DATE: 5 May 2006
CURRENT LOCATION: Herdmanston Lodge - Georgetown, Guyana
GPS COORDINATES: Yeah, how quickly would that get stolen from me here!!
Heyyyy!! Look at me, I gotta jobeee - I can tell MasterCard to call off the hounds!!
Am in Guyana (go on, look it up in that nice atlas I bought you Mummy!!) for a 4-week stint with the Commonwealth Secretariat (the outfit I was with for 2 years before going on the trip). I'll be here as a 'presence on the ground' to assess the situation for the Commonwealth in the lead-up to Guyana's national elections.
but I left you last on a cliffhanger of a return to Jo'berg from a wonderful tropical holiday in Mozambique. I was just going to breeze in, grab my motorbike, and sail on down to meet Mandy in Cape Town on Boxing Day for a 4 week backpacking extravaganza in South Africa You know the story; Mario was having none of it and wouldn't start. Big deal, the boys could take the next 4 weeks to sort it out while I was in backpacking bliss with Mandy.
On Xmas Eve just jumped a cheap Kulula.com flight, which heartily welcomed passengers returning home to Cape Town and hoped their cars were still where they parked them.
That's a gorgeous city. Once of course you cut through the chocking swath of surrounding impoverished townships - wow!! It is an amazingly beautiful city. I got my first sight of Devil's Peak and Table Mountain, and the creeping blanket of cloud that drapes itself over Table Mountain - i.e. the 'table cloth'. It's the sort of mist you'd find in Greek mythology. I'd been told so many stories about how fantastic a place this is, it was going to be hard for Cape Town to live up to it all.
The Ashanti put on a massive Xmas dinner for everyone staying at the hostel. There was turkey and ham and chicken and curry and salads and lychees and even champagne for everyone. Non-commonwealth travelers were inducted into Xmas crackers and I forced everyone in my corner to wear the damn silly paper crowns I don't care how stupid we look. I don't have any pictures 9 I was down to my ancient digital camera the size of a 1990 brick cell phone and just didn't have the heart or upper arm strength to whip it out.
Mandy arrived early Boxing Day morning completely kna na ckered, but we started in earnest the next day with a tour of Cape Point. TA DAAA!!!!:
The Cape of Good Hope. I MADE IT!! I MADE IT!! On two wheels even!!!! Consider it London to Cape Town-Mark1. Now many people don't realise that it's not actually, geographically speaking, the most southern point of Africa. That's a few hundred km to the east at Cape Agulhas. But the Cape Point seems in my mind the psychological and historical point at which the world ends.
there it is, the end of Africa - the end of the world! until Antarctica. Look really close and you can see it just there, a little to the left... It's even got the required end of the world New Cape Point Lighthouse (Lat 34.21'24 Long 18.29'12) - miss sailing around that baby and fall off the edge of the map.
Everywhere in the world is a long ways away from here.
I forgot to mention that Table Mountain was burning for most of the holidays. We had fire-fighting choppers zooming over the roof of the hostel, dipping their fire buckets in a reservoir on the other side of the fence. Terrific winds whip the Cape Point and can create a firestorm out of the smallest misplaced cigarette. When I visited later in February, an English woman was killed by bush fire on the mountain.
Much like the Grouse Grind whenever I visit Vancouver, I vowed I would climb Table Mountain everyday for the wilderness and the exercise. And much like every visit back to Vancouver, I only gave it one shot during the visit - though we did have the valid excuse, it was on fire most of the time.
Our timing was also poor because we were still recovering from Ferdinand's world famous Stellenbosch wine tours. A day of 'tasting' that started at 9am and ended late in the evening at one of Camps Bay's trendier cocktail bars. A day complete with dancing to booming happy house in a little white mini-van where you bought wine not only for gifts and souvenirs but also to pass around the bus to drink before the next port of call. A classy day that spawned the following unnecessary moments
See, I was finished at this point
but Mandy certainly wasn't :
I digress. We decided that the day after such antics would be the perfect opportunity to go hiking up a peak that regularly kills tourists in the direct midday sun of 30+ degrees with you know some sunscreen and a bottle of water.
