Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Table Mountain and Table-Top Dancing

I met a German guy travelling with his dad and brother who offered me a ride to Table Mountain. The one son, who stayed behind with his dad, suggested that I hike a 'different and more fun' route with his brother. The words 'different and more fun' instantly appealed to me, but really they should have been a big neon sign that said 'bad idea.'

We set off for the 'different' route that zig-zagged up and across Table Mountain from the backside. Everything was going great until the trail dead-ended right at a big rock/boulder. Turning around and going back down the steep rocky mountain was not an ideal option, nor was climbing rocks with my shoulder but this option seemed more likely to get us to our end destination...SO, after some exploration, we found that we could climb up and over this rock and get to something that seemed like a trail. Throughout our ascent, we had several moments of disappearing paths, and 3 big rocks/boulders to climb and one rock boulder that I had to have the guy pull me up and over (a bit reminiscent of Mt Kili!). As the mountain got progressively steeper, so much that I was too nervous to look down below me, I silently cursed myself, wondering why I can't do anything the 'normal' way.

The good news is that we finally joined a real path. The bad news is that we ran into 2 South African guys who said that in all of the mist and rain, we missed the connecting path to the 'normal' route to the Table Mountain viewpoint and if we continue in the direction we were going in, we would hike for 5-6 more hours and reach a dead-end. And if we turned around and tried to find the path connecting to the 'normal' route, we would probably get lost in all of the mist again and end up camping on the mountain. (Oh, and we also apparently missed the wooden sign in the bushes that said: 'Dangerous - Do not go on this trail.')

So....I chose Option C) hike down the mountain with these 2 South African guys and then get a ride back with them to the main trail head and go home. I made it back safe and sound. I just did not get to the Table Mountain viewpoint where the cable cars (and normal tourists) go... :(

But no time to lament, on to an evening of dancing. We did dance the night away, but don't worry, there were no table tops involved....Despite the stories that Patty had told the guys. Patty, you got the part right about me being a dancing queen, but me dancing on bars and table tops, really? Ok, so I did do that when I was 22 in Australia (and I should add that I won a 3-day island excursion off of the East Coast in Oz for my fabulous dance moves) BUT those days are over. I am so much more refined now in my 'old' age, dancing ON the dance floor...until the club closes.

And this is exactly how I left South Africa - a mini pub crawl with Dumi, Kieran and Stu and then we danced at the Mercury Lounge with all the 18 year olds in Capetown who were out for a big Monday night.

Dumi, Kieran and Stu, you questioned my tolerance and whether I liked to dance - Well, I believe that question has been answered :)

AND after my 4:30am arrival home, I did manage to wake up at 7 to take the Cable Car to the Top of Table Mountain, so I could actually step foot on the 'table' (flat-part/viewpoint) of Table Mountain where the normal tourists go.

And with that....my adventures in Africa have sadly come to an end.

Dirty Skirts - Tight Pants

While I do have a dirty skirt in my bag - it was once gray and now it is borderlining a light brown color...soon to be viewed in almost every photo of me in Africa - this is not what my blog title is referring to. On Sunday night, I went to see an Indie rock South African band called the Dirty Skirts at this killer outdoor venue in Capetown (Kirstenbosch Gardens). Everyone sits on the grass and there are stunning views of mountains and Capetown around the stage. Plus, you can bring in all the food and alcohol that you want and there are no long queues to security check your bags like in the States.

My good friend P.B. (Patty Buckley) put me in contact with friends that she met when she was working in Capetown - Stuart, Dumi and Kieran. I had the pleasure of their fabulous company and only had to endure an American joke here and there...and some poking of fun of my one-armed shoulder concert dance.

Check out the band's music at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dirty-Skirts/6602185813

The lead singer of the Dirty Skirts quite possibly wore the tightest pants I have seen on a man. Looks like Indie rock fashion is universal.

NEXT STOP: Hiking Table Mountain

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Keeping Left...While Stopping Off at a Winery or Two

There is something very freeing about hopping in a car with no specific plans and just driving. I managed to stay on the left side of the road and I circumvented the round-abouts with ease.

(Moment to pause as I am patting myself on the back)

I stopped off at places from locals' suggestions. I ended at a lodge called Tranquility Lodge in Nature's Valley and decided to stay for 2 nights there because it was pure relaxation...and stunning. AND there was a gourmet chef at the Guesthouse and I can't pass up on phenomenal food! Each night consisted of walking along the beach, starry sky, but not too starry because it was a Full Moon - again Stunning!

