The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Ellen Davies

Hello past, present, and future travelers my name is Ellen Davies. I am from Sunnyvale, California and currently a Senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Political Science. Studying abroad during college was never a question of “if” but a question of “where”. I have had the privilege of traveling while growing up and it has become one of my greatest passions. I am so excited to learn about South African culture, get immersed in a new community, and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Spring Break 2016×2

Spring Break 2016×2

I began writing this a few of weeks ago however, with the university shutdown I have just been able to finish it. So FINALLY here is how I spent my Spring Break here in South Africa (or rather outside of it).

As Summer ends and Fall begins in the States, Spring has just started showing itself after a wet winter in Cape Town. Just like the American universities, the University of Cape Town gives their students a well-deserved mid-term break. One week of no school, no classes, no papers, no tests. A time to relax and enjoy what South Africa has to offer………or get out as fast as you can to go see other sites in the southern part of the African continent. When deciding on whether to stay in Cape Town or experience other countries, I knew that the only option I would be happy with was to leave. So on the first Saturday of break I woke up at 3:30AM and hoped on a bus with 20 other study abroad students and started what was going to be the best Spring Break I have ever had.


Day 1: Livingstone, Zambia

Early mornings seem to be a common occurrence whenever I travel anywhere. Though, to admit 3:30 in the morning was just a little too early for my liking. But not too soon after departing the residence hall my adrenaline kicked in. I kept glancing at my friend Meg who was on the trip with me, as well as two other boys from the IES Program (Aditya and Logan), and we both could not stop smiling. In about 6 hours we were going to land in Zambia and start what was sure to be an amazing experience. Landing around 1:30 PM in Zambia we headed to our accommodation for the night, Livingstone Backpackers (highly recommended for anyone travelling around the area!) It was so quaint and cozy with travelers from around the world all gathered together. No one wanted to stand around to do nothing so we ventured out into town to check out the local market. Masters at sales and negotiation the salesmen and women promoted their goods, statues, bowls, bracelets, shirts, and paintings. After an hour of perusing the stalls we headed back to the backpackers to lounge by the pool. Understandably, it was an early night for everyone after an exhausting day of travelling and the next day was going to be more adventures and exploring.

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Day 2: Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Out of all the days on this trip, my favorite by far is still this very first day. After a day of travelling getting to sleep in until 9:00AM was quite refreshing. The four of us, Aditya, Logan, Meg, and I, had an absolutely delicious breakfast (probably the best one on the whole trip) at the backpackers. At 11 we were picked up and driven to a very nice resort where we would be relaxing by the pool until our activity of the day began. Right on the edge of the Zambezi the hotel is the launching point for the Devil’s Pool experience. Before our scheduled appointment we had about 4 hours to kill. We were able to relax by the pool, swim, and go for walks around the compound. Our walks were just to explore the area and stretch our legs but we were surprised, and delighted, to find zebras and impala along our way. It was amazing to be so close to wild animals and to just get to watch them do what they do. After the walks and a dip in the pool it was time to set off for the edge. Literally. Devil’s Pool is a small “pool” on the very edge of Victoria Falls. A boat took us from the hotel to a small island known as Livingstone Island. From this location we swam thru the Zambezi to get to the pool. After very slowly and cautiously climbing into the pool, we were able to sit on the edge of one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. My heart was pounding, my palms were sweating, and the words “oh my god” left my mouth about a hundred times. It was an incredibly surreal moment and one that will forever be imprinted in my memory. I could have stayed in the pool for hours but unfortunately, all too quickly we were ushered out and made our way back to Livingstone Island. After a late lunch on the island it was time to go back to the hotel and make our way to Zimbabwe. And what better way to do this but to walk? As the Zim/Zambia border is Victoria Falls it was not far from the hotel. So, the five of us (the IES 4 and our tour guide, Angelica) made our way down the highway towards the border. We crossed just as the sun was setting and made our way thru the national part in the dark with only one headlight guiding our way. We were warned that there were buffalo, elephants, and hippos that we had to be careful about by an overly concerned taxi driver offering us a ride. We decided to venture into the “wilderness” anyway and made it safely to our Rest Camp without being mauled or eaten by anything. This day was not just my favorite because of the activities. What really made this day was the people I was with. Though the activities were amazing and walking across the border was a unique experience the little moments of laughter, joking, lounging, and talking with the four other people I was with made everything so much better. And though, none of the following days topped this one, they definitely came very close.

