Saying Goodbye to Missionvale ~ 2 weeks volunteering in South Africa

F3233A74-C2EF-472F-8C34-7FBE7105DFC6This post is originally from March 5, 2020

This week has absolutely flown by! It feels like we have found our groove both at the ‘frat house’ and at our placement at Missionvale. I knew going in to the volunteer experience that 2 weeks wasn’t long enough, but I can truly say – it absolutely wasn’t long enough!!!! Last week I feel like we had to prove ourselves with some of the Youth Development coordinators, but this week it felt like they trusted us. The staff in the Nutrition Centre and Mother Christmas (Rachel) also started to really open up and it was really only on our last day that we realized how much some of them really appreciated us being there.

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Some of the amazing staff at Missionvale

Over the course of the 2 weeks we were able to create bonds with some of the kids as well. Their smiles are infectious and their hugs could literally squeeze the life out of you…but in a good way. They loved to touch our hair (and maybe play with Kris’ long hair a little too roughly) and the older ones were enthralled with my tattoos and earrings as well. Kids are kids and the simple act of just playing catch is enough to fill their little bellies with laughter.

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This week we were able to create a lesson on dental hygiene. We made games and sung songs based on teeth. We also bought 60 toothbrushes and gave them to all the kids so that we could teach them the proper way to brush. This lesson was a bit chaotic with all age groups lumped together. The younger ones definitely only speak Xosa so we had to have most of what we said translated. The toothbrushes however were a big hit and overall I think it was a big success.

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We also brought embroidery thread and little beads with letters on them. One day we had the younger ones partner with the older ones and we got them to make friendship bracelets with the initial of their name strung on the bracelet. This was again complete chaos but such a success with them all.

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On our last day (yesterday) some of the staff got together and sung for Kris and I. Their voices are so beautiful and their passion for life is undeniable. While they were singing to us, Kris and I were in tears. The moment was so beautiful and touching.

Over the course of the two weeks we tried to figure out how we could best be of help. Is there anything that we can do that could possibly make a lasting impact? Kris fell in love with one little boy as he reminded her of her nephew. She wanted to be able to maybe send money for him so he might get the opportunity to get out of the township and build a better life. We had lots of conversations about this because in theory this sounds doable but when you dissect it, this could lead to more trouble for the child. Would this separate him and alienate him from his peers? Would the family members use the money for the wrong purposes? (Alcoholism is prevalent in the townships). After talking to the manager at Missionvale, she suggested that monthly donations to the Centre itself would be the best course of action. We could specify where we want the donations to go to. We definitely want to help the Youth Development so we decided that this is what area we will help support. Perhaps we could start an education fund whereby youth that want to seek out an education can tap into it. We have the resources in Canada to make these changes, perhaps as a whole we can make this a reality.

(**we haven’t started raising funds for this yet due to the current Covid crisis, but we are hoping that we can still fulfill this dream)

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It was really sad to leave yesterday but I can say without a doubt that my time at Missionvale was one that I’ll never forget. Once again Africa grabbed another piece of my heart.

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From Frat House to Fancy as F&@*k!! (ShamWOW)

76DCD6CE-ED2A-47E7-8049-2B7253AB08EAThis post was originally from March 2, 2020

This past weekend has been one of the most magical weekends of my life. Where do I even start?

As some of you may know, last year I started working with Lena & David from the Divergent Travelers. They have a really successful blog and I’ve been able to work with them, writing a few articles here and there. Before we left for this trip Lena contacted some private game reserves outside of Port Elizabeth on my behalf. She pitched having me go to one of them in return for an article and social media exposure. We hadn’t heard back before we left, but during this past week Lena got a response, and on Friday Kris and I were being picked up by a very official man wearing a suit.

This isn’t just any game reserve – it’s a private luxury one! It’s called Shamwari Private Game Reserve and it’s so exclusive that one night can be up to $2500 per person!!!  Having this opportunity made me pee my pants a little. When I told locals which reserve we would be going to, they gasped as this is where the celebrities usually go. Needless to say Kris and I have been beside ourselves.

