This read is a lot longer than I’m supposed to make my blog, but I really can’t leave anything out.. I’m happy to say, the past week of my life has been filled with excitement and adventure. While getting to learn more about the South African landscape, I experienced the wildlife with my own eyes.. Not only the beauty of it, but also the danger.
Last wednesday, I checked the weather forecast for the weekend and decided that high 20s celsius would be perfect for a 4 day “Garden Route” tour. I’ve heard from other tourists that the scenery is so beautiful, that I can’t leave SA without seeing it, plus I really wanted to see a game reserve. So, I left the next morning on a minibus with 5 other people touring SA. Maudi (tour guide from Durban), Karin and Rolf (Swiss), Elena (Russia), Jonas (Germany) and me!
We made our first stop in the early afternoon at a place called the “Garden Route Game Lodge” (http://www.grgamelodge.co.za/). I was so excited because we had a safari tour of the reserve planned, so I could see lots of African wildlife from a 4×4. Upon arrival, we all got out of the bus, and walked up to what looked like an outdoor reptile enclosure, but we couldn’t see anything. The others cracked a couple jokes about a croc jumping out at us… Since my attention span isn’t that long and I couldn’t see anything, I continued to wander towards to lodge, excited to begin the tour. Rolf and Elena did the same. We didn’t get too far away when we heard yelling. Rolf and I figured they were joking, but the yelling “help!” continued, so we hurried back to see what was going on. I saw Maudi kicking somthing, then Jonas fall onto the ground in the tall grass by the enclosure, with Karin crouching beside him. Karin and Maudi looked panicked as they helped walk Jonas to the parking area. When we asked what was going on, they said that a crocodile had bit Jonas’ hand and wouldn’t let go! First thing I did was look to see that Jonas still had all of his limbs. It looked like a few teeth holes in his hand. Everyone was in shock to say the least.. I followed Karin’s lead and helped to wash Jonas’ hand of the mud and blood. Then reserve workers came and bandaged him up, put him in a car, and rushed him to the hospital. I took a photo of workers arriving with rocks on a trailer to fill the hole that the croc came out of. Apparently it had dug its way under the stone fence enclosure.
Once Jonas had left, we got the full story.. Maudi,Karin and Jonas were walking around the outside of the crocdile enclosure, where the grass was high. Jonas lost his flip flop in a hole around the edge, but it was on the OUTSIDE of the enclosure, so first Karin reached in to try and get it, but couldn’t find it. Then Jonas reached in, and the croc grabbed onto his hand. Karin kicked and punched the large head of the croc trying to get it to let go, then Maudi gave it a few kicks with some leverage from the rock wall and it finally let go. They had to turn the croc and Jonas’ hand right side up, because the croc was trying to twist. Luckily it didn’t have too much wiggle room, because that’s how they eat their prey.. In pieces.
We were all pretty shaken up, and eating lunch was a task. I imagine it would have been pretty tasty. Springbok (game meat) on a greek type salad. Even though Jonas couldn’t come, we went on our safari around the reserve and saw lots of interesting animals up close. We didn’t get too close to the lions though. I wasn’t disappointed at all, because my nerves were shot after the crocodile incident. We asked the safari tour guide if incidents have ever happened like this before, and they said, “never”. I attached some photos from the grame drive safari below.
After our safari, we went to the hospital to see Jonas. The hospital seemed really nice and clean inside. The crocodile broke his 4th finger, so he needed surgery and to stay in the hospital for the whole weekend. What an unforunate thing to happen. He was disappointed, but hopefully he will do the tour another time when his hand heals. I found it interesting that before administering antibiotics, the hospital needed a credit card. I have heard from other people, medical care requires a passport and a credit card. This is a good thing to keep in mind for all of you who plan to visit South Africa.
We spent our first night at a backpacker on a beach in the “Wilderness” area. It was nice to sit around a camp fire and relax with a couple of beers.
The next morning, we went canoeing in a river surrounded by beautiful mountains. It was very peaceful listening to the birds, even though in my head they kept saying, “work harder, work harder”.. My flatmate Tom taught me how to identify the Cape Turtle-Dove and the Red-eyed Dove by relating words to their sounds. The Red-eyed Dove says, “I am the Red-eyed Dove, I am the Red-eyed Dove”. It’s very annoying, lol.
After canoeing, I walked with the elephants. Amazing experience. I got to touch Jabu, and take pictures with him. Then I walked with Marula. Elephants are such powerful animals.. As I walked with Marula’s tusk in my hand, she pushed me along while covering my hand in snot. haha! Pretty gross, but it’s worth the experience.
