Cheetahs and Peacocks and Goats, oh My!

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Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Oudtshoorn
August 27th 2012
Published: August 28th 2012
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Note: the wifi is way to slow to load all the pictures... I'll add more when I can get a better connection. 😊

The second day of the tour was pretty packed. We woke up early, and we had a quick breakfast at our accommodation. The standard breakfast seems to be: cereal, yogurt, toast, and fruit. I probably could have slept much longer, and I was slow to wake up. But, fortunately, our first stop was quite cool. We visited the southern most tip of Africa, where the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The atmosphere of the location felt very remote, rural, almost from another time. It was a cloudy morning. Rather than a beach, this spot has large rocks along the shore. Other than an old sandstone lighthouse, there was nothing much around. It was beautiful in a different way from what we had seen so far.

Next we loaded into the care to head for our next destination. Before we got too far, though, we needed to stop to get some gas. There was a small petting zoo at the gas station (random), which our tour guide asked us to “Do our best to ignore”. Our best wasn’t good enough, and we definitely spent more time than we should have petting and feeding all of the animals. In South Africa, the season is changing from winter to summer right now, so there are many baby animals everywhere. We’ve seen baby baboons, young ostriches, and tons of lambs and calves in the fields. At the petting zoo, the baby trend continued as there were baby goats and tiny chicks. We fed them dried corn.

When we were finally on our way again, we headed up into and over the Long Mountains. Our car was very quiet. Several people took a nap, and the only other sounds were people occasionally exclaiming about the scenery and the click of cameras taking blurry photos of said scenery. (We did get to take some good, clear photos when we stopped at an overlook - Tradouw Pass). Of course, the scenery and views were unbelievable. Really, really, this is a beautiful country. I can only imagine what it is like during spring and summer when more flowers are in bloom. I already know that it’s going to be hard to leave when the time comes. This drive was particularly interesting because the climate and terrain is very different when you cross over the mountains. Before we crossed over, you could see many different shades of green, lush vegetation, and tons of farms and farm animals. After you pass over the mountains, it’s hotter and drier. The climate is semi-desert, and the scenery is more browns and reds. The vegetation is tougher and the animals more sparse. It was a joy to take in the contrasts.

During this part of the day, I was really missing Emma. I miss her all the time, and my thoughts are never far from her (no matter what else I am doing). But, from time to time, I find that I can think of little else. She would love it here. She would have loved the hostel we stayed in last night. She would have gone crazy the way that I did about the animals. She would giggle over the accents and make fast friends with our fellow companions. I could here her “awwww”, the one that goes up at the end, every time I saw a baby animal. I was reflecting on my last bus tour, when I was sitting next to her. I wish that I could be doing this with her. But, if I could be with her, I wouldn’t be doing this. My heart aches when I am in this mental space, and I sat with that for a few hours during the drive. Thank goodness I had beautiful things to look at. That always helps.

Our next stop was in the middle of nowhere. I had a funny experience where we had been driving and driving, without seeing much of anything except mountains. I saw a building in the horizon, and when we got close enough to read the sign, I discovered that it was a sex shop. Haha. It makes me think of the drive from Geneva to Champaign, where you can experience the same thing – nothing, then sex shop, then nothing. Hilarious. In this case (as when I drive to Champaign), we drove right on past it. Our stop was a few kilometers further, and it was a natural hot spring. Well, warm spring, actually, as it wasn’t very hot. I did several hot springs in Taiwan, and I think I may be spoiled. The actual springs were just ok here, but the view couldn’t be beat. Just when we were soaking in the hot (warm) water, looking out over the mountains, the cake was iced by several peacocks roaming the property. Seriously?

The peacocks joined us for lunch, which we had at the small restaurant at the hot springs location. While at dinner, I made surprising decision. One of our stops the next day was bungy jumping (at the world’s largest bridge jump), and we needed to indicate whether or not we were going to do it. I have said several times that I’m not interested in bungy jumping, and I meant it. But, my tour guide said the magic words: “if you are at all thinking about doing it, and you don’t do it, you will regret it”. With Emma still heavy in my mind and heart, I decided to “life live with no regrets”. At the time of writing this, the bungy is behind me, but more on that later.

Our next stop of the day was the Congo Wildlife Ranch in Oustschoorn. This is a wildlife sanctuary, which is a bit like a zoo but with some important differences. The most important difference is that they let you have “close encounters” with many of the animals. I enjoyed all of the animals, but the highlight was definitely the cheetah petting that I did later. It was pretty scary, but very cool. They give you very specific instructions about where you can stand, where you can pet, and what not to do. It makes you very nervous about what might happen if you step out of line. Fortunately, it went well, and I got to pet them both. Just like Grace, they are temperamental, but they purr like crazy when you rub their backs and scratch behind their ears.

That was our last stop of the day, and we headed to our accommodation, which I didn’t like quite as much as the last one. It was a more traditional backpackers stop, called “Backpackers Paradise”. It seemed pretty standard – nice, clean, small rooms, bunk beds. They were completely booked, so we were out of luck for an upgrade again. But, it was nice to have it full of other travelers, and I got to know a couple of them later in the evening. I had some wine with Yi Jiun and Roy, talking and reading and relaxing. Then, they went to bed, and I stayed up for a while reflecting on things.

I went to buy a last glass of wine at the bar, and unfortunately I got stuck there. I definitely ended up having too much to drink (oops). Looking back, there are several reasons why I had too much to drink. First, they had a special of white wine for 5 rands a glass (which is less than 75 cents). Two, the bartender gave me a free shot right away. Tips are dropped into a jar of water with a shot glass in the bottom – if you get the coin in the shotglass you get a free shot. I missed, but he gave me one anyway. I don’t know what it was but it had condensed milk in it. It was pretty gross actually, and it wasn’t the only free shot of the night. I definitely should not be doing shots. Third, I’m sure that I was still sad about Emma and I know that makes me more vulnerable to drinking too much. So, there were several things that set me on the path to drunksville. But, the most influential thing is that one of the other people totally cornered me at the bar. She was 100 percent wasted, and she decided that she wanted to bond with me about how much she loves America. She was so drunk that she kept falling into me, and with each time she would literally pour her drink on me. And, she kept listing the states she’d visited – Florida, California, and Michigan. Then, she would tell me why she loved America, and they were all totally ridiculous. For example, “I love America because every body keeps guns under their beds there”. She was described by another person as an “aggressive drunk”, and when she wasn’t “bonding” with me, she was punching our tour guide. Mostly it was funny because it was so absurd… And, I couldn’t seem to shake her. So, I drank wine. I fell into bed way to late, and slept like a rock!


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