We were both a little worried because neither of us has packed nice clothes. My fanciest outfit consists of elastic-waisted jeans and a grubby T-shirt! But having spent the last week in a house full of 25 youngsters, Kris and I were thrilled at the idea of getting out of the frat house as we call it, and sleeping in a real bed. (My bed in the frat house has 3 legs so it wobbles quite nicely)

Once we arrived we were treated like royalty. I have never in my life had the service like we did there. Every minute detail was accounted for and each staff member went out of their way to make us feel like a million bucks. You could see that each staff member was passionate about whatever area they worked in and it made our experience out of this world!!!!

A little about the reserve … Shamwari is massive – the land is 27000 hectares! They focus on conservation and biodiversity. Historically the area was rich in wildlife but became completely decimated by hunters and settlers, becoming a lifeless dustbowl. Over the past 20 years they were able to revive the land and reintroduce wildlife – turning it into a thriving example of conservation.

There are 7 different lodges on the site. Each lodge has a different look – a different personality with its own character. Over the course of our 2 night stay we were given a tour of each of lodge. One was more colonial, another more rustic (in a luxurious way of course) and one that caters to children with its own outdoor jungle gym complete with a zip line! Guests have so many options to find the lodge that suits them best. The lodges are also very far from each other, so as we drove between lodges we were dazzled by our own personal game drives complete with amazing wildlife sightings.

We stayed at 2 different lodges. Our first was called Sindhile – meaning survivor in Swahilili. There used to be a leopard in this territory that fought off many of its rivals. It became the dominant cat in the area for many years and thus they named it Sindhile. After it’s death they wanted to dedicate the area to this cat, which is why when they built this lodge at the end of 2019 they proudly named it Sindhile. 51374EBB-EAAB-4664-A664-206ECF33D2DF

Sindhile was just built so it has all the new bells and whistles. It’s concept is based on a tent but inside I’ve never seen anything more luxurious. We had our own heated pool, indoor and outdoor shower, a bathtub that opened up so you could be outside, the largest most comfortable bed, the bar area had the most delicious cookies and everything imaginable right down to a lime for your drinks. There was a care package on the bed full of anything you might need on your safari – sunscreen, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, after sun – all in glass containers from a high end company. At night they do turn down service and give you night cream and a card with the weather for the next day. The decor was to die for and the entire side of the tent was floor to ceiling windows which you could open up with the most spectacular view of the vista. Truly my words can’t do it justice. It was truly zen and I can’t even imagine a place more beautiful!

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The second night we stayed at Eagles Crag. This one had more of a tree house feel in the main dining area and the rooms were once again as luxurious as ever.

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In total we were able to do 4 different game drives. They lasted approximately 4 hours each time and our rangers were out of this world. They are the most top notch rangers with the most experience and an insane amount of knowledge. At sundown we would stop for snacks and drinks where our ranger prepared quite the spread.

Speaking of spread … the food! I have never seen so much high quality food in all my life. The cooks would come out of the kitchen to meet us and talk about our dietary restraints. The stuff they made Kris was out of this world. It didn’t look remotely gluten free. Kris would question it because it was so good. So let me give you a play by play on how much food was served. We would meet at 5:30am and there would be tea/coffee, fruit and delicious snacks. Then after the safari they would greet us with a hot towel and either Nutella hot chocolate or apple tea. Then we’d have breakfast. We walked into the dining area and there would be a buffet like spread with everything you could think of. Cinnamon buns, croissants, cheeses, meats, granola, yogurt, fruit…you get the point. So the first morning we filled our plates and sat down. However waiting for us at our table was our personalized menu with a full breakfast meal of choices. Hellooooooo!!!!!  Next would be lunch with a a multi course tapas menu with deserts. Then dinner would be another full meal with starters and deserts all personalized to our diet. This place would be any ‘foodies’ paradise! Apparently the process for the chefs to get a job here is quite rigorous. They have to go through a cook-off like you’d see on TV. Unfreakingbelievable!

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Now back to the game drives…I’ve done safaris before but these ones were unique in that because it is on a private reserve there are very few safari vehicles anywhere. You might see one or two here and there but on past experiences when a ranger calls the others you’d have at least 15 vehicles all packed together trying to jostle for the best position near the wildlife. Here we were usually completely on our own. We saw everything from rhinos, to lions, to elephants, to cheetahs. You name it-we saw it.

