Sunday, February 17, 2008

the blog to end all blogs, part one: wilderness to knysna

So we just got back from one of the most epic weeks of my life. After UCT orientation and registration ended, we had a week before classes started and so a bunch of kids from my program and I booked tickets on the Baz Bus to go backpacking along the Garden Route, which is a series of towns and national parks along the western and eastern Cape of Africa. There were 13 of us, which actually ended up being a great number and equaled so much fun. The Baz Bus is a great system for the most part; basically, you book a ticket for a certain amount of time, and then you can get on and off in any town that the Baz stops in, and they even bring you directly to your hostel.

The trip kicked off with a hectic early morning walk/minibus ride to Obs (Observatory, a neighborhood about fifteen minutes from my apartment with a lot of bars and restaurants where UCT kids live) and then an hour-long wait on the sidewalk in front of a hostel called The Green Elephant for the Baz Bus, which, like everything else in South Africa, runs on its own schedule, i.e. is late pretty frequently. A common expression here is “TIA, mate” which stands for This Is Africa, and can be used as justification for pretty much anything. Our first leg of the trip was about six hours to Wilderness (yes, there is a town called Wilderness) but we lucked out with a great driver named Sam who let us play Jackie’s CDs (the Beatles, reggae, and more reggae by a singer I actually remember the name of, Sista Cat; she’s from Philly but lives in California, check her out, seriously) and fell in love with Lindsay, who we now all refer to as Leen-say on a regular basis. The Baz system is pretty impressive; wherever they’re dropping people off, they pick up an equal number of people up so that the bus is always full, and consequently they’re making mad bank. We stopped a couple of times on the way to Wilderness, once at a McDonald’s (Sam apologized profusely to Leen-say for taking her to McDonald’s on their first date) and to pick up a barefoot girl with the best hair I’ve ever seen who was going to visit her aunt in Wilderness and surf and once in George, which is about 20 minutes from Wildnerness.

We got to our backpackers (hostels are called backpackers in SA) in Wilderness which was called the Fairy Knowe and all of us immediately fell in love with it. It’s got huge grounds and the owner, Monica, is awesome and helped us plan our kloofing voyage for the next day in addition to taking us shopping and making dinner. Fairy Knowe was definitely the nicest place we stayed; we had three rooms in a little house set back on the grounds that had a porch with a bunch of armchairs on it and the beds were super clean and the most comfortable things I’ve ever slept on. Before dinner, Jackie, Dana, and I went for a walk following the train tracks for the steam train that I think still stops at Fairy Knowe, which ended up in us climbing down the railroad bridge to a sort of embankment on a river and just hanging out there for a while. Christine and I showered outside accompanied by a gigantic spider friend (we were in Wilderness, after all… wow, lame, sorry bout it) and then we hung out at the hostel’s bar and at the bonfire. I was exhausted for some reason even though I’d slept on the bus, and I ended up falling asleep at like 10:30, but that ended up being great for the next day’s extreme activities.

fairy knowe o'clock.

the hostel grounds.
best train tracks EVER.

random house/there is barbed wire everywhere in this country.


Ten of us (Isaac, me, Christine, Dana, Erin, Lindsay, Alex, Brittany, Jackie, and Lauren) decided to go kloofing (kloof means canyon in Afrikaans), which is a combination of hiking, swimming, bouldering, and cliff jumping. It took forever to get our wetsuits on, which was pretty hysterical, and then we hiked for about half an hour in the same wetsuits to get down to the river. We alternately swam and hiked and bouldered until we got to a series of cliffs you can jump off of, ranging from 12-20 feet. I only jumped off the lowest cliff because I suck at life/being extreme, but it was still a lot of fun. Then we had a mid-kloof (I could say this word forever… kloof kloof kloof) snack of cookies, Kit Kat bars, coffee, and the river water which is brown but that you can drink (hopefully we’re not all infested with African freshwater parasites) and then ventured down the river. Everything was great until our guide, Paul, who was really nice but honestly kind of dumb/out of it decided to throw rocks at a beehive. Naturally, the bees were pissed off and swarmed around us, and Erin and I ended up getting stung, and everyone kept periodically throwing themselves back into the river and under water to avoid getting stung also. Kloofing was still great, and we got back to our hostel and hung out and played pool until the Baz came to get us to take us to Knysna, which is about a half an hour from Wilderness farther east along the Cape.

britt and her wetsuit were BEST FRIENDS.


alex, hasel, jackie, and dana (and kloofing) = EXTREME.