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Day 3: Hiking Victoria Falls and the Village

After an exciting adventure the day before, today was scheduled to be a little more relaxed. After breakfast at the rest camp our entire group went on a hike of Victoria Falls. The hike takes you to 16 different viewpoints of the amazing falls. Each vantage point was just as beautiful and amazing as the next one. At half of the spots water rained down and turned the scenery into a beautiful amazing forest. The rest of the spots were surrounded by brown foliage. The contrast from forest to desert was quite astonishing to see. After an hour of hiking, pictures, snacks, and more pictures we headed back to the rest camp for a relaxing afternoon by the pool. A couple hours later, our group left to spend the night with an amazing group of children at a local orphanage. We had dinner with the children (where I ate a caterpillar, a Zimbabwean specialty) and then a massive dance party ensued. We were fortunate enough to be there for one of the girl’s birthday; this was the first birthday party this little girl had ever had. It was such an honor to experience it with her and to see the joy on her face when we surprised her. After a few hours of playing and dancing it was time to say goodbye. Hugs went all around and by the end of the night none of us really wanted to leave. Thirty minutes of goodbyes later and our night had finally come to an end. We all needed our rest, for the next day things were going to get crazy!

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Day 4: Rafting the Zambezi

At the end of this particular day my only thought was, “I SURVIVED!” I do not think I have ever been so close to death as I was today. And yet, it was AWESOME!!!!! I wouldn’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie but it was a lot of fun. Today, I went white water rafting on the Zambezi River, the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. There is not much more I can say besides it was thrilling, scary, fantastic, and again, amazing. The pictures bellow pretty much say it all. There are 6 grades of rapids; each grade is more dangerous than the next. Grade 1, you can swim in, Grade 3- be prepared for a bumpy ride, Grade 5- anywhere from a 50-99% chance of flipping, Grade 6- you die (a little dramatic but they are very, very dangerous even professionals do not ride these rapids). In many places in America a person must be certified in order to go on Grade 4 and up rapids. Well, not in Africa! We went all the way up to Grade 5 and we all survived. We got a quick lesson on what to do if the boat flips, hiked down a gorge to get to the river, and after 4 non-stop hours of rafting, hiked back up the gorge. We were lucky that this was the only activity for it was exhausting. The day ended with a nice dinner and relaxing by the pool. It was the perfect ending to such a tiring yet exhilarating day.

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Day 5: Markets and Gorge Swings

Our last day in Zimbabwe was our own. No planned activities, no early morning wake up, and no death defying activities……wait scratch that last one. Since nothing was scheduled we were able to pick and choose different activities that we wanted to partake in. I decided that I wanted to explore the village more and other non-profit organizations like the orphanage. A tour guide took a group of us around the village, showing us different markets, going back to the orphanage, and an old-person care home. The markets were not touristy markets or places to buy souvenirs. These markets were the places where the people living in the area would go to buy clothes, shoes, hair products, etc. They weren’t indoor markets or what one would normally think of. Once the tour was over, our group headed back to the rest camp.  The group I came with (Logan, Meg, Aditya, and I) decided that we were not satisfied with having a lazy day around Victoria Falls. So, what better way to spice things up then by jumping off the gorge and swinging side-to-side? Our last adventure in Zimbabwe was the gorge swing across the Zambezi. If I thought white water rafting was scary, this was terrifying. It was all fine until that moment when you are standing on a wooden platform looking down at the bottom of the gorge. Luckily, Meg and I were doing a tandem jump so I was not alone in my moment of fear. The hardest part is always right before the jump. Fortunately for us the man in charge of the jump didn’t give us much of a choice; after counting down from 5, he pushed us off. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful to someone for pushing me off a cliff. The initial free-fall lasted about 3 seconds and then the swing set in and we were soaring over the gorge. It was so much fun and so beautiful going across the river. After the jump and the climb back up, we headed back to the camp for our last Zimbabwean night.