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We were also given a tour of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (where they care for sick or injured animals and release them back into the wild) and Born Free. Born Free is another spectacular organization. They work alongside Shamwari but are a non profit that rescue big cats from terrible situations like circuses and abuse. They can’t release the cats back into the wild because they don’t know how to hunt or fend for themselves. Instead, they live their entire lives in massive enclosures where they are free to roam. I was so touched by this place that I couldn’t help but ‘adopt’ a lioness who was found in France living in an apartment under terrible circumstances.

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Each pillar symbolizes a species that has sadly become extinct.

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My lion that I ‘adopted’.

I could probably write about my Shamwari experience for days as it was more than I could have ever anticipated. It just goes to show you what money can buy! I feel soooooooo lucky to have been able to do this through the Divergent Travelers.

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A Reflection of the Week

This post was originally from February 27, 2020

The last few days we’ve been able to settle in a bit at Missionvale and come to understand how things work … or not work. It’s like organized disorganization. Unless we assert ourselves with the staff regarding how we could help, we could easily spend the day doing nothing. The staff are all super nice and welcoming but don’t give a lot of direction.

Kris and I have come up with our own agenda of what units we prefer to work and how we can best be of help. I have to remind myself that we are on ‘Africa Time’ and things don’t run the same way as they would at home. Talking to some of the other volunteers they have said “what we get completed in Belgium in just one day, takes two weeks to get answers and complete the task here”. It’s just a different way of life and you have to learn to roll with it instead of get frustrated.

My mornings feel like I am running a marathon. I spend them in the kitchen where we get donations of food, prepare the food and distribute it out. I’ve cut so many loaves of bread that I’ve now got a blister on my hand. It’s complete chaos with hundreds of people lined up for their half loaf and cup of dry soup powder. Yesterday a fight broke out in line as a few of the young men kept cutting in front of the old grandmas and grandpas just to get a second helping, when the other poor souls still waited for their first.

Once that rush is over I then head over to Mother Christmas (where Kris is) so that we can either help wrap presents or prepare for a lesson that we will later do in the after school development program.

Yesterday we had a real treat when a bunch of 7th grade girls came out of the school and took a real liking to us. They played with our hair (yes, even mine), riddled us with questions and then asked us to join them to watch their ballroom dancing class. It was so cute as one of the staff members teaches the girls ballroom. The smiles on these beautiful girls truly melt my heart.

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Finally at the end of the day we get to work in the After School Development Centre. Yesterday I created an art project for the kids. Kris took the little ones and I had the older ones. They were so cute and so proud of their finished work. Today the topic was literacy, where we would read to them and ask questions to see how well their comprehension was.

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The last hour of the day is so much fun. Working with the children truly makes my heart so full. It makes the monotony of all the lulls throughout the day vanish. You see these little munchkins and they are full of spunk and joy and they are just like children at home. Children are children. But when you take a step back it so sad to think that because of lack of opportunity and money, these talented, gentle souls probably won’t have a hopeful, promising future. Kris was saying to me “this kid could be a track star, or look at that kid who can do flips so easily”. At home they could be anything, but here you just hope that they make it out. The township is so brutal – crime, addiction and obviously poverty. The problem is so gigantic and it’s overwhelming to think about what each child has the capability of doing and where he or she will end up. Yesterday we asked one 6th grader how far she had to walk from the school to the Centre. She said “not far-just one hour”. Every day she’s at the Centre and has to walk alone in the dangerous township for hours. Life is so very different for the children here compared to the lucky ones at home.

We didn’t realize how dangerous the township really is. We were told that we might be able to do home visits however when we asked the Centre’s manager, she gave us the answer of a definite no. Apparently last week a group of Irish volunteers were robbed when they were doing home visits and over the weekend there were a couple locals that were murdered. Don’t worry, we are completely safe within the gates of the Centre, but it  just goes to show you how unstable life is for those who live outside these walls.

