BootsnAll Travel Network

I’m Still Alive… and still lazy.

Over five weeks and not a posting. Not much to report anyways. I am holed up in Durban after finally getting some things accomplished. Before I get into that though, I will give you a quick run down of where I have been in the mean time.

Leaving Cape Town was tough not only because it was the coolest town that I have visited so far, but the bus company was having a special fare sale for my first leg, and the catch was that it was only for the early morning bus which meant a 6:30 am departure which meant that I had to be at the terminal by 6 am and also meant that I had to leave the hostel by 5:30am because I didn’t want to take a taxi which in turn meant that I had to be up at 4:45am so that I could finish packing, break the tent down, and check out. Waking up early sucks and I mean like 9am being early. Fourish was down right life challenging. That made me realize what part of traveling I don’t like.

Just for clarification, I decided to utilize public transportation for the East Coast journey as the other options of (Baz Bus- a backpacker bus that picks up and drops off at hostels all along the coast – pretty expensive although makes traveling brainless.) The other option of a tour was another option, but I just ain’t a tour guide not to mention those package things are really expensive. I thought about renting a car again, but I wanted my own freedom so public transport was it. I pretty much did all of South America the same way, so it was just a matter of a different continent. I will use the big buses like Greyhound, RSA, City to City for sections longer that 3 hours, Mini-taxis, and shared taxis. These are what the locals use and not too many backpackers or tourists are on them.

Well I made it and I arrived at my first destination Knysna. Well, kinda. The buses stop at all the towns along the route dropping off and picking up people. When they got to Knysna, they didn’t have a formal stopping area so they just pulled to the side of the road at a public bus stop. They didn’t announce anything but just sat there a minute and then took off. I knew we were in Knysna, but not knowing how big it was or if there were multiple drop off points, I just figured I would wait. Well, I waited until I saw the “Welcome to Knysna” signs going the other direction. I ran up to the drivers helper and asked about Knysna. He said “that was it back there.” Shit. He kind of stuttered to the driver and I kind of figured that if I forced the issues they would have to turn around and take me back as they had never said anything, but I figured screw it and that I would walk back. So after about five kilometers I was back into town.

Knysna is part of the Garden Route and its claim to fame is the Knysna Lagoon which is home to some supposedly superb oysters. Oysters is what caught my attention and the town was supposed to be quaint but trendy. Well, crappy weather and laziness meant no oysters for me, but I did sleep in a bed for the couple of nights I was there as none of the hostels had camping facilities.

Next was Plettenberg bay (Garden Route). Plett is where the upper class beach bums go to live with a lot of million dollar structures and trendy cafes and restaurants. The hostel that I stayed at was right next to a big grocery store and they had a braii (bbq) every night so I ended up staying three nights there. Plett is the start of the warmer waters and surfing.

Jeffreys Bay (Sunshine Coast) is the world famous surf beach. It is pretty much ground zero for surfing in Africa. It is such a popular place, all the major surf shops have these huge factory shops with Billabong even having their corporate office there. I stayed at a cool surfers hostel on top of a sand dune with a great break right below the hostel. The town pretty much sprung up because of surfing, so it has a very laid back vibe. If you’re a surfer, it would be paradise.

Port Elizabeth (Sunshine Coast) is one of the bigger cities on the coast line with a mix of medium size city with a decent beach. It was more of a locals resort town with huge high rise summer rentals that ran along the beach. They had a lot of fancy restaurants and cafes that were geared to the holiday tourist.

East London (Sunshine coast) was my following stop which was also a larger port city like Port Elizabeth. East London is not much of a tourist destination but a good stopping place to pick up supplies. I stayed at a hostel with some crazy lady owner. The only other people staying there were two girls from Canada who were just getting set up to do some volunteer work. The owner and them didn’t get along and it ended up with a fight almost breaking out between them and them begging me to stay inside and locking out the owner. She was drunk and her boyfriend locked her out of the attached house as well. Finally the police came in and got her back into her side of the house. The whole time the girls stayed in the tv room freaking out over every noise. Finally the screaming and crashes in the other house died down and they went to bed. Pretty surreal stuff.