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Day 6: Chobe National Park, Botswana

Our adventure this morning was to say goodbye to Zimbabwe and hello to Botswana. A couple hours’ drive had us at the border where we switched cars and headed straight into the first activity of the day. The big Jeeps would talk us into Chobe National Park and on a 2-hour Game Drive to see the wildlife. My first safari of in Africa! It was hot and bright out as we made our way through the park to the edge of the Chobe River. Hundreds of elephants grazed around the river and bathed on its banks. Water buffalo stood right beside the elephants minding their own business. The elephants in Chobe are known to be the largest in the world, and that is no lie; they are huge. As we continued on we spotted giraffes, kudu, impala, and other antelope species. Unfortunately, no lions were around for it was too hot for them to come out. To continue our animal adventure, we drove to the bank of the river and hopped onto a boat for a sunset cruise on the river. This was my favorite out of the two. We were able to see crocodiles and more elephants up close. But my favorite animal to see were the hippos swimming in the water and eating on land. Hippos and giraffes are probably my favorite animals so getting to see them in their natural habitat was quite amazing. As the sun began to set, we headed back towards the shore where we would be able to get a better view of the setting sun. I was having a lovely conversation with the boat driver when I jokingly mentioned that he should let me drive the boat back. To my surprise, he let me! I was able to steer the boat to where we were going to watch the sunset. It was such a unique experience and only enhanced how great the day had been so far. Watching the sun set over the Chobe River was breathtaking. The sky lit up in different colors and the sun became a deep orange. Too soon it was over and we were off the boat and back into the Jeeps. Our rest camp was not too far and we were able to have a very comfortable night on extremely comfy beds, before our next adventure was to take place.

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Day 7: Maun, Botswana

This day was nothing but driving. The drive from Chobe to Maun took 8 hours. By the time we reached the rest camp we were exhausted and nobody was in the mood for any activities. Which was perfect because there was none planned. Our accommodation for the night consisted of tents with a padded mattress inside. This was in preparation for our night on the Okavango Delta. A short walk, dinner, a little conversation and then it was off to bed for us all.


Day 8: Mokoro Tour, Okavango Delta

Today was probably the longest day of the entire trip, or at least it felt like it. Most of our day was spent on a boat. First, a speed boat and then a skinny, canoe-looking boat called a mokoro. These boats are the only types of boats that are permitted thru the Okavango Delta. They are small enough where they can fit off the big canals and into the tall grass areas. For 8-hours we paired up and were driven around the Delta by a mokoro driver. Aditya and I shared a mokoro and our driver was a 21-year old women named Michelle. We had a wonderful time talking to her about her life and enjoying the scenery. Our trip allowed us to see hippos, crocodiles, one lone elephant, a herd of zebra, and lots and lots of bugs. We made it to our campsite, where we would be sleeping under the stars on the Okavango, and got a short break. A group of decided to take advantage of our amazing location and go for a swim in the Delta not far from our campsite. I still cannot believe that I can say that I swam in the Okavango Delta in Botswana; it is a little surreal. Once our dip in the Delta was over we dried off. No rest in between, for we hopped back in our mokoros and set off for another island not too far away. On our way we passed a place called Hippo Pool where hippos come and relax, hang out, and sleep. We took a walking tour of the island in search of some animals. We did not find any live animals but we came across an elephant skeleton. It had died a while ago and all that was left were the bones. Its skull was still intact and the femur was massive and so heavy. As we walked back to the mokoros the sun set off in the distance and cast a glow over the island. We continued on our journey back to the mokoros; we made it back to campsite just as the sky turned black. Our last dinner was a happy but solemn one. None of us wanted to leave and yet we were all exhausted and ready to be back. Plans for reunions were already being discussed as our dinner progressed. Our night ended with us gazing at the amazing starts in the sky and discovering constellations. One last “tent talk” between us four IES students and it was off to bed for a good night’s sleep…

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Day 9: Flying home???

