Can I tell you how seriously bummed I am to be back? South Africa is so amazing and I didn't even see a fraction of it! Hopefully I won't be so dead from the jetlag when I get home from work tonight that I'm too tired to pull the photos off my camera (like I was last night after 36-hours traveling) - if I get them off, I'll try and update with photos tonight. I took a ton, of course, and I can't wait to see them full size! In the meantime, a quick summary of the trip after my little update :)
Tuesday I went to Soweto and the Apartheid Museum. We saw the shanty town there and went through it and into one of the shacks. Unbelievable and humbling. After going to Nelson Mandela's house, the Hector Pieterson Museum and the Apartheid Museum, I had a much better understanding of the way things are and at times I was ashamed to be white! I couldn't even imagine living through something like that. Tuesday night Nicole, Gulcin, Connie, Jacob and I went to an African restaurant called Moyo. I ordered a dish called Cig Cig Wat which the server tried to tell me was an aquired taste that I might not like. He brought up a sample but I loved it - as did the entire table. We shocked him. lol. On the whole Nicole wasn't super impressed, but I thought it was delicious. Great atmosphere, great live music, delicious food. I need to learn to cook with spices like that. Such a difference!
Wednesday Nicole and I were on a 7am flight to Cape Town. What a gorgeous place! We checked into the V&A Waterfront Hotel which was amazing. We had a view of the harbor and Table Mountain from our room. After getting settled, we did one of those Hop-on-Hop-off double decker bus tours of the city. It also took us up to Table Mountain where we got off and took the cable car up to the top. What an amazing view! After the tour, we wandered through craft markets and explored the waterfront. We ended up having dinner at a popular mediterranian chain - Anat. Carved meat with humus, cabbage, eggplant and cucumber in pitas with falafel. Very nice. Then we hit the movies - we saw Employee of the Month which I quite enjoyed :)
Thursday we took an all-day tour of the cape. There are some stunningly gorgeous beaches in the area. We went to the Cape of Good Hope - the south-western most point of Africa. We also went to Cape Point and went up to the lighthouse. There are tons of baboons there - I have pictures of them sitting on the cars. As we were walking up, I heard something and turned around to see a big baboon running straight at me. Fortunately he ran past a little to the side. When we came back down from the top, we were just in time to see another baboon attack some lady who was eating ice cream in front of them. They like the people food apparently. We went to some little fishing villages - we were also going to go out to see the seals, but the boat was down for repairs that day. We stopped for a very late lunch at a little place right on the harbour which was delicious. After that, we went to see the South African Penguin colony just down the road off the beach. They were in the middle of hatching season so we saw lots of penguins sitting on their eggs and also lots of chicks. They call them jack-ass penguins and once you hear them, you know why. They sound like a cross between a goose and a donkey, but they were so cute.
Friday we were on the 6am flight back to Joberg where we rented a car and drove up into the bush. It was a beautiful drive - it goes into the Mpumalanga region and through the Drackensburg mountain range, which is stunning. Nicole was awesome driving on the other side of the road, and after only one wrong turn, we made it to Pezulu where we stayed in tree houses. The people who run it are so awesome and they treat all their guests like family. After checking in, we met everyone in the bar for drinks (where they were shocked that they met some Americans who didn't drink... lol. Apparently the ones they know all drink like fish.) We met the other couple who had just checked in (they were the only other guests) and then went down into an outdoor enclosure for dinner - they have a fabulous cook who brought out the most delicious African cuisine. We made arrangements for our game drive the next morning and then retired to our tree house, complete with outdoor bathroom and mosquito netting :D.