We drove a bit further to a giant bridge.. Most would call it just a large bridge, but when you jump off it, it seems a lot higher than that.. Bloukran’s Bridge is the highest bungy bridge in the world (photo below). I wasn’t planning on doing it, but for 750 Rand (less than 100 canadian), I couldn’t pass it up. Karin and I, along with about 5 other people walked along a see-through metal bridge to get to the bungy jump area of Bloukrans. I watched 3 people jump off before it was my turn. Heart pounding, silly me, peeked over the edge before I went over. Luckily the guys who tied my legs up gave me a good push at the count of 3. Within seconds, it’s over. I don’t even remember falling. I just remember looking down, and then flipping around a bit, and then just waiting, trying not to panic while I waited for someone to come down and get me. Because it’s just your ankles tied up, you feel like it might slip over your feet, so I flexed my feet while I waited (not sure if that would have done any good) haha! I am really glad I did it, and am suprised how much scarier it was than my sky dive (I did a tandem dive in NZ a few years ago). I suggest that everyone tries both 🙂 You can watch my bungy jump video on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-qniQyAj9s&feature=youtu.be
That night, we stayed in a backpacker in the Tsitsikamma area. Our tour guide did something a little extra for us, because of what happened with Jonas. He made us an amazing braai (bbq) dinner. I enjoyed every bite of the pork steaks and sausages, salad and bread. We talked with a couple who were also staying at the backpacker. They were from St.Catherine’s Ontario, and were spending 12 days on a bicycle tour trip on the Garden Route. I spent most of the evening chatting with Karin. She told me of her experiences volunteering in a Cape Town medical clinic. She has been a nurse back home in Switzerland for over 9 years, and loves her job.
The next morning, as we drove to Tsitikamma National Park, I saw wild baboons hanging out at the side of the road on our way (photos below). I freaked out a bit as Maudi slowed down the bus and opened my window, lol! In Cape Town, baboons are known to be quite smart and agressive. They know how to open doors and are theives with a mean bite. Some of them are very large as well. Apparently the Tsitsikamma baboons aren’t as bad though. Sometimes they steal from campers and the rangers will come and chase them away.
While in the park, we watched a whale swimming not too far off the coast, and then walked through the woods. Along the boardwalk, we saw some indigenous plant life, along with Dassies (photo). They are very cute, rodent like animals. They are pretty unexciting though. They just sit and stare at you. Once we got across a suspension bridge, I sat with Maudi for a bit, and taught him about some of the rocks (I studied geology at Western).
The weather was cloudy on the park side of the mountains, so we drove around the other side where the sky was cloudless and the sun was hot. I can’t remember the name of the beautiful beach we went to, but we sunbathed and put our feet in the Indian Ocean for a while. Some local kids came over to play, bury our feet and laugh while throwing sand at us. haha!
Before I came to South Africa, I didn’t know that people could ride an Ostrich. What a silly thing to do.. get on, and hang on for dear life! haha. We went to an ostrich farm to learn more about these massive birds, to hand feed and touch them, and to ride them. I have a couple funny photos below. I giggled a lot during this tour. Turns out that a single ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 25 chicken eggs. You can boil it if you like.. it takes a few hours, and then you can crack it open with a hammer. Personally, I’d rather just eat the ostrich. Very tasty.
We spent our final night of the tour in a backpacker in Oudtshoorn. We had delicious Ostrich kabobs and ostrich sausage for dinner with some wine. It was really enjoyable sitting with my tour group while eating a nice dinner. That evening, we roasted marshmellows at a camp fire, drank beer, and hung out with some other people at the backpacker. There were other tour groups who had heard about the crocodile attack, so Karin and I ended up telling the story a few times. What a story it is to tell. Jonas will have croc bite scars on his hand for the rest of his life.
On my last day of the tour, we stopped at the “Cango Caves” for a cave adventure. I was the only one who wanted to do the “adventure tour” so I went solo on that one. I have gone spelunking in Ontario before, in caves with a head lamp, so it wasn’t as scary for me. I really enjoyed looking at the rock formations. It is the largest and oldest cave I’ve ever been in. FYI, The cave is made of limestone (calcite). The hanging formations are called stalactites, and the formations growing upwards from the ground are called stalagmites. These formations continue to grow until the reach each other to form a column.. then the colum continues to grow wider and wider. Amazing.. Growing rocks 🙂
It was a 6 hour drive back to Somerset West. We stopped half way to pick up Jonas and take him the rest of the way back with us. There is a photo of him and I at “Ronnie’s Sex Shop”. His hand should make a full recovery 🙂 And the story about Ronnie’s is that it was just a pub and shop called “Ronnie’s Shop”, until someone got drunk one night and changed the name. Apparently the new name brought in more customers, and it’s not a popular tourist stop along Route 62.
I must say, in my whole life, this is the most excitement I have ever experienced in such a short span of time…
I now have Switzerland on my travel bucket list 🙂
To all of my old friends and new, I hope you enjoyed reading! See you all, hopefully before too long!
– Stef, South Africa