Safety is obviously an issue here but don’t worry, Kris and I are not out gallivanting after our placements. We stay within the safety of our home and listen to all the precautions.

Last night the amazing couple that run our house (Jeff & Arlene) took the entire group to an event. It was indoors with a bunch of food trucks, live music and vendors. It was so much fun and the food was amazing. We couldn’t get over how cheap everything was. Literally less that $2 for a crepe filled with Tiramisu filling!!!!! Huge meals for less than $5. It was so awesome and we had such a great time. Not only that, Kris and I were like kids in a candy shop as there were so many good looking men to ogle at. Edmonton might not have many beautiful eligible bachelors but hello Port Elizabeth!!!

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This weekend ahead of us is going to be pretty fantastic. We are going to be doing some safaris but I’ll give you all the details in the next installment. Stay tuned 😉

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Day 1 at Volunteering in a Township – Bring it on

This post was originally from February 25, 2020

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this is a part of Missionvale Township

Today was our first full day working at Missionvale Care Centre. Yesterday we went there just for the morning so that we could get a tour of the place. It is quite an amazing facility. It was started by a nun named Sister Ethel who saw the extreme poverty of those living in the township of Missionvale. She started serving food to the community under a tree and from there it has grown into a full fledged community centre. Walking around we were able to see how much the centre actually provides. There’s a distribution kitchen where people can come get food parcels, a community garden where they not only grow their own vegetables, but where they teach the locals how to grow and take care of gardens, a church, a hall where weddings, funerals and graduations take place, a primary school, a crafters unit where locals can learn to make handicrafts to sell, a youth drop in centre where there are after school programs that cover literacy, arts & culture, human rights and heath & well-being, then there’s the health clinic, pharmacy and a donation centre. I know I’m missing other units, but you get the point – there’s a lot going on.

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This is Sister Ethel!

Today when we arrived, it was a bit disorganized and without asking us where we preferred to work we just were taken to the donation centre. It took me back to working in Ritsona Refugee camp just a few months ago. I can’t say that I was all that excited to sort through used clothes again although I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do! We did that for a while before heading to the kitchen. There we cut loaves of bread and put together food parcels. If a family meets the need criteria they get one food parcel per week. It consists of a can of beans, a can of sardines, 3 tea bags, a small package of sugar and flour as well as soap. They also hand out a half a loaf of bread and a scoop of soup powder to those who line up. It broke my heart to see the hundreds of people line up just to get a small ration of food. They would come with a used yogurt container or something like that and I would scoop a cup of dry soup powder into their container so they could take it home. Before the end of the line was even up, we had ran out of bread. You wouldn’t think that you could see so much bread fly out in just one day but it goes to show you how many people are in such a desperate state. It broke my heart to see just how many people are in dire need but at the same time the kindness and amount of gratitude they showed us was enough to fill the entire ocean.

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From there we visited Mother Christmas. Her name is Rachel and she is the sweetest little woman who runs a gift wrapping Christmas Centre. Basically all year round she gift wraps presents for children so that come Christmas Day every child in the community can leave with a beautifully wrapped present. I can’t even imagine the chaos and joy that would surround Christmas Day. We spent a few hours wrapping presents and decorating newspaper so that the gifts looked pretty. The gifts we were wrapping were for 2-3 year old girls – each consisted of a crocheted animal, a pair of Crocs and a pair of underwear.

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At 2 we headed over to the After School Youth Development Centre where today’s lesson was about health & nutrition. The kids were all given a snack and some juice and then they sat down for the lesson. First we took them to the garden so that they could be shown how vegetables are grown. I’m sure half of the kids weren’t listening but the point was there. Then we went inside where the facilitator asked me to read some questions to them. My eyes bugged out of my head when the second question was asking them how the best way to lose weight would be. I quickly told the lady that this isn’t the best question to ask children. She took that question out but in her lesson about food and nutrition she was giving them bogus information. At one point she told them that there are 3 types of milk-skim, low fat or buttermilk. She asked them which was the best for them to drink…her answer was skim. She also told them that it is best to drink a half a cup of water before every meal. Wtf?!!! In a place where food is scarce, telling children to eat diet-like food was probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. When I went up to ask the pre-written questions given to me I tried to explain things like vitamins and nutrients but it probably went right out their ears as I wasn’t speaking Xosa. I walked away just shaking my head. It was obvious that the facilitator was not quite educated on the subject and took a lot of her information from a website that was probably talking about dieting.