I then drove a scenic route to wine country - 10 hours. (Thank You Apple for the iPod.) I stopped off at a Port winery and did some port tasting. I then realized that port makes me sleepy. So, I stopped off for a coffee. And you all know how I don't drink caffeine, so that wired me to drive all the way into wine country where I stopped off at 4 wineries and did some 'mild' wine tasting before I ended up at a quaint guesthouse surrounded by mountains.

Saturday: the grand master plan was to do a half day wine tasting and then drive into Capetown. After testing out my swirling technique with my red glass of wine and having that glass end up on my only clean shirt, I realized that I should spend another night in wine country and forego the drive back to Capetown.

So naturally, I extended my wine tour to a full day...and drank more.

Oh, the life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Taking the Plunge: 216 Meter (709 feet) Bungee Jump

I arrived into Capetown airport with no plans/reservations. I finally found a car rental place that would rent me an automatic car AND i managed to talk the guy down on the price, paying the same amount I would have paid for a week bus pass. It's amazing how a little smile can go a long way! :) I drove straight out of Capetown. Destination: One of the World's Highest Bungee jumps. A pure freefall swinging bungee from a single cord.

I am not going to ask for bets from you on whether I did the jump because I know you would probably think the following:

- Why wouldn't she? She has already jumped off a bridge in New Zealand.

- Why wouldn't she? This jump is even higher at 216 meters (709 feet)

- Why wouldn't she? the 2nd bounced after she jumps will take her as high as the Vic Falls

- Why wouldn't she? It's been close to a month since she dislocated her shoulder.

- Why wouldn't she? It's Jeanne, and we all know that she's crazy :)

You guys know me so well! Of course, I did it and I am STILL on a high! They literally duct-taped my arm to my body to make sure I would not dislocate my shoulder again. I turned off my brain and jumped! My thought process went a bit like this:

* Holy Shit, I jumped
* Of F*ck, I am falling fast
* Crap, my face feels like it is flattening
* Is this painful?
* Am I having fun?
* Shit, that's the ground coming at me
* Wow, I am being pulled back up again
* Is my shoulder still intact?
* Oh F*ck, i am falling back down again and i think i am spinning
* Shit Yeah, i think i am having fun!
* Oh my god, look at that view
* Oh no, is it done already?!?!

And with that, i got pulled back up toward the bridge.

My other great accomplishment on that bridge was that there was a girl who was 80% convinced of jumping and was about to say no. I walked over to her and asked what her concerns were. I helped her breakdown her worries. I gave her some words of encouragement and told some motivational stories and she ended up doing it! ANd she survived AND she liked it! I may have my new profession: Motivational Bungee Jump Coach.

NEXT STOP: Hiking in that Tsitsikamma Mountains in Nature's Valley on the Garden Route

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trip to a South African Health Clinic: Malaria or Malaria-Free?

So, I was planning on a different post. It was supposed to talk about .....(Is this deja vu from Feb 1?) my trip to Zambia (which I am going to tell you about anyway...malaria story to be continued).

...I was supposed to talk about how I got pissed and pissed on at the Vic Falls (that's drunk and rained on for my American counterparts). I did a sunset cruise of the Zambezi river with an Irish guy, Steve, and 3 English couples - a great crew really. It turned not only into a sunset cruise, but a booze cruise as John, the boat captain, kept pouring me glass upon glass of free wine. After the trip, we slightly stumbled out of the boat and got into the van with the driver, Franco. When Steve and I were the only remaining ones to be dropped off at our hotel, I asked Franco, 'What do locals in Livingstone, Zambia do on a Monday night?' Without hesitation, he said: 'drink.' So, I naturally said, 'Well, why don't we take a detour and go to the local bar and we will buy you a drink.' I was speaking for Steve, but luckily, he was a good sport and went along with my plan! The dive bar had a pool table and we took on some locals in a few games of pool. I think I made 1 shot during all of the games, BUT i sure did make a lot of friends. I was such the social butterfly that the next day when I got a drive to the Vic Falls, I was chatting with the driver telling him how I checked out his local bar last night, and he responded: 'I know I was at the bar playing pool with you.'........

The Vic Falls. One Word: Stunning.

They are almost a mile long and the spray was so massive that it felt like it was raining, more like pouring, on us. I was absolutely drenched. I don't think pictures will do the Falls justice.

I also planned on sharing about my drive from Zambia to Jo'burg via Botswana with the guys (Willie tour leader from SA, Chris tour leader from Zimbabwe, Steve from Scotland, Glenn from NZ) - a fun group of guys. I introduced them to S'mores, but they preferred their beers and ciggies. They really don't know what they missed!

