We are now in Cape Town which is the last stop, I am flying home on Monday and getting back on Tuesday.
Since I last wrote we have covered a lot of distance and been to quite a few places:
A night in Swaziland Backpackers, Manzini. We arrived in the afternoon after getting a posher version of a chapas from Maputo, it was another annoyingly hot journey because people just didn't open the windows. Before the bus left we had to wait over an hour for it to fill up. Mark was pretty ill that day and the previous night. Swaziland Backpackers was lovely and we just chilled out there, we went in the pool but it was COLD.
The next morning we got on the Baz Bus for a LONG drive to Durban where we arrived quite late. We were right by the beach there in Antsty's Backpackers, and they had a lovely pool, but it was raining and cold until the morning we left which was beautiful! We sat on the beach watching the surf while we waited for the Baz Bus. So we spent our full day in Durban basically eating and watching films. We met some interesting people there like Tony who is Guatamalan and has been travelling for the last 10 years and it currently living in London working as a wine taster! Also Dean and Tania who work and live there and gave us a really good insight into what it is like to be South African, the things they said were really informative and interesting, but there was a lot that was very dark like the politics and AIDS issues.
Next stop was Port St Johns which is quite near to Coffee Bay which we have heard a lot about, but seems to be the quieter version. It was really stunningly beautiful there, quite hilly and jungley but right by the coast as well. On our full day there we were driven by one of the guys who works at the hostel (Jungle Monkey's) in a beach buggy type thing to Second Beach where we spent the day running up and down sand dunes with some local kids, playing in the surf, and then bumping into a drunk tour guide on his day off and being taken to the place were he lives with another guy, Ben Decker, which is about the most sustainable and minimal inpact on the area as possible. It is just amoungst the trees and numerous different shacks linked by pathways and can barely be seen from the outside at all because it is just within the jungle. Plus spectacular sea views. In the evening we were driven up to the airstrip for 365 degree views at sunset, that was just ridiculously beautiful and unlike anything I have ever seen before.
And back on the Baz Bus to Post Elizabeth where we arrived late and left early. Next stop, Bloukrans!
Before I left I had decided that I wasn't going to do the bungee, but on the first night in J'burg the boys were talking about it loads (and we were fairly drunk) and so I agreed that I would do it if I could do it tandem. So I held onto that for a few weeks and gradually came around to the idea of doing it on my own, but I was trying not to think about it or talk about it until I actually had to (i.e. after jumping!) but the boys talked about it ALL TH TIME, like pretty much everyone we met had either done it or was going to and so we heard a lot about it. I think that did actually help though, especially as Cogs did it and he is also really scared of heights.
So we arrived at Bloukrans Backbackers (where we had out own little shallet, and I had my own room with a double bed and en suite!) and wandered over the the viewpoint and saw someone jump. The person it like a tiny dot on the end of a big piece of string in the enourmous valley. So we got weighed (I weigh 60kg, apparently, Mark 74 and Andy 81), paid and got a bit of harness, and then our guy took us accross the the middle of the bridge. We had to walk along a walkway that was beneath the road and that was fucking hard because you could see the drop. When we got to the middle of the bridge (a long way of not looking down) they said that I would go first. Somehow I managed to stay smiling the whole way! Mrk and Andy were chanting "go Lauren" or something like that as I went towards the edge. They have to pretty much carry you because your feet are harnessed together. At the edge they asked if I could remember how to jump, and told me to look at the pretty hills in the distance. Then 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, BUNGEEEE and I was off, free falling for about four seconds with my mouth wide open in astonishment of what I was actually doing. It was beautiful, the scenery was stunning, and I was doing it! It was so smooth I didn't even notice going from being upright to upsidedown, and the was no jolt or anything at the end of the rope. I didn't even feel my head filling with blood from being upside down. I am SO GLAD I DID IT! By the time I got back up Andy had gone and Mark didn't go until he was back again so he had to wait a pretty long time. I was very loved up! After buying the necessary souveneirs and having lunch we chilled on our cabin porch and did some painting and then watched tv most of the evening. There was nothing really where we were staying apart from the bungee stuff so nothing was open after about 5pm. It was good to be able to just wander over and watch people jump.
