Monday, February 25, 2008

the blog to end all blogs, part two: plettenberg bay, storms river, tsitsikamma national park

Our hostel in Plett was called Nothando’s and was SO NICE compared to the Island Vibe, but I honestly could have been given a pillow, a blanket, and a cardboard box to put on the grass and it would have been nicer than the IV. But anyways. We were all staying in two rooms again, and ours was really nice and near the hostel bar, which is always a good thing. After settling in and showering and unpacking a little bit, Jeremy and I talked to Louie (who turned out to also be kind of crazy and definitely eccentric) about getting a restaurant recommendation for dinner that night. We went to Fushi, which is a sushi and fusion place, which ended up being really reasonable for the service and food and was really nice. When we walked in, I was in front and told the waiter who came to greet us that we had 13 people and he said, “Oh, but you need to have booked” and I told him that we had booked and he told us that someone had called about 15 minutes before to cancel it and I, of course, freaked out, but it turns out he was just joking. We all ordered massive amounts of food and drinks with ginger and litchi in them and ended up closing the restaurant down because we stayed for almost two hours. Went back to Nothando’s, hung out at the bar in the hostel and ended up watching bungee jumping and skydiving DVDs in order to psych ourselves up for going bungee jumping the next day in Tsitsikamma National Park near Storms River, where we stayed for the last two nights of our epic, epic, epic adventure. I had initially been completely opposed to going bungee jumping, but watching the DVDs got me really excited about it, and so I started to think a lot more seriously about actually going,

We woke up the next morning and had the mother of all breakfasts at the hostel, which included muffins, cereal, fruit, yogurt, toast, eggs, bacon, everything ever. We decided to go to Monkeyland (yeah…) and Birds of Eden, which is the largest open-air bird sanctuary in the southern hemisphere (I think). Monkeyland was crazy; you aren’t allowed to walk around there without a guide, so we went on a tour and saw a bunch of different primates that, as I failed miserably at Bioanth last semester, I can’t really remember, but they were SO CLOSE TO US and adorable. See Facebook for mad pictures of them. After Monkeyland and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes (malaria o’clock… just kidding) we went to the bird sanctuary, which was actually really awesome. I took so many pictures, and strangely kept wishing that Dad were there because he loves birds and birdwatching and, you know, nature. After birds, I unsuccessfully tried to convince everyone to get a cab back into Plett to get lunch there since I figured it’d be cheaper than the restaurant and Birds of Eden and have more options for everyone, but Jeremy made an executive decision that the restaurant looked reasonable and delicious, so we stayed.

This restaurant proved to be the worst place in the WORLD. They had no electricity and no running water and we didn’t get our menus for literally 20 minutes. After unsuccessfully ordering drinks (they said they had no Coke Light for our table, but then had it for the other table we were sitting at) and struggling to order food (we all ordered trammezzinis, which it turned out they were out of) we waited an hour and a half for overpriced baked potatoes and chicken sandwiches, consequently making us call our cab driver about three times to push back when we were getting picked up. That aside, it was a pretty good day. We got back to Nothando’s and packed up our stuff, all of which was wet by this point due to living out of our backpacks, rain the night before, and kloofing, and waited outside for the Baz Bus. It was late, as per usual, and then when it finally pulled up Sam was driving, and he yelled out the window to me (I was standing in the doorway of the hostel), “Where is Leen-say?” and I responded that she was inside and he promptly said, “I don’t see her!” and then drove away. We’d all been outside waiting for a while and were really confused as to why the Baz had come and then left, but just assumed that he was going to drop someone else off or turn around. 20 minutes and one attempted and unfortunately not documented cheerleader pyramid later another Baz Bus pulled up with a different driver to take us to Storms River. Turns out Sam had known we were going to be at Nothando’s and drove by even though he was running super late and wasn’t even our driver.

The drive to Storms River took about an hour, and we drove over the Bloukrans Bridge, which is the highest bungee bridge in the world. Just looking out the window at the bridge made me start to freak out, and I decided to once again revoke my decision to go bungee jumping. We got to our hostel, which was called the Tube 'n' Axe and moved into our room. All of us were in one room, which was nice, along with Monty, who works at both Tube 'n' Axe and Carnival Court, a hostel on Long Street in Cape Town that we've actually been to, strangely enough. There were a bunch of CIEE kids there who had been in Storms River for four or five days that were leaving that night who we hung out with until they left around midnight. There was a woman staying at the hostel with her husband's friend (who she ended up hooking up with later on in the night...) who walked into our room when only Jeremy was there and (we think she was already drunk at this point, circa 7:30 p.m.), after looking at our bunk beds and stuff everywhere, asked, "Are you... slaves?" She crazy. After showering and cooking dinner (thanks to Britt, Christine, and I going shopping in Plett), we played Kings and laid out on bean bags watching the stars, which were absolutely gorgeous. Side note: Cape Town is one of the only cities I can remember being in where you can see stars, it's chill.

The next morning, Alex, Lydia, and Jeremy left at 9 to go hiking in Tsitsikamma, and the rest of us hung out and ate breakfast until Leon (who works for Tube 'n' Axe and is also absolutely crazy and creepy, he hooked up with "Are you... slaves?" as well, apparently) drove us to Bloukrans Bridge, about a half hour from Storms River, to go bungee jumping. My plan was just to go along and watch, but that changed when I found myself properly outfitted in spandex and a tank top filling out indemnity forms, flashing 600 rand in cash for Erin to properly document, and stepping on a scale to get weighed and assigned a jump number. We went in two groups of five and spent a somewhat agonizing hour or so waiting for everyone else to show up so we could all be in the same jump group. After getting our harnesses on, we waited some more, and then walked across this absurdly long and really terrifying suspension bridge to the actual jump site. The process of bungee jumping is also really bizarre; we ended up standing around waiting for about two and a half or three hours while people went in front of us, sort of standing aimlessly and talking and listening to the endless stream of pump up jams they play to psych you up or out or both before you jump.

Christine was the first of our group to go and did it like a champ, and then I was 4th. Ian went right before me and ended up stumbling and falling off the bridge instead of jumping/being pushed off (which they do do... the guys help you hop out to the edge and you put your toes over and they count down 5...4...3...2...1... and then you either jump or they push you, no joke), which really freaked me out. Naturally, I was the worst of our group and took the longest to get up, I felt like I was cemented to the bench after they'd strapped me in and everything. I guess the expression paralyzed by fear is legit. I sort of blacked out and can't remember the actual process very well, but hanging upside down over the river waiting to be brought back up was really strange, I kept saying "Oh my god" and "Is someone coming to get me?" until the guy finally came, and going back up was strangely terrifying as well. All in all though I'm really glad I did it, and the DVD is hysterical.

Back at the hostel, we decided to eat dinner that they cooked for us and then I passed out for three hours while some of the other girls walked to the Big Tree in Tsitsikamma, which is a huge 36 meter yellowwood. The yellowwood is the national tree of South Africa, just FYI. We hung out at the hostel again (there's really nothing to do in Storms River), played pool and drank 40s of Black Label and Castle like the classy kids we are, and then slept to get up for the Baz Bus at 10 the next morning.

I feel like I could write an entire blog entry about the trip back on Thursday, so I think I'll leave this for now...

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