I remember the day well. I was on the train to work and received a message from my South African friend (who I met while living in London in 2013), telling me she is going home in November 2014 and I should go with her. I had that instant feeling of… why not? I need to have annual leave at some time! And what an opportunity to explore South Africa with a local! Next minute I had my annual leave application approved and flights booked to Cape Town!
Disclaimer before proceeding… it’s been a while so the memory has faded a little! I could have activities mixed up on different days but tried to make it as accurate as possible!
Day 1 Australia to Cape Town
Wendy missed her flight from London so when I arrived in Cape Town, I found her friend Johan holding a sign with my name on it. Looks like Johan and I are hanging out together until Wendy arrives tomorrow! On the drive from the airport I noticed a lot of shack looking houses on the side of the road and lots of people walking around. Johan told me that unemployment is around 50% here which explains all the people.
A couple of blocks from Johan’s house there were a few people sitting on the corner. He told me that they’re waiting to be picked up for the day to do whatever work is needed like cleaning, labouring etc. When we got back to Johan’s place there was a maid cleaning the house. I had a moment where I felt like we’d stepped back in time because of the history of slavery in South Africa. Reason being because all these people walking around, sitting on corners and cleaning the house were black.
Johan had two Basset Hounds that had the nails of the devil. But they were cute with their big saggy eyes and floppy ears. We thought it would be a nice idea to take them for a walk on the beach while the cleaning was being done. We drove to the main beach and this is where I first came across car guards. They watch over your car for you and when you leave you can tip them for it. The beach walk was beautiful but I’ll never forget the poor dead seal I saw on the beach! There was a good view of Table Top Mountain from here and I was excited for Wendy to arrive so we could go and check it out.
The rest of today consisted of sushi train consumption, wine tasting at Durbanville Hills winery, and dinner at a fancy Asian place in town. I didn’t realise how many wineries were in South Africa!
Day 2 – Wendy arrives!
That table topped mountain I spotted from the beach on Day 1 was now underneath my feet. Wendy arrived and we went straight there from the airport! Dressed for summer we froze up there with the wind and rain! Brrr! But it was the most amazing view! Worth every second. We even saw Dassies up there which are an African rodent sometimes known as ‘rock rabbits’. We had to catch the cable car up and down with a bunch of other tourists and I was really appreciative of Wendy and Johan going up there with me considering they’re locals and been up there several times before!
Later on we got ready and went to the harbour for dinner. Johan was a bad influence and made me drink more wine. The view outside was very pretty with a tall Christmas tree already up in November and their local wheel ride all lit up. It was so good to be reunited with Wendy and Johan was a lot of fun! We had so many exciting activities coming up for the rest of our trip!
Day 3 – Who knew you could go to a winery and see lions being fed?!
This morning I tried ‘pup en melk’ which is like a maize porridge and milk. It is known as a poor person’s food. Can’t say I enjoyed it immensely but with plenty of sugar mixed in, it was edible.
Today we drove to Vredenheim Wildlife and Winery. What a cool place! They had lions, cheetahs, caracals, leopards, tigers and more. We watched the feeding sessions starting with the lions, and the male lion totally dominated the female lion by roaring it away when the first lot of food got thrown in! Afterwards we enjoyed a picnic on the lush green grass at the winery and the surroundings were beautiful with a pond, well and lots of colourful flowers. Johan and I did a bit of wine tasting (yes more) before heading home.
Wendy and I were super lucky to be having lobster tonight, courtesy of Johan! I don’t remember having tried lobster before so was looking forward to the experience. They were very tasty and covered in a delicious garlic sauce. Yum!
Day 4 – Shark cage diving with great whites…
Super early morning today! We had to drive a few hours to get to our activity for the day – shark cage diving! We were starting to get nervous as we had some ‘on land’ training with the cage and signed the indemnity forms prior to getting onto the boat. Poor Wendy and Johan got so sick even after taking herbal sea sickness tablets, that is was hard for them to enjoy the boat ride out. We saw a whale which was exciting and distracting but the smell of the chum was not helpful. It was basically a bucket full of fish guts and blood that they use to attract the sharks.