And we made it!! Mandy thought she was going to die.
I think you can tell that some small part of my soul actually did. Feel my pain. How much did I deserve that drink?
Cable car down. Cable car down. Cable car down.
In Cape Town, you have to bicycle Cape Point, 'taste' Stellenbosch, and climb the damn mountain. If none of that kills you, then you might actually get a chance to enjoy the city! Which we didn't get much of chance to do even though we did survive these prerequisites 9 We had to move on if we were going to be able to see anything of an unimaginably diverse country.
We opted for the ubiquitous backpacker scene Baz Bus - a hop on, hop off affair that did the usual trail from Cape Town to Jo'berg, though in a few different configurations.
Could at least catch-up on reading while traveling, something particularly challenging while riding a motorcycle. And, it's a complete no brainer removing the need to get lost all the time. I kinda liked getting lost before, it was half the challenge and half the opportunity - AND NOW IT WAS ROBBED FROM ME!!! Well, Mandy was happy - she had a warm body to sleep and drool against on the longer bus days; I guess that's my reward
We spent New Years in happening Outshourne
ostrich capital of the world!! I mean, where else in the world could you find such Xmas lights lining the boulevards..? Though it was a quiet and ostrich steak filled evening, the next was an action packed extravaganza!!:
Enjoying the splendor of ostrich scrambled eggs!!!
Spledunking through the bowels of mighty Kango Caves!!!
And the new 2006 Commonwealth Games entry of ostrich riding!!! Honestly, this isn't cruel and inhumane treatment of the poor birdies - they give as good as they get. Now I know it doesn't look like much, but I'm riding at my own height off the ground accelerating to maybe 50km/h as this bird tries to dislodge me by colliding with the rest of the herd(!?).
I gleaned a pointer or two from the Scottish fellow who volunteered to go first and show us how NOT to ride an ostrich - the main strategy which is to exit the ostrich in a controlled manner (i.e. fall on your ass rather than your head) at a point when the animal is not moving at a high velocity. Miraculously, my steed somehow realised its own possible harm and came to a screeching last second halt, allowing me to safely launch myself from its back before it could choose a new vector. Even that wasn't without dangers. The previously mentioned Scottish fellow managed to spook the flock(!?) and guess what a pack(!?) of ostriches does when spooked? It lays a minefield of excrement, and you have never NEVER seen anything like an ostrich turd (if it could even reasonably be described as a 'turd'). And you think a little pigeon poop is messy on your windscreen?
The ladies got off easy with supervisory assistance - wranglers held the wings back around Mandy, securing her and keeping the ostrich at a reasonable trot around the pen. Boooo!! We want blood!! No fair!!
A few days followed along a strip of forests and mountains and beaches pinned against the coast east of Cape Town known as the charming 'Garden Route'. Stayed in Wilderness (Fairy Knowle), Knysna, and Storms River (Tube n' Axe)
...even getting to stay in fun little woodland tents. A lot of time on beaches and paddling around rivers in kayaks or canoes. After recuperating from stunt ostrich wrangling, I just felt the need to
jump from the highest bungee jump in the world!!! A natural reaction to ostriches.
And you'd think the jumping alone is scary enough!? Mandy decided to decline coming in on the jump herself, but did brave the suspended catwalk out underneath the bridge to bid me adieu.
Really, it was of her own free will - I swear!
It was a really well run operation, with a swift and efficient system that didn't leave you much time to ponder your fate.
They harness you up
allow a farewell to your next of kin. And well, Mandy managed to accidentally stop the little video of me jump JUST as my toes left the platform.
The wranglers were great - you had at least one in your face from the time you're up in the batters box, asking all sorts of questions and explaining what's going on. Music is pumping on the deck, people are cheering you on. You can't stop yourself from shaking. In my head was completely cool with the jump. In my mind I knew it was alright, even if I couldn't convince my quivering body.
The wranglers bunny-hop you until your toes are right up on the edge - 300meters above the river. I paused to ensure I enjoy the view that I wouldn't ever otherwise have the chance to enjoy. It was pretty damn majestic. Then they're shouting the countdown.