Saturday, we got up for a 6:30am game drive with Ettiene, our ranger, and Ronny. It was freezing, but it was just Nicole and I on the drive and it was unbelievable. I've wanted to go on safari for years now and never thought I'd be able to. I loved it. LOVED it! We saw rhinos, giraffes, wildebeast, warthogs, ostrich, and more. It was exhilerating just driving around in the bush and hunting for animals. We were going down an old riverbed when we were stopped by a huge aardvark hole in the middle of the road. Only after Ettiene got out to check it out did we realize how sandy it was. We tried for a while to get out on our own, but we were very firmly stuck in the sand and eventually had to call for a tow. In the meantime we just enjoyed being out in the bush, and hoped that the buffalo and leopards didn't find us... lol. We got out, though, and finished the drive which was followed up by an awesome brunch. That afternoon, Nicole's co-worker Connie flew in to join us, and after tea (and some time spent watching the SA v. England rugby match) we took off with Ettiene on an evening drive. This time we also saw zebra and buffalo, and then he took us to a hill where we could watch the sun set behind the mountains. It was stunning. Once it was dark, he pulled out the spotlight (and froze his hand off in the process) and we drove through the bush in the dark - we found eagles, an owl, and then cut into a clearing where we found zebra, ostrich, wildebeast and some buffalo all hanging out together. That little adventure was followed by another amazing dinner. This time we got to try a South African specialty - a Malay dish called Bobotie. So good! I'm definitely going to have to google the recipe.
Sunday, Ettiene woke us up at 5:30 - he was taking us to a park that was further out to try and find elephants which we all really wanted to see. As we were driving out of the grounds where we were staying, we saw wildebeast and zebra, and then buffalo further out, and then along the fence we saw giraffe, and even further we stopped for several minutes because there were 7 lions along the fence at the side of the road. They were just gorgeous! We figured it was a good omen that we saw so many animals before we even got to the reserve. Once there, we met West, the owner of Pezulu, who was flying over the park to try and find elephants for us. He couldn't find them from the air, so we tried to track them, but couldn't find any fresh tracks. We saw tons of animals, however, including hippos. As we came to the dam to look for the hippos, we saw a reptile tail heading into the grass. They have Nile Crocodiles there and we thought it might be one. Ettiene stopped the truck and shot out the door and headed down the hill after it before we could even look twice. I've never seen anyone move that fast! He came back up the hill dragging it by the tail while it tried to rip his arm off with its teeth. It turned out not to be a croc, but rather a Water Monitor or, as they're called there, a Leguaan. This one was more than 2 meters long and it was amazing! Once he had it subdued, we were all able to come in and pet it. So cool. Hopefully my pictures turned out well full size. Anyway, after that, we drove around some more but still couldn't find the elephants. We went back to the lodge for breakfast and then got cleaned up and checked out. I was more sad to leave Pezulu than I've been to leave anywhere in a long time. I could have stayed there at least week!
After we left Pezulu, we drove back out and took the Panoramic route through the Drakensburg mountains so we could see the Blyde River Canyon - it's the 3rd deepest canyon in the world. It was quite gorgeous, but I'm sure it would be been even cooler if it hadn't been winter and if we'd have had time to explore from a boat instead. At the end of the canyon we stopped in a place called Graskop for a famous local specialty. Pancakes. Only they serve them stuffed - I had a savory one stuffed with minced meat and spices with cheese. It was very nice. We also tasted one with bananas, homemade caramel sauce and cream. Totally decadent. After that, we continued to drive back to Johannesburg. We made it in once piece back to the Hyatt, thank goodness! and checked in about 10pm.
Monday, we got up and re-packed all of our suitcases, and then went out for some last minute shopping and food before heading to the airport. We hadn't been thinking about baggage when we planned, however, since we had bags for me plus Nicole and Connie who had both been there a month. Needless to say, the car was packed. Connie sat in the back with 3 suitcases and her feet up in the air and I had another one on my lap. We made it, though, and I got on the plane to begin the 36 hour trip back to Utah. We stopped in Frankfurt for about 6 hours, but it was raining so we didn't go out. Then Nicole and I split and I came through Cincinnati back to Salt Lake and got home last night. I think the jet-lag should hit me about 3pm... lol.
Anyway, that's the summary! We did so much, and I'm so sad to not be there anymore. It's such an amazing place with wonderful people. I'd go back in a heartbeat. I hope someday I'll get the chance :D And next time, I'll make sure to spend that full week at Pezulu ;)