us was really good and had some good info too. There are wooden posts on the beach, and these are still there from when the beach was divided during apartheid.
The hostel was really nice and a fun bunch of people there. Saw loads of dolphins swimming past this afternoon. This morning was my surf lesson and, look out for the next Blue Crush movie, i will be the star.....caught a couple of 10cm waves haha. And that was big enough for me. Arrived at Port Elizabeth tonight, just staying until the morning and getting back on the bus to go inland to Hogsback.

Posted by neerg_08 22:32 Archived in South Africa Tagged bay jeffreys Comments (0)

Life off the tour....

Cape Town, Knysna, Jeffreys Bay

I have just arrived at Jeffrey’s Bay, checked into my ocean view room at the Island Vibe and am listening to the waves crashing. Not bad for about $15 a night. Plus they do free activities here, tomorrow is a tour through the nearby township which should be interesting and I’m sure eye opening. And I’ve booked surf lessons for Tuesday, which I am sure won’t be warm but gotta test my skills at the home of the ‘best right hand point break on the planet’….whatever that means. Hopefully something to do with surfing in the whitewash. And hopefully the white pointers are all busy at the cage dive. Far away.

It is nice to be doing things on my own for a change, and the Bazbus is very convenient as we get picked up and dropped off at the door of the hostel and is a good way to meet people. Still have to work on picking up this dam backpack though, and packing…especially now that I bought this stupid big vuvuzela which wouldn’t fit in the box I sent home and doesn’t fit in the bag. I am determined to get it home though. I really enjoyed Cape Town but it was a bit more expensive than what I have been used to so good to finally move on after 10 days there. Also to have a few rainy days where I did absolutely nothing was really nice. Even got in an episode of Oprah and watched some news. As sad as all the tour goodbyes were, it was nice when everyone on the trip had left so no more eating out, just my cup-a-soup and salad sandwich diet.

Wednesday was a nice day so I waited for the ‘table cloth’ to clear from Table Mountain and then got the cable car up to the top, as it was too late in the afternoon to hike it (bummer). The views from the top are stunning, both sides of the mountain. I do love how it looks though when there is cloud covering the top. It’s very beautiful and such a pretty backdrop to the city. Thursday I did the Hop on Hop off bus around the beaches and city which was a nice drive and then went to the Slave Lodge, which used to be where the slaves were kept before being auctioned. That was an interesting place, in the 1700’s there were more slaves than free people in the Cape! Also did the Museum of SA…..not much of a museum person I don’t think. Friday I did a tour of the Castle of Good Hope, and old fort from….a long time ago. That was ok, but then went to the District Six Museum which was really interesting and sad. District Six was an area in Cape Town which had been a very close community and blend of cultures until it was declared a ‘whites only’ zone and residents were forced out of their homes to townships around the Cape Flats. The area was then completely demolished. District Six today even I could tell wasn’t the best area to be walking around, apparently especially around the museum area. While waiting for my taxi this homeless lady set up her blanket on the steps of the museum, and then tried to fight any people going past (In between her drug deals). When a policeman came over and told her if she wasn’t gone in 5 minutes he’d do something about it, she moved and then came back to annoy him. …that taxi couldn’t have been any slower arriving. There was a police car parked on just about every street that I saw in the area. You’re never alone walking down a street in Cape Town either – there are these parking guys who you have to tip each time you park and so they help you get in and out of the spot, and keep an eye on the cars. There are several on each street, and then there are all of the people selling The Big Issue magazine, a couple at each set of lights. Pretty good having these jobs created though.

Yesterday I got the Bazbus in the morning for the 7 hour drive to Knysna. There are huge areas of tin shacks lining the highway out of Cape Town, and all the drives we did around the coast while there you can see the huge contrast – beautiful beachfront or mountain view homes and then 5 minutes out of the town is the township where the hills are dotted with shacks.