I wanted to go to a nearby beach village called Cintas (Wild Coast) which supposedly had the most popular hostel in Africa. It was a kind of out of the way place and the only viable way of getting there was by Baz Bus. I didn’t want to pay it and figured that a locals taxi had to go there as it was only 30kms away. After walking for two hours bouncing from Taxi rank to taxi rank, a newspaper kid finally helped me out and showed me where a car that went to Cintas waited. I got real lucky when the taxi actually dropped people off at the doorstep as there really wasn’t any central area. The hostel actually turned out to be pretty good. It was perched on the whole side of a big hill which overlooked a huge lagoon with access to the beach and ocean. They had free rental of all the beach/surf toys and offered a lot of tours and free activities. Did some volleyball, cricket, frisbee with a big bunch of people and it turned out to be pretty fun. The complex is huge and could probably fit at least a couple of hundred people. They had stuff all over the place like pools, climbing walls, volleyball pits, etc. The route back to East London was just as challenging as I had to walk to a neighboring village to a taxi rank. An hour in the sun walking up this huge hill and a stretch of beach with a full pack was pretty tough. Luckily, there was just enough spots for everybody as I took the last seat.

Back at East London I just missed the bus to Mthatha and the connection to Coffee Bay (Wild Coast). Luckily, this was a two bus stop town and I was able to catch it at the other station. After a semi-long ride we pulled into a Ultra Shell gas station which was a connection stop for getting to Coffee Bay. I wasn’t sure how it worked, but saw all the hostel vans waiting to pick up the backpackers from the different bus companies and the Baz Bus as well. From there it was another hour and a half ride to the beach and home to Coffee bay. Coffee bay was probably the best hostel that I have visited so far. Maybe it wasn’t the best physical hostel, but they were the best in regards to keeping everybody doing something and creating a fun atmosphere. I ended up staying there a couple of extra nights as a big group of us got connected and kept staying just one more day. We did a bunch of hikes and got a bunch of free shell fish samplers so it was a good time.

Umzumbe was my last stop before Durban and was part of the South Coast. This was my favorite physical hostel as they had this huge back lot where they installed a few cabins and even tree houses amongst the giant Banana trees. The place was so jungly that you couldn’t even see the tree houses or cabins unless you were right in front of them. They had a rock pool and hot tub, a cool bar, and these huge dogs that were great to play with. It turned out to be a longer stay place as well.

Finally I arrived in Durban. Durban was once the vacation capital of South Africa and is the third largest city. They have the largest port in Africa. The ocean current is part of the warm Indian ocean so it is a warm weather destination year round with surfing because of great quality. For me it looked like a good mix of big city and beach town. I needed to do some errands (still working on getting a freaking credit card,) getting my immunizations caught up, and surprisingly renewing my South African Visa for 30 more days as my first 90 days was running out.

Credit Cards suck. After the debacle in Cape Town, I needed the month of traveling just to cool off. Thankfully, after only one more big mistake, Ivon, Travis’s room mate who was supposed to mail all the mail to Travis’s new place, wrote the wrong zip code so the mail was lost for a while. After a week Travis finally got it and shipped it to the hostel in Durban.

Because of the week delay, I was out of time on my Visa. I had to get out of the country so I decided to make a run to the neighboring country Lesotho. I had a few days left so I ended up doing some city hopping there as well.

I took a local taxi to the town of Pietermaritzburg. This was the famous town where Ghandi was thrown off the train and kicked off his fight for equality. Another couple of days in a cool hostel with my tent surrounded by marijuana plants and I was off.

Just below the mountains of Lesotho was a country side village named Underburg. There I decided to visit a working horse ranch and spent a very restful few days chilling out on the ranch. There I met up with 8 Colombians. They were ecstatic to meet someone who knew about their country. Their jaws dropped when I told them I had visited their country four times and had spent three months there traveling around the whole country. It was also good as I was able to practice my Spanish which effectively dropped their jaws even farther.

After my horse time, it was off to climb the Sani Pass. The Sani Pass is Africas highest Pass and is only obtainable via 4X4. As I still didn’t want to splurge on a tour, I found out that it was possible to use a local taxi van to go up the pass. So after a two stage process we climbed the pass in a four wheel drive taxi van. Just think of 19 people with a ton of other crap jammed into a van that was meant to hold 15 going up a steep and rocky canyon. It was so cramped that I had to carry my backpack on my lap for the two hour ride. It was made slightly more comfortable in that the big boned lady (whom always end up sitting next to the skinny asian guy), would effectively envelope about a third of my body. It was challenging but really fun.

On the top I stayed at a lodge (which has the highest pub in Africa). I was camping and shared the common room with five families and their kids. The kids really took to me and we end up playing cards while the parents who looked like they had been to hell and back shifted off to bed. The weather turned very cold and rainy and they offered to let me sleep in the warm and toasty common room with its fire, but I told them I would be fine with all my cold weather gear. The next morning I woke to my tent being pelted with snowballs and my tent being half way collapsed under at least six inches of snow. I knew it was icing up as my tent pretty much froze solid, but I wasn’t aware of how much snow there was. I had arrived to a wind swept barren tepui and woke up to a winter wonderland. It did get pretty cold that night as my watch actually stopped and my juice bottle froze. I survived just fine with the new air mattress a guy gave me when I was at the hostel in Umzumbe. It’s one of those high end backpacker models that is way more cold blocking than my quarter inch foam pad that I was used to.

