Garden Route Holiday... Thursday, 20 March We left on Thursday at about 5pm (just after everyone's last class of the day). I had the good fortune of having that last class be service learning which just happens to be one of my east favorite classes of all time. Anywho, we added up to be 7 vans (2 left earlier in the day) and 59 people (8 drivers all of who are students at Stellenbosch and really cool people). That day we drove straight until about 2am with only a couple of petrol stops. It seems that the Garden Route is best at its end, so we went straight through.
Friday, 21 March We woke up at our backpackers (a cute little farm where I and another American girl, Elane, were given a honeymoon sweet J ) at about 7:30am. After breakfast we all set off to something I thought I would never actually do. At 9am we arrived at the World's Highest Bungee Jump!! Well of course I had to do it since everyone else was, and I mean how many times is one given such an opportunity. So, we all walked out along the bridge (which looked a lot like the New River bridge so it made me happy) and waited for our turn to jump. I just happened to be last in our group, but it's ok because the next group had arrived by that point to cheer me on. So, they tied my legs together in what seemed like nothing more than some rope and a thin pillow, but having seen it work for everyone else I trusted the crew and hoped toward the edge. Then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BUNGEE… At first I was flying, then I was falling, finally the bungee came to its end and I was pulled back up for another freefall (216 m in total). It was the most intense experience ever! I highly suggest it! Then with everyone on an adrenaline high we piled back into our caravan and went to change for dinner. We ended our day eating pizza at a little place on the coast at sunset. HOLY CRAP I JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE!
Saturday, 22 March Another very early morning brought us to the beach this time for some sea kayaking. While we were told that various sea animals have been seen, we basically spent an hour paddling around nothing. I'm sure there was an array of things under us in the Indian Ocean, but I saw nothing. I did get quite the workout though as I was given the one man kayak since I had done it before and had no one to paddle when I got tired. There is nothing like a morning working out on the sea to get you ready for the day. From there we gathered up with the whole group to go to the Knysna Elephant Park. It's a reserve set aside for elephants that have been pushed out of the wild for various reasons. They are all very domesticated after years of tourists, so we were able to feed and pet them. They were very sweet, and while there was always a fear of getting hit with one of their enormous trunks, it was absolutely amazing. It was surreal almost as their vast size proved how much they could do if they chose to. Then, after buying some elephant souvenirs we went to our second backpacker which was settled right on the beach. Literally it was the only structure within a half a mile and was absolutely amazing. We all had some time to walk along the beach and climb some rocks while the pottjie (a South African stew) cooked for our dinner. Then covered in sand and happy in another beach sunset we gathered back up at the backpackers for an evening of drinking and eating.
Sunday, 23 March Happy Easter! Let's go to the ostrich farm. Not only did the experience among the large birds allow me to meet a couple of birds named Bonnie and Clyde, and to see some babies, but also I got a nice little ride. Yes, it is possible to ride an ostrich and it was surprisingly easy. They catch the vast birds, we hop on one at a time, and got a little ride around the corral. I'm not sure that it is the most humane things to do, but it was enjoyable J Then, we went deep into the mountains to Cango Caves. Here we were given the option of standard or adventure tour through the vast caverns. Obviously I took the adventure option which consisted of: crawling on the ground, turning side ways to get through the "tunnel of love" crawling up through the "chimney" and sliding down out of the "letter box". There was one point where a guy in the group was laughing so hard that he got briefly stuck and was ticking his feet in the "chimney" for about ten minutes. It was a lot of fun, but not something I would suggest for anyone who has a fear of small places. Then for our evening surprise we were given a drum session from the local Lion's Club (of all places). During which time we were given the task of splitting into groups and making up a presentation of rhythm and dance for Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. My group was the Air group and decided to do an interpretation of the bungee jump. Water played waterfall; fire stopped, dropped and rolled; and earth presented the circle of life. Then to end the day we had a reggae band come to our backpackers. The Rastafarian group performed for about 3 hours while many members of the group danced, drank, explored the beach, and ate boerwors (sausages) for dinner. Some people drank a little too much and were in need to taking care of, but most were fine to dance the night away. Side story: So one boy in the group drank more than he should have and was standing too close to the fire for someone of his intoxication level. Anywho, I was watching him sway by the fire pit and then all of a sudden it was like a falling tree as he fell right toward the fire. I took this as the opportunity to use my rugby skills and knew that that I had to get between him and the fire, so I tackled him backwards away from it. In the end there was a trip to the hospital avoided and I and another guy who also helped have him that night were promised a reward. I then became known as the girl who tackled the drunken guy off the fire…
Monday, 25 March Our last day of on the Garden Route was the most chill of the journey. To begin with we went to a Rastafarian community in Knysna. It was a very interesting experience as we were given a tour of their local church and explained the religion. Personally, I just always thought it was purely a lifestyle, but seeing this who spiritual side was really interesting. From what I understand it seems to be a mix of the hippiest aspects of all of the religions. At church they burn incense that are collected from the local woods, and give thanks to Haile Saillasse I who was the second coming. They have everything from the star of David to the Rastafarian colors in their church, and they all grow dread locks in honor of the lord coming back not as a lamb, but as a lion (they represent the mane). Even the children were walking around with dreadsJ. It was a very cool little place, but also one that I'm not so sure of. Not only is there a hygienic aspect present, but also the children are allowed to begin smoking whenever they feel they are ready, that on top of the women not usually stopping during pregnancy makes me very concerned for the young population of the community. Although they seemed ok developmentally, but I didn't really get a lot of chance to talk to them. In the end it was cool, but not the best way to live in my opinion.Then, we took a boat ride out to a nature reserve where we hiked down a mountain to the cliffs and coast line. It was absolutely gorgeous and chill. At one point I hiked off the beaten path and found a cave area full of sand and a sign that read "no women has ever been able to say 'no' here"
Finally, to round off the week we were all given 100R (about 15 USD) to have dinner at a nice little seaside place across from the nature reserve. While that may not seem like a lot, keep in mind that 21 R will buy a good lunch, so with that I got a nice seafood pasta and chocolate mousse dessert. Stomachs full and beat from the week we all passed out back at the backpackers and woke the next day to either return to Stellenbosch (as I did so i could meet up with Chirssy in Cape Town) or to continue up the coast to Durban.