As we drove up the coast we saw a whale at one of the beaches, in pretty close to the shore too. Hope to do a whale watching cruise at some point. Knysna reminds me of the town in the Truman Show, with neat white houses and perfectly manicured lawns. It is on a lagoon, so when I arrived in the afternoon I got a Tuk Tuk – how very Asia – with an English couple from the hostel around the heads which was a really nice drive and had a few viewing stops. Also crashed a couple of weddings, just quietly chugging in in our musical Tuk Tuk and drawing the attention away from the bride. I spent the next day down at the waterfront just having a read and then in the afternoon got the Bazbus to Jeffrey’s Bay. I planned to have 2 nights here but I have a feeling I am going to hate leaving.

Posted by neerg_08 22:29 Archived in South Africa Tagged town garden bay route cape township knysna jeffreys Comments (0)

Wine Time

Fish River Canyon, Orange River, Stellenbosch, Cape Town

Well I am having a very nice time in Cape Town, with some lazy days and not so lazy nights.
The last of my friends from the tour left this morning (heading for Australia) so the hostel is very lonely now after being around people 24/7 for the past 10 weeks. But we have all made plans to meet up again in the future and of course there is facebook.
On our last day in Namibia we visited Fish River Canyon, the 2nd largest canyon in the world. It was a nice surprise as none of us knew to expect anything so spectacular. We spent a couple of hours walking around the canyon, a couple of us with short attention spans spent about half that time building ‘Oasis’ out of rocks and sticks. We then continued on to our campsite at the South African border on the Orange River……a campsite with NO MUSIC allowed….even at the bar. I felt like I was in footloose or something! We had to do the big truck clean which usually goes hand in hand with drinks and music and someone raced to hit the off button. The hippie we spoke to about it said something about new beginnings….new beginnings? It was our ending! We got to the border early the next morning and our coach picked us up to take us all the way down to Stellenbosch. On the way we stopped at a town called Springbok, and felt like we were in central America or something; it’s an odd little town.
Stellenbosch is a University Town, but has really nice colonial architecture and was our base to see the winelands. Unfortunately our first night out was a somewhat big one so 2 from my ‘group’ were out of action for the wine tour. Well, one made it but spent the 1st winery in the toilet and then got a taxi home. The rest of us really just topped ourselves up from the night before, were told off for being too noisy and drinking in the van before we even got to the first winery and by the 3rd were sleeping in the van. It is a very beautiful area though and there were some delicious wines (a nice change from all the box wine) and cheap to buy too. Unfortunately the next day, our last in Stellenbosch, I stupidly washed ALL pants, shorts and even dresses and so had to stay at the hostel in my pj’s all day. What a shame with the free WiFi.
I arrived in Cape Town last Tuesday and went down to look around the Waterfront which is really nice and reminds me of Sydney Harbour. The main street, Long Street, reminds me a bit of Newtown. We were really lucky with the weather as had heard it would be freezing and miserable but it was actually hot and sunny. The hostel we were staying at was really nice and good central location. Met some interesting characters on the streets though, including one ex prisoner (as we found out when he showed us his ‘26’ tattoo, which we were later told is the gang system in prison here and they earn that by killing people….), he told us of his ‘plans’ for his mothers’ new boyfriend. Complete weirdo and happy we were in a large group.

That night was our final group meal and the next day the final official day of the trip. A group of us went to Robben Island, again lucky with the weather. It was very interesting seeing sites mentioned in Nelson Mandela’s book such as the limestone quarry, Mandela’s cell and the courtyard he hid parts of his book as he wrote it. Our guide was an ex political prisoner and was open to any personal questions. He was in for about 12 years for alleged ‘high treason’ and he, along with many other prisoners, suffers very bad arthritis due to the freezing conditions of the jail. The trip also included a bus tour of other parts of the island, including Leper Graveyard from the old Leper colonies. There was a sweet (& sad) story about a couple in the 70’s who were separated as the men and women were, and were there for about 12 years. They died within 1 ½ hours of each other, with neither knowing of the others death. Maybe that will be the storyline of the next ‘Notebook’ movie.