It was soon time for the first people to get into the cage and us three were volunteered along with a few others because being in the water was supposed to help with the sea sickness. Well. I’ll get to that in a minute. Meanwhile I was having a minor panic attack about getting in the cage and had been delaying the process by fumbling with my mask and pretending to still be getting ready. Though, all others were in the cage and the cage door at the top was still open and there was a shark coming! So as I was saying ‘no no no no no no no’ to the guy encouraging (politely shoving?) me into the cage, the shark put his head out of the water and looked me in the eye and I was in that cage in a heartbeat so they could close the door! There is a risk that if they jump, they can get into the cage. While I reckon that is pretty unlikely, I wasn’t going to take my chances!
As I was saying about Wendy and Johan being sick, I was in the cage in between both of them. And they were both still very ill. The water was a mix of chum and Wendy and Johan’s vomit. My bikinis while underneath the wetsuit never looked or smelt the same again. The chum gave an awful orange stain! And no I’m not covering up for pooping myself!
Anyway turns out that the very close shark encounter when getting in the cage was the best viewing for me as I didn’t get a good look at them underwater. But while others were in the cage and I was sitting up on top of the boat, I could see the sharks coming towards the cage and giving them a good look in the eyes too! Once in a lifetime experience.
I ended up driving us home because the South Africans were sick! Once we made it home we all enjoyed a well deserved sleep!
Day 5 – Road trip to Jeffrey’s Bay
It was time to leave Cape Town and head towards the next part of our South African adventure – Jeffrey’s Bay. As I’m writing this, there is a breaking news clip about Mick Fanning being attacked by a shark at the JBay Open! Well, Jeffrey’s Bay is where we went surfing! But before we get to that, our roadtrip was underway and we had a few stops to make. These included Plett where we had a coffee on the beach and Knysna where we went rock climbing and checked out the beautiful surrounding mountains and the harbour for lunch.
We were driving into Jeffrey’s Bay and for my Australian friends, it had a Sunshine Coast feel to it. More relaxing and slower paced. When we arrived at Wendy’s friend’s place where we were staying for the next few nights, they had a few people over and all were very happy to see Wendy. The upstairs lounge room had been turned into a bedroom for us and it had a beach view! It also had two very beautiful black cats that kept us company at night. Doesn’t get much better than that. To note however, the windows had bars on them.
Day 6 – Surfing lesson!
During the evening yesterday, we planned an early morning surf lesson. So up we got! I put on my wetsuit back to front to start with though finally got myself sorted. We walked the boards down to the beach and got straight into it! I tried a few times to jump up on the board with my feet but after a few early falls, our instructor and friend showed me how to pop up on my knees first then stand. Well! I then got up about 12 out of 15 times! Wendy and I could even surf the waves next to one another – so much fun! To top off the morning, we had a big purple jellyfish encounter and while it was very pretty – I was steering clear! No sharks though thankfully (that we could see!)
We had a great relaxing afternoon with some of Wendy’s friends at a friend’s house, eating a selection of picnic foods and playing board games. Today I had biltong… it’s very tasty!
Google definition: Biltong is a variety of dried, cured meat that originated in South Africa.
Some of the conversation at the picnic was pretty mind blowing for me because more than one of the girls had been attacked and robbed at some stage of their life. The story being told was that she was held to the ground while her phone was stolen. Very different to growing up and living in Australia. This combined with seeing people going through rubbish in the suburbs made me aware that while this is a very beautiful part of the world, you need to be alert.
A few of the girls and I continued the conversation at a very cute cafe nearby then headed home for dinner with our hosts. In South Africa they do ‘load shedding’ which means power off! It was a candlelight dinner tonight!
Day 7 – Horseriding and highest bungee bridge in the world!
