Day 7 (High Speed Chase & Hand Sanitizer)

So remember a few days ago when I was talking about our new camp site and said, “So literally if a lion felt like walking up to your porch, it could”? WELL, LET ME TELL YOU!

So we pretty much do the same thing every morning…if you haven’t noticed by now. We wake up at the crack of dawn, we loa into the jeep, and set off into the bush and look for animals. Well this morning ended up not going so according to plan.

We pull out of the entrance of our camp and almost immediately the driver slams on the brakes and once again goes ….*shoulder shrug*….”oh no.” He points towards the cottages where everyone sleeps and wouldn’t you know it…sitting right there on someone’s front porch, a huge leopard. Now, I would just like to point out that my mom and dad opted out of that morning’s drive because they were “too tired.” So my sister and I are watching this leopard pace on the cottage’s front porch, 100% sure it is my parent’s house, just waiting for them to open the front door and be mauled to shreds. I stupidly opened my mouth to shout for my parents to come outside to look, only realizing just before pushing out any sound that this was perhaps not the brightest of ideas. We found out afterwards that it was actually two doors down from my parent’s so really, I’m sure they would have lived if they had decided to wander outside.

So the driver, Thulani, bumps the jeep into reverse and heads towards the cottages. We watch the leopard pace back and forth on the porch. We see him jump up and down on the balcony, trying to find a good way in. After trying to scare him off with some loud jeep rumbles, the driver and tracker decide the only way to handle this situation is to get out of the jeep and scare the leopard off themselves. They tried radioing in to the housemaids, to tell them that they just needed to walk towards the leopard making lots of noise so he would run off, but like any sane person they all decided to huddle in the kitchen area until it was gone. So the driver and tracker spent the next HOUR driving the jeep to the front of the cottage and to the back of the cottage hopping out every stop, walking towards it clapping their hands and chasing it around attempting to scare it off into the bush.

We (my sister and I and the British honeymoon couple) were all in the jeep while this was happening. We were all kind of just waiting to hear the screams of either the driver or tracker but each time they disappeared around a corner or behind a bush they would just come sprinting out a minute later, hop in the jeep and drive around to the other side of the buildings. Eventually we had to call another jeep in for backup because apparently leaving a leopard in the campground to eat the cleaning staff is not good manors.

Once reinforcements arrived, we were able to chase him off an finally start our drive for the day. I guess our driver must have felt horrible that he wasted half of our morning drive time chasing the big cat away because for the rest of our drive he kept pulling over and pointing out the weirdest things to talk about. Like he legit spent 30 minutes telling us all about termite hills and colonies…riveting!

I mean I did feel really bad for him because at this point most of the animals are settling in for their daytime naps, it was also raining which meant they would mostly be hiding, and he had nothing else to work with. So we all sat there with a happy look on our faces, nodding our heads sporadically trying to look super interested in his lectures about termite colonies and water buffalo poop. He had showed us so many termite hills at one point that we my sister, me, and the honeymooners all agreed (we literally whispered to each other when the driver wasn’t listening) that if we saw any more termite hills none of us would point them out, for fear that he would pull over and tell us even more about them.

It was so bad that we literally all kind of held our breath when we drove past one, hoping he wouldn’t spot it. And most times he didn’t…but then there were other times where we sighed in relief once passing one and then he would slam on the breaks, back up, and say “oh, I almost missed this one.”

Some really interesting information we did manage to squeeze out of him was that the whole reserve is patrolled 24/7 by anti-poachers (which we already figured). But the cool thing is, he said that anti-poachers are hidden in trees and in bushes everywhere throughout the whole reserve. He told us that he has only ever spotted a patroller one time, but he knows for a fact there are hundreds of them stationed all over. Hiding and waiting to catch poachers. Thulani told us that they even hide from the camp drivers because they’ve had instances of people being employees for years and then eventually sneaking guns on and poaching illegally. So for the duration of the trip I made it my personal mission to find an watchmen…but sadly I had no success.

On the way back into camp we found a mother and baby elephant pair. The mother had half of her trunk missing, and Thulani told us it was probably due to lions. Since she couldn’t breathe using her trunk she breathed through hr mouth which was the funniest sound ever. It sounded like the loudest snore I have ever heard in my entire life. I’m like 100% sure she is the sole reason we didn’t see any other animals, because her mouth breathing scared the rest of them off.

Once we were back to the camp site we met Mom and Dad or lunch and literally not even 50 yards away from us a HUGE herd of elephant passed right by us. There had to have been 20+ elephants. There is a watering hole right across the field from where we eat and the elephants were drinking from there and splashing in it. It was magical.

So up until this point I have seen and experienced everything I could possibly think of, until I remembered Rhinos existed. As soon as this dawned on me I started freaking out thinking that one day left was not enough time to see the sacred animals. So I literally got into the jeep for that night’s drive and told Thulani that he was to make it his mission to find me one. He said, “oh, ok.” And next thing you know we are sitting in the middle of a field with a mom and baby rhino pair. Well then…

He literally pulled right up next to them, I mean within arms reach so that I could get really good photos and take all the selfies. I guess we got a little too close because the mom rhino finally realized we were like in her personal space bubble and kind of hopped to the right in an attempt to get away from us but then gave up and continued eating. That’s my kinda girl. So we circled around them for about 20 minutes, just literally staring in amazement.

Our driver is so cute. He never knows when we’ve had enough of the animals so every ten minutes or so he will ask, “All good, All happy?” And if we answer yes he moves on, and if we say not yet he waits until we are ready. It’s the best.

After we had our fill we actually looked up for a moment and realized standing in the same field was also water buffalo and an elephant. Thulani immediately turned on the jeep and headed for the elephant which quickly shuffled away from us and into the bush. We watched him attempt to climb a hill, in pure desperation trying to escape from the scary jeep, but he literally could not make it…which was precious.

A little further down the road we came across this huge mud pit looking thing. I always just figured it was where the animals took their mud baths but apparently I was very wrong. Thulani hops out of the jeep and walks right into the wet looking mud pit and goes, “Does anyone know what this is?” We shout out various things and he finally goes…”No. All wrong. This is a rhino toilet.”

…oh. well. He told us that rhinos will dig out special holes just to poop in to mark their territory. No matter how far they travel they will always return to their special hole to drop a big one. Then they step into the hole where they have just honked out a dirt snake and wipe their feet in the good stuff and trail it behind them for the duration of their post-dump journey. This allows them to mark everywhere they walk.

I wasn’t grossed out by any of this information until Thulani started picking up the poop and holding it up for us to get a closer look! THE POOP. HE WAS HOLDING THE POOP. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. TOUCHING THE ANUS LOGS WITH HIS BARE HANDS. I literally couldn’t even. He was doing this to show us the difference between white rhino poop and black rhino poop. You could have just described it buddy. Perhaps even used a stick. Perhaps a lazer pointer. ANYTHING BUT YOUR HANDS. Like dear lord, sweet 7 pound 8 ounce baby jesus help this man.

After he got done lecturing us on poo, we traveled a little further and saw the baby lions again, then pulled over for drinks and snacks. We pulled over next to a particularly large termite mound and after we all hopped out of the jeep the men went behind it to take care of some business. I think my sister felt left out because she too felt the need to sprinkle on this mud tower.

Now my mom says that she never gets embarrassed anymore. She tells me quite frequently that it’s impossible to embarrass her…well…as soon as I saw my sister walk behind the mound I grabbed my GoPro and shouted “I NEED TO FILM HER URINATING ON THE MOUND!” and sprinted behind the structure as fast as my little legs could carry me. I thought my mom was literally going to turn purple, her face was getting so red. Just a little pay back for all the times in middle school when she asked me in front of all my friends what the latest gossip was, and then followed up with, “you can tell me, I’m the cool mom.” Okay Mrs. George…calm down.

We got back to the camp after it was dark and Thulani actually joined us for dinner. It was awesome because he sat at the end of the table right next to us, so we were able to ask him all of the questions and basically ignore everyone else (being pleasant is so exhausting). We asked him about his family, his son, how long he has been doing his job, how they treat him here, and what are the most exciting things he has seen.

Apparently the way they train trackers and drivers is they have to do 1000 hours of bush walks. Which means they have to find the animals on foot and get as close as they can so they can learn what the limits are. He told us all kinds of crazy stories about how he has seen animals fighting, chasing each other, and so on. It was great.

As we were finishing up with dinner we saw two hyenas make their way through our camp. Luckily it was on the outside of the premises.

We have our last drive in the morning and then we head back to the U.S. Guess we will make it count!

Until Tomorrow,

-E

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Day 3 (The Tiniest of Snuggles)

‘Ello (that’s south african for “hello”)

Sorry I’ve been so M.I.A. After we got done with day 3 of activities I literally went to take nap for an hour before writing my blog, and when I woke up it was 2AM….awk. And we had to leave the next morning at 7AM and the place I’m staying at now doesn’t have wi-fi. So…basically even though I’m on my dream safari trip in Africa my life is a black abyss. What is life without wi-fi? Pointless, that’s what I say.

P.S. Because the wi-fi is so bad I can only upload my photos in a very small size. If you want to click on any of them to see a bigger version you can! It will take you to a separate webpage where it’s hosting the photo, so you might want to open in a new tab!

Anyway, just for a little refresher since it’s been a few days. Today is the day we were supposed to go to the top of Table Rock, take selfies with the penguins, ride ostriches, and meet the children in the township. Well, only one of these thing happened.