After only a few hours of sleep I was up at 5AM and hanging with the cooks and mokoro drivers. They had built a fire since it was still dark out and we talked around the fire for about an hour before the sun started to arise. The rest of the group started emerging to watch the sunrise over the delta. It was the perfect end to an amazing trip. After breakfast and packing, it was back onto the mokoros and back to the rest camp. Logan and I were on a direct flight back to Cape Town while the rest of the group was on an earlier flight thru Jo-burg. Logan and I stayed behind to relax at the rest camp while the other group went ahead to the airport. We said our quick goodbyes and promised to get together that night for dinner back in Cape Town……………or so was the plan……… With comfy couches and two hammocks swaying in the warm breeze, I could not resist the temptation to take a nap. We were being picked up at 1:30pm for our 3:00 flight. Waking up just before 1, Logan and I just sat around the couches waiting for the car to come. Logan decided to look up our flight online to get the details about when we would be landing in Cape Town…. And that was the last calm moment before things hit the fan. Our flight, which we were told was leaving at 3, was actually scheduled to depart at 1:35pm, in 30 minutes. Logan ran to the reception and told them we needed a taxi right away. I called Angelica and told her that we were probably going to miss our flight. She hung up to call the owner of the travel company. The owner messaged Logan and informed us that we had indeed missed our flight and that there were no more flights out of Maun to Cape Town until the next day. We were stuck in Botswana for an extra day. Our tents were pitched again and dinner (and a well- deserved drink) and breakfast were provided for us. It was definitely not how we planned to end the day but overall, an extra day in the Botswana is not the worst thing that could happen to a girl.


Unintentional Day 10: Finally Flying Home

With very little sleep the night before and the unexpected flight mishap, I was in bed and asleep by 9:30pm. A great night sleep was exactly what I needed to endure the flight during the day. I counted every step. Step 1: We got in the taxi. Step 2: We made it to the airport. Step 3: Got our tickets. Step 4: Made it thru security. Step 5: Made it on the plane. And finally, Step 6: The plane took off and we were on it! As much as I loved the trip and it was everything and so much more, I could not wait to be home!

Protests and Shutdowns

Protests and Shutdowns


Mid October 2015

Students at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa received news that tuition prices for 2016 would be raised 20% for the incoming school year. A few days later, on October 14th students assembled to protest against the outrageousness of the increase. This started the campaign for Fees Must Fall. The rest of the month saw other universities joining the cause, more support, more protests, and the rise of a new movement.
The 2015 Fees Must Fall campaign ended when President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be no increase in tuition for universities across the nation. Protests stopped but the damage was done and the tension was still in the air. The University of Cape Town was home to violent protests, the burning of school shuttles, burning of paintings and property, and the fire-bombing of the Vice Chancellor’s office. The student’s involved were arrested, suspended, or expelled, while a few are still waiting for their hearing and have been barred from campus. Campus activities were suspended and finals were postponed. International students abroad had to complete their tests back in their home countries while full-time students had to take them weeks or months later. But, the protests were successful. The fees did not increase and students were able to return to normal class the next semester.

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Present Day 2016
As Spring Break ended and the 4th term of the year began the tension in the air thickened. It was less than a year ago when protests broke out and people were waiting to see what was going to happen. Soon, we found out.
As the anticipation for the new tuition price announcement, the University of Cape Town suspended academic activities on Friday September 23 and Monday September 19. Small protests had already started the day before and more were expected due to the coming announcement. Sure enough, on Monday students received the email informing them of the expected 8% fee increase for the 2017 school year. Immediately, students mobilized and protested this increase. However, this time the fees were not alone. Tribunals for the students suspended have started again and there is outcry from students for their release and ability to return to school.
Tuesday morning arrived and the protests only grew. Students blocked entrances to the school with boats, benches, branches, cars, and themselves. Other protesters marched on residence buildings calling for all students to join in the march. The Medical School was taken over with classes being disrupted and exits and entrances being blocked. They took to the highway and blocked cars on their way towards Upper Campus (the main campus of UCT). The sang, chanted, clapped, and danced as the went along. All this occurred before 10AM. Around 10:30 UCT officially announced that it was shutting down yesterday and today, Wednesday September 21. And tonight they announce that campus will be closed until Sunday with the hope that some kind of solution can happen so that school may start up again soon.

