On Safari in Africa

The highlight of our adventures in Africa is the time we spent on Safari at the Mosetlha Bush Camp in the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Often when going somewhere totally new I end up having pre determined visions of how things are going to be when I get there. When we booked our safari I was expecting that there would be a big gate around our camp and that cabins we slept would be fully enclosed just in case a hungry lion managed to break through the aforementioned big gate. I knew that there wasn’t going to be power so I was expecting it to be rugged and bare bones. Given there was no power for cooking I also figured that the meals were going to be mostly cold plates of which I’m not a huge fan of. What I was super stoked for was going out into the wild and seeing all of the amazing animals that I had only seen either in books or on TV.

Driving into the camp I quickly came to realize that there’s only a single cord of electric fence about 7 feet high that circles the permitter which is used to keep out the elephants. This means that every other man eating animal in this reserve, excluding the giraffes, are free to come and go as they please. Even more surprising is that our cabin has huge open air windows and the front door uses a cloth gate, about half the height of a normal door, that one can easily step over. If it had been made of wood it may have at least kept out the local honey badgers which have been know to frequent the camp. The owners of the camp told us about the time there was a honey badger in their kitchen making a real mess of things and none of the men who worked there would come to help get it out out because honey badgers are know for attacking ones genitals. They are already crazy fierce and attack pretty much anything, the last thing I wanted to know was that if I do happen to find one in our cabin it’s likely going to go straight for my private bits.

While I was surprised by the lack of resources that went into keeping the guests at a same distance from the wild animals, I loved that it was exactly as it was. Having it wide open to everything made it that much more of a real adventure. They more than made up for not having electricity by lighting up the entire camp, including the guest rooms, with oil lanterns and the delicious meals were all cooked on wood burning ovens and stoves. To add to the awesome the family who own the camp, and the rangers who took us on our game drives, were all super knowledgable and full of great stories which always kept things interesting.

For me the highlights were too many to list out so I will pick only a few. The first time we spotted a lion I was shocked when we pulled up to within only a few meters. This cat was huge and in one easy leap she could have launched herself straight into our open air game viewing Land Rover. We didn’t have doors or windows to close if things got harry. We were right there, up front and personal with nothing between us and real life wild animals. Within minutes the lion was then greeted by one other big female and about 12 younger cubs. We were told that they don’t take much notice of the vehicles as long as the people inside don’t stand up or get out. If we did either there was a good chance that we may be in some trouble. On another drive we saw a pride of lions eating a wildebeest which was pretty cool as well.

Our entire vehicle had a good scare the day a huge male rhino decided that we were in his way. He was walking in front of us when out of no where he decided to take a charge at us. I braced the truck with one arm and kept taking photos with the other. Lucky for everyone our guide pulled forward and the rhino pulled away just a little. If you think that rhinos look huge in photos, I can tell you that they look twice as huge when they are charging at you.

Another day we came across a huge heard of elephants that were making their way to a watering hole that we just happened to be at. One of the big bulls happened to walk right in front of us and with out warning turned and charged toward us. Once again our guide slammed it in gear and backed up just in time. I’m not sure what was going on that day, but the normally peaceful and slow moving elephants were all a bit on edge. After they quickly drank from the watering hole they all ran off leaving a huge trail of dust behind them.

The giraffes were also really fun to watch as they are both graceful and awkward at the same time. Their long front and back left legs move in tandem followed by both of their right legs. They are graceful when roaming from tree to tree, but as soon as they are spooked they run with awkward movements looking as though they could topple at any time.

It was really cool to see packs of wild dogs as they hunted. We never saw them make a kill, but it’s meant to be a bloody mess. The skinny dogs we saw were always running while on the hunt and dogs fresh form a kill were all fat and bloated and were usually just sleeping or relaxing.

We saw a heard of about a hundred impala grazing along with zebras and wildebeests. You often see the three of them hanging out together as they use each other for early detection from their predators. Safety in numbers.

