I'm currently writing this in my bed at the Lady Hamilton Hotel with a glass of red wine on the bedside table, a brand new block of fruit and nut chocolate next to me and my head torch on my head - in exactly (well, actually, it's more approximately ...) 10 minutes load shedding will start, and I'm ready for it. I've been in Africa for 34 days now and I'm still shocked and confused whenever the power suddenly turns off, but not this time.
I should start off by thanking the old woman at the supermarket who mentioned the 8 o'clock deadline to an employee. If it wasn't for her, and my skill of casually ears dropping, I might be reliving the same situation I was in two nights ago. Picture this: half way through my warm shower the power goes out ... So naturally a number of horror movie scenes flash into my head. A few seconds later, I realised what had just happened. If I were a crazy serial killer/paranormal entity from beyond, load shedding would be the perfect opportunity to do what they do best.
Yeah, so that glass of wine I mentioned earlier? Well it has suddenly turned into a bottle, thanks to my over imaginative/horror enjoyment filled mind ...
3 minutes till 8 o'clock.
I'm scared/nervous/excited. It's like waiting till midnight on New Year's Eve, except there's no celebration, there's only frustration, inconveniences and a whole lot of darkness, inside and out of the building - expect for me and my (brand new) trusty head torch.
Approximately 10 seconds to go, head torch on and ready ...
I don't understand how South Africans (plus the other countries involved) can cope with this. I mean, half of me thinks it's like having 'Earth Hour' every second or third day/night (and which goes on for an extra hour), and the other half of me questions whether this is the real solution to the problem - one which I don't really understand.
2 minutes past 8 o'clock ...
It also makes me think of the people who live in poverty everyday, who only have the basics to survive. They don't have running water or electricity (or very little of both), so why should we complain about a few hours?
8.03pm - Power has officially gone out.
For me, it's kind of fun (when not in a vulnerable position)! Well, actually, kind of half fun. Being alone means that the thrill that is being in a darkish room only goes so far. Eventually the enjoyment of reading, writing and drinking wine in a dimly lit room wears off and the darkness makes the loneliness more real - that was deeper than intended. If I were with one or more people on the other hand, think of the endless fun! Board games, ghost stories, card games, gossip ... This is the one downside to traveling alone. Usually when I feel a little homesick or lonely, I go to a cafe or take a walk, but being in a country that load sheds (and that I'm not too familiar with, especially at night) makes it harder (and potentially unsafe ...).
I probably should point out that the load shedding can happen during the day as well, it really depends - on what, I'm not too sure. Also, there's apparently an app that lets you know when it's going to occur! I probably should invest in it to save future problems ...
8.15pm, still without power.
I felt like I needed to talk a little more about the country I'm traveling in, and what better way to tell you about it than talking about my own experiences, especially ones I'm currently experiencing!
During the first tour I did starting in Joburg (Johannesburg, for those who don't know the hip slang word), I didn't really notice the load shedding as we were camping 98.95% of the time. Even when our tour leader, Dylan, talked about it I didn't really take it all in, naively unaware that I would eventually be effected. It wasn't until we came into the bigger cities, like Cape Town, our final stop, that we all became aware of it ...
A wise person once said, 'you learn a lot through education, but you learn a great deal more from traveling'. Okay, I'm pretty sure I just made that up, but it's slightly taken from a quote I once heard, or maybe it was just something I read ... Whoever said/wrote it, it's very true.
Important things I've learnt at school:
- Fractions (joking),
- Sin/Cos/Tan equations (seriously joking),
- How to (badly and not properly) speak French,
- How to get on your highly religious teachers bad side (by dressing like a pregnant Juno),
- How to get a high score in Icy Towers (best game).
What I've learnt from traveling (so far):
- How to be a (stereotypical) Australian,
- How to get away with taking touristy photos,
- How to tip,
- Eating too much and gaining weight,
- Survive on little sleep,
- How to be a people person (especially in the morning),
- Eat a meal at a restaurant, alone, and not be embarrassed,
- How to make friends, and keep them.
I could go on, but I'm starting to realise the things I've learnt while traveling, I should have learnt while growing up in my own country ...