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Kris and I have come up with a few ideas that perhaps maybe we can help out in the coming weeks.

That was day 1. Bring it on!

The Long Journey to South Africa

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Originally written on February 24, 2020

Hi there everyone!

It was a long-assed journey but we have arrived in one piece to Port Elizabeth, South Africa. There was a point during our travels where we questioned whether or not we’d make it in one piece, but thankfully here we are. Our questionable flight was from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. It was with a carrier called Safair. The plane itself looked just fine and we were relieved that it was a legitimate airline. That was until our landing however…we were descending as normal with the views of the ocean below us. It looked so beautiful but all of a sudden the nose of the plane started to head upward and we were climbing up once again. The pilot came on the intercom to tell us that they were having issues with the landing gear so they had to circle for a bit while they fixed it. Not sure how they planned to fix the landing gear while we were still in the air ??? I almost expected a little man to crawl out on the wing with his pliers!  Eventually after a bit of time we headed towards the ground and held our breaths while the plane hit the tarmac. It wasn’t a typical landing as it felt like our breaks were having an issue and it took forever for the plane to eventually stop. When we did, we were literally at the end of the runway. Next we saw emergency vehicles with their lights blinking driving next to the plane as we taxied towards the airport. The pilot came on the intercom once again to apologize for scaring us and he ended by saying I hope this won’t change your minds in using Safair again in the future. WTF! You know it must have been bad when they end with that!!!

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With our feet safely on the ground we were picked up by a staff member from Khaya – the volunteer organization that we are affiliated through. She showed us around the area that we are living in. It is just minutes from the ocean and in a really beautiful location. The only thing I’m a little hesitant with is that we have been warned over and over about our safety. We are told that there are safety in numbers and never to walk home after dark. I think a lot of it is common sense but two volunteers were assaulted walking home from a bar just a few weeks ago. There’s even a panic button in the house that will contact the neighborhood patrollers if needed. It’s just so different from the safety we take for granted at home.

The volunteer house has over 20 volunteers living in it. There are several projects in which everyone goes to during the day – from feeding street people, to rehabilitating penguins to medical work. The one thing that all the volunteers have in common but differ from Kris and I are their ages. The average age is about 20. As well , most are from Holland and Germany, so making conversation can be a bit more difficult. It’s only the first full day here though so I’m sure it will get better and we will soon feel like we are a part of the house. Having to hold 20+ volunteers, the house is pretty big. The front balcony looks on to the ocean and in the backyard is a pool. There are two house dogs that live here so that makes my heart happy too. Kris and I lucked out as they put us in a room with one sweet girl and we get sleep on normal twin beds. The three of us share one bathroom. This is pretty awesome as the others are on bunks and share 6-12 to a washroom.

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I had a bit of a scare yesterday when I  went to use one of the toilets. When I opened the lid there were worms wriggling around at the bottom of the water. These weren’t your typical insects. They were white and skinny and looked more like a tapeworm or parasite. I should have taken a photo but I flushed them before thinking about that. I told the owners of the house about my discovery and they quickly knew what they were. Apparently the volunteers who work with penguins have the possibility of catching these worms. Last week they were given deworming pills and clearly they had come out of a human. The horrifying thing is that the worms clearly swam back up into the toilet bowl. Gag!  Anyway, on that note I’ll leave it there.

Tomorrow we start our first full day at Missionvale so I can’t wait to see how that will be.