Got to our backpackers around 4:30 and moved into our rooms. Most of us had our own rooms downstairs from the bar and the pool, but a few girls were in a dorm with a couple other random people upstairs, including this 60-year-old guy named Tony who works in construction and for some reason lives at the Island Vibe (our hostel) in a shared dorm. We all showered and then made dinner plans, which somehow ended up including Tony. He initially offered to drive us to the restaurant we’d made reservations at, but we were a little creeped out by that, so we ended up just walking to the waterfront by the lagoon, unfortunately accompanied by Tony. We split into two groups to eat dinner since some people wanted Chinese food and some wanted seafood, and then met up after we ate dinner to drink at this place called Olde’s Pub. Tony was getting increasingly friendly with some of us (girls, duh) and questionably more drunk. This guy named Charlie who had just moved back home to Knsyna from Joburg (I think) was absolutely wasted and kept buying all of us drinks, including a round of a drink called a suitcase which I think was supposed to be a mixed double shot of Jack Daniels and passionfruit juice (so big as a mixer here) but ended up coming out as a round of double shots of Jack and then ten minutes later after we’d all taken the shots of Jack, double shots of passionfruit juice. Tony continued to creep, Charlie continued to buy rounds of drinks even though his friends kept telling him not to and warning him that they wouldn’t console him when he was crying the next day after he realized how much he’d spent on random Americans, and then Isaac and Charlie arm wrestled with 100 rand in bets on the table. Absolutely absurd. A bunch of us went to go sit outside once we’d decided to leave, and Charlie came out and yelled at us and flicked us off for not paying for the drinks he’d bought us that we didn’t ask for, so things were a little tense for a while, but then we left. Our hostel was only about ten minutes from the bar, and so we walked back even though it was like 1 in the morning. Jeremy and Ian (after many cheap scotch-on-the-rocks) decided to help this random guy push his car down the street, and Dana and I held back to watch this bizarre thing happen. Then we realized that we were the only ones back from the group (along with Tony) and that we had to catch up with everyone. We ran up to everyone, and I glanced back and saw that Tony was sprinting behind us to catch up. Bad news bears. We got back to our hostel finally and Jackie, Lauren, and I decided to go drunken swimming in the Island Vibe pool, otherwise known as a glorified bathtub. We were sitting on the edge while Jeremy and Ian were actually in the pool, and wasted Jeremy decided to pull us in one by one, which was obviously pretty sweet. Tony came out to the pool in his boxer briefs (emphasis on the brief) and announced to deaf ears that he was going to sleep, and then promptly went inside to change into his obscenely awful Speedo/banana hammock/weenie bikini when he discovered we were hanging out by the pool. Once he realized that no one was going to pay attention to him, he went downstairs to our rooms after Alex who had grabbed her stuff and announced that she was going back to Cape Town and got into bed with Erin. Naturally, this did not go over well, and she shoved him out of her bed with alarming speed and ended up playing sleepover with Jackie in our room.

After eating peanut butter and raisin sandwiches on crackers late into the night and sleeping in our swimsuits, we woke up and packed up all our stuff and PEACED out of the Island Vibe. We went to breakfast at a really cute place in downtown Knysna called Fat Susi’s Bistro and then got a cab to Leisure Island where we sat on the beach, rented kayaks and kayaked out to the Heads (not all that interesting rock formations at the mouth of the lagoon where the ocean meets the fresh water) while battling crazy wind and some rain and intense currents. After kayaking was done, we went to get lunch at a restaurant on the waterfront called Paquita’s before getting the Baz to Plettenberg Bay, called Plett, which is a resort town about 20 minutes from Knysna. I also forgot to include (retrospective realization) that in order to get from the lagoon where we kayaked, the guy who we rented the kayaks from put all of us in the back of his pickup truck and drove us about 15 minutes through downtown Knysna to the waterfront. Crazy shit. Ohhh life.

in the pickup truck. this unfortunately does depict the first five minutes in which lindsay was straddling christine.

view of the knysna heads from paquita's restaurant on the waterfront.

To be continued...

1 comment:

SouthAfrica said...

Excellent blog entry, I'm just sorry to see that you stopped writing in March! I run a South African travel blog and first chose this posting as blog of the week in our newsletter on Johannesburg to Durban on the 1st March, and have included it in my list of top South Africa postings of 2008. I hope you're going to carry on writing.