Buenos Aires to Cape Town and Into the Quiet

Jess here!

Sorry for the long delay in posting, but I’ve spent my time over the last few weeks visiting with some close friends, accepting the fact that South Africa does not have easy internet access like South America, and of late, adjusting to life without Jodi. This is the summary of the time from Buenos Aires to Cape Town and then through parts of South Africa.

Before I get to what I’ve done, I want to take a second to remind everyone to send Jodi get well wishes so she can come back for the rest of the trip…. Jodi – I miss you and it’s not the same here without you. So rest up, drink some OJ and come back soon!

Buenos Aires

As for me (and Jodi for most of the time), we spent out last week in south america in Buenos Aires, at my friend Karla’s apartment. Having both been to Buenos Aires, we spent the week getting some much-needed r&r; (Jodi in bed blowing her nose and me watching hours of mindless tv and just vegging out). It was a much-needed time out. Except for one massive hiccup…. me and my you-can’t-make-this-crap-up experience with DHL. On this trip, we’ve survived a lot, from border crossings to Bolivian buses to spider bites.

That said, this DHL debacle was almost the end of me. All I tried to do was have a package sent from the US to Buenos Aires. It seems that is, however, harder to do than get a Bolivian visa. Sparing you all the gory but crazy details, retrieving the DHL package my brother sent me encompassed going not just once, but twice, to a DHL office on the other side of town, 14 long phone calls to customer service by Jodi, Karla and Karla’s assistant (who each got different explanations as to why my package was being held by customs), a notarized fax sent by my brother to DHL Buenos Aires confirming that I am the recipient, a $70 trip to the airport over an hour away, and $60 in customs fees.

If my replacement ATM card was not being held captive in that package, I would have had them return to sender. However, once the ATM card was safe in hand, I put the debacle behind me and enjoyed the reminder of my time with Karla (Karla – thanks for all your hospitality and generosity…. enjoy Macchu Picchu).

Cape Town

We left Buenos Aires after a week and headed to Africa! Our first stop…. Cape town! having never been anywhere in Africa, we were heading out of the comfort zone of south america and into the unknown. With the Atlantic ocean and Table Mountain as its backdrop, Cape Town is a visual masterpiece.

Or at least that’s what I realized a week into our stay, as the first 5 days were a wash-out, soaking wet as we all were. And by we, I mean me, Jodi and my friend Kerry, who had planned her Africa vacation around my arrival in Cape Town. We had but a week with Kerry, and we spent the first few days wondering if the second coming of Noah and his ark had arrived.

Despite the weather, we managed to squeeze out an amazing time… with a trip to the vineyards, nights out on long street, and shark-diving. Kerry and I went out on a half-day shark-diving excursion (Jodi saved her money for her awesome skydiving trip), where you don a 5mm wetsuit and submerge yourself into the freezing Atlantic trapped in a steel cage, waiting for great white sharks to get within feet of you. And we paid good money for this. I did question my sanity when the sharks swam by… it was terrifying to see them so close and literally look right at you, all the while having John William’s famous alternating note score in your mind. We definitely got the adrenaline rush we paid for (and some seasickness we did not).

And then finally, on one of our last days in cape town, the skies cleared and we got a glimpse of table mountain from the street. We promptly flagged the first taxi in sight, and booked it to the cable car that takes you up the mountain. This cable car takes you over 300 ft above sea level, spinning to give passengers a 360 degree view of the area. Those who know me well know that I’m not happy about going anywhere in a tin soup can attached to a piece of floss. Let alone one that rotates. So I handed my camera to kerry to take pictures of the view.

However, once “safely” atop the mountain (it’s all relative because I had to survive the ride down), we took an hour hike and saw the views of the ocean, the city, and the table-cloth of fog that began to roll over the mountain. definitely worth the week’s wait.

After a tearful goodbye to kerry (I miss you already, ker), Jodi and I bought a 14 day pass to the Baz Bus (a hop-on/hop-off bus service around South Africa).

As you know from Jodi’s posting, she was still quite ill and went home before we hit our first destination, the wild coast of South Africa (home to the Xhosa people). I continued on alone, heading to a tiny village on the indian ocean called Cintsa, where I checked into this amazing backpackers (what they call hostels inSouth Africa) called Buccaneers.

I spent my time there doing yoga, running on the indian ocean, and catching some sun. I stayed in my dorm with two South African guys (Kenny and Greg), who provided endless hours of entertainment and even cooked me a traditional braai one evening.

Ater unwinding in this tiny village, I moved along to another town called Port St. Johns. Port St. Johns is “larger” than Cintsa (it has an ATM and a market in its “town”), but still exudes the same laid back vibe. I met up with Kenny and Greg again, and Yasmin, a New Yorker (first one on the trip!) on her way to grad school in Boston, met up with me a day or so later.

I was still in this zen place inPort St. Johns, spending my days taking leisurely hikes (of course I still managed to fall and bruise my ankle up a bit) and sitting in the sun.

With my energy now restored, I bused it for a day and half to st Lucia estuary, on the elephant coast of South Africa and in the heart of the Zulu kingdom. The st Lucia estuary is a world heritage site and famous wetlands reserve.

It’s home to many of South Africa’s wildlife, including hippos… who literally roam the streets at night. I traveled there with two other women I met (Siobhan and Janie, both of whom have been traveling (not together) for about 8 months). Besides providing great insight into their round the world experiences, they were also great company.

We went on an evening game drive, where I had conflicted feelings about not seeing any hippos (downside: no hippos, upside: no hippos). The next morning we got up early for a 3 hour walk through the game reserve. zebras and warthogs were roaming freely within feet of us. Then we wove our way around to the river, and there about 10 meters ahead of us, were the hippos. I learned that hippos don’t swim, they simply walk on the ocean floor for up to seven minutes, and then poke their heads out for air. They are also the second most dangerous animal (behind the buffalo… hippos do kill more humans each year, but buffalo are considered more dangerous because they are unpredictable and more aggressive).

All that separated me from the second most dangerous animal was a 10 foot ridge before the river edge. I immediately stopped humming hakuna matada and making hungry, hungry hippo comments. I was mesmerized by them. After watching them for about 15 minutes, we headed back past the zebras and warthogs to safety. It was intense.

That afternoon, Janie and I went to watch the crocodiles at the reserve get their weekly feeding. The game worker got within feet of the crocs and tossed chickens to them (if you are anything like me, you’re wondering how that could at all be safe… turns out that crocs only attack humans when very hungry, so the fact they were being fed kept him free from harm). I learned a lot about crocs and alligators, especially ways to avoid an attack or what to do if attacked, all things I’m sure I will forget if ever in one of those situations. My evening was rounded out with a performance of original Zulu dance and some beers. all in all, my time in st Lucia was chock full of adrenaline and culture.

Currently, I’m headed towards Johannesburg to catch my flight to Namibia, where I begin my 9-day trip through Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. I then have 2 days to make my way to Tanzania, where I am going on a 7-day safari through the Serengeti.

Having had a taste of safari life, I’m very excited. As mentioned, the Internet is scarce in South Africa, but I’m hoping to upload my pictures soon.

Get better soon Jodi!

-Jess