Okay so there’s a LOT I have to tell you all about since my last post. On Monday twelve of us went on the Garden Route…a long path along the coast that stretches all the way to Port Elizabeth. Since only a handful of us were 21 in the group, I was asked to rent a car in my name. I got an automatic 2009 white Nissan—pretty nice considering they were putting it in my hands. Two other cars were rented, each carrying four people so it was a comfortable drive. Still, it was difficult for me to get used to driving on the other side of the road while sitting on what is usually the passenger’s side of the car. I chose Alex to be my wing woman, giving her shotgun and putting her in control of figuring out the iPod converter/music situation. She probably spent an hour trying to hook it up but to no avail, especially after losing what we think might have been an important connective piece.
On the way to the N2—the main road we used to travel along the route—children holding stop signs (poles and all) were directing traffic. As I had never seen a human stop sign in the past, I found it kind of odd that little kids were randomly lowering and raising them as if they were traffic controllers. Other than this distraction, the rest of the ride went pretty smoothly. We drove for a long time, at least five hours and mostly without music. Every now and then a radio station would arise out of the white noise and play two completely different songs and then go straight to newscasts in several different languages. At one point “the Hustle” began to play, which we were all real excited about (imagine how bad the music situation must be to get excited about this song), but then the man on the radio began to speak over it. The best we ever got was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” which remained in our heads for at least twenty-four hours.
About a half hour from the first hostel we planned to stay at, we stopped off in Wilderness and walked along the beach for a little. It was absolutely beautiful (I took pictures ☺). Some of the girls were putting their feet in the water and walking along the shoreline when a huge wave came unexpectedly, destroying Tori’s Blackberry and soaking more than half of them. Luckily, I had been standing back so I missed the splash. At that point, we decided we better start heading to the hostel as it was getting dark and we had been told not to drive late at night.
We turned off the exit to the hostel, which took us down a really long gravel road that eventually turned into our destination. I had never been to a hostel before, but this place took my breath away. Inside, there was a little bar with white Christmas lights and various flags behind and around it. A large L-couch and a perfectly sized table sat in front of the bar to the left. On the right, there was an indoor campfire surrounded by comfortable chairs and couches in front of glass doors that led to the porch and the beach. Our room was massive and sized for twelve people with six bunk beds. The beds were really nice and most of us slept really well. We made friends with the locals and some British medical students (Ed, Laol and someone else), exchanging card games and stories throughout the night. When everyone finally went to sleep and I was the last man standing (surprise) I headed off to the room where I found Justin asleep on the bottom bunk that I had claimed earlier in the evening. Despite my height and the lack of a ladder, I made it my prerogative to get on the top bunk. Like a gymnast, I got a running start and swung my body onto the top with surprising ease. Luckily, this was the only struggle I had before going to bed, sleeping for a few hours like a baby.
The next morning, everyone woke up around 7 AM to my chagrin. The plan was to drive to Tsitsikamma where the highest bungee jump in the entire world was located. I was a little weary, as I had never really had the desire to bungee. Skydiving always seemed like something I would like, but jumping off a bridge with only my feet bound to the rope scared me quite a bit. Regardless, 10 of the 12 of us wanted to do it so I had to go either way. I left a note for the British guys inviting them to come before we left. I was supposed to wake them up but they looked dead to the world—they also never showed up to bungee. Anyway, it wasn’t too long of a drive, maybe a couple hours, until we got to the site. FACE Adrenaline sponsored the jumps, which I thought was an appropriate name due to the techno beats blasting from the massive speakers outside. As I looked out over the viewing ledge while the other group prepared to jump (they left a day before us), I felt very unsure of whether or not to jump myself. The place also had a zip line, called “the Flying Fox” which I was willing to do with someone but everyone was dead set on jumping. So as a result I felt that if I didn’t do it I’d be missing out, let alone be a complete wimp. Thus, I went over to the registration desk and signed up without thinking twice. I figured if I had already spent R650 (a little less than $100) there would be no turning back.
As we were strapped into harnesses, the fear began to set in. We realized that we were about to do what our parents had always warned us about: “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you go too?” Apparently, the answer was yes because all but one of us was about to take the terrifying walk to what we thought may be our demise (despite the 100% security guarantee…no one has even been injured jumping there). A minute or so into the walk, we were given the choice to either walk across the suspension bridge to the other side or to take the Flying Fox. Since Sabrina had already jumped two years ago (with her parents!), she said that she would go on the zip line with me. I thought that if I got an initial thrill from the zip line, the jump would be easier. I was wrong.