8.42pm - pour another glass.
Okay, so, once again I'm rambling.
I feel like I've experienced so much in the last 34 days - through the G Adventure tour and the volunteering - that it's hard to catch you guys up on all of it.
Fortunately (and unfortunately) Facebook exists. I have been posting a number of photos of certain adventures I've been on through that - for those who don't have Facebook (or don't have me as a friend), this is especially for you.
'What's the point of this blog then?' I hear you ask (well, mainly myself asking).
The point is that it's providing you with MORE details of the adventure and (with each glass of wine) a lot more interesting. I'm not going to lie, the blog is also an opportunity for me to relive such fun times.
This blog (and yes, it's taken me now 55 minutes to explain) is going to tell you all about two small (but still fun and interesting) adventures I've been on in the last month. Also, I am aware I call everything that I've been apart of, big and small, adventures, but they are, honestly.
1. Cango Cave Tour
2. Ostrich Farm.
9.16pm, power back on! A lot sooner than expected!
... ... ...
9.37pm, I've decided to call it a night - blame it on the wine, again.
9.56am, load shedding begins.
I wasn't expecting this one, but luckily I was just finishing up my cup of heaven (coffee) at breakfast, so no harm done.
Since there's no point heading out into Cape Town until the power returns (and the weather clears up), it's best I get straight back into this! No more distractions, and no more wine. Although, technically it's nearly 4pm I'm Perth ...
Before I begin with the two adventure stories, I want to begin with the phone call I got this morning ...
It was from a Frenchman named Patrick, who was my hiking tour guide yesterday morning - I'll talk about my (wonderful) hike up Table Mountain in the next couple of days/weeks. He called to inform me that my Lions Head hike late this afternoon has been cancelled, due to a boulder falling and breaking some of the safety barriers. He has been informed that they'll reopen tomorrow morning, so I'll be able to do the hike then. I agreed, with some hesitation. What if another Boulder falls? Ah well, you can't stop nature ...
The point of this is to let you know how unpredictable life can be, and being a solo travel, you have to accept what you can't control. Also, you should always have a back up plan. I didn't, hence why I'm writing this.
Okay, let's begin (finally).
1. Cango Cave Tour.
Day number 15, our second last full day on the tour. We took a very scenic drive through rocky/hilly terrain to our first destination, the Cango Caves. The whole bus was (secretly and not so secretly) nervous about what to expect. So for the drive we all remained rather silent, listening to our own music and staring out the window. I of course started thinking of a 'horror' film I've seen called 'The Descent' - Quick synopsis; a group of women decide to go down a cave to explore, and they all end up getting attacked and killed by this golem type creature. The twist is even more terrible and confusing. Anyways, the thought of that film made me nervous, and the constant reassurance by my fellow travellers that I'll be fine (mainly due to the fact I have the body shape of a 12 year pubescent boy) surprisingly didn't help.
Finally arriving at the destination, we all grabbed our belongings and headed up to the building. Entering it, half of the group went to the bathroom, the other half aimlessly walked around while our leader paid for the tickets. At the back I noticed a weird tall rectangle hollow shape object thing (??) with different cut outs on the sides. It took me a while, but I realised it was the shapes in which we'd have to try squeeze ourselves through once inside the cave. It was pretty confronting. I know I'm small, but most of the shapes looked ridiculous. I attempted what looked like the hardest one - a long horizontal jaggedly shaped hole that wasn't too deep in height - if that makes any sense. Apparently there's a trick to getting through it, but naturally I wanted to get through it quickly so I attempted to squeeze through without too much thought. Not smoothly at all, I sort of jammed my body into the tightest part of the hole, and awkwardly fell out into the centre of the structure. Everybody on the tour started to join in the 'fun'. Some started panicking that the holes were far too small, and they began to reconsider the excursion. Luckily a woman that worked for the company came over to reassure us that the holes are slightly exaggerated. Apparently they deliberately make them smaller to make sure that if you can squeeze through these tiny holes, you'll be able to do the real ones. It slightly reassured us, slightly. She also told us that the only two people who have gotten stuck was an extremely overweight man, and a pregnant woman. Seriously, why would you even think it was a fun thing to do if you were fat and/or pregnant! Some people are just stupid. Although it was not so pleasant to hear about people getting stuck, it did help us feel that we can all do it.