We started the day by heading down to to the Cape of Good Hope, which is the southern most part of the world (nobody counts Antartica). We rode with LeLe, our guide, for about an hour and half stopping along the way at various points to take pictures of the scenery.

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The drive to the Cape of Good Hope was the best scenery. There were big rock formations that had a billion different colors in them. The water was like 5 different shades of blue. The houses and towns were built right into the sides of the cliffs, and all multicolored. It was amazing to watch as we drove by.

Along the way we were talking to LeLe about the ostrich rides and apparently the farm we were scheduled to go to DOESN’T LET YOU RIDE THEM! The one that lets you ride them is about four hours north…

I suggested we go anyway and I said I would hop on one when no ones was looking, but LeLe did not find this as amusing as I did. So all of my hopes and dreams are crushed. But maybe this is a good thing, now I won’t get impaled by their talons, or my face bitten off by their beaks. Also I’m pretty sure the weight limit was going to be 150 and thanks to Chipotle, my bad habit of eating my feelings, and the invention of jeggings I maybe weigh just a bit more than that…

But, good news is we saw an ostrich farm on the way to the Cape and LeLe pulled over so I could try to pet one. It was definitely not interested in us and our offerings. It kept pretending like it didn’t see us standing there. I even pretended to trip and hurt myself to see if it would look up in a moment of concern…nothing. Well then…

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Once arriving at the Cape of Good Hope we did the usual touristy things.

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We took all the photos, touched all the things we weren’t supposed to touch. My mom kept trying to get a “nice” photo of me and Sarah, but we just weren’t feelin’ it that day. I think she got frustrated, but I personally think we look fabulous.

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After exploring the tip (hehe) we headed up the coast a little further so we could see the Cape from the top of a lighthouse. Sooo, a cable car takes you about half way up the mountain to the lighthouse, but then you have to walk the stairs the rest of the way. I am not about this life. I make a conscious effort to avoid exercise on a daily basis…but I figured if my 60-year-old father could make it, he would be strong enough to carry me on his back too. Just like the good ol’ times!

Once at the top, the view was phenomenal! On one side of the lighthouse you could see the Cape. On the other side you could see where the two oceans met.

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We were hoping to see a baboon on the trail up to the top since their were signs everywhere warning people about how dangerous they are. But unfortunately all we found of the baboons was their poop flung everywhere.

After trekking back down we decided to head to see the penguins. Now if you remember from the last post, I promised to take a selfie with one. We got all the way there and the penguins were behind freaking fences!!! I don’t know why…it’s not like people would chase after them, corner them, and pick them up for a selfie and a potential snapchat faceswap. But I still got really good photos of them and even saw a baby one being groomed by its mom or dad. I’m saving all my really good photos for Facebook after I put a watermark on them, because apparently Buzzed likes to steal people’s photos without crediting them.

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Anyway, we got to see them waddle and swim. It was adorable. Also outside the penguin attraction was a cute little market run by local people with lots of art and souvenirs. We bought copious amounts of things that we did not need, but will definitely love.

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Our lunch took a little longer than expected so we had a choice…either cut our time short with the kids in the Township or cut out Table Rock. So, we cut out Table Rock. We figured we had been standing on top of a huge rock all morning and Mom and Dad already got photos from the top of Table Rock so we didn’t feel like we were missing out.

One cool thing that LeLe does is he always asks us to always get to-go boxes (called Take Away here) for our leftovers because he takes them to the township and hands them out to people.

So after lunch we headed to the Township. The drive was about an hour and half, so along the way LeLe gave us a history lesson on the Apartheid. It basically occurred in three major waves (for lack of better words). The first wave made it so blacks and whites could only live in certain places, kind of like reservations. This was to make sure that not too many black people congregated in the city. The government feared that the black people would start a revolt so they placed them in assigned areas. The second wave of the apartheid was the morality law. This basically stated that no interracial couples were allowed, no mingling between different races, and they weren’t even allowed to eat together. And bi-racial babies were considered criminal. LeLe told us that even now, 30 years after the end of Apartheid, he gets made fun of for having white friends. The third law was the Pass Law, which in the most basic explanation, sent all non-white people back to their “countries” which is what LeLe called specific areas where tribes resided. They would deport the local black people to “their” heritage village even if they had never stepped foot in there before, even if they were born and raised in the city. This was used to create tribalism, in the hopes that the black people would fight each other before fighting the white people.

The people being sent away still worked in their original city in South Africa so they would have to get a passport to travel back into the big cities of S.A. Every day they would have to wait in a 4-hour line to get it stamped before going to work; even after they moved back. They would have to get to the office four hours before work and just wait.

It was crazy, all the things he was telling us, and is even crazier to think that this JUST ended in 1986. The effects of Apartheid are still highly visible. Every restaurant we went to was only white people, the black people were still confined to their shanty towns because they can’t possibly work their way out. It’s literally just stunning to think that this was so recent and still holds such a great effect on people. Even when LeLe would join us for lunch the waitresses would ask him to sit in a separate section from us and wanted him to order off a special menu. We told the waitress to basically fuck off in the nicest way possible, but it was still so shocking.

We finally arrived at the Township and LeLe left us at the very highly protected visitor’s center to wait while he went and made arrangements in the shanty town. Because ya know, showing up with a group of white tourists is not greatly encouraged, unless it’s to strictly interact with the children. At the center there was a ton of art and one style in particular that we all fell in love with. This guy draws out a picture by hand on wood, then coats it in glue and uses different colored sand to “paint it in”. We ended up buying his work as well…whoops.

LeLe came back for us and then took us into the shanty town. Literally there is no way I can possibly describe it in such a way that someone who did not see it in person could understand. These people live in abandoned shipping containers, they take large pieces of scrap metal and tie it together to form “houses,” they wash their clothes in a communal 20 gallon bucket in the middle of the dirt road. They have one line of port a potties that hundreds of them have to use and only get cleaned once a week. It’s so heartbreaking to think that people live this way.

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We really wanted to make so sure not to make a spectacle of the township people’s living situations and culture. So we always asked before we took photos, we handed out as much money as possible, and actually spent quality time getting to know these individuals instead of passing through and snapping quick photos.

As we walked through the area we saw children playing with tin cans as soccer balls. We saw them crouched over a pile of trash looking for items to tie into a bracelet or to make some type of instrument out of. None of the children were accompanied by adults. LeLe had us buy a bag of boiled chicken feet which we handed out to some of them, and they were so excited.

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Every time someone would allow us to view their home or meet their family we would give them money to help them out. One woman was in the middle of cooking when we visited and when we pulled out the money (which she was not expecting) she was so overjoyed, she put back the tiny and I mean tiny can of fish she was going to boil up for her family and said she was going to go buy a fresh chicken to make. It literally made every one so happy.

LeLe also took us to the township “sports bar.” Which is a scrap metal shack with overturned gallon jugs for seats, no electricity or much ventilation, where the men gather to sit around and talk about sports. They also have this pale full of home brewed corn beer that they pass around and all take a sip out of. It is considered disrespectful to not hold it, drink, and pass it so we were encouraged to participate. I personally was not comfortable drinking out of it so LeLe said if I just held it and passed it that would be ok. Now my Dad and Sarah took hefty sips out of it so my mom and I are kind of just waiting for them to drop dead of Dysentery or Typhoid.

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After the bar we were off to see the children. So in the township, as I mentioned before, teen pregnancy is rampant. Which means STD rates are up, as well as HIV and AIDS. So LeLe and his brother started a project, called Happy Feet, where they bought a couple of old shipping containers, placed them right outside the township border, and encouraged children to come there as a safe place. They teach classes there with the basics such as health 101, math, english, and writing. They teach Sex-Ed classes, music classes, and dance classes. He said that as soon as they opened up dozens of children started showing up, just looking for entertainment and affection.

He told us their favorite thing do is dance and sing. He said the children taught themselves how to drum and choreographed their own dances which they perform at shows to raise money. He told us that they wanted to put on a show for us and good lord was it amazing.

We showed up in the van and the children instantly came running. The kids spoke limited English, if any, so most of what they did was show us their belongings. Some of the girls had little bottles of nail polish, some of the girls showed us the cartoon characters on their undersized shirts, and some of the boys showed us their makeshift toys. The children kept touching me and Sarah’s hair because I’m sure it’s very rare that white people sit in the dirt with them and allow them to make contact.

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They kind of shuffled us into this tiny room where they put on the most amazing display of drumming and dancing I have ever seen. It was so impressive and literally mind blowing that these children are self taught and better than any professional drummer I’ve ever heard. I will post a video of the dancing once I have better Wi-Fi connection!

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After they finished several dances and we spent adequate amounts of time holding them, and playing them, and taking pictures of them (they were obsessed with seeing themselves in a photo), we headed back home.

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It was unlike anything I have ever experienced or ever will experience. We asked LeLe if we could set up a funding page for him so that he could send kids to music school or buy them supplies but he said no. He said any money coming in he wants from people who actually come and experience the project. We didn’t understand why, because like 30 American dollars a month would fund them entirely, but we will definitely respect his wishes.

When we got back the family went out to dinner but I was so exhausted I passed out the moment I sat down on the bed just to “take off my shoes.”

Tomorrow we head to Camp Kapama Game Reserve, where we will be among the big five (Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Water Buffalo, Lion).

Until Tomorrow!

