Thursday, April 28, 2005

Letter to dad:South Africa

Hey Dad,

OK you asked for it. Here's the whole route I took in South Africa. I started in Cape Town flying in 24 hours from Atlanta with a layover in Johannesberg. Not really having a plan when I landed I decided to rent a car and drive from Cape Town to Jo'Burg which quickly became more of a chore than a luxury as I realized that they drive on the left side of the road and I rented a manual car. So after nearly getting into an accident in the Hertz parking lot I switched to an automatic car and drove off the parking lot while the employees laughed at me from behind.

I stayed at hostel called Ashanti converted from an old mansion. It was voted the best hostel in Cape Town and it really was amazing and so many people were there. I was the only girl in my room of 16 beds. It smelled like sweat and at night all the guys snored in unison even though they all spoke different languages

My first full day in South Africa I went on a winelands tour in Boschendale. I was all by myself but met a girl from the US who had been traveling for 4 years straight. We got totally hammered together. Best way to make friends! But don't worry. I was safe as always. I know you're already worried after my first day!

My second day in Cape Town I met Martin who changed my life forever! Martin is an incredibly outgoing, funloving guy from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Martin and I met two others and we all drove out to the Cape of Good Hope for the Day. It took us 5 hours to drive 30 miles as we had to stop and get out to take pictures of everything from townships to wild ostriches. Finally, when we made it to Cape Point the view was outstanding. I couldn't believe how fortunate I was to be there. My favorite part of the day was to go see the warm weather South African Penguins in Simon's Town. I loved them so much except when we would get up close to them they would turn around and poop on us! It was hilarious!

The day ended and so did my time in Cape Town. The next day Martin and I headed separately to Port Elizabeth where we met up at another hostel and met a new friend, Thomas, a German guy backpacking his way on the same route as us. We only stayed the night in PE and headed to my main destination, Coffee Bay, in the heart of the Transkei. Nelson Mandela's homeland and the poorest area of South Africa.

Thomas, Martin, and I only meant to stay in Coffee Bay one night but as soon as we stepped out of our car and saw the view we wanted to stay a lifetime. The backpacker we stayed at, The Coffee Shack, was very earthy and owned by a fabulously friendly couple and staff. The area was so welcoming and the first night we went for sundowners on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Locals played their drums for us while their children danced for us. Again, South African bewildered me and I was so inspired by its culture and land.

Thomas, Martin, me and our new Belgian friend Mattias, left Coffee Bay too soon after three nights and headed to Hluehlue-Umfolozi reserve North of Durban. The trip from Coffee Bay to Hlueblue wasn't as beautiful as the ride along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Coffee Bay unfortunately.

The backpacker we stayed at also wasn't as nice as the one in Coffee Bay or Cape town but the setting was entirely different. We were on a game reserve and I was terrified I was going to be eaten by a lion! Then I found out that lions couldn't get to me there...too late I was already afraid to leave the cabin.

We went for a day long safari which although was incredible to see the "Big Five" I wouldn't recommend driving on your own. I would have rather had a tour and not had to worry about self-guide. I was crabby that day as Martin and Thomas would tell you. Poor guys! I'm sorry I yelled at you for speeding!

The next day we went to St. Lucia wetlands and went on a hippo safari which was pretty cool but to me, nothing could compare to Coffee Bay.

Our last major trip was a bit of a detour as we headed to a whole other country, Swaziland. I loved the Swazi people and couldn't believe the statistics I heard about the AIDS epidemic there. More than 50% of the population is infected with AIDS and it is only getting worse. I cried when I could see the people who obviously had it and were dying and then hated myself for not doing more to help.

Swaziland changed me forever.

Finally, Thomas, Martin and I made it to Jo'burg where once again I found myself living in fear. This time not fear of lions but fear of crime. I heard so many horror stories about burglaries and murders in Jo'Burg. My fears were only enhanced by the huge barracades around the houses which kept the South Africans hidden safely (or not) behind the walls afraid to venture out into the streets. I parted ways with my new, dear friends Martin and Thomas and we all promised to keep in touch.

When I got back to the states, Thomas wrote me to tell me his roommate in J'Burg died in his bed at the backpacker and noone noticed for 2 days because everyone just thought he recovering from some heavy partying. Well, maybe he was trying but just didn't recover. How weird is that?