On our way home one night we spotted a huge leopard drinking from a watering hole that was only about 800m from our camp. Our driver had a spot light which was used for the evening drives so we were able to have a great view of the magnificent cat.

Seeing these animals up close and in the wild from a open air convertible is both super cool, and a bit strange. I could never imagine driving up to a grizzly bear, moose or a cougar and observing it from so closely from a open vehicle.

In the night We hear hear wild animals in and around the camp including lions, hyenas and even a buffalo. If it was super late at night we would use a bucket in our cabin for going to pee in the night rather than making our way to the outdoor toilets. I’m sure that it would be fine, but the buckets are in the rooms for a reason so why not use them. Night time is dinner time for the big cats so we figure it best to play it safe.

During the day, between the morning and evening drives, there’s a big gap where you can either read, nap, or in my case wander around and take photos of birds and such. Being right in the middle of the reserve we were told to not wander off for safety reasons. Having seen rhinos, elephants, hyenas, leopards and a bunch of other animals within a few hundred meters of our camp I can see why. Every time my photography finds me wandering away from the camp I start to feel like a snack for a pride of lions or wild dogs, or more likely upsetting rhinos or elephants. Within short order I always found myself quickly retreating back to the camp…

Josi and I love every minute of being on safari. Every and every day was exciting with new and amazing things to see at each and every moment. Equally as wonderful was being totally offline and not having to worry about checking your emails. While I live an incredibly free lifestyle with all of the opportunites for adventure that one could ever imagine, but with that comes a dependency with technology and being connected with the team at FreeBird Agency. It’s more than than just being online for work, when you are connected you end up spending unnecessary time being online. Taking 5 days to be fully offline was a great break.

The next stop in our adventure is being Rob’s guest for Sabbath and then to dinner at his home in Johanisberg before flying out to Bangkok Thailand tomorrow.

As a side note, if you are a regular reader of our blog you may be wondering why we are posting so many posts only a few days apart. We were without a solid internet connection for some time so we are just catching up now.

Our African Safari

We had planned on going on Safari to Kruger National Park, but with the recent floods they just had, we were worried that much of the game reserve would still be closed. After calling one lodge in Kruger Park, we found out that it wasn’t the case, but the lady told us that the wet weather brought a lot more mosquitos than usual and the mosquitos in this area can transmit Malaria. Since I want to avoid taking Malaria medication we kept researching possible safari locations and luckily found the Madikwe Game reserve. They have a few mosquitos, but the park in that area is Malaria free.

Madikwe is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa. It’s massive totalling over 75,000 hectares and is home to the Big Five, which means that it has Lions, Elephants, Buffalo, Leopards and Rhinos. There are lots of camps that you can stay in at the park ranging from upscale to more rustic and somewhat affordable. We chose Mosethla Bush Camp & Eco Lodge because it had great reviews on Trip Advisor and it was really affordable in comparison to the rest of the lodges. Other pluses include it being located right in the middle of the park, it’s a family run business, and they have been in business since the park opened. Their many years of experience living with all of these wild animals sure made for some incredible stories at dinner time.

For me the beauty of this Bush Camp is that it’s raw, no electricity or running water, and at the same time very charming and upscale in it’s service and overall experience. For about $350 a night Noel and I got a really cute little open air cabin, 3 great meals and two 3 hour game drives each day (one in the morning and one in the evening). Oh and I forgot to mention that except for a really high electric fence to keep out the elephants, the whole camp is totally open allowing all of the wild animals to roam freely through the camp! For peace of mind they fenced the toilet and shower area, which made me feel way safer when I heard a lion roar when I was in the shower one evening. Most nights you could hear animals wandering around outside your cabin and I often wondered why the front of the cabin was open with only a 3 foot cloth door to keep the lions out.