-E

 

 

 

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Day 6 (Oh No, That Can’t Be Good…)

So I feel really bad because for the past two mornings when we have received a wake up call, I have literally been picking up the phone, grunting to trigger the automated message and as soon as I heard it start I would slam the phone back onto the receiver. But this morning I must have been dreaming really heavily or just more out of it than normal because when we received the call I picked it up and forgot to say anything. After about ten seconds of dead silence I heard a meek….”hello?” from the other end. After I managed to push out a grunt a lady said, “I’m just calling to wake you up, have a good morning.” Oh….

I thought the wake up calls were automated but it turns out it’s the receptionist from up front. So for the past two days, I have been slamming the phone down in the middle of this woman’s kind good morning greetings…This is why the world hates Americans.

This morning we had to wake up at 5 o’clock so we could return to the Jabulani Elephant Sanctuary. Instead of just feeding and petting the elephants like yesterday, today we actually got to ride them. We got there before sunrise, filled out the forms, and got reintroduced to the elephants. They had Jabulani come back over and say hello to us. We got to feed him again and see the inside of his mouth. He also gave us a “shower” which consisted of him spraying us with his snot…lovely.

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They had about five elephants all saddled up with just a blanket on it’s back with a little handle attached. Each elephant had a handler on top that would instruct the elephant on where to go. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, because they don’t use any type of punishment with the elephants and work solely on a positive reinforcement system the handlers had nothing with them except a baton looking stick that they would use to kind of just poke the animals if they stopped to eat for too long. Kind of like tapping someone on the shoulder.

Sarah and I were last in line and it paid off. They have a very well known alcoholic drink down here called Amarula. It’s kind of like our Captain Morgan or Jack Daniels. Its label has an elephant on the front and apparently that is the elephant that Sarah and I rode on top of. It was the biggest one of the herd.

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So riding on elephants, with nothing but a blanket, is not exactly how I’d imagined it. Jordan (my girlfriend) has taken me before to ride an elephant but if I am remembering correctly that elephant had a saddle type thing on top of it. These elephants had stirrups we could put our feet in but for the most part you are just holding on to that little handle attached to the blanket for dear life. The elephants also walked rather quickly. And the way their body works is, you don’t really get bounced up and down like on a horse, instead you get swayed from side to side. And let me tell you, when an elephant is walking downhill or trotting to catch up with the other ones you feel like you are going to slide off at any moment and parish in the bush.

So like I said it was five elephants riding through the bush for about an hour. It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen…some of the elephants people were riding were mothers and their two/three year old babies didn’t want to be left behind. So even though the handlers were trying to shoo the baby elephants away before we left for our walk, the babies kind of just ran into the bush and acted like they were going away and then popped out later right beside us. They were following us the whole walk, just prancing along side the mothers.

For the most part, the five elephants followed one behind the other. But occasionally they would stop off at the side to grab a nice looking branch for a snack or stop to use the restroom. Well, we’ve decided our elephant is our spirit animal (or as my sister calls it- her patronus) because ours stopped about every five feet to eat large quantities of leaves and branches and then would have to trot quickly to catch up to the others. And after it was all caught up it would start doing this weird huffing noise like it was out of breath. We assured the elephant that we know the feels.

Their huffs sound like a very large motorboat starting up. It’s this extremely low rumble that you can feel vibrating throughout its whole body. Mom and Dad’s kept making that noise about every two minutes so my mom figured it was tired of carrying them. When she asked the guide what the noise means he said it was their way of communicating, but we al knew the truth. It was done carrying them and was expressing its displeasure.

During the ride the sun was rising, which was beyond beautiful. We also saw plenty of giraffes and zebras and antelope.

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We arrived back and after dismounting the elephants we were able to go stand next to Jabulani and, just like yesterday, take pictures with him. Jabulani begged me for food, by putting his trunk in my face and waving it around, and the guide said this was him remembering me from yesterday. Because when we had taken pictures yesterday we were also feeding them.

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While we were busy taking pictures with the elephant, Dad was off chasing a warthog around. Dad kept taking the elephant food and tossing it at the warthog trying to gain its trust. He got pretty close, but alas did not get to cuddle or touch. Which I think is for the best.

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When we got back to the lodge, Sarah gave her left over banana to one of the monkeys sitting outside our room. Well this was a terrible decision. As soon as the other monkeys saw that one of their own had a special treat they all started fighting over it. We heard them growling and snarling at each other for at least ten minutes before it carried off into the distance. The Bostaphs are not known for their decision-making skills.

Both Sarah and I took a nap out on our back porch by the pool since the sun was warm and breeze was cool. About an hour we later packed up to transfer to the Notten Bush Camp. Okay, so the roads have always been bad, wherever we have traveled so far in South Africa. But this time, it was the worst. Imagine sitting in a car crash simulator for about two hours and that is what our drive was like. Since the camp was only 2 hours north, our driver took almost all back roads, none of which were paved.

Along with being bounced around and thrust forwards and backwards for the whole drive, our driver would sporadically slam on the breaks in an effort to avoid hitting the cows and sheep wandering into the middle of the road. So fun.

Now, you know when you’re little and think that your parents are the purest people on the planet and would never deceive you, and never get anything wrong. LIES. ALL LIES. For this next part let me just quote my mother directly: “The Knotten Bush Camp has no electricity, limited hot water, and we will be staying in tents in the middle of the bush.”

Well, we pulled up to our “camp” and this shit had luxurious cabins, a Wi-Fi area, a gym, a swimming pool, a lovely dining area, and so on. I guess my mom had a communication error with the travel agent because she legit was just as surprised as we were.

Our camp is indeed in the middle of the bush, but it is deluxe. The only thing they don’t have is electric lights. We have to use kerosene lamps and flashlights at night to navigate our way around and see in our rooms. The really cool thing about staying here is that unlike our last lodge this place does not have a fence around it. The whole game drive, Kruger National Park, has a fence around it to keep the poachers out. But our little lodge area where the guests stay does not. So literally if a lion felt like walking up to your porch, it could. If a Water buffalo wanted to come and eat out of the kitchen trashcan, it could. And this aspect alone is awesome.

The building structures of this site are much like the last, where all of the buildings except the bedrooms are just two walls and a roof. So the place where we eat dinner and lounge during the day, and even our back porches meet up directly with the grassland and are completely open. During dinner we saw hyenas walking by, and antelope, and even warthogs. Monkeys bang on our roof during the day, and even two doors down the occupants said that an elephant slept next to their bedroom and they could hear it snoring all night. They also said that while they were napping they woke up to a tapping on their door and it was a little monkey wanting to be let in. I’ll let you in buddy, just come find me tonight!

I was worried about how the actually safari drives were going to be because my mom said this park was much much larger, and less regulated. Meaning that they don’t have smooth driving paths and the animals don’t have specific locations that they tend to nest because the land is so big. But it ended up being the best drive we have done so far.

The jeeps here are just like the ones in the last game drive. What’s different is that they have these huge metal grates attached to the front of them so the drivers don’t really stick to the paths. They just go wherever they want. They run over trees and go across little streams, and maneuver through the bush however they choose. The drivers are a lot more knowledgeable and interact more with the passengers. Ours would pull over all the time to explain something to us, or let us ask questions, or to show us something interesting that normally we would have a hard time seeing on our own.

Literally two minutes after pulling out of our little campsite, we saw a mom and son leopard pair. The mom was sleeping in the tree and the baby was sun bathing on the ground. They had a carcass of something unrecognizable hanging from the top of the tree. We watched them for about five minutes before a pair of HUGE hyenas came trotting out of the bushes. I never realized how big they are, but their shoulders literally stood about four feet off the ground. The mother leopard did not like the hyenas getting too close to her son, so she growled at them and scared them off.

Oh! Fun fact: Hyenas eat everything, including the bones of their prey. When they poop, turtles eat their droppings to gather calcium.

We watched the mother leopard climb the tress to find a more comfortable spot and we watched the son sleep and pick up his head occasionally to see what we were doing.

Oh! Another fun fact: We were told that because these companies have been driving around for so long in the safaris, the animals don’t see the jeep and the people inside as threats. Mostly because they don’t separate the humans from the jeep, they literally just don’t see us or if they do they don’t recognize that we are human. But, if we were to stand up in the jeep, and the animals could see our two legs and they would instantly recognize that we are humans and run away.

Anyway, after we were done looking at the leopards we get about another half mile down the road and our jeeps stops. The driver tries to restart it…nothing. Tries again…nothing. He kind of just sits there and goes…*shoulder shrug*…“we are out of gas”. Now I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before but all game drives are done really early in the morning and at sunset at night. So here we are, watching the sunset, with no gas, our radios that communicate with the lodge weren’t working, the driver and tracker don’t have guns, and we are stuck…awesome.

The driver thought maybe because we were sitting at a weird angle that the gas had shifted to the back of the tank, so what did we do? Got out and pushed. We literally all helped push this vehicle until it was at an angle where it could start again. To our relief we got it to start! We got about another mile deeper into the bush and once again, the jeep cuts off. At this point, the sun was behind the horizon and our radios were still not working. The driver and tracker both tried to radio in that we were stuck and attempted to lift the hood to see if they could find a problem, but with no success.

After sitting there for about ten minutes the driver suggested we follow the path back to camp and get a new car. Now let me just remind you, its almost dark, no defense, and leopards and hyenas down the road. No thank you. After we all started resisting he said, well the path would take about 45 minutes to reach camp but if we cut through the bush we can be there in 10. Umm…what? At that point my mom sat down and said she would be waiting when we got back. The British honeymooners in our car said a firm but polite no thank you and my dad and I just stayed silent. Thankfully, the tracker volunteered as tribute and literally headed off into the bush by himself. I would have volunteered to honor the buddy system, but I also value my life. And eaten by hyena is not exactly how I’d want to go, even though it would totally be badass and my mom wouldn’t have to pay to have my body shipped back to the US.