Most people I have seen from the trip have been coming down with the flu so we have all taken it pretty easy. Just farewell dinners and drinks each night with one less person each time. Saturday was really nice though – A few of us girls drove around the coast which is beautiful. The coastal towns remind me a bit of the south coast, and others of the northern beaches. Really really nice. Also went to Boulders Beach, the one with all the penguins. They are stinky little things but very cute.

Ok, going to pack up and get away from these crazy people at the hostel. There are some weeeeirdo’s here, harmless, but there is this crazy drunk lady who talks to the cat, the French guy who always talks and we have no idea what he is saying (he doesn’t shut up), a man who has been here for 6 months, can’t close a door and told me he wants to start a new world-somewhere without much oxygen, and a few others. But it is pretty nice, free wifi, can see Table Mountain from here and is a 2 minute walk from the main street, while still being quiet enough to sleep. And has pin number locks on 2 doors just to enter the place. Until then, I will mingle with the crazies and hopefully not become one.
Oh and I paid a visit to the Labia theatre tonight. Yeh, the Labia!

Posted by neerg_08 22:20 Archived in South Africa Tagged fish canyon town river cape orange stellenbosch Comments (0)

Delta's & Dunes

Okavango Delta, Etosha, Cheetah Park, Spitzkoppe, Cape Cross, Swakopmund

I think we are in Bethanie at the moment on our way to Fish River Canyon tomorrow, the 2nd largest in the world behind the Grand Canyon. It has been a really great couple of weeks and Namibia is just an amazingly stunning country and so different to everywhere else we have been.
Back to Botswana…..
The Okavango Delta was one of the highlights of my trip, I am sure I have said that about a few things now but it was just simple yet somehow so enjoyable. We arrived at our pick up point and the local polers assign themselves to you and one other person. Our poler was Cross and he turned out to be so lovely. Some people you meet just really stick with you. He was SO smart but as we found out had only had a primary education and you can’t help but imagine how far he could have gone. Anyway, we loaded our Mokoros to take us to one of the palm islands where we were camping for the 2 nights. The trip in the Mokoro was, although initially nerve-racking as they don’t appear all that sturdy and we had all of our cameras etc so relaxing paddling gently through the reeds. The only downside was the spiders which jump off the reeds onto you. Over the 2 days we did relaxed a lot in the sun, had a go at poling which is a LOT harder than it looks, and did a couple of game walks which I was not all that comfortable with knowing there are lions in the area. At one stage we were watching a couple of elephants fighting, and I finally had let my guard down and felt comfortable, and then something just sped through the bushes behind us and I swear I almost needed a change of pants! Turned out to just be a warthog thank god. We had to race back to the mokoros when a large herd of elephants started heading towards where they were parked, then paddled to the hippo pool…me+hippo+paddle boats=not a good mix. Cross was under strict instructions to make sure we were in a position where the hippo would go for another boat before us. We had a sunset cruise and stayed up around the fire at night with the polers learning a few games and jokes they have obviously picked up over many campfires. Then went to bed and listened to elephants and hippos in the distance. It was so sweet when we tipped Cross I went for a handshake and he just grabbed us both and hugged and kissed us both and wouldn’t let go.
When we got back to Maun a couple of us did a flight over the Delta in a 7 seater plane which was great to put into perspective what we had seen from the ground and more. The desert plains meeting the mouth of the Okavango River, scrub fires and wildlife.

We had a couple of long drive days to get us to the Namibian border, one place we stopped at was Tsodilo Hills. The four hills (Male, Female, Child and North Hill) rise abruptly from the desert and are spiritually significant to the San people, who believe this was the site of creation. The next day we crossed into Namibia, drove through Mahango National Park along the way and bush camped near the what is supposed to be the largest Baobab tree known to exist. It was massive and since I love Baobab trees so much I gave it a big hug.

