The Garden Route

Only our second weekend in Cape Town and we were already off on our first voyage away from the city. We woke up bright and early Friday to be picked up for a trip to the Garden Route – the area along the coast between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

Once we were all on the bus we took a two-hour drive to stop at Ronnie’s Sex Shop, a popular bar/stop-area on the route and had a free South African beer (shoutout to the best tour guide, Handré). Back on the road for another hour to stop for lunch and a wine tasting. All of these places in the middle of literal nowhere and I’m almost positive our bus was at least 95 degrees the entire weekend so we were off to a great start.

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We then drove another hour to get to the Cango Caves, the oldest cave formation on the continent of Africa. Little did we know that we’d be crawling through the caves and tunnels. Should’ve known what was to come when Handré said “don’t bring sweatshirts or backpacks because you might not fit”- HA good joke. We inched our ways through these humid caves single file for over an hour. I sweated my buns off and nearly died in these caves. The most narrow part of the whole underground cave system happened to also be the part where you had to climb upwards. Minor panic attacks ensued.

Being surprised and forced into physical activity continued to be a reoccurring theme over the summer. (Dramatics aside – it was pretty cool to see and experience, I’m happy I went, yes I was overreacting, etc.)

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Once we left the caves we stopped at an ostrich farm. Probably more than 50 of these tall, weird birds came running to the fence and we got to have our selfie moments. I’ll say it loud and clear; ostriches are the weirdest animals ever.

 

Finally we drove to our hostel for the night. Eight of us in a room but much nicer than we expected. It was my first hostel experience so you could imagine where my mind was going before arriving. There was a nice South African braai with ostrich meat and sausage. We just spent a half hour taking pictures and standing next to these creatures to turn around and have them for dinner an hour later. The irony. Afterwards we sat by the fire outside near the bar and had cola-flavored marshmallows which I would not recommend to anyone. At the end of the night, we finally got eight hour’s worth of sleep and thank the lord for that.


Saturday we woke up for a nice breakfast at the hostel before driving down the road to Bufflesdrift Game Lodge where we got to take a morning walk with elephants. The true highlight of the weekend and quite frankly my favorite moment from my entire summer experience. We took three African elephants on a walk and then got to feed, pet, touch, and take pictures with them. Hands down the coolest thing ever.

Side note: I was getting a trunk hug (as pictured) and the trunk hit me in the head and scratched my ear and I later diagnosed myself with an ETD (an elephant-transmitted disease). BUT I’m a survivor who lived to tell the tale.

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These three amazing and gentle creatures were abandoned when they were younger and  then raised by humans. At one point the game reserve attempted to release them back into the wild but due to the elephant’s lifelong relationship with humans they no longer saw humans as threats and were kept in captivity for their own safety. Africa is full of poachers but it really hits home when you are there to hear about it from firsthand accounts. Some places even ask you not to tag their company name when posting photos of the animals on social media. We heard stories of Instagram posts leading to poachers onsite within an hour.

On a lighter note, we conveniently left right before it started raining and drove to the tallest bungee jump bridge in the world, Bloukrans Bridge. We got all suited up and made our trek across the bridge which was arguably the scariest part. I ended up being the second one of our group to go, RIP. After a brief moment of terror, anxiety, tears and hysterics, I managed/had no choice but to jump.

If you ever plan to bungee jump, this is how it goes: The first few seconds are truly terrifying but then it all becomes a blur. And then literally a blur because your eyes water so much you can’t see – unless that was only me? then RIP me. But then you start bungeeing back up and your stomach does a quick hula dance. And then you just keep bouncing up and down on this rope for longer than you would ever want to. If you’re lucky, you might even feel like you’re going to slip out of the restraints while you’re at it! And then when it’s all done you just dangle there upside down for a good minute before a guy comes down to get you, aka your best friend at the given moment. And then you’re back on the bridge and you have to change your underwear – or is that just me again?

I’m not sure I would do it again, but it was one of those in-the-moment experiences you do just to say you did it later on. And it was the tallest bungee bridge in the world, I mean, if I’m going to bungee jump I better do it there right?

 

After lunch we left for an “oyster and wine tasting” which equated to literally one oyster and a single champagne flute… But I did try oysters for the first time ever and they weren’t too shabby. Couldn’t see how anybody could consider that a meal unless you had like 400 of them, but to each their own.

We got to explore the Knysna Waterfront before heading to the next hostel. This one was much more of what I envisioned a hostel being like: a dormitory room full of bunk beds. Nonetheless, we were all in it together so we made do. There was a hopping bar outside though, and we happened to be there during a soup contest? We weren’t entirely sure what we were eating, what it was called or what was in it to be completely honest. All I know is that it had a lot of bones in it which was not okay, but again, we survived. Gave us a reason to take advantage of the bar afterwards if nothing else.


On Sunday, we woke up a little later for breakfast and had a walk on the beach since our hostel was right on the sand. Then we drove to a river where we canoed…. I was never informed this was a part of the trip??? Example 2 of me being surprised into physical activity.

Regardless, Tiger and I, aka the two most dramatic and non-athletic people in the program, struggled our way for a full kilometer in that damn canoe and ended up soaking wet from the waist down. We finally came back to dry land for some dry clothes and a dank burger though.

Next we drove off to a private game lodge for a sunset safari. We got in a 25-seater jeep with blankets. The reserve was entirely mountains? Who would’ve known they have safaris in the mountains — Handré told us that there even used to be lions and elephants on Table Mountain but due to industrialization and civilization, they have since dispersed throughout the rest of the country. Meanwhile, I was still blown away at how mountaneous South Africa was in general. You think Africa and you picture the Lion King but he said there’s even a snow ski lodge in Lesotho. Who would’ve known?

During the safari, we got to see rhinos, elephants, giraffes, springbok, lions, buffalos and zebras. I would go as far to say it was a glorified zoo, but all in all, a cool (and cold) experience. We were certainly satisfied with our first weekend trip, and much of that was due to our amazing tour guide Handré.

Finally, a five hour drive home to Cape Town and back to our new reality of working at our internships and exploring Obs everyday.

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