He radio back to us about ten minutes later saying he was on the way with more gas. After we got refueled we continued our animal watching. I didn’t think we were going to see much after dark but we saw a pride of lions. It was three females and two little lion cubs.

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My mom asked where the male lions were and the driver said hiding in the bush somewhere. Great. I scooted in a little closer to my dad…like he’d be able to do anything if a lion jumped into the jeep.

It was pitch black and every time the grass around us rustled we were sure it was the male lions coming for us. I really shouldn’t have watched Ghost in the Darkness before traveling to Africa. At one point we heard the males calling from somewhere in the distance for the other lions, and every call seemed to get a little closer.

After we had gotten our fill of watching the little lions we headed off to look for more wildlife when a man came over the radio and said that he had spotted two huge male lions walking about half a kilometer down the path. So our driver took off. When we spotted the lions they were walking towards were we had just been. Our driver was so ballsy. He kept driving right along side them so we could see them up close then would speed away and dart down the path as fast as he could and cut the lions off so that they would have to walk right past our jeep.

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One of the lions had recently gotten in a fight and his huge canine was dangling from his mouth. We asked if they could tranquilize him and pull it but they said they let nature run its course unless it is an endangered species. The lions got tired mid-walk or maybe were just frustrated with us weaving in and out of them so they lied down and started grooming. We got to watch the whole thing from about 10 feet away. Every once in a while one of the lions would look directly up at us and my heart would stop until he went back to grooming. But at least this time the lions were on my dad’s side.

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On the way back to the camp we saw a couple water buffalo but didn’t stop to look because apparently the spotlights make them very angry.

Once we were back we enjoyed dinner by the fire with all the other guests. And now we are headed to bed early tonight since we are so exhausted.

Until tomorrow!

-E

 

 

 

 

The post Day 6 (Oh No, That Can’t Be Good…) appeared first on Emily Bostaph.

Day 3 (The Tiniest of Snuggles)

‘Ello (that’s south african for “hello”)

Sorry I’ve been so M.I.A. After we got done with day 3 of activities I literally went to take nap for an hour before writing my blog, and when I woke up it was 2AM….awk. And we had to leave the next morning at 7AM and the place I’m staying at now doesn’t have wi-fi. So…basically even though I’m on my dream safari trip in Africa my life is a black abyss. What is life without wi-fi? Pointless, that’s what I say.

P.S. Because the wi-fi is so bad I can only upload my photos in a very small size. If you want to click on any of them to see a bigger version you can! It will take you to a separate webpage where it’s hosting the photo, so you might want to open in a new tab!

Anyway, just for a little refresher since it’s been a few days. Today is the day we were supposed to go to the top of Table Rock, take selfies with the penguins, ride ostriches, and meet the children in the township. Well, only one of these thing happened.

We started the day by heading down to to the Cape of Good Hope, which is the southern most part of the world (nobody counts Antartica). We rode with LeLe, our guide, for about an hour and half stopping along the way at various points to take pictures of the scenery.

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Along the way we were talking to LeLe about the ostrich rides and apparently the farm we were scheduled to go to DOESN’T LET YOU RIDE THEM! The one that lets you ride them is about four hours north…

I suggested we go anyway and I said I would hop on one when no ones was looking, but LeLe did not find this as amusing as I did. So all of my hopes and dreams are crushed. But maybe this is a good thing, now I won’t get impaled by their talons, or my face bitten off by their beaks. Also I’m pretty sure the weight limit was going to be 150 and thanks to Chipotle, my bad habit of eating my feelings, and the invention of jeggings I maybe weigh just a bit more than that…

But, good news is we saw an ostrich farm on the way to the Cape and LeLe pulled over so I could try to pet one. It was definitely not interested in us and our offerings. It kept pretending like it didn’t see us standing there. I even pretended to trip and hurt myself to see if it would look up in a moment of concern…nothing. Well then…

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Once arriving at the Cape of Good Hope we did the usual touristy things.

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We took all the photos, touched all the things we weren’t supposed to touch. My mom kept trying to get a “nice” photo of me and Sarah, but we just weren’t feelin it that day. I think she got frustrated, but I personally think we look fabulous.

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After exploring the tip (hehe) we headed up the coast a little further so we could see the Cape from the top of a lighthouse. Sooo, a cable car takes you about half way up the mountain to the lighthouse, but then you have to walk the stairs the rest of the way. I am not about this life. I make a conscious effort to avoid exercise on a daily basis…but I figured if my 60 year old father could make it, he would be strong enough to carry me on his back too. Just like the good ol’ times!

Once at the top, the view was phenomenal! On one side of the lighthouse you could see the Cape. On the other side you could see where the two oceans met.

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After trekking back down we decided to head to see the penguins. Now if you remember from the last post I promised to take a selfie with one. We got all the way there and the penguins were behind freaking fences!!! I don’t know why…it’s not like people would chase after them, corner them, and pick them up for a selfie and a potential snapchat faceswap. But I still got really good photos of them and even saw a baby one being groomed by its mom or dad. I’m saving all my really good photos for Facebook after I put a watermark on them, because apparently Buzzed likes to steal people’s photos without crediting them.

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Anyway, we got to see them waddle and swim. It was adorable. Also outside the penguin attraction was a cute little market run by local people with lots of art and souvenirs. We bought copious amounts of things that we did not need but will definitely love.

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Our lunch took a little longer than expected so we had a choice…either cut our time short with the kids in the Township or cut out Table Rock. So, we cut out Table Rock. We figured we had been standing on top of a huge rock all morning and Mom and Dad already got photos from the top of Table Rock so we didn’t feel like we were missing out.

One cool thing that LeLe does is he always asks us to always get to-go boxes (called Take Away here) for our leftovers because he takes them to the township and hands them out to people.

So after lunch we headed to the Township. The drive was about an hour and half so along the way LeLe gave us a history lesson on the Apartheid. It basically occurred in three major waves (for lack of better words). The first wave made it so blacks and whites could only live in certain places, kind of like reservations. This was to make sure that not too many black people congregated in the city. The government feared that the black people would start a revolt so they placed them in assigned areas. The second wave of the apartheid was the morality law. This basically stated that no interracial couples were allowed, no mingling between different races, and they weren’t even allowed to eat together. And bi-racial babies were considered criminal. LeLe told us that even now, 30 years after the end of Apartheid, he gets made fun of for having white friends. The third law was the Pass Law, which in the most basic explanation, sent all non-white people back to “their countries”. This was used to create tribalism, in the hopes that the black people would fight each other before fighting the white people.

The people being sent away still worked in their original city in South Africa so they would have to get a passport to move back into S.A. And every day they would have to wait in a 4 hour line to get it stamped before going to work. Even after they moved back. They would have to get to the office four hours before work and just wait.

It was crazy all the things he was telling us, and is even crazier to think that this JUST ended in 1980. The effects of Apartheid are still highly visible. Every restaurant we went to was only white people, the black people were still confined to their shanty towns because they can’t possibly work their way out. It’s literally just stunning to think that this was so recent and still holds such a great effect on people. Even when LeLe would join us for lunch the waitresses would ask him to sit in a separate section from us and wanted him to order off a special menu. We told the waitress to basically fuck off in the nicest way possible, but it was still so shocking.

We finally arrived at the Township and LeLe left us at the very highly protected visitor’s center to wait while he went and made arrangements in the shanty town. Because ya know, showing up with a group of white tourists is not greatly encouraged, unless it’s to strictly interact with the children. At the center there was a ton of art and one style in particular that we all fell in love with. This guy draws out a picture by hand on wood, then cotes it in glue and uses different colored sand to “paint it in”. We ended up buying his work as well, whoops.

LeLe came back for us and then took us into the shanty town. Literally there is no way I can possibly describe it in such a way that someone who did not see it in person could understand. These people live in abandoned shipping containers, they take large pieces of scrap metal and tie it together to form “houses,” they wash their clothes in a communal 20 gallon bucket in the middle of the dirt road. They have one line of port a potties that thousands of them have to use and only get cleaned once a week. It’s so heartbreaking to think that people live this way.

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We really wanted to make so sure not to make a spectacle of the township people’s living situations and culture. So we always asked before we took photos, we handed out as much money as possible, and actually spent quality time getting to know these individuals instead of passing through and snapping quick photos.

As we walked through the area we saw children playing with tin cans as soccer balls. We saw them crouched over a pile of trash looking for items to tie into a bracelet or to make some type of instrument out of. None of the children were accompanied by adults. LeLe had us buy a bag of boiled chicken feet which we handed out to some of them, and they were so excited.

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Every time someone would allow us to view their home or meet their family we would give them money to help them out. One woman was in the middle of cooking when we visited and when we pulled out the money (which she was not expecting) she was so overjoyed, she put back the tiny and I mean tiny can of fish she was going to boil up for her family and said she was going to go buy a fresh chicken to make. It literally made every one so happy.

LeLe also took us to the township “sports bar.” Which is a scrap metal shack with overturned gallon jugs for seats, no electricity or much ventilation, where the men gather to sit around and talk about sports. They also have this pale full of home brewed corn beer that they pass around and all take a sip out of. It is considered disrespectful to not hold it, drink, and pass it so we were pressured into partaking. I personally was not comfortable drinking out of it so LeLe said if I just held it and passed it that would be ok. Now my Dad and Sarah took hefty sips out of it so my mom and I are kind of just waiting for them to drop dead of Dysentery or Typhoid.