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Dumb & Dumber Do Africa

This post was originally from February 20, 2020
Hi there Everyone,
It is the final countdown!! In less than 24 hours I will be off in an airplane flying to the other side of the world. I couldn’t be more excited because this time I am heading back to South Africa and then Mozambique and Swaziland (which is now called Eswatini). For this trip I am lucky to have my partner in crime join me…you know the other half of ‘Dumb & Dumber’. Kris has never been to Africa so I am so excited to be with her when she experiences the incredible things like a safari for the first time.
Our first stop will be in Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth is a coastal town at the southern part of the country. We will be there for 2 weeks volunteering at Missionvale Care Centre. Missionvale is a non-profit organization that operates in the extremely poor township of Missionvale. It is a centre that provides care for the poor with emphasis on those living with HIV/AIDS. I am not exactly sure what either of us will be doing during our placements as they have told us that they will decide upon arrival what they need most. The community centre offers a variety of services which include a primary school, child support and development, adult skills development, community gardens, a crafter’s unit, a medical unit, a nutrition & wellness unit and a distribution warehouse. I am really looking forward to this part of our trip. I am excited to see what I will be doing and hope that I can make a positive impact in some small way.
While in Port Elizabeth, we will be staying in a volunteer home where there will be others who are doing the same thing. From what I know, it is pretty close to the beach (however we will obviously be working during the day). I have to admit that I am hesitant to swim off the coast of South Africa anyway as I know there are plenty of sharks. Apparently there is a pool at the volunteer house, so that will be a bonus.
Once we are finished with our 2 week volunteer stint, we will be flying back up to Johannesburg to meet up with a G Adventures Tour group. Not only am I super pumped about where we will be going, but my friend Lucy (aka Sally) will also be joining up with us. Kris and I met Sally last year on our Brazil trip. If you can recall, Sally (we like to call her Lucy) is from the UK and met me in Greece this past September. She is absolutely hysterical and will round out the Dumb & Dumber duo quite nicely. Instead of Dumb & Dumber, it will be Dumb, Dumber & Dumbest do Africa. Who is Dumbest you ask? Well, I am sure that our roles of who is dumbest will change on a daily basis.
The G Adventure tour travels through South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. There will be some camping involved (lord help me), as well as some rustic lodges. The itinerary is quite spectacular so I can’t wait to share my adventures with you all.
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Our journey there is going to be a long one as we go from Edmonton to Calgary. Then to Amsterdam and on to Johannesburg. We arrive late at night and don’t leave for Port Elizabeth until the next morning so we have booked a hotel for those few hours. I am unsure how good our internet connection will be once we are there. From past experiences I can expect it to be pretty spotty with electricity cuts being a common occurrence. Needless to say, I will write as I go and send off my emails when I reach areas with WiFi. Everyone keeps telling me to promise them to not injure myself. I can’t make any promises but I will try my very best! The problem with me is that I usually sustain my injuries during the most mundane activities like walking to the breakfast table. I am going to be as cautious as I possibly can – that I can promise.
Anyway, I look forward to sharing my adventures with all of you. Thanks so much for all your love, support and interest in my travels. It means the WORLD to me!
See you on the FLIP side!

Ps. I got key chains made for Kris, Lucy and I and here is the picture on the key chain. I tried to get a photo of each of us looking our dumbest!

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The one on top was the winner, but the bottom two were runner-ups.

