Friday, August 31, 2012

Windhoek

After a 22 hour bus ride through God-only-knows-where-Africa, we made it to Windhoek, Namibia a few days ago. We didn't have a lot we wanted to accomplish here, but one thing rang true with all of us... beer.

Windhoek brews our favorite South African beer, originally named "Windhoek." We have probably been planning a brewery tour for 2 years. Unfortunately, it wasn't until we came that we learned they're under renovation and aren't giving tours at the moment. : ( Fortunately for us, we had been to the Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town and sampled a great craft beer called "Camelthorn." After chatting with the guy for a while, we learned it was a Namibian beer based in Windhoek! Score! So today, we're off to check out the Camelthorn brewery and taste some of their delicious beer. We've also learned that "Hansa" beer is brewed here too (though I'm still not convinced it's not South African) and we'll see how much there is to do in our next town and if some more free beer is in order...

We've spent the last few days wandering around the city of Windhoek, enjoying German Schnitzels and beers. In case you didn't know, Namibia was colonized by the Germans, however long ago. It's interesting because there are technically three colonial languages spoken here: Afrikaans, German, and English. Then there are at least 7 different tribes, each with their own language, or at least dialect.

Namibia is a fasinating country (what we've seen so far anyway). It is a huge country with only 2 million people, making it the least densely populated country in the world. When we drove in, I saw a sign saying we were 20 km from Windhoek. As the capital of Namibia, you would think there would be smaller towns, townships, something leading up to the biggest city in the country. Nope. It wasn't until we were 2-3km from city center that any sort of life appeared. Namibia is apparently just towns seperated by rolling desert hills. Beautiful, but weird.

We met a Peace Corps Namibia volunteer at the backpackers we're staying at, and he graciously invited us to come out with him and his fellow volunteers that night. We were quick to agree and we soon found ourselves in a big mall, eating pizza, drinking "Jam Jars" and surrounded by 10 volunteers familiarly all talking at once. We were in heaven. It's not like we haven't been with Peace Corps volunteers the whole way so far, but we're a small group traveling. There's something about a big group of American Volunteers getting together that makes me all warm inside... everyone talking over each other, complaining about life in their communities (though everyone actually loves it), dishing out the latest gossip in the PCV and expat community. We all agreed we'd missed it. Peace Corps Volunteers are in general, pretty awesome people, so we had a blast and made sure to hang out with them again last night, after a delicious dinner of springbok, kudu, ostrich, crocodile, and zebra. Mmmmm.

Tomorrow, we're headed to the coastal town of Swakopmund. Everyone we've talked to, every guidebook we've read, has said it's like Germany in Africa. Considering I've never been to Germany, I'll probably have to take their word for it, but it should be an interesting sight, a German town in the middle of the sand dunes of the Namibian desert. On the coast of Namibia are the infamous dunes that you see in the typical pictures of African desert, set up right against the ocean. Namibia was the first country in Africa that we saw as we flew to Johannesburg oh so many years ago... Our first glimpses of the continent were of this desert set up right next to the ocean. I'm very excited to see it from the ground. I'm also excited to hopefully do some sandboarding on the dunes. Should be fun!

We'll be in Namibia until Friday when we head north towards Angola and then east through the Caprivi strip and into Zambia to Victoria Falls. People keep talking about the bungee jump and I keep covering my ears. In my mind, it's still WEEKS away and I don't have to think about it, no one remind me it's only days away...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Goodbye SA

I'm having a hard time saying goodbye to this country, I've realized. South Africa has been a sort of "home" for us these past two years... An escape from the rural African life. Not to say parts of South Africa aren't exactly the same as Swaziland, but the feeling of crossing a boarder and going to a city with skyscrapers and malls and consistently hot showers was as close to going home as we could get. South Africa has always been our shining beacon of hope when life in Swaziland became too much. "If I can just make it one more month, I'll be in Joburg/Durban/Cape Town for two weeks." It's hard for me to imagine never coming back here. I hope that's not true. I hope I come back many many times. If this trip across the coast has taught me anything, it's that South Africa has so much to offer. We've seen cities and beach towns, townships and suburbs, McDonalds and Chicken Licken, black people and white people, and 11 different languages. It is so extremely diverse in everyway, and that is something I have come to appreciate, having lived in a place where 99% of the population is the same race and ethnicity. I love this country.

It's been such an interesting trip across the coast. It is such a great route to backpack, but not a well tapped one. Everyone goes to Europe. Not many people think of backpacking the coast of South Africa. Because of this, and because everyone does one of two routes (CT to Durban or Durban to CT), you run into the same people in each town. There's only about 50 people backpacking the whole thing, and 50% are going the same way you are, so you all get to know each other pretty well. By the time we reached Cape Town, we didn't go anywhere without running into people we knew... The Old Biscuit Mill Market in Woodstock, the reggae concert at the random backpackers, the bar down the street. It was fun. But now we're leaving our group of surf loving, coast travelers. Will it be the same going up? I've heard so, but I guess we'll see.