Well today was full of experiences I will never forget. Horseriding was first up. Wendy had done this plenty of times before so while I had been horseriding a few times, I was feeling a little concerned about horseriding for a full 2 hours! Especially because most of the group were part of a riding club! We started off at a nice slow pace and enjoyed a mix of land and water scenery. We even went through a lake in one spot and then a bit further on we were on the beach. Going through the lake on the horses was the most memorable part of this experience, with the jumping fish! One even jumped up and hit Wendy’s leg! The other memorable part of the experience was the massive bruises I ended up with on both of my legs! I must not ride properly or something because I’ve never felt fully comfortable on a horse. And today with 2 hours of cantering and trotting (or whatever you call the slowest pace and the next fastest pace) I could see why!
That was the morning activity. This afternoon we went to the highest bungee bridge in the world at Bloukrans. 216 metres high. We were both a bit nervous on arrival and Wendy joked (but was serious) with the people working there about definitely not going first. So after about 20 of us walked out onto the bridge, Wendy was told she had to go first because they had to use a different rope with her being a much lighter weight. I would take that as a compliment! It was so funny though seeing her so scared (much funnier after she made it back onto the bridge alive)! From watching Wendy’s experience I could see where the cameras were for the video so I knew when to put on a brave face!
It was soon my turn and I was feeling safe enough with the double harness system – one around my feet and the other around my torso. They had the music pumping and the people operating the bungee were all dancing which while it was an awesome atmosphere, I was thinking… I hope you’re concentrating!!! A few of the guys helped me hop over to the edge and I could feel my toes hanging over the edge. Do not look down, do not look down was my mantra for this moment. Aaaand jump! It’s such a large drop that you bounce up and down quite a few times! The view was beautiful and for that short time I was flying free. This was my second bungee and it was very different to my first 42m jump in New Zealand! The other difference besides the very obvious difference in height, was that here in Bloukrans you go back up the way you came. A little man (well he looks little when he’s first scaling down to pick you up!) comes down on another rope, clips you onto his rope so you can sit upright and literally takes you back up to the bridge.
Wendy and I celebrated keeping our lives today with pasta from a cute place in town and slept extremely well.
Day 8 – Night out in JBay
Lots of relaxing today and I think Wendy thinks I have a sleeping condition! I’m either relaxed or exhausted or perhaps a bit of both?! Still loving the company of the beautiful black cats that this family adopted around a year ago. Very cuddly and playful!
Tonight we went to a local Mexican place for dinner with some of Wendy’s friends. It was a fun night and there was either a black out or some more power shedding going on as we spent some time together with candle mood lighting. This is where I had my first springbok which is a local alcohol shot of choice.
Wikipedia says – The Springbokkie (“little Springbok” in the Afrikaans language), composed of creme de menthe (or substitutes) and Amarula, is a cocktail shooter that is popular in South Africa. The drink derives its name from the team jersey colours (green and gold) of the South Africa national rugby union team, which is known as “The Springboks.”
There was dancing to be done and we checked out another place nearby to see if we were missing out on anything. We weren’t. But we still managed a bit more dancing before heading home.
Day 9 – My first braai!
Another sleepy relaxing day and spending time with our hosts (including the kitties!) and getting ready for my first braai! A braai is a bbq – South African style! In our makeshift bedroom for the few days, which was actually their second living room, they had a section with an inbuilt bbq for a the braai! They cooked up plenty of boerewors which is a sausage. It was delicious!
Day 10 – Off to Durban!
It was time to jet off to Durban for the next few days. We dropped off the hire car as it was a bit dangerous to drive the stretch between Jeffrey’s Bay and Durban. They suggest if you drive through there, to go through before the sun goes down because sometimes people stand or sit in the middle of the road to be intentionally hit so that you get out of the car and they rob you. Scary! Happy to fly thanks! And saves a bit of time.