Ok, I guess i should get to the story behind the title of my blog.......

Long Story Short: I was puking like the exorcist, showing signs of malaria - puke, fever, body ache, headache, exhausted. I was told that I looked like death. We were in Kruger National Park where the gates closed at 6pm and there was no doctor in the gates. So, I had to pull through the night, listening to music, chatting with Willie and staring at the ceiling of my tent. Don't worry though...there is a happy ending to this story :)

I went to a doctor at a private health clinic. (I am apparently doing a tour of the African healthcare system). Doc confirmed that I was malaria-free and that I got some sort of African virus. Best news I have ever heard.

They then took me to a 5-star lodge and I just slept...and slept...and slept. Now it's March 9th and I am starting to feel human again! And according to the guys - looking a lot more human and pleasant than before the UAV: Unidentified African Virus.

I always say that you should try everything at least once.

Puking my brains out from UAV: Check

Next Stop: Capetown - maybe renting a car and driving up the cape....maybe a bungee jump?....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Uganda Highlights

I had a week in Uganda. A large portion of my trip was on the road, but I would stare out my window for hours and still be entertained. Some highlights during my stay in the "pearl of Africa" were:

Street View

- men biking with bananas or mataoke strapped to the sides of the bike
- women walking while balancing bananas, sacks or other miscellaneous items on their heads
- children playing with sticks and tires on the street
- my favorite: children running and smiling and waving as we drove by. It warmed my heart and made me smile and wave enthusiastically back each time!

Chimp Tracking
- I saw chimps at Kabale forest. They were so high up in the trees, they looked like piles of leaves in my pictures. I knew they were not leaves because every once in awhile they would throw a fig down at us or one of them would start peeing. Right when we were about to leave, the Head chimp decided to come down and then 8 or 9 others followed and then we followed them to into the forest!

River Rafting on the Nile

I was not sure if this was the smartest idea and I knew that if I got hurt I would have absolutely no sympathy from my friends or family. But I can't pass up on an opportunity like this :) and my shoulder is SO much better! The Nile was amazing. It was peaceful and beautiful and then there would be a huge rapid. I flipped out once and grabbed for my shoulder for dear life. All was ok. On the grade 5, 13.5 foot drop, I sucked up my pride and road in the safety boat. I did not need to dislocate my shoulder again. Still, it was loads of fun. After the raftintg, I drank a Nile beer on the Nile. Had to be done.

Drinking with Locals in Uganda

On the drive back to Kampala from River Rafting, there were 4 people from Kampala on the bus. I could tell instantly that they were loads of fun so I sat near them..and we drank 1 Nile, 2 Niles, 3 Niles...and were a bit Tipsy by the time we reached the city. I was staying outside of the center because I was flying out at 7am then next morning. I could go home and stay at the crappy hotel by myself...OR, I could take a taxi back into town and stay out all night with Brenda and Moses. Obviously, there is no question what I chose to do. We went to a local Rugby bar and then an African Dance club. I made it home in time to get an hours nap in before I had to wake up for my plane. Now, that is leaving Uganda in style...

NEXT STOP: Zambia to see the Victoria Falls..Then Botswana.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ode to Sharon, my Sherpa

Written on Feb. 24

Today my cousin, Sharon, departed after 23 days together. I'm sad to see her go and my 6hr ride to Uganda was very dull without her. So, I entertained myself by writing a poem in her honor.

Note: I am not a poet. I'm merely a girl with too much time on my hands.

So, Jocelyn and others, I'm sure you will have a little chuckle out of my attempt to rhyme, but at least I kept my verses consistent with 15-count time :)

Ode to Sharon, my Sherpa

You tied my shoes, even when I had to pee late in the night.

You even shaved my armpits, somehow that just doesn't seem right.

You never once audibly complained, self-pitied, moaned or whined.

Not even as you were puking up butter soup, while we dined.

You were my stylist, braiding my hair each day without a curse.

But later a mirror revealed, keep your day job as a nurse.

You joined my V-day game, singing tunes with 'love' words in the song.

2-plus hours later I can't believe you played with me that long.

You shared in my excitement, each day I could move my arm more.

Are you a good actor? Cuz to me that would have been a bore.

You were patient and fun, always laughing and sharing with me.

What more to ask in a travel mate, how lucky could I be?

We vowed we would never again hike in altitude that high.

But I heard there's an Argentina hike, higher in the sky.

Oh Sharon, my great Sherpa, what do you think of this new plan?

Next time, I'll be your devoted Sherpa and number one fan!