Anyway, this past weekend in Cape Town has been fun for sure. But we're ready to move on to places we haven't seen; uncharted territory... for us anyway.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Knysna's Nice.

Well, we did eventually make it out of the Humansdorp Wimpy. We arrived in Knysna (pronounced Nice-na) 14 hours after we left Jeffrey's Bay. Even though it was 10:30pm we could already tell this was a great town.

Knysna is a town situated on a lagoon off the ocean, with two cliffs looming over the enterance to the lagoon, called "the heads." If we would have had more time, we would have hiked up to the top of the heads, but when you only have a day, it's impossible to do everything.

We spent yesterday walking around town, "just getting lost" as the hostel owner told us to do. We wandered in and out of outdoor shopping complexes, had coffee at Mugg & Bean, bought a new tent for Anna Mae as hers lost a battle with the coastal storm the other day. We made our way down to the waterfront area, and enjoyed the views of the oyster boats coming in over a cup of coffee.

It was a nice relaxing day, we felt was well deserved, though we're still not sure why considering we sat in Wimpy's the whole day before... not exactly strenuous. ; )


Today we're headed to Mossel Bay to meet up with a German friend we met while in Jeffreys Bay. Then, it's off to Cape Town for the weekend, meeting up with all kinds of friends, old and new.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Humansdorp

Well, we're currently sitting in Wimpy (a Burger King basically) in some town called Humansdorp, waiting for a bus to Knysna tonight. I thought this would be a good time to get in some updates.

We left Port St John's for Coffee Bay a week ago and spent two full days there. The first day, we hiked with a group 10K to a place called "Hole in the Wall." The waves of the ocean had created a hole straight through this cliff in the bay. Apparently, you can usually swim out to it, but the sea was so rough from the recent storm that I'm pretty sure you would die if you swam in it. So we swam in front of it and ate grilled cheese while watching the waves crash through the hole.

The next day we hiked the opposite way to some cliffs off the shore. We ventured through a cave that the locals used many many years ago to escape the rain. It was then used not so long ago to hold and hide guns for the ANC during the aparthide era. After the cave, we hiked along the ledge to a "natural jacuzzi." It turned out to be a small pool in a crack between the cliffs. Not warm at all. Not only was it not warm in general, it was even colder when the waves crashed in from the ocean, into the mini cave the pool was in. It was quite the experience. Finally, we ended our day jumping from a "small" cliff 7m above the river. "bungee practice" we called it. Freaky is what I called it. We'll see how bungee jumping will go in a few weeks...

From Coffee Bay, we hitched a ride to a place called Cintsa. Hitch hiking seems to be the most accepted form of transportation in this area... Great if you're traveling with two boys as I was then. It's cheaper, faster and easier. Not great if you're traveling as two girls as we found out today.

After a little bit of trouble getting into our hostel (it's hard to have them pick you up when you have no idea where you are), we finally got to the beach. We spent the rest of the day, and half of the next, just hanging out in the sun. The water has gotten pretty cold the farther we've gone so we normally just enjoy the look of the ocean more so than the feel of it.

We jumped on a night bus the next night and headed to Jeffreys Bay (aka surf mecca) to meet up with our surfer friends who had gone ahead, chasing the storm.

After an almost 3 hour delay in East London, we finally arrived in Jeffreys Bay after 2am and promptly flopped in a bed. We've spent the last few days enjoying the surf, sand and sun. I haven't jumped on a board myself, but I throughly enjoy watching everyone else. We headed down to Supertubes yesterday, where the Billabong Pro competition is held every July. We spent a few hours watching Shauna's friend Joey "surf the green" super tubes. (not a technical surf term at all, in fact, we made up a lot of surf terms).

But our time traveling as a group has come to an end. Anna Mae and I are making our way towards Cape Town now, hoping to get there by the weekend, while others are going elsewhere. I hope we will be able to all meet up again along the way, but it's a big continent so we'll see.

