Tuesday 22nd - Wednesday 23rd
Tuesday 22nd November
So things did not exactly start very well on Tuesday morning, the art needed for the Land Rover could not be found anywhere so it had to be ordered directly from the factory, which meant that the car would not be ready to be picked up until Friday. It was a bit of a setback, but didn't phase us (I think we are used to cars breaking down all too often). Instead we went to see Victor and thank him for putting us up for the night again and saving us from an evening at the Inn above the petrol station. Then he gave us the number of a car rental place in Bethlehem so that we could carry on with our holiday. Half way to Bethlehem though Ben realised that we should have got another rental in Harrismith because that was where the Landy was…woops…but we went anyway to see if they had the number of an office in Harrismith that we could get a car from. The guys were so helpful there, and we thanked them for helping us before heading back. Once we got to the Avis rental all fingers were crossed that something cheaper was available, and as luck would have it we got an awesome deal on the rental until Monday, a whole week rental plus unlimited mileage and complete cover all for 150 quid. So while I drove our new polo (which was perfect size for me to drive!), Ben got in the other rental and we went to drop it off at the workshop and pick up all the camping gear from the Landy. After saying farewell to the trusted 'baby rhino' - as rosemary calls it, we were finally on our way to Durban, and we couldn't have been happier that we were not going to miss out on any more of our trip!
I enjoyed driving the polo, because I could actually reach the pedals, so I drove us down to Pietermaritzburg, where we stopped at a big mall for supplies and to stretch our legs. So we went into the mall and I picked myself up a watercolour pad so that I could paint without the pages going all crinkly, and then as we walked past a DVD shop I noticed the last Harry Potter had come out on DVD. Well that was it, I had to have it. After waiting six months to know how it all ended finally there was a way to watch it! Ben was a little startled at my reaction to say the least and it became evident why, he had never watched or read Harry Potter!?! So after we picked up some salad at the supermarket we were back on the road, and I tried to explain to explain six and a half Harry Potter books before we made it to Durban. I really should have got a medal by explaining it in about 20 minutes!
Anyway, we finally made it to the coast and to our hostel that was sitting just beyond the beach. As soon as I got out of that car the smell and sound of the ocean was intoxicating. I have never gone so long without seeing or being in the sea and my goodness how I have missed it. You take for granted that in England you are never more than a couple hundred miles from any coast, but in South Africa one has to travel a thousand or more miles before they can even glimpse it. Well I felt right at home, and feeling the salty breeze on my skin was total bliss. The backpackers was something special, it was so relaxed with surfers walking around the place, and seaside cabins dotted up the hill. Our room was a little two floor seaside cottage with whitewash walls. The downstairs was a little kitchenette and bathroom, then after climbing some steep wooden steps that made you feel like you were going up into a loft, it emerged onto a beautiful little bedroom and a balcony with a stunning view of the sea. It was so charming that I thought I would never leave.
After unpacking and washing some clothes, we had dinner and then went upstairs with some popcorn and sat in bed watching Harry Potter while the breeze blew through the open doors bringing in that lovely salty smell of the ocean. The film was awesome, and once it had finished I did not want to go to sleep because it had been such a nice evening, but the sound of a thunderstorm brewing over the ocean and the crash of the waves soon lulled us off to sleep.
We got up early on Wednesday morning to get ready for diving. I went and looked at the email on Ben's phone to check directions to the dive centre then realised there was this whole new part to the email that evidently had not loaded back at the farmhouse (not surprising with the terrible internet we have there). We never realised that it had to be paid for in advance, so we hadn't actually booked it! I guess it was fate though because the weather was not great yesterday and the ocean was still a bit choppy so I doubt that the visibility would have been any good anyway. So, instead of going diving that morning we decided to go to uShaka, the biggest Marine Park in the Southern hemisphere!