Ok. I love you! Come visit me. Oh...and my next trip is to Thailand and you're coming.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

More South Africa

Well, I have driven North East from Cape Town through the "Garden Route" through a town called Port Elizabeth where I stayed for a night, then to Coffee Bay in the "Wild Coast" in the Transkei heartland where the Xhosi are from (the ones who click when speaking!). It's the poorest area of SA but the most beautiful. It's where Mandela's tribe is from. I stopped at a nice backpacker hostel right on the ocean and was going to stay one night but ended up staying 3. I learned how to surf which I am now in LOVE with! I'm now in Zululand actually Kwazulu-Natal which is where the HluwHlue/Imfulzi national reserve is.

Yesterday we went on a Safari and were attacked by a herd of Elephants! They had their babies which were SO adorable! It was so cool. I saw a ton of giraffe, lions, buffalo, zebra, baboons(!), etc. Unfortunately, no leopards or cheetahs. ;o( Anyway, today I am in the St. Lucia wetlands searching for hippos and crocs. We did a walking tour but before we left our guide had to warn us that there is in fact the danger of being attacked by elephants, buffalo and hippos which made the trek all the more worthwhile. I realized what a lucky girl I am to have this opportunity. I think this is how people should live their lives. Exploring and adventure. Times likes these I feel my life is most worthwhile. It's actually kinda cold here. Such is winter I guess.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Surfing in Coffee Bay, Transkei, South Africa

I went surfing yesterday in Coffee Bay a famous surf spot in South Africa. And from now on I am officially a surfer and no longer a hurley poser like I was in college! But today I am incredibly sore everywhere but most oddly in my fingers. Paddling I guess. But yeah, I am hooked for life!

I've hooked up with a guy from Argentina and a guy from Germany and we are all heading to Jo'Burg. We picked up two lady hitchhikers in the Transkei who told us that they were from Mandelas tribe and met Oprah Winfrey last time she was here! There's much more to tell, but my fingers are really hurting right now! More later!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Driving to South Africa

So Friday I began to drive the 10 hours to Atlanta from Ft. Lauderdale to stay with Rose and catch my flight to South Africa. After driving 30 mins in the wrong direction as in South to Cuba instead of North to Georgia, I decided that was a sign and headed back to Ft. Lauderdale with my tale and my tail between my legs.

Begin day two of my trip to South Africa entirely so far spent NOT in South Africa. Finally, after learning from my mistakes and knowing through experience which direction to head out of Ft. Lauderdale, I made it safely to Atlanta, only to get lost and make Rose come and find me. My trip to South Africa is not starting well at this point. Rose gave me keys to her house as she was going to work and she told me to not open the door to anyone, or talk to anyone, and to park behind the house. As usual, I was like ok Rose whatever you say. I didn't question her at the time because I was too tired. As I was asleep around 10pm in Rose's house of no shades and it was pitch black outside, someone knocked on the door, and knocked, and knocked for I'm not kidding, 30 minutes. I texted Rose and our texts went like this:

Jerri: Someone's knocking on the door. What do I do?
Jerri:It's hard to hide in a house with NO blinds!
Rose: Then a statue!
Jerri:Should I be afraid?
Rose:I'll explain later.

So after standing like a statue for an hour and thoroughly freaked out I decided I was going to have to make like a tree and run for my car. When I finally met Rose later after checking into a nice safe hotel she tells me she thought I was joking about someone knocking on the door and there was absolutely no reason why I should be afraid. To make up for it she bought me a beer (knowing full well I don't drink beer) and then promptly in typical Rose fashion drank it herself!

To be continued tomorrow...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Checked out of retirement community, now going to South Africa

Today I checked out of the retirement community (I'm not quite ready to retire) and moved back into Mary's Crew House. Oh, also have a new job but don't start until May 7 where the boat will fly me to Nassau where we'll do a delivery to NYC. So until then, instead of hanging out in Ft. Lauderdale at retirement communities I'm going to South Africa for two weeks. I guess I'll chill out in Cape Town, go to Mandela's jail cell, and head up to Jo'berg and then to Kruger. No set plans yet, as I usually don't have any plans and it usually works out ok. Why ruin a good thing with planning? Oh, but upon my dad's request I guess I'll get some shots and stuff. Just in case I get Malaria which I imagine might suck.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Now living in a retirement community in Hallendale Beach, Florida

I quit my absolutely horrendous job on Friday and decided that I owe myself a vacation so I checked into a retirement community accidentally. I looked up health spas online and thought I had found this really cool spa where you could do yoga all day long and sit on the beach and get three meals a day which are vegan. I now realize that the "Yoga" classes actually mean light stretching for those with arthritis and vegan meals means prechewed food as people here have no teeth to eat with. Why does this happen to me? Now I am afraid to go outside my room as everyone is 100 years older than me and look at me like I'm crazy. And I believe they are old enough to know it's true, I am crazy. What have I done now? I think I might be losing it.