On our first day, Noel and I arrived at the Bush camp just in time for a great lunch and were lucky enough to be able to go on the evening drive that same day. There were only six of us, including Noel and I, who all arrived at the camp that same day. We were all so excited to go on our first drive and our excitement and great energy must have brought us some luck because we saw so many animals that day. The amount of different amazing animals that we were able to get up close to was way above all of our highest expectations. Justice was our Ranger and Guide and he was incredible. He knew the names of all the animals, including the multitude of birds, and he had answers for all of our many questions that we threw at him.

On our first drive alone, we saw elephants, giraffes, impalas, wildebeests, kudus, cheetahs and as a real treat, right before getting back to the lodge, we even saw a leopard drinking out of a nearby water hole. After our drive we then had dinner, chatted a bunch with our new friends from the camp and went to bed. Noel fell asleep within a few minutes and I was so wired and attentive to all of the wild and new sounds going on outside that I could barely sleep all night. As I laid on my bed my head was full of images of the wild animals that we had seen that afternoon. Our open aired cabin with no real door, in combination with the leopard that we had seen only a few hours ago, which we spotted only about 800 meters from our camp, made my imagination work overtime. Poor Noel, I kept waking him up to tell him that there were animals outside. I guess I should have expected that considering that we are smack in the middle of a game reserve full of wild animals. I’m not sure what I expected, but I think that I was expecting a fence to keep them out and then a front door just in case they managed to get through the fence?

Wake up call comes early in Madikwe and every morning we got up at 5:30am. We basically had time to throw on our safari gear, grab a quick coffee and a rusk and jump into the 4×4 for the first game drive of the day.

The drive is about 3 hours long with a quick coffee/ snack break in the middle.You then come back to the lodge for a proper breakfast and then you get to do your own thing until lunch, which is around 2:30pm. It would have been great to be able to go for a run in between the first drive and lunch, but since we are not the fastest runners of the jungle, we we were on strict orders to not leave the small area of the camp. To keep ourself busy Noel took some photos of all birds and things and I did a bit of yoga, read and caught up on my sleep. The evening drive starts at 4:30pm and brings you back to the camp an hour after dark at around 8:30pm, just in time for dinner. Coming back to the camp at night was one of my favourite things because the staff lights up the entire area using oil lanterns. They are scattered all over the camp, in the rooms and around the dinner table making for a most romantic and exotic setting.

I have to say that I had some reservations when I read about the shared bathrooms and the fact that you have to heat and carry your own water if you want to take a shower, but after having experienced it first hand, I can say that it was part of what made the camp so great. Let me explain how the shower works. There is no running water so you fill a bucket from a portable water tank. Then you empty about half of your bucket into a something called a Donkey Boiler which instantly transforms it into boiling hot water that pours into another bucket. You then mix the hot water with your left over cool water so that it’s your desired temperature. The donkey boiler looks like a homemade wood stove elevated from the ground allowing you to make a little fire underneath. The water must travel through a lot of mini conduits to make it so hot in the matter of seconds. It actually looks like something my dad could easily weld in his garage. Perhaps one day when we have our off the grid house I will have him make us one. I loved the rustic feel of the camp and even the whole experience of taking a shower. It was neat to see how much water you are using and the fact that you are carrying your own water to the shower makes you a lot more conscious of your consumption.

The whole experience was incredible and the best part in my opinion was to see the wild dogs of Africa. They are one of the most endangered species in Africa and are just a fascinating creature to watch. One day we saw 2 seperate packs, one of about 8 skinny dogs running around on the hunt for something to eat, and second was a pack of 22 dogs, adults and puppies. This pack was hanging out by a drinking hole with their bellies so fat from a recent kill that they could barely move. Only a few of the younger ones were wrestling and playing around. I could have watched them for hours.

After a couple of days, more people joined us and the camp was at capacity with 18 guests. It’s so great to see people’s expression when you are only a couple of meters from a pride of huge lions. Through these experiences we met some amazing people, and for me it was a great bonding experience.

This was truly the experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to return.