Five and my arms are shaking.
Four I look right down into the river.
Three make it a good jump, I don't wanna look like a crumpled falling leaf.
Two bend my knees.
One . and I'm leaning right over the edge and THERE'S NOTHING BENEATH ME.
My legs double clutch - my body's not fooled anymore: there's absolutely nothing beneath me and nothing holding me, I'M GOING TO PLUMET INTO AN ABYSS AND DIE.
My body is certain of it and my mind is starting to consider the matter.
Too late. Because an instant after my hypothalamus drenched every screaming cell in my body with adrenalin, I'm flying. I'm actually flying. It's at a perilous speed, but I'm really flying!! Wind is nearly blinding me and screaming in my ears and up my nose, but I hold my arms out to my sides like wings and I'm flying!!!
yeah, flying right into the bottom of a canyon!!
Just as the second traumatising wave of adrenalin surges through my body to prepare for imminent impact, the cord takes effect and I'm dragged to a halt - only to be shot skyward at pretty much breakneck speed.
It's just at that point I realise I've been screaming Jesus Christ at the top of my lungs throughout the entire ordeal.
Sproinged up and down and up and down many times until my little rescuer was lowered and we were winched back up to the jumping deck in a position that was what could be considered a little too familiar for two very unfamiliar fellows.
But I made it out alive, with this commemorative embossed certificate to hang on my study wall for all my remaining natural born years. Though the pounding surge of blood through broken blood vessels behind my eyes whenever I bent over to tie my shoes for 2 weeks was also an enduring souvenir
We steamed up the coast to the Trans-Kei and then to Durban from the Garden Route, turned inland to see the Drakensburg Mountains (from which Tolkein partly modeled the wildernesses in the Lord of the rings), and then past Jo'berg to Kruger National Park for a few days of safari!
The next 3 weeks were a whirlwind of further adventures
Zipping high above canyons
Monopoly overdose overcoming us on rainy days In fact, many outdoor pursuits were compromised due to some sketchy weather - we seemed to be pursued by a band of rain during much of our time 9 One free rainy afternoon activity at Buccaneer's in Cinsa once was: Wine. That sometimes summed up the situation.
Getting a good smell of nature
Try learning to surf in this!! Mandy's first day of surfing in Cinsa didn't go as planned. After lessons, we tried it out on our own in the middle of a rain and lightning storm and Mandy was stung five times by blue bottle jellyfish in the first 15 minutes I'm not sure if I converted her, but she was a tough cookie and stuck to it.
Drinking local homebrew with kiddies in the Trans-Kei. It's made from fermented corn (maize). Um, yummy. It was pink and had a thick layer of chud on top, you know, which was off-putting enough in itself let alone for the little fact that it was SERVED OUT OF A PAINT BUCKET SHARED AMONGST 15 PEOPLE.
I have to say that it went around quite a few times - I'm guessing everyone else also settled on my strategy that if I took a little sip and let the others drink it down, maybe it won't reach all the way back around to me.
It wasn't thaaat dreadful - tasted a cross between warm, soured John Smiths ale and feta cheese. See, could have been worse. I don't know how, but I'm sure it could have been.
The Drakensburg Mountains were alive with music
and water falls.
And don't forget the wild animals in Kruger Park!!!
And I didn't mean the ones on the safari truck : Mandy nearly won the all-women's' intercontinental Giraffe poop spitting championships. Nearly. The Swedes swept both the men's' and women's' categories. But we'll train her up and snatch that title next year for sure!
Much better - no false sense of protection here
Lookie!! Wee baby Rhino and deranged mancrushing overprotective Mummy really, I wish we had walls on this thing.
Took in many beautiful sunsets
Now this really is the end of the world - anyone need to get rid of a Coke bottle..?
And after all that I had to kiss Mandy bye-bye and try to get on for the last 6 weeks of trans-Africa exploration. It had to be done; there was one more place that I needed to see, even if i wasn't able to take the long way 'round. Stupid Ewan.
Got one last installment of the overland trip from Cape Town to Victoria Falls - stay tuned