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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]

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