Finding cool in Johannesburg

As much as going to South Africa was a dream of mine, a life long fear has always been going to Johannesburg. As a small child I remember watching a television report about how bad the crime was in Johannesburg. The story was about how some people were installing flame throwers into the sides of their cars so that if someone tried to carjack them they could Kentucky Fried chicken the crap out of the person. To make things worse, Josi was just researching online news about Johannesburg and was horrified by reports of people breaking into houses and leaving everyone fully mutilated. Crazy voodoo tribal shit that no one wants in the back of their mind when visiting a new city.

The only reason that we had chosen to fly out of Johannesburg was that we wanted to see our good friend Rob Bronzin who is the founder of Nando’s Chicken. Nando’s is a South African company and Rob lives in Johannesburg. I met Rob a few years ago in Vancouver and since then have done some marketing work for Nando’s. Rob is now spending most of his time working on a project focusing on ending malaria in Africa. He and I have been in talks about working on some really cool save the world projects together which I’m quite excited about.

We arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport for a few extra bucks because not only did we have our surfboards, we also wanted to start this leg of our adventure on the quick and easy. As we walked out of the airport there was a man holding up a sign saying “Mr. and Mrs. Noel Fox”. I’m sure that a couple of surfers wearing shorts and tank tops weren’t exactly what the driver was expecting. I was so stoked I had to take a picture because this was a first. It was also one of the things that I had way way down on my bucket list.

Rob had arranged for us to stay at Selwyn’s B&B, his Assistant’s, called 59 on Central which is in a great upscale neighbourhood around the corner from his own house. When we pulled up to the front gates we buzzed and buzzed, but no one was there. We could see through the big metal gates with electric fence all long the top, that the front door was open and there were cars inside so we figured that someone had to be home. After honking and waiting around for a few more minutes our driver called the security company’s number that was posted on the fence as he feared that something bad had happen. In no time two private swat trucks pulled up and out jumped several commandos dawning multiple guns. I’m not sure what their plan was for saving the day and thankfully they didn’t have to because right then Selwyn showed up. He was having lunch at his friends place next store. Turned out that our plane had arrived early and he wasn’t expecting us quite yet. Our Canadian hearts were racing and as we got out of the car and checked into our oversized room. Once we were inside our room we started to calm down knowing that we were safe inside of Selwyn’s fortified mansion. Fear is a crazy thing and once you have it, it grows inside you like a virus. I often say that “The only thing I fear is fear itself”.

Later that night Selwyn took us out for a great dinner at an upscale steak house in a trendy neighbourhood close by. Then the next day he took us on a tour of the city showing us everything from the old and somewhat dangerous downtown to a trendy artist market in a cool up and coming part of town. We were surprised to find all kinds of cool street art, trendy artist produced wears and loads of laid back people enjoying life. It felt as though we could have been in a cool and undiscovered part of Portland, Vancouver, LA, or NYC. We finished the day by walking around an African market on the roof of Rosebank mall and ate an early dinner before going back to Selwyn’s and packing for our Bush Camp and Safari in Madikwe. We left our surfboards behind as we are coming back through on our way to Thailand to have dinner with Rob and his family.

The one thing that Josi loved most about Johannesburg is that it’s nick name is Jozi. At the art market that we went to they branded their packaging and shirts as “Love Jozi” and “Be Kind to Jozi and Jozi will be kind to you”. Josi just loved it so much that had the T shirts not been $35 each I would have been wearing one now.

By the time everything was said and done our fear of Johannesburg had subsided to mild distrust with a few hints of like. Mostly we are super stoked to be getting out of the city and going on Safari early in the morning.

Jeffery’s Bay & Addo Elephant Reserve

Jeffery’s Bay is one of those places that every surfer dreams of going. The mystique of Africa combined with an epic right hand barrelling wave in the cool sharky waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s considered to be one of the best right hand point breaks in the world and all of surfing’s legends have surfed it. I wasn’t expecting to rip it up like a pro, but I knew that all of my years surfing the southern part of Vancouver Island and it’s many right points that I was well prepared.