The Flying Fox was a blast. Sabrina and I were able to ride it tandem and we flew to the other side, screaming in each other’s ears the entire way. However, once we reached the jumping side, I found myself considerably more terrified—having just looked down at the long drop—than I had been before. Even worse, once I was unhooked from the zip line, I was informed that I would be going third, since they organized it by size and I had gotten there a little bit later than everyone else (meaning I would have been first!). I didn’t have much time to freak out, but I tried to meditate as they were wrapping up my ankles and trying to tell me how safe I would be. For some reason, jumping off the highest point in the world didn’t make me feel safe at all. Before I knew it, I was being pulled up to the edge of the bridge, the two men beside me counting down from three. I began to cry a little, more scared than I’ve ever been in my life, as the men kept telling me to believe in myself and stop saying that I couldn’t do it. I was making it difficult for them as I latched onto their shoulders when they told me jump. Then suddenly they had counted down from three and gave me a push off the edge. Whether I liked it or not, I was off.
I didn’t scream or cry or react at all really. I felt like a bird as I fell freely for what felt like at least a minute (in reality it was only a couple of seconds). I began to feel the adrenaline rushing through my body, no longer on the brink of a panic attack. I had jumped feet first—not what you’re supposed to do—so I had been soaring through the air right side up, making the initial experience awesome. As I was basking in the scenery and freedom during the free fall, I was jolted out of my daze when my body was abruptly flipped upside down and I was diving straight for the water. I got closer to the bottom when my rope recoiled and I flew back up again and then once more. Finally, I came to a halt, my body hanging by my feet looking down at the water. My feet felt like they were slipping out of the ropes, so I tried for a moment to climb from my upside down position to one that was right side up and flex my feet. I was starting to freak out until I heard someone yell down to me—the guy who comes to pick you up after the jump. It felt like forever as he descended to where I was dangling. I immediately grabbed onto his jacket, desperately wanting to avoid being headfirst. He told me to let him go so that he could reattach my harness to his, which I did with some difficulty. It wasn’t long before I was nearly sitting on his lap, rising to the top where I would meet up with the others.
When I finally got to the top, all of the employees took pictures with me holding up their thumbs or giving me a high-five. All of the people I jumped with ran to me, nervously wondering how the jump went. In shock, I told them it was amazing but that I was still scared (I think that response made it more difficult for them). The rest of them all jumped though and didn’t regret the experience. From the time I got to the top until now—and probably forever—I’m glad that I did it but I don’t think I’d do it again…unless I’m not bound by my ankles.
When we walked back I took the suspension bridge since the Flying Fox costs money. Surprisingly, I was terrified on the bridge. It was shaky and the fall was hundreds of feet from where I was. I had just jumped off the bridge and still I was on the verge of a panic attack on the walk back. I guess I really don’t like heights. The leader of the group had to get behind me and start a conversation so that I would keep walking without thinking about my fear. After a while I made it to the other side where we got to see pictures of our jumps, as well as videos. I watched my video and decided immediately that I had to buy it. If there were any prime example of the way NOT to bungee jump, my video is the perfect example. Though it was totally embarrassing, I thought if anyone would love to see how ridiculous it was, it would be my family (I can’t wait to show it to you guys).
After sitting around for a few hours trying to book space in a hostel somewhere, we decided to stay in Storms River, not too far from Tsitsikamma. We ended up at a place called the Tube ‘N Axe. Everyone got a bed except for two of us who had to stay in above ground tents. I got the feeling everyone seemed uncomfortable with the tent so I said I would sleep there. Plus, I’m always up for a camping experience.
Before we went to the hostel, we drove to Monkeyland. We all walked in for free for a brief tour and then some of the group decided to go to the Tsitsikamma National Park while some of us opted to stay for the discounted Monkeyland/Birds of Eden tour. I fell in love with the monkeys immediately so my decision was pretty much made when I saw them. I’m so glad I stayed because as we walked around with the monkeys, Katherine and I lagged a bit behind and had some quality time with a group of them. The next day my abdomen hurt so badly from laughing so hard with her—every picture she took the monkey was looking directly at her. At one point, we were taking pictures and looking at the monkeys when one jumped onto my leg! Katherine asked me why I didn’t scream and I told her that the monkey’s contact was all that I wanted the entire day. It was so cool! I think it wanted my ring—apparently they will go for anything shiny and try to steal it.