Am I too old for this? Nahhhhh

Meeting up at the joining tour group hotel was a tad interesting. I had one of those ‘oh shit I’m too old for this’ moments. The taxi drops me off and music is pumping from the hotel…kids are walking around bare foot and carrying skateboards. I get to the counter and there’s ear plugs in a candy jar. I’m thinking what the hell kind of place is this? They check me in and walk me to my room. When I open the door I finally realize this is not a hotel but a backpackers hostel. My room has two bunk beds and a shared bathroom. Oh dear lord! I am far too old for this. I haven’t stayed in a youth hostel since I was back in Australia. I was far younger and more tolerant back then! But that’s ok…gotta roll with the punches. Turns out they put me in the wrong room and I do get a private room with one of the other girls on my tour.
Meeting up with the group is always interesting. You meet up as total strangers and by the third day in we are probably taking a pee in the bush next to each other. Relationships on tours form at warp speed, but the first ‘hello’s’ are always a little nerve wracking. This time there’s a real mix of ages. I’m guessing anywhere from 21-60. I don’t feel like the granny on this trip this time! This group has an abundance of Canadians. And if you can imagine a father/daughter duo from Edmonton of all places. We also have people from the UK, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Germany. My roommate’s name is Stef and she is from Germany but I just tell her she’s from Douche Land!
Today we drove up the west coast to a South African town named Lambert’s Bay. Driving down our highways at home we pass by cows, horses and hay bales..not here…the first crazy thing I saw were flamingos. Tons of them. And when they fly one behind each other and swoop around, it truly took my breath away. We also saw ostrich and springbok (well I think they were springbok).  I really do slap myself to make sure this is real. baby monkey
We made a pit stop at this odd truck stop. As you walk in it was like an eclectic mix of knitted goods, souvenirs, pop, birds and monkeys. I thought someone might have slipped me some drugs and I was tripping. Out the back were cages and cages of macaws and other parrots. Although the signs that were plastered everywhere told us that we shouldn’t stick our hands near the cage I really couldn’t resist. I had a couple of the parrots entranced with my bird whisperer magic and they had me rubbing their necks and heads.
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And the birds just kept coming. We made a stop at Bird Island where there were literally at least 20 000 Cape Gannets. These are massive 5lb birds swooping and huddled in one small area. The smell was intense and this would not be a place for anyone that’s afraid of birds.
… I wrote this yesterday and today spent the day traveling into Namibia. Can I tell you the temperature was 45 Celsius!!!! I will give you more tomorrow, if I don’t melt

Cape Town Continues to Impress

 Day 3 in Cape Town and this place does not get old. It blows my mind actually, because this city is the exact opposite of any image you have in your mind when you think of Africa. It’s roads and infrastructure are like any first world western city. (Maybe even a bit better)  I am told that this is the direct effect from apartheid. Only the privileged had access to this part of the city. The city was built for the white upper class, and when you leave the ‘bubble’ you are suddenly faced with shanty tin squatter shacks that line the highway for miles. How is it possible that a country that seems so affluent by the looks of its clean city streets be a place of complete and utter poverty? Humanity is extremely unfair! Spending the last few days with Marlan and picking his brain has been fascinating. It makes me appreciate Canada and how accepting we are of everyone. (not to say we don’t have our issues, but this just is on a different scale) Racism and segregation breeds poverty. Lack of education and access to it causes further divide. I am told that there is a shift and change is slowly happening. They are trying to build low income housing near the squatters.  What I found so bizarre are the tin shacks that are squatting on government land have a spider webs of electric wires coming from the roofs. So my question is who is paying for electricity? Boggles my mind.
Anyway…on to less serious differences. When my vegetarian pizza had toppings of baby marrow and brinjal I was stumped as to what this could be. Any guesses? Baby marrow is zucchini and brinjal is eggplant. Who would have thunk? As well, aluminum is more expensive than tin here so all their pop cans are made of tin. Crazy huh! Try crushing a can on your forehead here and you will walk away with a headache!
Ok…pause. Must go to sleep. I will continue this rant tomorrow.caracal
Yesterday was pretty spectacular. Marlan picked me up and we headed outside of the city to the Stellenbosch vineyards for a little wine tasting. He got a little turned around and instead of finding a winery we stumbled across the coolest thing. A cheetah sanctuary! Here I got to get up close and personal with a bunch of different wild cats. Yes…my kind of heaven! The primary reason for the decrease in population for cats like cheetahs and caracals in this region is that these cats come on to farm land and raid the livestock. Farmers end up shooting or poisoning them. So this sanctuary raises big Shepard dogs to protect the livestock. The program pays for all food and vet costs of the dogs for one year.If after a year the farmer wants to keep the dog they would take on the cost. The cat population has steadily increased since. Genius! So to my delight I got to go in the enclosure one on one with the handler and the big cats. I spent time with baby and adult cheetahs as well as the pointy eared Lynx-like caracal. It was madness!Cheetah Encounterscheetah
Of course in the end we did find some vineyards and I got rather tipsy from all the tasting! At one place, a tasting of 6 wines (glass half full) cost a mere $1.50 cad!!!!
Today I had booked a trip to Robben Island. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. I was very much looking forward to this experience however things don’t always go according to plan. The winds picked up today and they can’t get boats out due to large swells. Grrrrrr.
Instead today will be a day of chilling out before meeting up with my tour group tonight. One thing I have to say is that this massive world of ours is very small. Remember when I lived with a group of girls in Australia back in 2001/2002? We called ourselves the Bondi Babes and have kept in touch ever since. Today I will be meeting up with one of the ‘Babes’ parents. Jeni from England’s parents live here a couple of months out of the year and I’m lucky enough to have a visit today. Tomorrow I will start the next chapter of this journey by leaving the beautiful oasis of Cape Town and heading north through South Africa.