Finally we all walked into the entrance of the cave, which was a long stairway underground. We were met by the cave guide who told us all about the history of the cave and the reasons why they were formed. It was a pretty spectacular sight. The shapes of the rocks, both on the ground and on the ceiling, were amazing. We were then told that we should all turn our lights off for a few seconds to experience what it was like, back in the day, when they only had one oil lamp. With all our lights off, and with only a small oil lamp on, you could really sense what it was like back then - Cool in temperature, damp (in touch and smell) and basically pure darkness. It was rather unsettling. Of course one of my mate thought it'd be fun to jump out and scare me, not one of my proudest moments ...
It was then time to start the long circle loop of the cave. We all followed the guide one by one through each of the passages, holes, ladders and even a fun slide. I will admit, there was a section called 'The Devils Chimney' (or something similar) that worried me. Having short legs and not being very strong, meant that finding a foot hole at a suitable height and pulling my body weight up a narrow vertical hole, was a lot harder. Ungracefully, I managed to get up after two attempts.
The rest of the tour was made up of long waits to get through the holes and passages, and waiting for the others to catch up. But eventually, there was a light at the end of the tunnel - literally.
Of course, our own minds made the situation a lot worse than it actually is. So it's safe to say we all survived it and kind of enjoyed it! Well, I did at least, mainly because of my 12 year old like body shape - I was able to move through gaps and barely have to crouch down when going through the low ceiling section.
Nothing felt better than finally breathing in fresh air and walking around in the sunshine. I don't know how people work underground, but I have great respect for them!
2. Ostrich Farm.
(12.22pm, powers back on, I think. I'm currently sitting in my favourite cafe, Lola (on Long Street) about to order lunch - I decided on the Teriyaki beef and cashew nut stir fry with a carrot, Apple, orange and ginger juice, in case you were wondering what I ordered.
We drove for about 20minutes through a variety of farms, most of which had a large number of Ostriches in their fields. Finally we arrived at the tourist ostrich farm. From what we were told by our G Adventures guide, we were first taken on a short tour of the farm and then taken to meet the ostriches. We were also informed that you were given the opportunity to be part of a number of activities, all involving the ostriches. They included feeding them, being hugged, kissed and/or massaged by them, and even taken on a short ride on one. Naturally I was talked into riding one as I was well below the maximum weight.
After the short and informative tour by the ostrich guide, we were lead outside to where the ostriches were being kept.
DWARF OSTRICH. DWARF OSTRICH. DWARF OSTRICH. (Please google it!)
They had a beautiful female dwarf ostrich. It was ridiculously cute. This, obviously, lead to lots of 'it's ostrich Annabelle' and 'aw look, you're the same size'. I didn't care, I was damn cute - bird form and human form.
Next we were given the opportunity to feed, hug and kiss the non dwarf ostriches, the (boring) regular ones. Most people volunteered to feed them, a few agreed to hug, but only a select number volunteered to be kissed by one.
The hug was pretty straight forward. You loosely wrap your arms around the very thin neck of the ostrich while the ostrich guide held a bucket of pellets behind you, close enough so the ostrich could reach past to peck at some food. Three or four members of the group decided to do it, as it seemed like the straight forward and less dangerous option. It went quickly and smoothly, the volunteers hanging on long enough for photos to be taken.
Next was 'the kiss'.