We then continued on to Etosha National Park, which is meant to have one of the highest density of wildlife population in Africa. Within the first 10 minutes of entering the park we came across a black rhino which was not even shy like the others we have seen. We had a laugh in our big truck at the cars nervously turning their cars on as it came right up to them. We had a full day game drive there in the truck which was good to be able to see from the height we were at. We also saw a leopard not in a tree for the first time…they are beautiful. The scenery was amazing as it was so varied, from dry grass savannah to scrubby desert to salt lakes to water holes. The camp we stayed at in the park had set up a floodlight and rocky stadium on one side of a watering hole so we took our sleeping bags down there in the night and watched rhino’s and hyenas completely undisturbed. After watching the sunrise on our morning game drive leaving the park, we drove on to our camp at Cheetah Park. We stopped in a small town called Outjo, and saw the many Herrera tribe women and men around town. The women wear huge puffy dresses made from all this colourful material and the men smart suits and little hats. It looked like we had gone back to the 50’s or something.

The owners of Cheetah Park have set up a Cheetah breeding and protection program as they were being killed by local farmers for killing their animals. The original 3 they have from taking them in when their mothers where killed are tame and so we got to spend the afternoon with them. We then went out in the back of utes and trailers to the wild cheetah section for the afternoon feeding which was very cool. Later on we got to try some puff adder….interesting.

The next day (this brings us to Saturday 6th) was I think my favourite drive day to date and favourite camping location. The drive was past scrub covered desert surrounded by amazing rock formations including the Brandberg range and we set up camp at a community run bush camp at Spitzkoppe, another range of rock formations. We had time to have a walk around and then sat up on one of the rocks watching the sunset after our Eland steak dinner.

On our way to Swakopmund on Sunday we stopped at Cape Cross seal colony along the southern end of the Skeleton Coast. A lot of that drive was fogged with thick ocean mist as the cold waters hit the desert coastline. We could smell the seals before we could even see the ocean. There were thousands and apparently supposed to be up to 200-300,000 of them. We arrived at Swakopmund in the afternoon, and didn’t have to pitch our tents! Nope, we had dorm rooms with PROPER matresses!!! Heaven! And ensuite bathrooms! And endlessly hot showers and found out we could now drink the tap water!!! And a bar 10m from our door without even having to leave the hotel!!! What more could overlanders want. Amazing seafood for dinner. Swakopmund is on a tourist town on the coast built as the gateway to this ‘adventure capital of Namibia’. All the buildings are really modern and the town really clean and nice but as we arrived on Sunday when most places are closed it was like a really foggy ghost town. The fog at night is so thick that it feels like it is raining and was colllllllld!

On Monday I went out sandboarding on the dunes. I opted against the snowboard and went for the sheet of wood to lie down on instead as I figured that would be how I spent most of the time anyway. It was so much fun apart from the initial fear of flying head first down sand dunes at my top speed of 71km p/h. Lots of fun besides then having to walk back up the dunes after 8 weeks of sitting on my but on a truck. We went out for a really nice dinner (Springbok…..delicious!) for one of the girls birthdays then continued on until 6am, spend most of the next day taking advantage of the free wifi and then pretty much repeated the previous night. Yesterday we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and then stopped at Sossusvlei and climbed Dune 45. These are those sand dunes you see of Africa that are nearly bright orange-red in colour and are stunning. We watched the sun set (you may notice there is a slight obsession with sunsets and sunrises) from the top of the dune which was beautiful. Went to bed to the sounds of jackals and some other unidentified sounds and same with tonight. We have just the net on our tent tonight and no cover so we can hear more and making the most of the warmer Namibian weather and 2nd last camping night.

Also considering dying my hair dark as whenever there are traditional dancers performing for us, I am always the first and/or only one to be picked out…either that or gotta work on my moves.

Posted by neerg_08 04:21 Archived in Namibia Tagged park cross dune cheetah namibia cape botswana delta okavango 45 etosha spitzkoppe swakopmund Comments (0)

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