The First Glimpse of Cape Town

Hey Everyone!
 I’m here! At the bottom of the earth! After a grueling 27 hours of travel,  I made it into Cape Town on Saturday night. The beauty of arriving at night is that it is a big surprise when you wake up the next day and head outside. You just never know what is around the corner!1
Yesterday I spent the day at the V&A Waterfront. This Marina and harbour is full of beautiful and historical buildings dating back to the late 1800’s. The buildings remain in tact, but inside are neat shops and markets that make for a great afternoon of people watching.
After a lovely invitation to go ‘clubbing’ by my waiter I quickly decided I’d be less conspicuous by heading to the Two Oceans Aquarium. Who knew that this would also become a place of birth control? I have never seen so many children running around in all m2[1]y life. This little German kid told me not to stick my hand in the sting ray tank…I told the kid to go to Heil Hitler! Kidding. I smiled and nodded and slowly side-stepped  away… As I sat there transfixed by the massive sharks in the predator tank I was rudely interrupted by another little demon who stuck a bloody lollipop  to my leg.  Piss on this attraction…it was time to move my ass out of the child vortex and head outside into the sun.
Today was an amazing day. I was picked up by the friend of a friend of a friend named Marlan. He’s this chipper fella who was ready to be my guide. We first drove to Simon’s Town where we had lunch. I had just finished telling Marlan about my love of animals when I nearly tripped over a decomposing rat with maggots all over it. I had to clarify that living non-rodents would be preferable. So we went to the famous Boulder’s Beach where we saw hundreds of African Penguins in their natural habitat. You could literally walk right up to the penguin and sit down next to it while it sunned itself on the rock. It was so cool.4[1]
Driving along the scenic coast was amazing. The water is a turquoise blue and the beaches are powder white. This city is simply gorgeous and the only fault that I can find is that the water is so bloody cold. If you are brave enough to subject your body to utterly freezing temperatures, you might walk out a Popsicle, or worse, be an afternoon treat for the plethora of sharks. Shark signs that line the beach just don’t give tourists like me a vote of confidence for a leisurely swim in the sea!3[1]
After supper we took a cable car up Table Mountain. This is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and when you get to the top there is no denying this! Table Mountain looks particularly dramatic as it rises almost straight from the sea ending in a virtually flat-topped peak. What took my breath away was the continuous rolling of clouds just below. It was like you were walking high above the clouds and it’s just one of those places where you can’t fully grasp it’s beauty. After watching the sun set we made our way down. Cape Town truly is a city like no other10[1]

And the One-man show has left the building

Some of you are new to my adventure escapades, while others have been around the block (or world) with me a few times and have shared in my travel blunders and highlights through my personal emails. Whether you are new or old, I hope that I can share a piece of the world with you and entertain you in some capacity.

 

Tomorrow I venture off on a 25 hour journey to the other side of the world. I will start off in Cape Town, South Africa where I will be on my own for the first 5 days. I am planning to meet up with a friend of a friend of a friend named Marlan, who has said he will show me around. I am looking so forward to seeing this city, as it seems like there is so much to do and experience. Next Wednesday I will meet up with a G Adventure Group. From there we will take off north up through Namibia, then Botswana and finally Zambia.

 

It is perfect timing that I leave, as I just was informed that I opened a major virus onto the University system. I am actually at work right now, trying to finish all loose ends when the IT team flew in and took my computer away from me.  Why not leave with a bang right?

So here I go … and I look forward to you joining me on this crazy adventure!
The G Adventures Tour that I will take – G Adventures Cape Town to Victoria Falls