The kiss involves putting a pellet in the mouth, just so it literally dangles loosely between your lips, just so the ostrich can easily peck it out. It's as scary as it sounds. First up was Paul, the tall, lanky Englishman was out to prove something - still not sure what. He placed the pellet into his mouth and straightaway the big bird pecked him (quite ferociously) on the lips, grabbing the pellet out. Honestly, it looked painful. Paul tried to laugh it off by saying something like 'the ostrich really wanted to kiss me, haha' but you could tell that his top lip was sore. Last but not least, Tammie. She looked nervous. After what happened with Paul, I don't blame her. With a sense of nervousness, she walked into the enclosure and stood ready. What happened next was pure magic. It happened very quickly, but oh so smoothly. The ostrich quickly and gently plucked the pellet from her mouth. Clearly the ostrich had something against Paul - nobody blames it. New Zealand: 1 England: 0
Next we went to another enclosure close by. I literally had to do a double take. What was this strange bird? Oh wait, it was an emu. How could I not recognise the distinctly unattractive bird that's native to my homeland? It made me rather homesick. The guide asked me if I knew the name of the bird (as he was aware I was Australian), which I replied, 'Emu'. He looked at me for a few seconds, with intense eyes, and replied, 'are you sure?' For a split second I wasn't sure. I started to question my own knowledge of my own country. I nervously replied, 'yes'. He looked at me again for a few intense seconds and laughed. Man, those were some scary couple of seconds. I'm kind of embarrassed that I questioned what I knew, but thank god I did know it!
The guide went on to explain that they have a few emus at the farm, just to show the tourists the difference between the two birds (and make Australians feel sentimental).
Next was the fun part; sitting or riding the ostrich.
Only a few braved sitting on the ostrich, but only the toughest rode it. Well almost, Paul also rode the ostrich, after me.
We started off with two Americans and one Canadian taking turns in getting photos of them sitting on the ostrich. They were apparently over the max weight to ride, or, they just weren't 'tough' enough (I think it was the weight issue ...). The rest of us sat on benches watching as the three macho men of the group got their photos taken. I sat there, patiently, quietly and nervously. Next, the guide yelled out for people who were not acting to take a ride on the bird. All eyes went to me, so I (weirdly confident) said 'I will'. I kinda acted like the tough Australian doing what I do best, sitting on native animals while they run/hop about. Also, I wanted to look cool, just in case I got flung off and broke my arm or something.
The guide and his two ostrich riding instructors (or whatever their title was) told me to grab tightly onto the ostriches wings and jump onto its back, as smoothly as possibly. I responded, 'no problems at all', but in my head I'm like 'shit shit shit shit'.
After that, the gate was opened, the bird was shoved and we began running, like actually running. Of course there were the two riding instructors on either side, just in case the bird went crazy or something, but for 10 seconds or so, all I remember was the wind in my face, the sound of feet running and me trying to smile for my camera, which was being filmed by Dylan.
'Jump off now!' My mind went blank.
'JUMP OFF NOW!' Shit, I needed to jump or something.
Just before the ostrich ran into a pack of other ostriches, I jumped off (quite gracefully if I don't say so myself), landing on both my feet with a slight wobble. The crowd roared with excitement, and clapped me all the way back to the bench, where I took my seat with a smirk on my face, I said 'and that's how it's done'.
Okay, well that may have been over exaggerated, but I did land semi smoothly and get clapped!
Apparently I'm a natural. I think being Australian helped.
Next up was Paul. Let's see if he can be as good as I was. (Listen to me talk, like I'm an expert in Ostrich riding!)
Paul being the very skinny guy that he is, wasn't over the weight restriction (I'm pretty sure he weighs less than me) so he was given the all clear.
Honestly, it was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen, like something out of a kids cartoon show. Watching this man hold on tightly to this African bird as it raced around the grounds. I don't think anyone can look 'cool' riding an ostrich, and this coming from a pro!
His landing however wasn't as smooth as mine. He fell over but managed to get up straight away and brush himself off. He too was clapped off, but not as loud as mine. Okay, I'll stop with the bragging now!
We both gave each other a quick smile and nod.
After the main event was over, we were next lead to where a pile of eggs lay under a wooden shelter. It was asked that two volunteers stood on the one egg, at the same time, to test how strong they are. The guide did tell us that the eggs are very strong, and there's very little chance of breaking them. However, if the two people did happen to break it, they'd smell awful for a week. Of course, this scared most people away. But a few brave pairs volunteer to prove the theory - all survived the test.
The time at the farm was up and we all went for a quick wonder through the gift shop, before heading back on the truck.
So that's it, the small and crazy adventure I've experienced.
I hope you all enjoyed the read! Apologies for the length...
I'll try to keep update regularly, but I start my next trip (finally) on Sunday, so who knows!