As we drove into this clean little beach town sprinkled with surf shops and ocean views we knew right away we liked it. It still had a little of the sketchy feeling that one gets from South Africa, but it’s laid back vibe made it much less of a worry. We booked a room on the hill overlooking the main surf beaches and I was amped to head down to one of the more famous breaks called Super Tubes to check the surf. It was the weekend and unfortunately the swell that I had been watching online had yet to show up so it was small and a little bit too crowded. Monday was sure to be less busy and I figured that if I’m going to put on my wet suite to surf a super shallow reef break in famously sharky waters I want to be able to at least get a wave with out having to battle for one. The week that we were there the big swell that was forecasted never showed up, but I made the most of it and caught some fun little waves. My brother Jason would have ripped it up here even when it’s small, but for me on my back side I really needed a little more size to surf it with any real style.

Other than getting to surf one of my childhood dream breaks, the highlights from this trip were eating daily at a great little restaurant called Nina’s and driving up to Addo Elephant Reserve on Valentines Day.

Nina’s Restaurant was so great in fact that we ate there twice a day for the entire time we were there other than missing lunch the day we went to the elephant reserve. If our hotel had not come with breakfast included I’m sure we would have eaten there three times a day. For about $12 both Josi and I could eat a great healthy dinner and be fully stuffed. They have old surf boards and locally taken surfing photos on the walls and the staff were all really friendly which we found to be rare in SA.

The Elephant reserve was super cool and if you are ever in the area you have to check it out. It’s a huge National Park that you pay to gain entry and then you drive yourself around while checking out all of the wildlife. The only advice they gave us was to not get out of our car. Within a few minutes of our drive we started seeing animals, big and small, everywhere and we were stoked.

At one point we were driving along a skinny dirt road and around the corner came a heard of about 15 elephants. There were big ones, baby ones, old ones, ones with huge tusks. At first we thought that it was really cool as they marched slowly towards us. As you can see by the photos that I was happily snapping away, they took up the entire width of the road. They came closer and closer until Josi told me, with slight urgency in her voice, to stop taking photos and to start backing. They were coming right at us and our little rental car with no sign of clearing out of our way. As I started backing up another huge bull elephant came out of the bushes directly to our left. I watched in surprise as he got closer and in doing so I backed into a bush on the side of the road and got us stuck. I’m blaming the backing up into a bush 20% because I wan’t used to driving on the wrong side of the road and 80% from the shock of being ambushed by the massive tusked elephant coming out of the bushes to our left.

I would have pulled a little forward and corrected myself, but by this point the big heard of elephants was really close to us and they were pissed. Right about the time they started nodding their heads up and down and shooting their ears out to their sides, which made them look even huger and meaner than they already were, Josi went into a panic. Every few seconds between her hyperventilating Josi was able to squeak out “I’m scared”. Shit, I was too, but I wasn’t going to let her know it because I think that she would have passed out.

Josi had visions of them not veering from their path and walking right over us or getting really pissed off and tossing our car around and smashing it to pieces. It was like a scene out of a bad horror comedy where the couple get trampled after the first few minutes. If there was a shower near by I’m sure that she would have gotten naked and jumped in.

They were visibly pissed off that we were in their way, but rather than going Rambo on us they decided to avoid the blood bath and pass us by. They were so close you could smell them as they pretty much brushed the car as they walked by. As the last one finally passed us by he bent his big old head down so that he could give me a stinky, eye to eye, look of disapproval.

It’s not every day that you get to be so close to the largest, wild, land mammal in the world. The rest of our drive through the park continued to leave us in a perpetual state of wonder as we saw one strange and exotic African animal after another.

A big thanks to Skip and Paula for the great recommendations in and around Jeffery’s Bay.

We loved our time in Jeffery’s Bay and it’s surrounding areas, but seeing all of the crazy animals at Addo makes leaving lot easier knowing that we are on our way to bush camp in Madikwe Game Reserve in Northern South Africa.