When we arrived in Durban we picked up another rental car and drove to a really cool backpackers called Mantis and Moon. We stayed in the treehouse! It was really cute but was very quiet so not many people to play with. We made our own fun by using the slide and pool even though it was a bit on the chilly side!
Seeing as we had arrived a bit later and there was no food at the hostel, we had to go for a drive to find something to eat. We found the shining red light – KFC just a short drive away. So we parked in the car park and had a guy approach us to look over our car – kind of like an unofficial car guard. It was a bit dark in this area and I was a little nervous! We bought our food, ate quickly then jumped back into the car without paying the guy. Safe to say we drove away pretty quickly!
Day 11 – Exploring Durban and Surfing Take Two!
After a pretty average breakfast at the backpackers we went for a drive and found some real breakfast. Along the walk from parking the car there were lots of trinkets to buy including paintings with parts of soft drink cans added into the scenery. I bought one for Harry as I thought they were really funky! We enjoyed a large delicious breakfast (the way it should be) with a local stray cat then let our food digest while laying on the beach and doing a mini photo shoot which was fun!
We also found the glorious manmade Margate Tidal Pool today! So pretty! Lots of frolicking in the water to be done here! There were oysters on the rocks nearby but they didn’t look too healthy so no cracking them open.
After prying ourselves away from Margate we went to meet Kyle our surfing teacher at Son Surf who is affiliated with the surfing school we went to at Jeffrey’s Bay. We were in more of a cove this time and the waves were not as friendly. In fact they dunked me a little! I was too far up on the board a few times but didn’t have time to adjust before the wave pushed me nose first into the water while I prayed that my board didn’t smash me on the head! Kyle was also trying to make me stand up on the board properly instead of my ‘knees first’ cheat method developed in Jeffrey’s Bay. It was a little more challenging but I managed to jump up on my second last try and surf the wave in. I say second last because I tried to do it again but failed so I should have quit while I was ahead! Kyle was going to show us a pretty waterfall but we sacrificed this for extra time in the water. So. Much. Fun. I should also note here that Wendy doesn’t need lessons – just me! Wendy’s been doing this for a looonnng time.
Quiet dinner out tonight then watched a movie before sleeping very well.
Day 12 – Air BnB and real Durban
Today we drove to the real Durban and I say real because actually we were staying kind of outside Durban at the Mantis and Moon backpackers, and also because there are more locals around on the streets and to dodge while driving! We got a little lost trying to find our Air BnB place but got there eventually. The guy was really nice and we were staying in the loft which included a bedroom and bathroom. He still lived there but was often not home.
We did some local exploring and had lunch at a place in town then went home to relax. Our host invited us to dinner at his local beach club which after getting ready and trying to do, the security wouldn’t let us drive in. Oh well! So we just went out earlier than planned instead! It was a funny night and while we had high hopes for the night including meeting a bunch of new people, we got to enjoy the company of each other for the whole night instead.
Day 13 – Ushaka Marine World!
Wendy’s GoPro got a work out today! We went to Ushaka Marine World that is kind of like SeaWorld at home. Lots of animals to see and lots of rides to go on. We have a few very funny videos of us going down the slide together. I would definitely recommend visiting this theme park!
Because we are such mad party goers (and also because we had a massive day), tonight we went bowling and to see a movie. Love! It was unfortunate that we were leaving the next morning so early because our host owns a water rafting and paint ball company and they were having a camp night tonight about 2 hours away. And he offered it to us for nothing…
Day 14 – Back to Cape Town
Well, time to go back to Cape Town. Which means we get to see Johan again! When we arrived, we all went shopping together to buy goodies for a picnic then went back to the main beach and set up some umbrellas for some feasting and fiestaíng (my new word) by the sea.
As it was getting closer to Christmas, we helped (actually was just Johan and Wendy) set up his Christmas tree, freshly purchased from the store. Johan cooked us dinner on the bbq – my last braai and we soaked this up with some wine. Wendy if you read this – and also Johan – thank you for such an amazing time! I loved the experience so much and would love to go back one day!