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After the bar we were off to see the children. So in the township, as I mentioned before, teen pregnancy is rampant. Which means STD rates are up, as well as HIV and AIDS. So LeLe and his brother started a project, called Happy Feet, where they bought a couple of old shipping containers, placed them right outside the township border, and encouraged children to come there as a safe place. They teach classes there with the basics such as health 101, math, english, and writing. They teach Sex-Ed classes, music classes, and dance classes. He said that as soon as they opened up dozens of children started showing up, just looking for entertainment and affection.

He told us their favorite thing do is dance and sing. He said the children taught themselves how to drum and choreographed their own dances which they perform at shows to raise money. He told us that they wanted to put on a show for us and good lord was it amazing.

We showed up in the van and the children instantly came running. The kids spoke limited English, if any, so most of what they did was show us their belongings. Some of the girls had little bottles of nail polish, some of the girls showed us the cartoon characters on their undersized shirts, and some of the boys showed us their makeshift toys. The children kept touching me and Sarah’s hair because I’m sure it’s very rare that white people sit in the dirt with them and allow them to make contact.

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They kind of shuffled us into this tiny room where they put on the most amazing display of drumming and dancing I have ever seen. It was so impressive and literally mind blowing that these children are self taught and better than any professional drummer I’ve ever heard. I will post a video of the dancing once I have better Wi-Fi connection!

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After they finished several dances and we spent adequate amounts of time holding them, and playing them, and taking pictures of them (they were obsessed with seeing themselves in a photo), we headed back home.

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It was unlike anything I have ever experienced or ever will experience. We asked LeLe if we could set up a funding page for him so that he could send kids to music school or buy them supplies but he said no. He said any money coming in he wants from people who actually come and experience the project. We didn’t understand why, because like 30 American dollars a month would fund them entirely, but we will definitely respect his wishes.

When we got back the family went out to dinner but I was so exhausted I passed out the moment I sat down on the bed just to “take off my shoes.”

Tomorrow we head to Camp Kapama Game Reserve, where we will be among the big five (Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Water Buffalo, Lion).

Until Tomorrow!

-E

 

 

 

 

 

 

he talked to us the whole way (bout an hour drive) about the apartied, the current president, his experience growing up in the shanty towns, how he made it out of there, his project he started to aid the kids, and everything we could possibly want to know about the culture of South Africa.

The drive to the Cape of Good Hope was the best scenary , big rock formations that have a billion different colors, the water was like 5 different shades of blue, houses and towns were built right into the sides of the cliffs, the houses were all mulitcolored, the beach views were amazing and he stopped serveral times along the way so we could take many photos

Along the way we saw a wild ostrich as well as a farm of ostriches

We also saw Antelopes, and were  hoping to see a babboon since since warning people about how dangerous they are were everywhere, but unfortunately all we found of the babboons were their poop flung everywhere we stopped

We went to the southern most tip of Africa and really the world, because who actually counts Antarctica

The post Day 3 (The Tiniest of Snuggles) appeared first on Emily Bostaph.

Day 4 (Finally Feels Like Africa)

Today we had to say goodbye to Cape Town, because we relocated to Hoedspruit (Pronounced like oo-d-sprite), South Africa to stay on the Kapama Game Reserve. We packed up our belongings and met up with our driver LeLe one last time. The airport he took us too was quite small and didn’t exactly have the same regulations as an American airport. We didn’t have to take off our shoes, my dad carried a full bottle of water with him through the xray scanners, and there was only a metal detector we had to walk through, which didn’t even go off when my mom with two metal knees passed through…I feel super safe.

Once we got all checked in we rode an airport shuttle to what had to have been the tiniest airplane I have ever seen. We walked off of the bus onto the runway where we were greeted by flight attendants who were taking our carry-ons away from us to be stored with the other luggage because apparently even our carry-ons were too big to fit in the over head bins of this miniature plane.

Luckily the flight only took about 2 hours. Once we landed, the plane literally had to do a u-turn on the runway because this “airport,” which is in the middle of the Reserve, only has one take-off/ landing strip.

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Once we were at a complete stop they shuffled us off the plane onto the runway and directed us towards this two room hut looking building where we could wait for our luggage. They called us outside once the suitcases were being unloaded. They kind of just dumped all the luggage on the sidewalk for everyone to find. It reminded me of people throwing fish food into a pond. Once it hit the service it was a mad house trying to weave through the crowd to get your belongings.

Our personal game driver came over and met us, and then showed us to the vehicle we would be taking to the reserve. It was this huge open jeep with no doors and no roof, with three levels of seating…so basically just moving seats on wheels.

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This is the vehicle that we get driven everywhere in. It’s awesome…except when you do your hair for cute photos and then it turns into a knotted bush by the time you get there.That’s fine. So after we loaded up we were off to the Lodges in the middle of the reserve. We maybe drove for about two minutes before passing a watering hole where two huge giraffes were grazing. Because I’m an idiot, I of course stood up and started squealing at the top of my lungs. Apparently giraffes do not like such high-pitched screeches, and the driver had to tell me to sit down and contain my enthusiasm if I didn’t want them fleeing the scene.

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After we gawked for about five minutes we continued down the road where we also saw these antelope looking creatures called Nyala. We saw tons of Mongoose, birds (but who cares about those), and monkeys running across the road. This was all just on the drive to where we are staying. I was literally crying I was so happy, I am indeed THAT person.

Once we arrived at what they call “the Lodge,” we were greeted by a man holding warm vanilla hand towels to wipe our faces off with, which was definitely a step up from the clorox wipes mom was handing out.

After we were done smelling each other’s vanilla scented faces, a greeter showed us around the Lodge. The Lodge is basically made up of a large fenced-off piece of safari, probably half a football field in length and width, with various buildings placed all around. There is a library which is the only place wi-fi is available, there is a dining room, a gift shop, a bar, a pool, a high-tea room, and a bunch of private cabins. Every building except the cabins is basically two walls and a roof. They all have this type of structure so that the air can flow in and out, especially in the summer when it’s blazing. Here is a picture of the front entrance/reception area, so you can kind of get an idea of what all the buildings look like. This is also where the gift shop is located and where we are picked up every day for our game drives.

So basically I expected to be staying in tiny cabins with nice bathrooms….NOPE. My mom got us the nicest rooms you can imagine, with huge vaulted ceilings, free standing bathtubs, and an outdoor and indoor rain shower. Each cabin has its own pool…because obviously we don’t like to share with the plebeians. It is literally insane. The only bad part is there is no wi-fi. Hence, why I’m super behind on blog posts. Here is what the rooms look like:

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There are also animals running around everywhere in the Lodge area. They told us when we were being shown around that we can not sleep with our doors open or leave any items hanging outside to dry because the monkeys will steal things and run away. I personally wanted to make it my goal to lure one into the room so I could have a friend, but my sister told me I’d probably get HIV and die. She ruins all of my hopes and dreams.

The monkeys were literally jumping from tree to tree above us as we were being shown to our cabins. My dad had to remind everyone to keep their mouths shut when watching them. Also, the monkeys have learned what times the meals are served and will all kind of gather on the trees outside the eating area, and every ten minutes or so the staff send a person outside to clap at them. Honestly, if I had known this job was available I don’t think I would have gone to college. Emily Ballsack: Professional Monkey Scarer.

There are also deer and Tragelaphus (pictured below) literally lounging everywhere. I must have stood about two feet away from one and it literally could not give a shit. And apparently when my dad went to the dining area to grab some cookies, one of these guys was standing just outside the wall so my dad leaned over and stuck out his hand and the thing licked it. I personally would not let something flea and tick infested groom my appendages but my dad seems to have different standards.

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So, we asked one of the staff here how these animals got in, since the Lodge area is fenced all the way around. They told us that they hop the 10ft fence. Now let me tell you, at night I decided during dinner that I wanted to head back to the room early, so of course I had to walk back in the pitch black by myself. There are little solar lights illuminating the pathways, but it is still like advanced darkness. I also thought there would be staff stationed along the way…nope. Just me.

So anyone who knows me knows I’m a little chicken shit. I legit make the 7 year old I nanny walk down into the basement first, so if there are any monsters they attack him before me. So walking back in the dead of night, by myself, in the middle of the safari, with the thought in my head that animals can jump the fence, was terrifying. Everytime I heard a crack or shuffle in the blackness I figured it was a lion and those were going to be my last moments. At one point there was a huge snap on what I’m only assuming was a fallen branch, and by then I had gotten myself so worked up that I burst into a full out sprint back to the room. Well, in the midst of my sprint I actually ran right past two housekeepers, but it didn’t register that they were standing there until a few seconds later. So I’m sure they just saw this chubby white girl darting past them gasping for air with a panicked look in her eyes.

That was fun.

Anyway, once we got settled into our rooms it was time for lunch. So apparently we have the same waiter everyday. His name is Sam and he is adorable. Every meal is buffet style so I was wondering what exactly his duties were…well let me tell you. He pulls out our chairs, re-folds our napkins for us every time we leave the table to get food, he constantly hovers like three feet from us and as soon as the last bite of food goes in our mouths he is already taking away the dirty plate. It’s REAL fancy.