After Monkeyland, we went to Birds of Eden, where we saw some crazy looking creatures. There was one bird that looked like it has evolved out of a Mardi Gras costume, except without a neck. Sabrina got along really well with all of the birds; some of them even did mating dances and followed her as she walked along. A little green bird that looked kind of like Basil kept attacking Ellie. The bird literally chased us out of the park. We left the park with ease and decided to head for the next hostel.
That night we all hung out at the hostel and had some drinks with the bartender, Wez. We sat around the campfire and bonded for most of the night as we met new people and discussed our plans for the next day. I went to bed fairly early, using my cell phone as a light to guide me to the tent (this would end up being the reason as to why I lost my phone later). The tent was above ground; the platform came up to my nose! I fell asleep easily once I hit the mattress inside. A few hours later, I woke up having to use the bathroom. I unzipped the flap and walked outside, but not realizing the extent of the gap between the first and second step, I missed it and literally somersaulted to the ground with a huge thump. Will woke up and looked outside on the ground where he described there lay a “mess of body parts positioned in the wrong directions.” I shook it off and said I was fine and went to the restroom anyway. In the morning, I woke up and could barely walk. I have two large and dark bruises on my left leg as a result and possibly some broken toes. It’s all part of the adventure though I suppose.
Since my left leg was nearly unresponsive, I chose to go to the beach the next day instead of the Wolf Sanctuary and the Natural Reserves. Wez, having had fun with us the night before, agreed to come along to the beach with Rob, Alex, Ellie and I. It was a beautiful day—sunny and hot with a nice breeze. We spent our time on the beach, talking, drawing and sleeping. For once, it was a very relaxing day—so relaxing that we ended up leaving later than we thought and showed up at the next hostel an hour or so later than expected.
The next hostel was located in Knysna, a place only a few hours from Cape Town. This hostel was nice, but the beds were fairly uncomfortable and the pillows were nothing more than thin slices of cotton. Still, I can’t complain because the place was right in the center of town and very pretty. That night, Katherine, an awesome girl on our program, was turning 21, so we all decided to go out for dinner. We went to Swing Café, where a live band played and we ate some of the best food we (or at least I) have had since we have been here. We planned to eat and then go out to Zanzibar, a club right near the restaurant, but after dinner we all found ourselves to be so exhausted that we came to a mutual decision: bed.
The next day, while some people went to the Cango Caves, Will, Alex, Ellie, and I went to the southern most point of the African continent where the Atlantic and the Indian ocean meet. We climbed steep ladders to the top of the famous lighthouse overlooking the point and took lots of pictures (not me since my camera was dead, but the others did). The view was beautiful and though you would never be able to tell, it was cool to see the meeting point of the two bodies of water. After we got our fill, we had lunch/dinner at a quaint restaurant in the small town before setting off for a three-hour drive back to Mowbray.
After dealing with the process of returning the car and finding a way back home, Will and I made it back around nine. The next day (Monday) would be the first day of classes and not only did we both have our first class at 8AM, but we both didn’t know where they were located. Even still, we managed to sleep despite having BOTH lost our cell phones. In the morning, we woke up at 6 AM so we would have enough time to find our classes. We got to campus shortly after and managed to locate our courses. I was finished by 11:45, concluding the day with my Afrikaans class. The other classes went fairly smoothly—yet lacked any interesting details to report.
Last night was the “Big Bash” an annual party held by one of the clubs at school to end orientation week. Against my will I went along with some people to the event and was unsurprised when I wanted to leave immediately. First of all, there was only ONE bar for thousands of people, which led to a mosh pit in order to get a beer. I quickly gave up. Then, after it was over people were literally climbing on top of one another to get onto the buses. Tori even got punched in the face…but at least it got her a ride. It took us hours to get home and by the time we arrived, I was in such a bad mood that sleep seemed like the only option for the rest of my night.
Thankfully, today I woke up in a much better mood. We went to one of the rugby games for the festival being held this weekend. It was really fun, but short-lived. Rugby is a really big deal in South Africa so it was exciting to be among people who were so enthused about the game. A few hours ago we made our way home, which puts me here in front of my computer. Tomorrow, we plan to perhaps go to the market, but definitely head to the beach. So, until then…cheers!