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Not many study abroad experiences have massive on-campus protests occurring during that time. This experience gives a unique insight into the dynamics of South African turmoil. With the elections occurring in August South Africa has seen a great shift in its domestic power and many people calling for better services. The fight for cheaper, and even free, education is just one of the many social issues that South Africa faces. As an outsider looking in, the current situation with Fees Must Fall and the UCT Shutdown is rather intriguing.
I am the sort of person who has the ability to understand arguments from many different points of view. The protesters are demanding for greater and cheaper education; their ultimate goal is for all education to be free. I understand the fight for lower tuition costs however there are many aspects that need to be taken into account. Last year, after the success of Fees Must Fall the university had to fire a large number of staff members in order to stay operational. In addition, the government has lowered the amount of funding that universities have access to. This, in turn, has caused the need for higher tuition fees in order for universities to stay open and accessible. The university can only do so much with what it has. I am pleased that there is a plan to protest outside the parliament building in order to get the government to get involved. Hopefully this will open their eyes to the education problems and try to find a solution.
The protesters presented the university with a list of demands (I have attached them at the bottom of this post for those of you who are interested). Though many of these demands are fine some stretch things a little too far. The main demand I disagree with is the call for the release of students who were expelled or have hearings coming up in the future. As much as one may want them to be freed and pardoned their actions were illegal. Burning shuttles costs the university money, money which could have gone towards the cause, and puts people’s lives in danger. Furthermore, the fire-bombing of an office could have had devastating results if someone had been inside when it occurred. It is hard to argue that no consequences should come to the people who participated in these events.
I hope that an agreement can be reached in the very near future as, though I can’t believe I am saying this, I want to go back to class. All in all, I am happy that I get to experience this while I am here and express my support for their cause. I am not going to be personally participating in the protests but I stand behind the fight for cheaper education for all. For anyone with concerns, I am well and safe and there is no need to worry.


List of Demands:

Abaphumeleli- Home of Safety

Abaphumeleli- Home of Safety

“Sisi! Sisi! Sisi!” Before I can step foot inside the house half a dozen children are already upon me. Running, hugging, speaking, pulling me every which-way… and I absolutely love it! I come here at least once a week, to the township of Khayelitsha, and spend a minimum of three hours helping, talking, laughing, and having a blast with over forty kids at the orphanage.


Before I get into how much I love it and how the experience is so rewarding, I want to explain a little about the township and the orphanage itself. Khayelitsha is one of the many townships located in what is known as the Cape Flats. The region is exactly like it sounds: flat. During the apartheid era, black and coloured families were forcibly removed from the city center and placed in the Cape Flats. Since then, violence, crime, drugs, and poverty have been a rampant problem. Development in the townships has been slow and many of the services promised by the government have failed to follow through. Local organizations within the township have arisen with the goal of combating these issues.


12 years ago Mama Evelyn* opened her doors to the orphans of Khayelitsha and Abaphumeleli was created. She saw many children without homes and decided that she wanted to do something to help. She chose the name Abaphumeleli because of its meaning “Home of Safety”. This is what Mama wanted to give these children, a home. Since then, Abaphumeleli has provided shelter, food, clothes, an education, safety, and a family for the over 40 children currently in residence and the children who no longer live there. The newest addition to Mama’s family is a beautiful 2-month-old girl named Angel. Mama does not turn any child away. The children under her care come from different background, parents who gave them up, parents addicted to drugs and alcohol, and parents who have passed away.


It is hard to imagine anyone going through what these children have, and yet every day I see them they are full of smiles. They welcome all visitors and enjoy the company, showing off their spelling, jump-roping, singing, and dancing skills. My job here as a volunteer is pretty simply to have fun! No, that is not it exactly, but that is what it feels like it should be. I arrive and the first thing I do is get the children started on their schoolwork. I can only help with math, spelling, and English, so any Xhosa homework they have I am useless. After about an hour of work, most children have finished so it is time to have fun. There is a small play structure in the orphanage and the boys love getting the ball out to play soccer in the street. For the next two hours it’s games and dancing. I made the mistake once of trying to cheer up one of the kids with Snapchat filters. Suffice it to say, the next hour was spent taking picture of every child with different filters on their face. They had so much fun and it was hilarious seeing their faces when the filters would change.


I love volunteering. Helping others is one of my passions and always gives me such joy to know that the smile on another’s face is because of me. The fact that these faces are of children makes it that much more rewarding. I can already tell that my last day at the orphanage will be full of tears but it won’t be full of “goodbyes”, only “see you laters”.