Top 5 Things to do in Cape Town and the surrounding area

I have to admit that Facebook is a powerful way to connect with people and exchange information. A quick post about coming to South Africa and two of my friends (along with some of Noel’s as well) rose to the occasion to give amazing advice on things to do and places to see. Maya and Ali thank you so much for all the great tips that allowed us to quickly narrow it down to the best spots. Here were the highlights:

1) Camps Bay and Llandudno Beach

The beaches alone are the reason why I could see myself living in Cape Town. White sand paired with the blue and turquoise water make for a calming scenery. The beaches and the water is so tropical looking that you would never imagine that the water is absolutely freezing! Nevertheless, Clifton Beach is the best place to hang out, read a book, sunbathe and run for a quick dip in the ocean when it gets too hot. The beach is right across the street from a strip of bars, restaurants and hotels that definitely have a chic vibe and complements this upscale area.

Further down the road is Llandudno Beach that is more isolated as you have to drive through a residential neighborhoud to access it. It is equally as beautiful as Camps Bay beaches and it seems to have better surfing. We hung out there for a little while. Even though we didn’t go in ourselves, we had fun looking at the many surfers battling for the little close out waves.

2) Harbour Bay Market (Hout Bay)

The Harbour Bay market in Hout Bay is open every weekend from Friday 5pm to Sunday 4pm. This little market is quite well organized and takes place inside an old authentic fish factory. There, you will find lots of vendors of clothes, art, jewelry, decorations, etc. In my opinion, the best part is the food section. It’s a bit farmers market inspired with a modern feel. It is a great place where people meet, socialize, eat delicious food and enjoy a glass of wine while acoustic bands are playing. I would highly recommend to check it out.

3) Southern Cape

A day drive down the Southern Cape is definitely not long enough to experience the beauty and enjoy everything it has to offer. First of all, the drive itself is gorgeous and gives you the feeling you are in a movie driving along cliffs and beaches somewhere in the Mediterranean. Well, in the movie I played in my mind, we were in a zippy old fashion convertible…and in real life our rented Toyota Corrolla still gave us this feeling of freedom without the style! We stopped at a view point where you can see Long Beach from above and it’s rugged coast line. We then stopped at Boulder Beach to see the Penguins and then kept driving down to the Cape of Good Hope where you can do a short hike to a Lighthouse that allows you to see the ocean as far of the eyes can see! The Cape of Good Hope is also a National Park where you can drive around freely and see wild life. We were lucky enough to see tons of Baboons and a heard of Zebras.

4) Long Street

Long Street is located in the Centre of Cape Town and offers great shopping and cool cafes. Having been on the road for over two months, Long Street felt a bit like back home and gave us a chance to pick up a few cool souvenirs. My favourite purchase is a pillow cover with a drawing of a lady talking on the phone while leaning on a leopard in a sexy lounging outfit. It will make for a good souvenir in our Vancouver apartment. We also found a great little cafe called Lola’s where they serve delicious fresh juices, smoothies, salads and other tasty and healthy dishes. Noel and I are both creatures of habits so needless to say that we went back a couple of times.

5) Table mountain

The first time we attempted to hike table mountain, the wind was so strong that you could almost lean into in and not fall forward. The Cable car was closed which would have meant hiking up and then down which was no big deal, but somehow, I started feeling really scared of this wind pushing us around and making it difficult to move forward. We made the decision to turn around and come back another day which made me feel defeated in a way and at the same time, I am a strong believer that it’s best to listened to your instincts. We came back on a sunny day and hiked up the super steep path all the way to the top. We kept a good pace all the way, stopping only a few times to catch our breath and wow, what great cardio exercise it was. On a clear day, the view at the top is stunning and totally worth the effort.

Cape Town, South Africa

Our trip is one of love, adventures and following our childhood dreams. Ever since Josi was young she wanted to go to Tahiti and for me it was Africa, or as my good friend Bart calls it, Mother Africa. I believe that the “Mother” comes from it being the oldest continent. The landscape here is in sharp contract to that of Argentina where we just came from. Time has worn down and smoothed it’s mountain peaks and the skyline is much flatter than that of the Rockies or the Andes.