Baz Bus the next morning to Wilderness for two nights. We spent the afternoon on the beach, playing on the sand dunes and paddling, and the evening around the fire or playing a lot of pool (only 2 rand which is about 16p!) and talking to the guys, Harold and Gary, who work and live there (The Beach House). We spent our full day in Wilderness National Park where we got dropped off by the owner of The Beach House (who was so sweet and hugged us goodbye when we left!). We hired a canoe and paddles a few km down the river, followed by a boardwalk path through the jungle to a couple of waterfalls where we climbed on the rocks and paddled a bit until it got cold and we headed back. We walked back along the beach and found the most amazingly big sand dunes to jump down and run up. It was cold though, sadly. It was a very energetic day and we ended it with a braai as it was National Braai Day so it had to be done. In the morning we had time to go down to the beach and chill out there for a while (it was hot, hooray!) before the Baz Bus came.
And then we arrived here, in Cape Town where we are staying at Penthouse On Long on the 6th floor where the pool is THREE rand! It's also cost and misty today so we didn't go up table mountain as we had planned. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. We want to see penguins as well.
We left Tofo this morning at FOUR AM, the earliest bus so far and hopefully it won't get any earlier. Drew and Cogs got back from the other hostel where they had been drinking just in time to see us off which was hilarious! So we are now in Maputo after a very warm and long bus journey which I luckily was able to sleep through most of.
Yesterday afternoon we went on a snorkelling safari and swam with whale sharks and manta rays! It was so amazing and whale sharks are the biggest breed of fish, they were huge and let us get pretty close, they made the rays look tiny in comparason. We also saw humpback dolphins from the boat but they were shy. All week we had been able to see humpback wales in the distance from the beach, too.
We miss Tofo already.
Tomorrow we bus to Swaziland, the next day to Durban, and the day after that to Port St John's. It's going to be hectic!
We are in Tofo which is about a third of the way up Mozambique and really beautiful. We are spending a total of a week here so it'll be the longest time we are in one place for this trip. As soon as we arrived here we bumped into these two Aussies who we had met in the hostel in Nelspruit, Drew and Cogs, so we have been hanging out with them a fair bit. We have also met two very nice little dogs who we have named Little Fox and Little String(er Bell). They come and join us in the evenings on the beach. The beach is amazing. The waves can be pretty rough and it's so much fun! Thetre is also a little pool of water that has formed at the end of an old pier that appears when the tide is out. It's perfect for swimming and jumping in. Mark and Andy have both burnt their backs. The two evenings we have spent on the beach we have ended up going for a swim, mainly just in the pool which is nice and safe, although bluebottle stings can hurt. The water is such a great temperature even at night, I love it. The local rum here costs 40M which is a quid and it comes in a plastic bottle like a coke bottle. The boys made the mistake of having it straight the other day and had horrendous hangovers yesterday. We have found a couple of great cheap places to eat, the Bread Shack which does bunny chow which is half a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry or whatever, and Black and White's which does amazingly tasty and cheap meals (although not as cheap as SE Asia). Mozambique is great and feels a lot more "African" than South Africa, women balance stuff on their heads and wear their baby's on their backs. We have got a few loacl buses which are basically minibusses crammed full of people, we've been lucky enough not to have to stand though yet.
We plan to go snorkelling soon,once Andy's ear infection is sorted- he got antibiotics for it today that cost less than a pound! We are staying in a little bungalow at Fatima's Nest, which is on the sand dunes so actually on the beach. Sand gets everywhere and there is a layer encrusted into my scalp. The sea has made my hair amazingly curly, like actual full on ringlets!
On Tuesday we are travelling back to Maputo, then to Manzini in Swaziland, and onto Durban in South Africa. The rest of the trip will be pretty hectic with a lot of distance over a short time.
South Africa is going well, just a quick update with just a few minutes on the internet....
We just got back from our four day safari which was INCREDIBLE. We saw at least 56 elephants swimming, drinking and having a mudbath at a waterhole at the same time, and a pride of lions eating a zebra, along with many other amazing sights.
In the next couple of days we are heading to Swaziland followed by Mozambique. We have already been here a week!
We are in Sydney now.
I'm not really sure what to do here.
This afternoon we went to Circular Quey and had a look at the Opera House and Bridge, what do we do now??
Ha, I spent two weeks here before and really don't know where all that time went. What the hell did we do?? It's just a big city.
(Ok maybe I am being a bit unfair on Sydney...)
Oops I’ve been pretty slack at updating (but I have been writing in the old fashioned paper journal).