*In South Africa when you are welcomed into another’s home, you call the woman/mother of the household “Mama”. It’s an expression of respect, endearment, and captures the unique perspective of community.

A moment for Italy

A moment for Italy

Sometimes while we are away from home, experience new and exciting things, we forget that the world around us goes on. This afternoon I learned of some news that made my heart sink and I want to take a moment to talk about it:

I want to take a moment to talk about one of my favorite places on Earth: Italy.


When I was 7 I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The tale goes that if you throw one coin in the fountain you will return to Rome again one day. That was my hope, my wish, my dream…


Last summer I spent two of the greatest months of my life backpacking around Europe. I set aside two weeks of that time to explore the beautiful country of Italy, and I knew then as I know now that two weeks was not long enough. With its vibrant cities, historical sites, amazing culture and mouth-watering food Italy is a place that is, or should be, on every person’s bucket list. To hear about the devastating earthquake that took the lives of so many people breaks my heart. My favorite thing about Italy is the fact that when you walk the streets in any town, you are transported back in time. Seeing the pictures of all that history and beauty brought down to rubble is gut wrenching. I know people who are in Italy now and some who are planning on studying abroad there soon. I hope everyone is safe and that while you are there you take the time to soak in the awe of the world around you. Italy is a place I will never forget and it will forever be a place I hope to return to. I threw a coin in the Trevi fountain last summer with the same dream I had when I was 7, that one day, I will return to Italy.


Rest in Peace the victims of the Italian Earthquake

Bucket List South Africa Edition

Bucket List South Africa Edition

When travelling somewhere new and exciting I always say that making a list of what you want to do helps. There is always so much to do and there is rarely enough time….unless you happen to be in one place for about 5 months. Which, it just so happens, is the situation I am in! Below is the list of things I hope to accomplish (besides schoolwork) during my time here in Cape Town.

Cape Town Bucket List:

Hike Up Table Mountain

Hike Up Devil’s Peak

Hike Up Lion’s Head

Go Shark Cave Diving in Gaansbai (Shark Alley)


Bungee Jumping off Bloukrans River Bridge

See the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, and Leopard)

Visit the Penguins at Boulder Beach

Go to all the markets! (Hout Bay, Old Biscuit Mill, etc.)

Bike along the Sea Point Promenade

Surf in Muizenberg

Go to the Vergenoegd Wine Estate and witness the March of the Ducks!

Recreate the picture of Mom on Victoria Falls

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Feed a squirrel at the Company Gardens

Have wine and cheese at the top of Signal Hill at sunset

Have high tea at Mount Nelson Hotel

Hug a Lion

I know I will be adding to this list and crossing thing off as my adventures continue so I will try and keep it updated as much as possible!

ALSO, if you have any suggestions of activities I should do during my time please let me know!!!

A Long Way to Get to Where I am Now

A Long Way to Get to Where I am Now

Literally! One 2 hour flight from Chicago to New York, then a 15 and a half hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, and finally another 2 hour flight from Jo-burg to Cape Town! Spending over 24 hours on a plane or in an airport leaves little room for enjoyment. However, exhaustion and hunger could not stop the excitement from bubbling inside me as I was transferred from the airport to the residence hall where I will live for the next 5 months…


A week later and my excitement has only grown into all out amazement and awe of what South Africa has to offer. So little time here and yet so much has already been accomplished. Our first real tour outside of Cape Town was The Garden Route with this amazing touring company Southern Ambition Africa (highly recommended if you are ever in Cape Town).


Early morning start: The tour started at the wonderful time of 4:45AM. We hopped on a bus and everyone just went right back to sleep. If you were awake, you would have gotten a beautiful view of the early morning sunrise over the mountains. Since it is winter here the temperature was a brisk 0°C which made it impossible for the heater to work on the bus. My fuzzy socks came out to warm my feet but my nose was freezing.