Like many of the nations with huge divides in wealth, South Africa is a country of great contrasts. The second we got off the plane we could feel that there was something about this place that’s very different to that what we have experienced. As we drove our rental car out of the airport, driving our standard on the left side of the road no less, we could see where the unusual energy was coming from as our route into town took us through one of the oldest and poorest townships in Cape Town. Townships are huge “human settlements” for black and coloured people, similar to indian reserves in Canada, but much larger in that they sometimes have over a million people living in them. Small broken shacks made of tin and discarded bits lined up as far as the eye can see. Through the garbage that piles the outskirts of these depressed areas the only glimmer of happiness and hope is reflected in the wonderfully bright clothing that the people who live there are wearing.

We went to book our hotel a few days before we arrived which was a mistake. I’m not sure why we always wait until the last minute? Perhaps it’s because sometimes we get better deals by booking last minute, or more likely it’s because neither of us want to miss out on something, or somewhere, better that may come up last minute. Regardless of the reasons, we learnt our lesson because 99% of the accommodations in Cape Town were fully booked when we got there. After a lot of searching we ended up finding a decent B&B that had availability for the first few nights but that’s it. After that we had to go to leave Cape Town and go to inland to their wine country for a few days. Then once there was availability back in Cape Town we came back. I’m sure that wine country is great if you love to drink wine, but for the most part I found it too old school and a bit boring. I found Cape Town to be a little bit similar to LA in that it’s best to have a car while you are there. If you can handle driving on the wrong side of the road having a car is great because many of the cool areas, beaches and sights are pretty spread out.

We did most of the touristy things that one does when in Cape Town. We enjoyed eating and shopping at the Waterfront. We took a tour to Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed for several years. We were really happy to discover Long Street, in Central, because had some cool boutique shops and great restaurants. We hung out at the at Camps Bay which is a beautiful and affluent beach community. We went to a really cool market in Hout Bay that has both great food and some interesting locally made products. Josi loves to hike, so we hiked up Table Mountain, which didn’t look all that far, but in the middle of the day in the heat of the African sun it was quite the hike. I guess it’s similar to Vancouver’s Grouse Grind, but with twice as many steps going pretty much straight up. We also drove to the South Cape which was super cool. It’s a National Park that’s on the very tip of Africa. On the drive we saw loads of baboons which when we stopped to look at them crawled all over our car. They are meant to be quite aggressive at times and there were signs posted everywhere to stay in your car and to keep your windows rolled up. We also saw some zebras which was super cool as we weren’t expecting to see them in the area.

One of the things that we are finding to be really challenging is the constant thought that someone may rob you. It’s hard to not be thinking about it because all of the houses have both barb wire on their already high fences and electric fences that back enough punch to drop a man. The windows are all barred, there are armed security guards everywhere and to get in a shop you often have to buzz to be let in. Even if you are feeling safe, in the back of your mind you are telling yourself that they must only have all of this because it’s necessary. One day Josi and I were walking a few blocks from our hotel to go for breakfast in a very nice area of town. In front of us where a group of 4 small black kids between 11 and 13 yrs old. Like kids do, they were playing around as they walked along the street, but then I noticed that two of them had black hand guns. My first reaction was they they must be toy guns so we slowed down but didn’t stop. Then a white lady who jogged by us stopped and nervously waited until we caught up to her. She was from South Africa and she decided to not go by them just in case and instead took a different way to get to where she needed to go. Right then a large black lady who coming towards us and the kids stopped and visibly concerned ran across the street so not to walk past them. I’m positive that these kids were only playing with toy guns, but it was just weird enough that Josi and I to turned back had breakfast in another part of town.