We are in a fabulously chilled out and hippy place in the rainforest south of Cairns at the moment. We are staying in little huts that consist of wooden frames and netting walls to keep the bugs out. They are very simple. Mum and Dad are not so impressed (even though they knew what it would be when they booked) they like their walls solid and their bathrooms ensuite. I like it a lot.
The internet is insanely slow and this computer is Windows ’98 which horrified Leo (“That’s ten years out of date!”). It doesn’t like facebook at all (damn all those bloody applications).
This place is beautiful and the rainforest is pretty loud at night with all the birds and bugs. This morning we saw a cassowary which is a massive flightless bird a bit like an emu but more colourful. With this bird the only part the mother has in parenting is to lay the eggs, then the father incubates them and cares for the young, often until they are 18 months old.
We are pretty close to the beach here, but it’s a steep walk (apparently, I’ve not be brave enough yet). To get here we had to be picked up in the car park by a four-wheel drive because the track is so steep.
Before this we spent three days and two nights on a trip with a company called Wilderness Challenge where we also traveled in a four-wheel drive vehicle with a small group and our guide and driver, John, who was tiny and looked very much like a Chuckle Brother. We went through the rainforest and then out into the ‘Bush’, which is an amazing landscape, and pretty much everyone owns a 4WD because you are fucked if you don’t. The highlight for me was staying at a camp called Jowalbinna (meaning dingo’s ear) in little huts 36km down a rough dirt track. We went for a walk to see aboriginal rock art and John explained the meanings to us. The paintings were not decorative but used to spread news to others, warning danger, births, marriages etc. There was one rock gallery that was used by the elder women to explain to the young girls their roles as women. When we got back to the camp there were loads of wallabies around out huts, including some joeys. That was pretty amazing.
Before that we went snorkeling on the great barrier reef , saw some fish and lots of coral and also a turtle! On another day went on a “croc cruise” along the Daintree river to look at crocodiles, that was cool but they were mostly tiny ones but a couple big ones.
Being up north is great because it’s so hot! It’s amazing how in one day, and within the same country, I went from sleeping with a heater and an electric blanket (Melbourne) to sleeping with the vents open and the fan on in Port Douglas, ha!
Oh and the family is being quite well behaved really, a lot better than I expected although there are some frustrating moments. I miss everyone at home but am doing well not thinking about it too much and instead enjoying my free holiday here :)
Happy birthday to me :)
I am twenty, and no longer a teenager :(
Today, when I get the motivation, I will go into the city and go to the last of the art galleries on my list. Margaret is cat and dog sitting at her daughters house, which is near Fitzroy, this weekend so Cieran and I will be staying there too. Which means that we don't have to worry about last train, etc, when we go out this evening. So I'll be meeting up with them later on when they finish work and uni.
This week has been good, I've got into a nice routine of getting up early and heading into the city (it's about an hour on the train).
Monday - National Gallery of Victoria. That was very interesting (and warm!) with exhibitions in many medias and from many eras. When that closed had a wander around shops and things. Found one of the alleyways crammed full of street art that we stumbled across last time I was here. Sadly some of the big pieces are now almost entirely covered with new tags. But then that is the nature of street art, you can't draw a line at what is good enough and what's not. Also discovered that the amazingly cool converse are now $100 instead of the $70-80 they were last time, which at the time was a bit under 30quid, and now $100 is more like 50quid. DAMNIT. In the evening watched a very good (and Australian) film called Lantana with Margaret and Keith.
Tuesday - Went with Cieran to visit his uni, Monash. It's really big. Sat in on three hours of lectures - molecular biology (almost impossible to take any of it in because the lecturers voice was so monotonous), statistics (which I had already covered) and a social psychology lecture on obedience which went into great depth about the infamous Milgram experiment. Went out to a Thai restaurant with Margaret and Keith which was delicious, I had vegetable Tom Ka, mmmm.
Wednesday - Spent the day in Fitzroy, did a lot of walking. I really love the atmosphere there. I sat out in the sun and had a coffee first of all, and then headed off to find the Centre for Contemporary Photography which was interesting. There are loads of little art galleries around, and shops selling crafty and arty things. I bought a couple of things from one and was given a magnet saying "I fed a Melbourne artist today." I bought a couple of CDs from a record store with a very friendly man who recommended me some local stuff, and also gave me a free CD, yay for having an English accent! I bought a The Black Seeds album, plus two local dub CDs. On my way home I met up with Margaret and some of her friends at a Moroccan style coffee shop. Back home their neighbours came round, a family of three including two little girls Greta (4) and Sylvia (2). They were lovely and I had fun playing and talking to them. Greta really enjoyed eating blue brie with celery, what grown up taste she has!