Day 1: The only relaxation time occurred on the bus or for lunch/dinner. Every other second was spent exploring, seeing beautiful scenery, taking pictures, touring new places, and having fun. Our first stop was in Oudtshoorn, “The Ostrich Capital of the World”.20160707_130611_resized [89217] Here we stopped at an ostrich farm where we were able to feed the ostriches, get a neck message from the ostriches (I wouldn’t leave a tip though), kiss an ostrich, and even ride an ostrich. The main ostrich we interacted with was named Betsy, she was the nicest. After an amazing lunch, where yes, I had ostrich meat, we got back on the bus and moved right along to the next destination. Caving time! We arrived at the Cango Caves and split up into two groups: the historical walk and the adventure walk. With no hesitation I got on the Adventure Walk train. I ended with bruises and scraped knees but it was worth it. 20160707_154116_resized_1 [89199]The caves were so beautiful and massive; one of the caves was used as a concert hall in the past. I am shocked that I was able to squeeze myself into some of the spaces. At certain points I had to walk at a ninety degree angle, duck walk, crawl, slide on my butt, slide on my stomach, climb up a chimney-like hole, you name it. Once all was said and done, I was sweaty, in pain, and so happy!


Day 2: Another early morning wake up call. After breakfast it was right back on the bus and off to the next adventure. Elephants. Elephants. Elephants. Elephants! Our first stop of the day took us to the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary. Here, I got to spend the day learning about elephants and how these elephants were brought to the sanctuary and what their rehabilitation process is.20160708_113937_resized_1 [176062]20160708_114541(1)_resized_1 [89208] Two of the elephants did not have a proper trunk and were unable to eat properly in the wild and so were brought to the sanctuary to learn to adapt to eating with their hurt trunks. The highlight of the trip was being able to walk with the elephants and pet them. It was such an incredible experience. Being near to such a beautiful and magnificent animal was both terrifying and thrilling. Walking with the elephants entailed standing next to their heads while they placed their trunks in your hand. It was adorable and I died a little inside because of how happy I was. Too soon, our time at the sanctuary came to an end and we had to move on. The second stop was a beautiful beach about 30 minutes away from Knysna. At the end of the beach, on a hill, there was an abandoned railroad. This railroad was used as a way for people to travel from Cape Town to Knysna and other parts of the Western Cape. However, due to rough weather, safety issues, and money problems the entire railroad was abandoned. As we climbed up to the railroad the view of the town and the beach were breathtaking. 20160708_171006_resized [89193]Clouds were rolling in from the sea and had cast a glow over the ocean. We followed the railroad around a bend and through a tunnel until we arrived at our destination. Hidden in the cliff and designed out of a cave lived a man who turned the cliff-side cave into a home.20160708_165506_resized [89185] A home not only for himself, but homeless men and women who he has dedicated his life to rehabilitating. Thousands of shells hung from makeshift ceilings, rooms divided by curtains, beds and tables made out of anything, and all only lit by candle light. This man’s generosity turned into something majestic and beautiful to look out. The cave, with one of the best views in the world, is a sanctuary for people who have nothing. It could easily have been a tourist attraction; a five-star restaurant that people would pay hundreds of dollars for just for the view. Instead, it is a home of refuge for so many and hopefully it will forever stay that way.


Day 3: Not surprisingly, our last day of the Garden Route started just as all the others: early. We only had one activity scheduled for today, since we had an eight-hour journey back to Cape Town afterwards, and it was canoeing. Being the lucky person I am , I was paired up with my RA, Lovemore (yes that is his real name).20160709_101723_resized [179556] Suffice it to say canoeing with Love was interesting. On our journey out, he had made it his mission to splash, beat, or bump into everyone who was around us. My goal was to just not tip over into the river. The other boats all headed to this grassy area at the end of the river, where we were supposed to go. 20160709_102813_resized [179557]However, Love and I decided to depart from tradition and head for the random island in the middle. Not a completely wise decision as the island was covered in bird poo, hence Love’s name for it “Poop Island”. After about an hour of exploring “Poop Island” (though it mainly consisted of walking about 50 feet), walking to another beach, talking pictures, and dancing it was time to head back. Our canoe trip back was much calmer, no ramming into other people’s boats. Finally back on solid ground and we hadn’t tipped or fallen in; that is what I call a success!!!


Only a week… That’s all it took for me to fall completely and utterly in love with South Africa. Any apprehension I had about being so far away from home has completely vanished. All my fears about not enjoying myself or having fun are already a thing of a past. If all this can happen in one week I am so excited to discover everything that is to come in the next 5 months!!!20160709_103414_resized [89179]