You also have to get used to people constantly hounding you on the streets. Some of them are begging for money, but most of them, while not violent, are more demanding you pay them as they somehow they figure that you own them for one reason or another. For example, everywhere you go people have set up (non) businesses collecting money when you park in parking spaces that are meant to be free parking spots. This you end up getting used to and we pay between 2 and 5 rands each time we park. We pay not because we have to, but because we figure that if we don’t there is a chance we may be broken into. Kind of like paying the mob for protection so that they don’t rob you.

One of the other things that we did that was somewhat touristy was taking a tour of a township. Taking a tour in it self is pretty touristy, but how ours differed was that it was a guy who grew up in the township, and still lived there, was giving the tour to just Josi and myself. It started off pretty normal with a tour of a community centre that’s doing a lot of creative things in the neighbourhood. From there we took off on foot and ventured into the underbelly of some of the poorest areas in South Africa. One of the stops was an illegal drinking establishment where they brew their own beer. It was down a small and dirty alley that was home to several unusual businesses that we didn’t dare venture into. Inside there were several older down and out men sitting on low benches around 3 of the 4 walls. There was one metal bucket that they were passing around, each taking turns drinking from the local home brew. In the back was a big old black lady stirring two big oil barrels where they brewed the beer. The one old guy who I’m guessing owned the place talked to us for quite a while about the hardships in the town and the importance of his beer to the community and it’s ceremonies. I could barley understand him, but we listened and picked up things here and there. Then a fresh metal bucket came out over flowing with fresh beer. They first passed it to our guide and he drank and then he passed it to me to drink. The last thing I wanted to do was to pull a big swig of this super sketchy beer from the communal bucket, but I put my nose into it and wet my tong enough to know that I didn’t like the taste. Then I passed it on and it was finished as it went around the room. When we left I was told that everyone who was drinking only gave what they could, some paying more and others paying nothing. We paid them for the experience and carried on. Turns out that this place is owned by a friend of our guide and this is why they let us stop in. From there we ventured into areas that started sketchy and then got even sketchier. Garbage everywhere, 15 people crammed into a super small home, tinny little homes made completely of found pieces of random stuff, outhouses lined up for miles along a small and dirty creek, the list goes on. Even our guide spent most of his time looking over his shoulder as if he was waiting for someone to mug us all. Needless to say, my good camera stayed in it’s old sack bag and didn’t take a single photo. I was bold enough to take a few shots with my IPhone, but that’s it. Unfortunately, the photos from Cape Town in general aren’t the best because for the most part it didn’t feel safe enough to take out my big camera with it’s huge Canon lens.

We were amazed how cheep things are here, especially eating out. For both Josi and I to have a great meal, not including drinks, was usually between $10 and 15 all up. If you want a glass of wine with your dinner, add $2. Except for accommodations, which were around $80/night at B&B’s, everything was far less expensive than we were expecting. This was a nice surprise considering that Argentina was 3x more expensive than I was expecting it to be.

We had our surf boards out and ready to get a surf on, but the poor wave quality in combination with the freezing cold waters of Cape Town were enough to keep our adventures land based. It’s rather deceiving as the air temperature was well into the 30’s and the ocean is freezing, even though it’s a crystal clear light blue colour which usually only occurs in tropical warm waters.

We are finding that the longer we are here the more we are getting to know and understand the way things work and we are starting to enjoy ourself way more. Cape Town and it’s surrounding areas is absolutely stunning and all up we enjoyed out time here. Our next stop is 7 days of surfing in Jeffery’s Bay which I’m super stoked about.

The best comment wins a cheesy post card from Africa!

Stick it on your fridge, impress your friends, feel loved! In this digital age there is nothing better than receiving actual hand written mail from friends and loved ones.

That’s why we are sending the person who writes the best comment an actual old school cheesy travel post card from us, delivered to your door, all the way from South Africa.

Enter your caption in the comments section below and the best caption wins. We leave Africa on Feb 23rd so get your comments in by Feb 22 and we will send out the winning post card the day we leave.

We snapped this shot while we were flying from Bariloche to El Calafate and thought that it was just too funny so we had to document it.