November 30, 2014

South Africa: Hermanous

ROAD TRIP 2014! Well, not exactly but it was a fun day trip to Hermanous. We drove 1.5 hours to the seaside town that is known for whale watching but just our luck we missed the whales. None the less, Hermanous was a beautiful town with a small souvenir market, lots of restaurants and a scenic walk along the coast. We felt like Cape Town locals out for a drive, it was awesome.

From Hermanous back to Cape Town we drove the Whale Coast route for its beautiful views. Rumor has it that the Whale Coast route is the back drop to many car commercials. Whoa, fancy.

November 29, 2014

South Africa: Cape Town, Part I

I went back and forth between what hostel to stay at in Cape Town. There were so many options and I was staying for six nights so I wanted an excellent hostel. I decided to put the over thinking to rest and booked a dorm bed at Once in Cape Town. I am so glad I did, what a great hostel. The staff was friendly, there were power outlet lockers and backpack lockers, a bathroom in the room, clean white sheets with two pillows and a fluffy duvet. The breakfast was also worth waking up for and I found the location ideal - at the top of Long Street and an easy forty minute walk to the V&A Waterfront.

In Cape Town I was meeting three friends who I met earlier on the Baz Bus. They stayed at The Backpack and after a few discussions we decided Once in Cape Town was the hostel winner, FYI. The morning after I arrivied Krista (Netherlands), Carolina (Colombia), Irune (Spain) and I piled into our Toyota Corolla. We rented a car for two days to explore Cape Town and the surrounding areas. Best idea ever.

We took Chapman's Peak Drive along the coast to Cape Point but made many stops along the way, the luxery of having a car. We stopped at scenic view points, white sand beaches, Kalky's for lunch and Boulders to see the famous African penguins. We were surprised that Boulders was part of Table Mountain National Park and had a 60R fee ($5) but we paid up because... YOLO. The penguins were awesome but they sure did smell bad.

After we spent the day driving around the peninsula we made our way to the most south western point of Africa (the most southern point of Africa is the lesser known Cape Agulhas). It was a gorgeous day, we lucked out with blue skies and perfect weather. We walked out to Cape of Good Hope which I thought meant the famous sign (^^) but after a forty minute walk we realized there was a parking lot next to the sign.  Whoops, but the walk was spectacular. You can probably imagine the crowds at the sign. To take a photo with no other people in it turned out to be quite difficult but with a little patients and a loud bossy voice we nailed it.

November 27, 2014

South Africa: Wilderness

{ View from the balcony of the dorm }

Have you ever had a moment you wish you could bottle up and keep forever? For me that moment was in Wilderness. There was something in particular about Wilderness that made me overwhelmed with happiness. The view from the dorm room at Wilderness Beach House also didn't hurt. There was a wall of windows that looked out over the ocean and it took my breath away. With the white bed linens and the blue ocean, it was perfect. If only I had the time to stay longer than a night. 

{ I am moving in, FYI }
I met Maria, from New Jersey, on the Baz Bus and we happen to both be staying at Beach House so we spent the afternoon together. We walked the beach for a couple of hours looking at all the amazing houses along the coast and day dreaming a little. The ocean was always so inviting but once I dipped my toes in I thought differently. It may look a bit tropical but the water was far from it.

Maria and I had both heard about the man who lived in a cave so the next morning we walked the train tracks to find the cave. As we arrived there was a man sitting out on the porch who greeted us and told us his story as we toured the "house." He sold his belongings in Pretoria and started traveling until he stumbled upon the house in a cave who excepts all. He had been living there for about two months. 

Before the cave became a house it was a restaurant but due to erosion it closed. About eight years ago Clifford found the abandoned cave and started collecting things from the beach and moved in. There were multiple bedrooms for anyone who wanted to stay. It was also a place to pray to Father (their word, not mine).  

I had never been so freaked out or spooked in my life. After we had walked past most rooms we stopped in the kitchen that happen to be very dark. I asked "where is Clifford?" The man said "Around." We had just walked through majority of the house and I didn't see anyone. I started to wonder if Clifford was even a real person. We continued to the next room were Clifford prays to Father. The rooms in the house were very small and covered with things that had been collected, including doll heads. I started to feel claustrophobic. As we were standing there talking about religion I could feel someone standing behind me. I looked. No one. It happened two more times. I saw no one. Then I heard a splash of water and I jumped and screamed. I asked what that was and he said "Clifford." I found it odd that Clifford never said Hello and always seemed to be in one room behind us. At this point I was terrified and wanted out. 

As we were leaving the man looked at me and my camera and said "be careful, this is Africa." I know this is Africa but I am in a cave in the middle of nowhere with three (maybe four) people, who is going to steal my camera right now? Then he asked if we wanted a photo. The timing was not idea but I did want a photo. I figured if he was going to steal my camera there wasn't really anywhere for him to run and my adrenalin would kick in, for tackling purposes. 

November 22, 2014

South Africa: The Crags (also known as Nature's Valley)

A little back story on Wild Spirit. When I first researched South Africa one blog mentioned how he only planned on staying a day or two at Wild Spirit but a few drum circles later he stayed a week. Sounded fantastic and I couldn't wait to get sucked into hostel life. However, once I was in South Africa and started talking to backpackers who had passed through Wild Spirit I second guessed the naked free spirit rain dance party hostel. See the thing about hippies is usually my J. Crew sweater and Sperry top-siders stand out too much for either of us to ever feel comfortable. So when someone said naked free spirit rain dance party I thought for the sake of man kind I better skip the hostel. Long story short after being at a few beach towns I decided I needed to mix it up with Tsitsikamma National Park so I packed away my J. Crew sweaters and embraced Wild Spirit. I mean I had to see this place for myself. At this point it had quite the reputation.