The next day after saying goodbye to the kids and family, I loaded up my stuff and took off with a village in sight which was maybe fifty kms away. Because of all the snow I doubted that the mini taxis would be running so I set off on foot. I ended up making it about half way that day and stopped in a abandoned herders hut. The next day I ran into a guy who was giving two German girls a private tour and they invited me to go with them. Walking and sleeping in the snow pretty much sucks so it wasn’t too much of a fight to get me to go with them. We ended up spending the day driving around and visiting the towns of Molumong and Mokhotlong. The views were terrific with elevations in the 3000-3500 range (second highest in Africa). This was the real Africa with people still living in the Rondavels and horses as the main transportation. The people are known as the friendliest in Southern Africa as although Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa, they were not touched with the Apartheid problems. Therefore they had no issues in races or colors. It was good to see a bit of the real Africa.

With more cold weather, I said screw it and headed down the hill with the Germans. I took them back to the hostel where I stayed in Pietermeritzburg. They stayed the night and took off the next day heading to northern Lesotho for horse back riding and then back to Pretoria. I stayed a few days in Pietermeritzburg as I liked the owner and the people there as well as checking out the vaccination prices at the local hospita (still way too expensive.)

My new Visa for SA was only for 30 days so I figured I needed to get going so I headed back to Durban where I found my Credit card waiting for me at the hostel. Thank god. So after a year of screwing with the thing I am now the proud owner of a Bank of America Titanium Visa. I can now break and injure myself knowing that I have the ability to pay my way home. Visa- The insurance for doing stupid things.

So thats about it. Sure there is about a thousand other stories about my east coast tour, but I ain’t a professional blogger anymore so this will have to do. And Mom, I am still fine and cruising along.

My tentative plans are to finish off the East coast heading towards St. Lucia and then over to the country of Swaziland and then into Mozambique. After that I will start heading west and into more unchartered areas. I am definitely soaking up all this cushy traveling as I know things are going to get really shitty.

I need to get my laptop shipped off and get at least some shots done before I leave South Africa. Hopefully I can get things worked out in the next couple of weeks. I am such a procrastinator. Anybody heading down to Africa and wants a laptop for a few months?

Other crap:

My tent is falling apart with the poles breaking, the zipper on the entrance fly sheet breaking off and of the two zippers that close/open the entrance working only one zips.

Clothes haven’t changed so they are holey as ever. Boots are still excellent.

No new languages as there are a dozen differnent dialects and the clicking part just ain’t going to happen. They say that if you don’t learn it as a kid, its going to be really difficult. I am however starting with French. I met some Frenchies who sat down and went over the basics and went through the tourist questions that I need.

I’m gaining my weight back in preparation for some bad food and heat.

My hair is about to get slashed as I will shave it off when I get to Mozambique or Malawi.

Slowly cutting down my reading to about three books a week.

The temperature and my climb towards the equator are starting to warm things up. I thing I should hit the central Africa area at the peak of heat, humidity, and mosquitoes. Perfect.

The other day I thought about working. It quickly passed.

I eat Spaghetti five days a week. Steve’s Backpacker Spaghetti. One pack of Spaghetti (500ml), a can of chopped tomatoes with onions, a pack of tomato paste, around 500ml of ground beef. Cook the spaghetti (set aside), brown the meat (leaving the fat), stir in the tomato mix and tomato paste. Looking at a Kilo and a half of food. Good for a dinner, lunch, and snack. I seperate the spaghetti days with a steak and potato. For dessert I eat cream puffs, cream donuts, but wish I could have a Cape Town Bee Sting.

I have stopped drinking Fanta and sodas in general. I have been on the wagon for coming on two months now. All I drink is fruit drink concentrate and tap water. Why? A girl said I was addicted. The positives are that the fruit drink crap is a lot cheaper than Fanta. Also, occassionally I run out of syrup and drink plain water. The negatives are that the syrup is sweetened with Saccharin, the cancer causing stuff. I mix it with tap water which can at times be a tad bit risky.

I haven’t gotten sick in Africa. No stomach bugs, no head bugs, no Malaria, ne Dengue, no Plague, no HIV, no cold, no flu, nada. Who would have thought. I haven’t started any of the anti-malarials yet nor have the immunizations been done, but there are plenty of Shamans (witch doctors) around so I shouldn’t have any problems. Plus, I am now a card carrying Visa man again.

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