It was awesome! We found our way there fairly easily but getting into the park was a little more difficult than we thought. There was a long promenade of shops that never seemed to end and we were just walking around the outside of the Marine Park until we were properly confused. It was lovely walking around the edge and having the view of the ocean, but finally we did find the entrance and were able to start our sightseeing!
First of all we went off to see the seals. The 'seal pantomime' was the most amazing show I had basically ever seen, sheer stroke of genius to say the very least. Well actually no it wasn't, it was actually a little bit ridiculous, the funniest thing about it was a little boy at the front that was really getting into it and kept shouting at the pirate where the other one was, and everyone kept laughing at him. It was rather cute actually. So once we had gone there we went to see the Dolphins, and they were jumping around doing all their tricks etc. I did feel a little bad for them though, all being in this one tank and having people watching them all day.
After seeing the dolphins the two of us then headed off to the underground aquarium, and you have to get there via the big boat in the middle of the park! The aquarium was amazing, I hate to say it but it was far better than Brighton aquarium. When you go down the big ramps to the underground part there is a skeleton of a blue whale and a gallery filled with photographs of great white shark encounters... and that is even before you see any fish! The aquarium was dark, but there were huge backlit aquariums everywhere you looked. The jellyfish glowed in the neon light and the tropical fish burst with colours that normally would look dull when diving. It was wonderfully calm down there (well once the school children had come and gone), and we were able to sit there for hours taking pictures of the fish. I particularly enjoyed taking pictures and trying to learn the best ways to take them in the dark. Unfortunately my camera does not work all that great in the dark (having an ISO that only goes up to 1600 is not always useful) so there were a lot of pictures that did not turn out that great. However, it was a lovely few hours and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
After we finally emerged back up on the surface we decided that it was just about time to go and get some lunch, so we wondered out of the park and slowly ambled a little ways along the seafront until we came to a pier with a beautiful looking restaurant at the end. As we made our way up the pier you could see sand castle sculptures along the edge of the beach and fishermen going out with nets, I didn't feel like I was in South Africa at all, more like somewhere in the Mediterranean. So we went up to the restaurant at the end of the pier and sat outside on some comfy chairs enjoying the sea breeze and watching the fishermen start pulling in the nets that they had just put out. We had some delicious food and made friends with the waiter who was really nice. Ben and I sat there on the pier for ages and laughed at the people on the beach trying to save all the beached fish that the fishermen threw away. Then once we had polished off the yummiest bit of chocolate cake we made our way back to the car and back to the backpackers.
Once we got back we packed our bags and organised the car then had a little nap to prepare us for the long journey we were about to take to Addo. So at about 8pm Ben and I had a quick bit of dinner and got ready to leave, by the time we left at 9pm it had started to rain again, but I hoped that it would not be too bad, especially as I was driving the first shift! So we got in the car and went to leave, but as I pulled out of the backpackers and was driving alongside the beach I suddenly realised that we had not yet been in the sea! So I insisted that we stop by the beach and go for a paddle before going on our way. I love the sea and could not let myself leave without at least having a paddle in the Indian Ocean. So we got out the car and ran down the dune to the water trying to dodge the hundreds of crabs that had emerged and were scuttling across the sand. Finally we were standing in the Indian Ocean, and I could barely believe that the next stop from here would be the Antarctic; it was almost unreal that I was standing on the very end of the African continent, so far from England but perfectly at home.
After a few minutes we ran back to the car, dried our feet and then began our journey down to Addo. With 1000km to drive I hoped that we would not get held up by the weather, and for a couple of hours it seemed that we would make good time. However, by midnight we were well out of Durban and going up the mountain road along the sea which was so thick with fog that I could barely see past the front of the car. I kept going at a snail's pace around the winding roads that had neither markings nor reflectors and just hoped that it would clear. It did once we descended the mountain but as soon as we started to climb again the weather got even worse and once again I could see nothing, had a bit of a freak out and woke up Ben in a panic. He nicely swapped places with me on the top of this freezing, cloudy mountain and started his turn at the wheel so that I could have a little nap.