{ The cat who sat in the fresh spring water sink }

Wild Spirit was absolutely fantastic, free spirits and all. I felt like there were magical fairies around every corner and they had farm fresh milk for breakfast (the farm fresh emphasis was a little much for me, can't we just call it milk? but who cares, I am glad they had milk with their complimentary coffee). The view from the deck over the forest was beautiful and when the sun was out it was the best place to be. But don't be fooled by the sun it was the coldest three days of my African life. My Maasai blanket was pulled out from the bottom of my backpack and wrapped around my legs for extra warmth the entire time. 

To warm up one afternoon a German girl from my dorm and I hiked to the Big Tree and to the waterfall which were both easily accessible from Wild Spirit. The waterfall was a little swimming pool oasis. 

November 21, 2014

South Africa: Chinsta

Another stop along the Wild Coast of South Africa. Chinsta (sin-sta)! 

As usually the Baz Bus was a few hours late so I arrived to Buccaneers Backpackers after dark. While traveling solo I do not like getting to a new place at night - it doesn't give me time to meet people and a reason to stay up past 9:00 pm. As you can imagine I had an early night.

When I woke up the next morning I had no idea the view from the dorm deck was breathtaking. I opened the curtains and... WHOA! I almost screamed. One bonus of arriving after dark, it makes for an exciting morning when the view from your deck is the beach and ocean. Past the view I thought Buccaneers was okay. Not great. It has a reputation of a community feeling which makes any solo travelers ears perk up but since it's so spread out it felt very individual. I think a community feeling comes from one communal eating area. Sounds simple but it truly makes a huge difference. The Buc's dinner was served in a completely different building then the communal kitchen. Announcements about tomorrows activities were even made during the Buc's dinner. If you are in the communal kitchen have fun figuring out what is going on tomorrow. Buccaneers did have volleyball in the afternoon with wine which added a little to the community atmosphere.

The ocean along the South African coast is amazing. I get so excited when I see it, which luckily is often right now. It is so rugged with constant crashing waves and beautiful blue water. You need to come down and see it for yourself. To enjoy the view I went for a two hour beach walk and collected seashells. At some point the wind picked up significantly and did not stop for the next two days. So I woudn't get blown away I wandered up to the dorm room where I met a guy from Switzerland, a guy from England and a couple from Germany. Just like that I had friends and a reason to stay up past 9:00 pm :). Traveling solo is crazy like that. One second you feel alone and the next you are palling around and watching volleyball with a whole group. I think the best part about traveling solo is it makes you appreciative for any new friendship. It is the greatest.

{ The lady who started the soup kitchen }

On my last day in Chinsta the German couple and I volunteered at a newly opened soup kitchen in a near by township. During the school week kids are fed breakfast and lunch, however, on the weekends they generally do not get any meals at home. A local women from the township saw a need and opened a soup kitchen in May 2014. The kids now receive lunch over the weekends and holiday breaks. The lunch they receive is usually the only meal they will have for the day. Their parents do not buy enough food for the whole family or they spend their money on alcohol. We spent the morning playing with the kids and chopping vegetables to prep for lunch. It was a wonderful day to see how people can come together to better a community. 

November 20, 2014

South Africa: Coffee Bay

{ Coffee Bay }
The Baz Bus dropped a group of us off in Mthatha and a Coffee Bay shuttle picked us up and drove us 1.5 hours to the ocean. The shuttle was a fun group of people who were all staying at Coffee Shack. I unfortunately was staying at Sugarloaf Backpackers. Huge mistake. I was one of four German guests and a handful of old construction men who had been there for months. Since I arrived after dark and the atmosphere was not ideal I went to bed at 7pm and read my book. I knew something had to change. I could not spend another night in the rundown hostel. I woke up and walked down to Coffee Shack and checked into a dorm room. Thank god! There were lots of fun people and the Hole in the Wall hike was leaving at 10am. My day was saved. 

I wanted to hike along the wild coast to the Hole in the Wall since I started researching South Africa. The travel gods were on my side because Coffee Shack only offers the hike twice a week, Saturday and Wednesday. So I seriously lucked out. A large group from the hostel met and we took off along a dirt path that winded along the coast of the Indian Ocean. It was unbelievably beautiful three hour hike. The waves crashing on the shore reminded me of our summer kayak trip - I felt right at home. 

{ Yoga with a view of the Indian Ocean }
{ Lise, me and Audrey }
I met Lise from the Netherlands on the hike and we spent the afternoon doing yoga on the lawn overlooking the ocean. Our South African yoga instructor had just spent time in India at a yoga retreat and the Coffee Shack was his first yoga gig. It was one of the best yoga hours ever. I mean look at the view (^^). That night a group of local girls came to perform at Coffee Shack. African dancing will never get old but I personally loved the background drumming music. I wish I could have stayed longer at Coffee Shack, I loved it. 

P.S. Audrey, Lise and I tried to enjoy the view and this is what happened (^^). Five women surrounded Audrey and before she knew it she had over thirty bracelets and anklets on. That is Africa for you.