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After lunch we went back to the rooms to relax until high-tea in the afternoon. Apparently they are very used to fat American tourist coming to their resort because all we do all day, every day, is eat. Even when we are driving around the reserve, they stop half way through to give us snacks…even though we had just finished eating an hour ago. And I’m really really okay with this.

After high-tea we met our game driver in the reception area and headed out for our evening drive. Apparently the animals are super inactive during the day time and are most interesting at dawn and dusk, which is why all we do during the day is sit around and eat.

After loading up, we headed off. Basically how the drive works is the have a guide driving the jeep and then they have a tracker sitting on the hood of the jeep in this lifted lifeguard looking seat, who looks for tracks and poop and other tracky things. Our trackers name is Kenny, which is super easy to remember because of Kenny from South Park. We figure if something attacks the jeep he is the first one to go. We decided if a lion grabs him off the hood we are all shouting, “OH MY GOD, YOU KILLED KENNY!” before trying to recover his remains and flee for safety.

The drive took about three hours, two hours of daylight and an hour of night-time driving. During the daylight we saw an adult and baby hippo swimming in a pond.

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And we saw the African Buffalo (which they call the black death since they are so aggressive and have black fur).

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Such fright. Much intimidating. Very terror. Wow.

We saw many vultures huddled in a tree. We saw a group of adolescent monkeys literally hitting each other in a tree kind of like…

We saw a little group of warthogs, which made my dad extremely happy. I’m not sure why but he is obsessed with them. We visited a zoo in Florida one time where they had an enclosure of warthogs and you could view them from the open top. He grabbed my sister’s feet and was about to dangle her over the side so she could get a better look but then he got caught…This is why we can’t have nice things.

Once the sun started setting, they pulled over the jeep and set up a sunset picnic in the middle of this patch of grass. We saw lots of fruit bats and even heard hyenas calling for each other. And the next morning we saw their tracks, which consisted of several hyena footprints and dirt flattened out by something they were dragging. And when we were almost back to the camp we saw three hippos out of the water. One of them was a baby hippo and I about died. Apparently it is super rare to see them out of water and Kenny told us in his five years of working as a tracker he as only seen that twice!

After dark, because there are no lights in the actual game drive you can see the Milky Way. It was amazing and literally one of the coolest parts of the trip so far. We also saw the Southern Cross, a huge orange moon rise, and a ton of shooting stars. Only bad part about the night time is the temperature drops from about 70 degrees down to about 50 degrees in the matter of minutes. Thankfully they had blankets for us, but it was still freezing because you are moving pretty fast in the jeep and the wind is blowing.

Once we returned we met at a special place for dinner which has tables circled around a huge bonfire. We over heard some people talking and they were saying that most nights the guests are joined by a wild porcupine named Elvis, who likes to pick up the scraps. I didn’t get to see him because I was too busy fleeing from the lion but there is always tomorrow night.

This was probably the best and always will be the best day of my life (sorry Jordan and future babies). The scenery was incredible, the animals were just feet away, and I got to live out my dream of riding through the safari. We get to do it again tomorrow and hopefully spot elephants, rhinos, and leopards. We are also going to this elephant sanctuary where we get to fondle the majestic beasts and I’m literally squealing just thinking about it. FONDLE!

Until tomorrow!

-E

 

The post Day 4 (Finally Feels Like Africa) appeared first on Emily Bostaph.

Day 5 (Zazu, Simba, and the Bastard Who Killed Mufasa)

Today was our first official day out on the game drive. Even though we had to get up at 6 and leave before sunrise it was worth it. We got to see some animals last night, and for a little in the day time, but the early morning is supposed to be the best time to see all the creatures.

We started out the drive by seeing a yellow hornbill, more commonly known as a Zazu bird from the Lion King. I think it was a different type of hornbill though because this one was black and white stripped instead of bright blue like in the cartoon.

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Sarah and I also found our new favorite animal called the “Go Away” bird. It has the whiniest little call that literally sounds like its saying “Go Awayyyyy.” They are everywhere in the bush. Every time we stopped we could here one calling.

A little while down the road we came across a couple of wildebeest (called Gnu here). And apparently you are indeed not allowed to scream, “YOU KILLED MUFASA!” or your guide will turn around and give you a stern look.

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We saw tons of Kudu which are deer looking creatures with huge twisted horns. We saw a giraffe carcass, which was half decomposed…lovely. We saw a whole herd of zebras, more water buffalo, and some giraffes that were still alive. Termite hills were everywhere and at least 10 feet tall. Sometimes the termite would start building a little hill in the middle of the road and BAM we would run over it with our truck. I felt so sorry for them. Now they have to start all over.

We saw a fallen tree that I just figured was down due to rot, but the driver told us that it was pushed over by an elephant. He said that elephants will push down trees to help there young reach the leaves or even out of frustration and anger.

As we were sitting there staring at this broken tree, our tracker hopped off of his seat and began crouching by the dirt. He said that he found fresh lion prints, so we started the car and started the hunt. We got about half a mile down the road when we spotted a huge male lion and two female lions lounging off to the side of the dirt path.

Jimmy our driver went to pull in next to them (about 10 ft away) so we could get a really good look and literally in a split second the male lion jumped up and swatted his paw at us with growling rather loudly. In the two seconds that this happened Jimmy (our driver) had already bumped our jeep into reverse and was backing out of there at a pretty high speed. Kenny (the tracker sitting on the hood, who was the closest to the lion, literally did even do so much as blink. Meanwhile I’m shouting “OH SHIT!!” Mom is gasping, Dad and Sarah are laughing, and here’s Kenny…

not giving a shit.

We found out very quickly why he was feeling so testy. After slowly creeping back onto the side of the road where they were resting, we watched for about five minutes and then before we knew it the male was mounting one of the female. I totally got a video of them getting it on, like any good creep.

I was highly disappointed in their stamina because after about 45 seconds the female lion literally barrel rolled out from underneath him, and they both resumed sleeping. Jimmy told us that they will do this on and off all day. Two minutes of hanky panky and then about three hours of sleep and then DAMN LION…BACK AT IT AGAIN WITH THE HUMPING. (<–If you don’t get that reference I will be ashamed of you)

That was the highlight of the drive because the rest of the time we only saw more deer like creatures, birds, and little mongoose. Once we were back we all passed out for about two hours, because up until now we’ve been surviving off of about five hours of sleep a night and ten minute power naps in the car on the way to various locations.

After awakening, we were picked up and headed to the Jabulani Elephant Sanctuary. This facility is amazing. When we got there they brought an elephant close to the group, just by calling out for it (it was in the bush nearby). It came trotting up to the group and immediately stuck out its trunk asking one of the handlers for food and eventually we were all able to feed it some elephant chow. It would come directly up to you and then stick its trunk in your face. The end of the trunk can grasp kind of like a crab claw, so it would stick it in your face and then open and close it a couple of times to let you know it was ready. We would place the feed in its trunk and then it would shovel it in its mouth.

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While this was happening the handlers were telling us all about their establishment. Apparently the whole sanctuary started when the elephant Jabulani got left behind in a mud pit by his herd. He climbed in and got stuck, and even though the herd tried to help him out they were not successful and had to move on. Some mine workers found him later that day and called the Cheetah Rescue Project which is a company that rehabilitates animals and reintroduces them to the wild. After five years of rehabilitation they attempted to release him back into the wild, but every time he came back. They took him to herd after herd to try and assimilate him with his own kind, but each time he found his way back to the rescue center and refused to leave. They eventually gave up trying to reintroduce him, but needed somewhere where he could stay. So they found the elephant sanctuary in the same bush area as Kapama.

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The really cool thing about this sanctuary is they don’t ever put the elephants into cage, or stalls. They let them roam all over the reserve every day, and at night they just call them back to the sanctuary where they put them into a fenced off part of the bush that is still huge but protects them from poachers. They have one tracker assigned to each elephant who literally follows them around the bush all day making sure they don’t go too far or get hunted by poachers.

We were able to take pictures next to the elephants and feed them again. I was squealing as quietly as I could. I was so distracted by the fact that I was standing right next to an elephant that I didn’t even notice he was asking me for food. Apparently he was unhappy with how long I was taking to provide him with nourishment so he took his trunk and half wrapped it around me to kind of say, “um, hello?!” IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER!

That afternoon when we got back, we were all so exhausted that we decided to stay in instead of going on the evening drive. Plus we have to be up at 5 tomorrow so we can get back to the elephant sanctuary for our sunrise elephant ride through the bush. But apparently this was a HUGE mistake.

The ride that we skipped out on saw a freaking Leopard and chased after it through the bush for about fifteen minutes…

k.

So hopefully when we move to the next camp we will be able to see one, but apparently they are super elusive. That’s fine. I’m not salty.

Anyway after everyone came back from the drive they met at the dinner bonfire location, which is about a five minute walk from our rooms. We were in our rooms when we heard some very loud drumming and Mom, Dad, and Sarah decided to check it out.

Dear God, here we go…Apparently the white owners of the camp had the black staff (still in their aprons and uniforms) drum and sing their native songs so the guests could watch….Um. Wtf?

I don’t know if it’s because I have a super liberal family that is hyper aware of race relations, or because I go to a super liberal school that make us very aware of how precious and revered cultural traditions are, but my god. How insulting to the black staff. Like, here, please perform your sacred dances and songs while not dressed traditionally so the white people can gawk at you.

Awkward.

Anyway after we saw what they were doing we immediately left, and now we are headed to bed so we can get up early in the morning.

Until Tomorrow!

