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.

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