Thursday - I went to the Australian centre for the Moving Image (in Federation Square) and I plan to go back there a bit more today. I also wandered along part of Flinders Lane which had lots of very smart art galleries. It was a stark contrast to the ones I visited in Fitzroy. These were quite contemporary, many were pretentious and the people often quite intimidating and the spaces unwelcoming. It was interesting nonetheless. On my way home I met Margaret at the Moroccan place again and had a very thick hot chocolate, but it wasn't too sweet or rich. We then rented some films and last night watched Time to Leave which is a French arthouse-y film about a man discovering he has terminal cancer. I noticed when I was browsing the films that pretty much all arthouse films centre around sexuality.
Since Monday it has actually been sunny, and pleasantly warm in the sun (but still cold). Today is quite windy and grey looking. Shame. My feet are really cold. I'm looking forward to heading up north to some good weather.
The flight was fine, just very long. I hardly slept on the first flight, to Hong Kong, probably because I had filled myself up with caffine. I always forget how bloody cold it is on planes so spent most of my time cocooned in my blanket. It was a relief to arrive at Hong Kong and have the opportunity to walk around. I sat by the window near my gate and basked in the sun. The other half of the flight I slept for most of.
The plane that had the gash in it and had to make an emergency landing was thankfully not the one I was on. It left Hong Kong just 20mins before mine did though.
Cieran and his Dad Keith collected me from the airport. There is a Columbian student, Edwin, who is staying here as well but I have seen very little of him. There is a lovely old dog and an enourmous cat (I am told that he has very long hair).
It is pretty cold here.
Yesterday we didn't do much because I got up fairly late. We went for a drive around the surrounding area. In the evening we went out for drinks with Cieran's girlfriend and one of her friends. So that was odd. But it was pretty fun. A half pint is called a "pot". With there now being two $'s to the pound drinks seem fairly expensive.
I slept quite badly last night, woke up around 4am and couldn't get back to sleep until after 8am which was frustrating. I forced myself to get up around 10am in an attempt to sort out my body clock only to discover that I felt really ill. I struggled through very little of my breakfast and then curled up on the sofa and read. Couldn't stay awake though. Apparently I looked grey.
Felt better and Margaret, Cieran's Mum, had made pumpkin soup for lunch so that was good. Went out for a drive this afternoon to the Dandegong (?) Ranges which is a big hill near the dam that seems very remote despite being only around 50km from the heart of the city. We stopped to look at the view and a couple of art galleries. I was bought a lovely necklace from one where the pendent is a piece of ceramic set in silver. The ceramic has a really interesting pattern. I'll take a photo at some point.
We also had coffee and some really good lemon tart, mmm. By the time we left it was dark (around 5.30pm) and raining.
The next couple of days I will be going into the city and exploring and doing many art galleries.
Today is the second of three whole days here, and we moved from the hostel to the hotel this morning - it was a huge effort to get out of bed to check out.
Yesterday morning at breakfast we bumped into Andy and Zara and it turned out they were in the same hostel as us, so that was good. We went to the Rijksmuseum (I'm not quite sure how to spell it) yesterday morning which was good. And then we went shopping for hats (because it's really cold). I got a bag from the place that I bought a bag last time I was here, and it is also stripey and colourful. We wandered along towards the red light district and found a funky little cafe there. Aso I bought two pairs of gloves.
Tomorrow we are going to the Van Gogh Museum.
We are just waiting for Andy and Zara at the moment and then we are off to the Heineken Experience (brewery tour, including 3 pints of the stuff) (but it doesn't look like that is going to happen, we will just have to do that tomorrow, then).
Topday has been incredibly lazy, but we did find a really cool cafe where we had a late lunch. We sat upstairs which overlooked the rest of the cafe and the celing wasn't quite high enough to stand up. It was very cosy.
It is raining at the moment, and still pretty cold but I am wrapped up well. There have been a few sunny moments where I have been able to take photos of the canals looking pretty. I really should have brought my umbrella with me. I hope the weather is this miserable in Bristol (!).