-E

 

 

 

 

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Day 2 (We’re Going To Need A Bigger Cage)

Duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn!

Well, as you know by now today was the day. The day my sister and I voluntarily plunged into the freezing water for the chance to get up close and personal with a great white shark.

The day began with a very early 6AM wake up call. The shuttle to the diving area was originally going to pick us up at 5AM but our very gracious B&B owner got the pickup time changed to 7…which was much appreciated. The night before we asked our concierge, Benson, about breakfast…because we are fatties and need to know where our next supply of food is coming from 24/7 or else we panic. We wanted to know if we should eat from our very limited and depleting supply of pop-tarts or if the staff would be able to provide us with some nourishment before our day on the boat. Benson, assured us that breakfast would be ready for us at 6:30, only to find the next day that the breakfast house was locked and Benson was asleep on one of the couches.

As soon as we attempted to turn the handle to the breakfast room Benson sprang up from the couch and sprinted towards the door with a panicked look on his face. He informed us that apparently the kitchen staff was running late for work, but that he would try to find something for us to eat. Sarah and I, trying our best not to start laughing at this overly apologetic and sweet man, assured him that we had our own supply of snacks back in our room that we would be more than happy to eat. But Benson was on a mission. He is legitimately one of the kindest people I have ever met. He ran into the kitchen and brought us juice and fruit even though this was clearly not his job. And he even brought us granola bars which I’m pretty sure were from his own personal stash.

He joined us for breakfast, asking us all about where we were from, what we do, and what our plans were for the duration of our vacation. After conversing with him for about five minutes we found out that he is actually a social worker full time, attending a Masters program at night, and also running the B&B on the weekends. Benson and Sarah, sharing the same occupation, swapped stories about children they’ve helped, the problems our individual countries are facing, and what they plan on doing in the future. It was amazing to listen to.

Our shuttle to the cage diving arrived at promptly 7AM. It was still dark when we arrived last night so to my absolute amazement when we walked outside the B&B, in the light for the first time, I discovered that our Inn is actually nestled right at the base of Table Rock. For those of you who don’t know what Table Rock is here is what is looks like:

It is one of the new seven wonders of the world, and is absolutely breath taking. I couldn’t get any good pictures before shuffling into the van because it was still pretty dark. Once in the van we twisted and winded our way up the coast only to see the most incredible sunrise of my life.

The trip to the diving excursion took about two hours which would have been fine if it wasn’t for two factors:

  1. Satan himself was with us in the form of a 9 year old boy
  2. Our driver had incredible road rage

Lets start with Satan shall we?

We were joined on the trip by a family made up of a mom, dad, aunt, older brother, sister, and SATAN (aka the little brother). Now trust me, I have been working with rambunctious children since I was 14. I have nannied boys who have sprayed me with pepper spray, who have attempted to run away while on my watch, and who think farting next to my face is the most hilarious thing ever. And I would have gladly spent the day with any of those children if it meant escaping the screeches of tiny Lucifer. This child literally had no concept of what an indoor voice sounds like, and continually shouted any time he wasn’t getting enough attention. He LOVED putting his ratchet, dirty, grimy feet on the top of his seat, which placed them directly in my face to gag at from the short distance of about 5 inches. He kept standing up on his seat in an attempt to jump over his mother into the next seat, and lastly kept punching his fist into the glass upon which my head was attempting to rest.

Now I’m not saying the boys I nanny right now are anywhere near perfect. They are what their mother and I like to call “enthusiastic, energetic, and spirited.” But my god they know that if they ever acted like that their lives would end in a slow and painful torment.

After dealing with this for two hours we FINALLY arrived at our boat. It was really cute how they had it set up. There was a little house looking structure where they had breakfast all ready for us. I tried to eat as little as possible because, as I mentioned before, I get super nauseous really easily. My sister has the same problem, so we both popped about 4 dramamine, and one prescription ant-nausea pill. This probably wasn’t the smartest idea, but it seemed like a solid plan at the time.

After eating, filling out forms, and meeting the boat staff we were boarding on the 25ft boat that would take us diving. It’s really funny, they actually pull the boat up on land via John Deer tractors so you can load on with stairs, and then they back it down into the water. It was super cold out on the ocean, as we previously expected, so we huddled for warmth while listening to all of their instructions.

Basically how it worked was, there was a metal cage attached to the side of the boat which opened from the top. We had to lower ourselves in while making sure none of our limbs touch the outside bars (they said the sharks nibble), and wait head above water until a shark came by. Then we had to let go of the top bars and sink to the bottom, grab onto these handles, pull our faces towards the edge of the cage and watch the Great Whites swim by. They gave us all wetsuit to wear which was a workout trying to get up and over my obscenely large ass. At one point I literally sat/laid down, grabbed onto some metal bars and allowed two crew members attempt to pull the wetsuit up for me. I would say that it was super embarrassing, but lets be real, I have no shame and it meant I didn’t have to do the work myself, so I could just lay there like a lump and allow other people to struggle.

Once we got to the site they anchored and start chumming the water. They had this weird ritual of banging on the side of the boat to alert the sharks of our presence. I volunteered my sister and I to be one of the first ones in the cage. They didn’t make us enter the water until we saw a shark. After about 20 minutes of waiting they started flocking. It was basically like Noah’s Ark.

After the first sighting we jumped in. I felt like that man from Titanic that couldn’t hold onto the top of the boat with Rose and Jack and plummeted into the Arctic water. I literally couldn’t move for the first few seconds.

We saw about 5 sharks come pretty damn close to the cage, all which I captured on my GoPro. I will post a video of our dive tomorrow when I have more energy, so stand by for that.

It was really hard to see under water because it was just not that clear, but there were a few times we could see the face and body. It was actually more interesting to watch from above the water. But the guy literally screams, “DOWN DOWN DOWN” when the shark is near, and disobeying his orders made me feel guilty so I submerged when told to do so. The best part of the whole trip was watching the second wave of people go.

Basically how they get the sharks to come near to the cage is they throw a massive Tuna head out into the water and pull it in once the shark takes a bite, so that hopefully it will swim towards the moving bait which was being pulled towards the cage. Well one of the sharks was not too pleased with the fact that he had to chase his meal, or maby he just had horrible depth perception but he LITERALLY rammed himself full speed into the cage and twisted his body around and repeatedly slammed himself against it for a solid 40 seconds. After he swam away, two of the divers asked to get out because they were so shaken up. I got this whole event on camera and am so happy to edit it into a video tomorrow.

As I was busy watching this Sarah had excused herself to the below deck restroom. Apparently the cage rests right against the wall of the bathroom and she was able to experience every single slam while confined in the tiniest of water closets. She came back up onto the deck to find out what the hell happened, but only made it about four steps before running to the edge to vomit for the next five minutes. I felt sick myself for the duration of the anchoring but refused to barf up the precious pop-tart floating around in my stomach.

After everyone got a chance to dive we headed back towards shore. Karma finally caught up with tiny satin, and he ended up puking over the edge the whole trip back. HAHAHAHAHA! I mean….aww poor little lucifer.

Once we were back we got hot soup and were able to watch the video they took during the trip. After everyone was fed we headed back to our B&B. After arriving back home we showered and met back up with our parents who had spent the day exploring the townships, and headed to dinner which was a quick trip down the road.

We ate at a place called Black Sheep that served items like pickled cow tongue, and ostrich soaked in beet puree. So naturally I got onion rings. Mind you for the past 2 days my entire diet has consisted of pop-tarts, dried mangos, and water. Being entirely too desperate for actual food I ventured out of my comfort zone and ordered pork fillet. It was actually really good!

After dinner we headed back to the Inn to discuss tomorrow’s plans. Apparently we were supposed to take a boat ride around the southern tip to see the seals…but after today’s events Sarah and I were no longer interested in stepping off solid land. So we decided that we were basically going to repeat my parent’s excursions and head to the townships, as well as cabe car up Table Rock, and go by jeep to see the penguins. Okay, so if I don’t blog tomorrow it is for one reason and one reason only. I have gotten bludgeoned by a penguin. I’m convinced that because they waddle and they can’t fly that I will be able to chase one down and take a selfie with it. My parent’s think I will get my eyes pecked out and my sister is pretty sure I’ll get arrested but YOLO! So if I don’t return, don’t be sad…I died doing what I love most…taking selfies.

So apparently when my parents visited the townships today (which are a nice way of saying Shanty Towns-the ones we saw on our way from the airport) they felt awkward being those horrible white tourists that take pictures with the starving and impoverished African children so they told the guide, LeLe (from yesterday) that they felt a little uncomfortable. He informed my parents that the township people actually love having tourists come through because it means they get money and entertainment. He insisted they stop by to at least check it out for a few minutes. Apparently LeLe grew up in a township and knew a bunch of the people there. He told my parents that when tourist come there they often give the children money or food or gifts, and the locals love it. He told them that what most tourists hand to each person is enough to feed them for a week.

He also told us something rather sad, which was that there is no welfare system here but you can get some form of government aid if you have children. So as soon as the girls are old enough to get pregnant they conceive, basically to sustain their own lives. The money the get for being pregnant helps feed them, buy them supplies, and clothes. Another thing thing he told us is that because children are a means for money, frequently when the kids are old enough to walk on their own (so 3 and 4) their mothers send them away to wander through the township so that they don’t have to take care of them. So there are hundreds of children ages 3-17 running around with little food or clothing. My dad was telling us over dinner that the children flocked to them as soon as the stepped out of the car. They wanted their pictures taken so they could see it, they wanted to dance with my parents and sing with them. My dad said the cutest thing was that the children knew they needed to maintain personal space because some tourists don’t like being too close to them (…?) but once the children learned my parents were friendly they started hovering on them…literally grasping for some form of physical affection.