Like I mentioned, we're currently suck in a town with a silly afrikaans name. We jumped on public transport early this morning, hoping to get into knysna early this afternoon. Little did we know that we seen to have hit the end of the public transport line. With no khumbis going onward from here, we were forced to buy a ticket for a greyhound bus, leaving at 8pm. We're going on hour 5 of 11 here at the Wimpy, meal 2 of 3. We're holding strong for now, but I think we'll hit our limit soon... Like i've hit their limit on their "no-limit" cokes...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Port St John's

Hey hey!
Well today we traveled from Port St John's to Coffee Bay, yet another small picturesque coastal town.
We had a good time in PSJ, hiking to the beaches and waterfalls and watching sunset's from airstrips atop the cliffs. It is a beautiful town set where the river meets the ocean. They've had an unfortunate amount of shark attacks the past few years so we stayed out of the water, but had a nice few days anyway. The backpackers we stayed at, Jungle Monkey's, was an interesting place, full of older people who couldn't quite leave the 60's in the past. But they had some awesome live music including a former contestant on Idols SA.
But we're moving on, and today we hopped in our friend's car and drove the few hours to Coffee Bay. We'll be staying here for the next few days, hiking to a place called "Hole in the Wall" tomorrow after the boys have a surf lesson in the morning. Should be a good few days.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Durbs

Hey Everyone!


Well we made it to Durban as PADI Certified Scuba Divers! We finished our scuba diving course on Monday after two sweet days in the ocean. We did 2 dives for two days and it was probably one of the coolest things I've done. We saw turtles and Manta Rays and all kinds of cool fish. After our course, we jumped on a khumbi in Mbazwana for the 4 hour ride to Durban. We finally left around 2pm so we rolled into the city well after dark. Having never been to the city, I was really happy I wasn't alone coming into the strange, huge city after dark, and our driver was very helpful and drove Anna Mae and I straight to the door of our hostel where, to our surprise, we found Eric and Mike Burke hanging out as well. We have been hanging in Durban for the past few days, cruising around town, drinking beer on the beach and (everyone else) eating sea food.

We're heading out tomorrow, after celebrating Women's Day today, and going to Port St John's where Anna Mae and I will continue chilling on the beach, planning our moves to the next beach, and the boys will head out for multiple day hikes, while Shauna continues to surf. It's quite the life I have to say. We get up whenever we wake up, walk around exploring a new town, spend the afternoon on the beach drinking beer, and then either hit the sack early or the town till late. Then, it's on to the next town. And this will be my life for the next three months. Living the dream, eh?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Goodbye Swaziland, Hello World! (Sodwana Bay)

Hey hey!
Just wanted to do a quick update for everyone!
Well #LongWayHome has officially begun! The last week or so has just been extremely long be exhausting. Saying goodbyes to anyone and everyone, packing my hut and preparing to leave my life. I spent a few days in town, finishing paperwork and such before my ring out on Wednesday. It was really nice, everyone said such nice things about me, I was really touched! ;)
Yesterday, I said goodbye to Ruby, Lewis, and Kerry in Mankayane and headed south. After a sketchy trip through the Sicunusa boarder of Swaziland, I got to Piet Retief, South Africa by 930am. I hope straight on another khumbi to Pongola and left relatively quickly (in my book anyway). An hour and a half and a few road blocks later we arrived in Pongola, jumped on a khumbi to Jozini. Again, pretty quickly we left and just a half hour later i was up in the Siteki of KZN, looking over the pongola national park and the low veld desert. Unfortunately, this khumbi did not leave so soon. After assuring Anna Mae I would indeed make it to Sodwana Bay that day, when I rolled into Jozini just before 2pm, the khumbi to the next town, Mbazwana, had virtually no one in it. Finally around 4pm we left, and took every back road possible to get there. But finally, just before 5pm, my khumbi arrived at the Mankayane of KZN, meaning no KFC and barely a grocery store, to find AM waiting for me, saving a spot on yet another khumbi toward Sodwana Bay.
As the sun was setting, we set off for the first of many towns/backpackers we had no clue about. After a little mishap and false alarm, and only thanks to a few friendly South Africans, we made it to the park gate around 6 where we were told "this is as far as your money gets you." um thanks. The backpackers was only a km down the road but it was dirt and confusing and dark so we spent the airtime to call for a ride. We finally got checked in well after 6, just in time for a meeting with our dive instructor at 7, of which we knew nothing about. Good thing we got there on time.
We're currently at Coral Divers in Sodwana Bay and are extremely thrilled with it all. They offer every course of diving class you could think of, the cheapest we've found - maybe in the world - with friendly knowledgeable staff, a bar and a full menu as well as self catering kitchen. Not bad.
Today was day 1 of our diving course. We spent a few hours in the morning watching dvds and taking quizzes on 3/5ths of our modules. We then spent over 2 hours in a pool learning the basics of scuba diving. Tomorrow is the last 2/5ths of our classroom lessons and another few hours in the pool. Sunday and Monday on the other hand will be two ocean "open water" dives each day before we will be certified! So exciting! I honestly never really thought I would do this, learning to scuba dive, but it's been really fun so far, way different than anything i've ever done before. I'm thrilled I decided to! And i'm thrilled this trip we've spent two years planning has finally started! Watch out Africa, the Swazi G8 RPCVs are coming!