Honestly I can not wait to visit tomorrow. Surprisingly this is the thing I am looking forward to most. I can’t wait to hug and dance and sing with all of the children. I will snuggle the shit out of them, and give them as much money as I can spare.

This has been an incredibly exhausting but exciting day. I will post again tomorrow! And will definitely be posting that video of the cage diving as well.

So long and goodnight everyone.

-E

 

 

The post Day 2 (We’re Going To Need A Bigger Cage) appeared first on Emily Bostaph.

Day One (How It All Began)

I reckon if you’re reading this you have at some point in your social media days stumbled across one of my other blogs and pretty much have an idea of how this is going to go. As my mom likes to say I really “have no filter.” So for those of you who wish to follow a PG version of our African adventures and wish to hear nothing but the pleasant and delightful experiences we have day to day, this is not the place for you. I would recommend checking my Dad’s Facebook statuses if that’s the story you want to get.

But if you’re here to get the real story and to follow “Emily’s detailed version” of how things went on the safari, then you’ve clicked on the right link! I will be using my personal website (this may end up haunting me one day) to blog daily about our adventures in South Africa. As many of you have come to realize after years of mingling with me, I have the memory of a gold fish and therefore need to photograph, film, and write down every single thing that happens to me or else I forget within a few weeks. So if you’re still there, if you’re still willing to put up with the whirlwind of a blog this will be then I applaud you and give you the warmest of welcomes.

So lets get started.

[If you’re just here to read about day 1 of travels, skip down to the bolded heading]

This whole adventure started when I was only in 5th grade. I went to a private Lutheran school in Newport News and was blessed with amazing teachers who traveled abroad every summer to aid the less fortunate around the world. It just so happened that at the beginning of my 5th grade year my favorite teacher was returning home from Tanzania, where she had been aiding a tribe located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. One of our tasks throughout the whole year was to write back and forth with a pen pal of our age from this tribe. They would attempt to write to us in English and we would attempt to write back to them in their native language, Swahili. We would each tell each other about our weeks, what life was like in our own country, tell about our families, our hobbies, really anything we wanted. Because I went to such a tiny school that same teacher was able to teach us history for the next 3 years as well, until we graduated to high school. Because of this, some of us were able to keep in correspondence with the same pen pal for years.

My friend and I kept in touch until the day I graduated and then…silence. I can’t say this tore me apart too much. I was starting my first year in public school, I was making all new friends, I was at the height of my gymnastics career, I simply had too many things going on. And eventually the memory of her faded.

As the years went on I struggled significantly in high school. I didn’t fit in, I wasn’t making friends, I was bored in my classes and literally gave up on trying, gymnastics was consuming my life and I didn’t care. Even though I kept my grades up, my mother grew concerned that my lack of motivation would eventually get the best of me…and she was right. Because of my attitude and some outside factors that would take way too long to explain, after high school I literally did nothing with my life. I sat at home all day, waitressed at night, never went out, and never even considered going to college. I think it was probably a combination of me eating all my parents food and my mom wanting me to amount to something in life, but eventually she had enough. One night she sat me down and keep things short said, “What do I need to do to motivate you.” Me being the brat that I still occasionally am told her that I needed incentive to go to college. Because you know, a successful career, independence, and socialization didn’t seem intriguing enough for me at the time. So long story long, she promised me that if I graduated college (and I think she snuck in with a desired GPA) she would take me on a huge vacation where ever I wanted. This was enough to get my ass into gear.

After heading off to Mary Washington and taking my first geography class where my professor was a native South African, it suddenly dawned on me where I wanted to go. I wanted to go to my pen pal’s tribe in Tanzania, find out what happened to her, and go on a safari. As soon as I told my mom she was on board. Sadly, after planning this trip for the next three years we realized this was not entirely possible. To keep things short, we know nothing about where this tribe is except from my own 8th grade memories (which we all know is shit), certain places in and around Tanzania were getting too dangerous for tourists, and it was significantly more expensive than we thought.

So we “settled” for South Africa. And let me tell you, I told my mom exactly what I wanted out of this trip and she made it happen. Lets all take a moment of silence to praise the woman that is my mother. We don’t have a lot of extra money to spend…like ever…but damn did she make sure all my dreams were going to come true with this vacation. Oh, and let us not forget father dearest who is basically paying for everything. You duh real MVP.

So that’s basically how we got here…shall we get started on the actual adventures themselves?! I think so:

Day 1 [The Flight From Hell]

My mom told me that her one rule this vacation was that I’m not allowed to complain about anything. Well she never said I couldn’t blog. So let me tell you what exactly happened today. We got to the airport, checked our bags, and headed towards security. Everything was going fine until the big red flashers and alarms started going off when my mom’s carry on went through the scanner. I was fully prepared to make a run for it, but she said it might make us look bad. After they opened her bag they discovered a full bottle of shampoo which was about 25 oz of liquid. She had “forgotten” to check all the pockets of her frequently used carry on and apparently will never make the same mistake again. Because we are the whitest of white family,all standing there cackling at my mortified mother, they too found the situation amusing and after confiscating the bottle allowed us on our way.

We took the bus to the gate and proceeded to wait in the Carrabba’s restaurant and get shit faced for the next three hours…and by “we” I mean my mom, dad, and sister. I get super motion sickness so even the thought of drinking before getting on a flight made me feel gross. After about a 150$ alcohol bill we finally began to board our plane only to discover that our window seats which we had spent extra money reserving ahead of time were given to someone else, because of a booking error. It’s cool, we only had to sit in the middle row next to a shrieking baby for 8 hours..no biggie. (*insert first world problems here*) Luckily baby moved after about an hour because a larger seat up front had opened up and her mother realized it would just be nicer for everyone to relocate.

About 2 hours in we were all exhausted and tried to sleep, but it seemed as though Hades himself was on board with us. Literally every single person on the plane was beginning to strip while hastily pushing their flight attendant button with as much fury as they could muster. The attendants told everyone the same thing, that the individual TVs on the back of everyone’s seats was over heating the plane and either the entertainment could be shut off or it could cool down. So guess who sweat out all her toxins while flying to Ghana?! It was actually quite amusing seeing this many people half naked and angry at once.

After landing in Ghana with no sleep, my mother pulls out these wipes and starts cleaning her face while offering a wipe to everyone within reach only to discover they were basically clorox wipes and she’d mistaken the package to be her cleansing wipes. Once the new passengers were on we were off to Johannesburg where we had a two hour lay over. Apparently a bunch of celebrities came through the same time we landed and we got to hear everyone screaming for them. We asked several different people who it was, and the closest thing we could understand was “panettiere” which we can only assume means Hayden Panettiere was only feet away from us.

Apparently, my family as a group tends to look very lost because we had three different people come up to us grab our boarding passes and shuffle us through the airport at a rapid speed towards our gate. We just thought they were being really nice until we realized it was them looking for tips and we immediately had to hand over the cash…lesson learned…wear a “bitch face” at all times. After boarding our last flight we were finally off to Cape Town.

After arriving we had a private driver pick us up who was hilarious and was trying to teach us his “click” language the whole way to our hotel.

He has us call him "LeLe"

He has us call him “LeLe”

We had to look like the biggest idiots ever sitting in the back seat smacking our tongues around attempting to sound like him. He kept choking back laughter while saying things like, “that sounds pretty close” and “wow, um, yeah..almost.” He’s going to be our driver until Monday so we have time to improve.

On a serious note it was super humbling driving through the city to get to our hotel. There were literally tin shacks after tin shacks of where the impoverished locals live. I knew coming into this that there was going to be a huge visible gap between the poor and middle class here, but thinking it and seeing it was a completely different experience. There were mounds upon mounds of piled up trash on which children were sitting on top of. Most of the dwellings didn’t have electricity and were so run down that some of them had cardboard boxes as doors. It was hard to look at and take in.

To make me feel even more guilty, once our driver pulled up to the “hotel” where we would be staying we quickly realized to our delight that it was not in fact a hotel but a bed and breakfast style home. It is two huge houses attached by an open pool area. The rooms are beyond amazing, with huge ceilings and free standing bath tubs, and little fruit plates and customized notes…and free booze. Lets not forget the booze. And the B&B owner was super enthusiastic when showing us around. He kept saying, “and you can sit here any time you like…or here…or here” while pointing to various lounge chairs.

Here are a few images of the place:

Pool Outside Our Room

Pool Outside Our Room

Mom & Dad's Room

Mom & Dad’s Room

Our Balcony

Our Balcony

Weird Bathroom Arrangement

Weird Bathroom Arrangement

But We Have A Tub

But We Have A Tub

Note Greeting Us and Talking About Tomorrow's Festivities

Note Greeting Us and Talking About Tomorrow’s Festivities

Free Booze and Food on Bedside Stand

Free Booze and Food on Bedside Stand

I’ll be able to get better pictures of everything in the morning! We got here at their 10 o’clock at night, so it’s pretty dark.

And that’s about it for today. We spent literally 24 hours flying and waiting in airports and are all exhausted. Tomorrow Sarah and I go shark cage diving first thing in the morning, while mom and dad explore the town.

Until tomorrow folks, I’m off to bed!

-E

The post Day One (How It All Began) appeared first on Emily Bostaph.