Cancun

Cancun21st may 2016 signified the day after my official last day of university for the year, and, more importantly, it was also the day me and Gaby flew to Cancun, Mexico to meet Lacey and Elly who had been on holiday in America first. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time (as all British people tend to do), ordered ourselves a weatherspoons breakfast as is the rules when at a UK airport and just generally ignored the one job we actually had to do: convert our Pounds to Pesos. Time flies when you’re having fun/eating breakfast at Gatwick airport. One minute you’re stuffing yourself with hash browns, the next the final call for your flight is being announced. So we began to power walk in the direction of our gate which naturally was the furthest in the building, all the while being kindly updated on the number of minutes before the plane left without us over the tannoy. PLEASE PROCEED TO THE GATE IMMEDIATELY. FINAL CALL. URGENT FINAL LAST CALL (that’s the part when you run, by the way). Skidded under the barriers with actual seconds to spare as we got a stern telling off from the lady on the desk informing us our bags were about to be removed from the plane. We saw the funny side of our near miss £1100 mistake when we were buckled into our seats. The 10.5 hour flight was exactly as you’d expect it to be. The initial excitment when browsing the films fades when you realise you’ve watched the only decent 2. 
Anyway we successfully landed in Cancun and waited for Lacey and Elly whose flight was an hour behind ours. Found them with no complications, especially considering it would have been easy for them not to have spotted us standing in front of a white wall on the basis we were (/are) pale AF. Got bombarded with options of taxis, shuttles and buses quoted in currencies we couldn’t quite get our head round but decided to go with the taxi option, that would leave immediately and drop us to the door. Plus surely a positive to being a group of 4 saving money when splitting the cost right? Wrong. Mexico taxi drivers charge per person. And this particular taxi driver must have selected the wrong car from his garage this morning as he charged us £63 for a 7 minute ride down the road. I’d be expecting a minimum of a gold plated vehicle for that price in that country. The worst part is the fact we paid it. But you live and learn. 
The apartment type thing was cute, part of a hotel but seperatly owned and had a tiny kitchen so we could do our own thing. View from the balcony (yep, you read that right we’re posh) was great and the beach was up there in my top 3, at least. The sea was the bluest of blues and had waves which made it fun as well as beautiful. After the longest day ever (6 hours behind) I managed to sleep right through till 6am and avoid jetlag (sort of, can’t recall a time I’ve ever got up at 6am but I hear other people do). The next day we moved from laying in bed to laying on beach. Lacey’s purchased a GoPro camera which is the most exciting addition to my life right now. For anyone that’s been living under a rock the last 5 years or goes by the name of mum, a GoPro is a tiny camera that is waterproof and drop proof and lightweight and can record video and take bursts of pictures and is just generally very useful to have in nice places that you wouldn’t trust yourself with your phone. We played about with that in the sea for a bit which was all fun and games until we moved to the pool and Lacey pointed out my back had turned an interesting shade of Crimson. I went back to the room straight away to have a cold shower because I swear I read once that helps matters but either I didn’t read that, whoever wrote it was lying or I’d gone past the point of damage limitation on this particular occasion. The sunburn progressed with the day and by the time I went to bed I looked like a lobster wearing a white swimming costume. The following 6am awakening was accompanied by a stroke of genius (if I do say so myself). Decided to go bear grylls on the aloe Vera plant on the balcony and extract the gel to make my own after sun lotion. Conclusion: aloe Vera does not smell like something that will help you, but if you persevere and put the thick gel from the leaves in a blender, which id like to point out was in a kitchenette that didn’t have a toaster or a kettle (perhaps there is a God), and cover yourself in the blended slime for a few hours a day it really does make a positive impact. 
We ventured away from the beach to find every girls weakness and every boyfriends nightmare; a market. Were wise to the taxi scams due to the £63 hole in my purse so decided to get a bus which literally cost 30p for the entire length of the route. Ended up getting our money’s worth as we literally stayed on until the end of the line because we missed our stop. After much faffing and incorrect reading of maps we found a market. It was cute but the sellers were too pushy and every stall sold the same crap. Beautiful crap, but crap nonetheless. 
Nothing else much to report. Oh except that Gaby found a coconut that we bashed and tore apart for about an hour before finally opening and eating. It’s the little things.  

Slacker

Pretty sure my last post was from the great ocean road in Melbourne… After neglecting to write about all the funnies/fuck ups that happened in our lovely little house and before we popped to Fiji, New Zealand and then the east coast of Australia in a camper van – all of which I was also too lazy to record. Completely annoyed with myself now of course because “remember that time when…” Is how most of mine and Lacey’s conversations start when we’re bored so god knows how much entertainment we’re missing out on from all the things we’ve forgotten. 

Moral of the story: write more stuff down and take more holidays (personally I feel that’s a moral of every story). 

Enough babbling. We’re spending this summer in South America with two new additions to our squad; Elly, Lacey’s cousin, and her friend, Gaby. 

Melbourne -great ocean road

So, we’ve been in Australia since March 1st. We got a house, we got a cat, we got a job. Several jobs in my case. Of course we’d decided to come to the wettest, windiest, coldest state at the beginning of winter. Anyway, been slack writing this for the last half a year because we’ve just been living normal boring lives as normal boring people. But last week we finished work. Thursday we fly to Fiji. Travel is back on, fun is back on, blog is back on.

We decided to hire a car to drive along the great ocean road in our last few days here, a long stretch of coast that’s a popular tourist attraction in Melbourne, apparently. There are tour companies that run the trip but most cram it in to one day, have no flexibility on what stops are made and I’d assume, are full of old people who can’t drive.

So it was decided a car was to be rented. But we’re travellers living in the worlds 4th most expensive city, so figured there must be a cheaper alternative to a grown up proper car rental for people like us. We were correct. May I introduce you to carnextdoor.com, a website which allows you to rent other peoples cars by the day or by the hour, whilst they’re not using them. An excellent idea! Signed up, left my five HUNDRED dollar deposit because I’m a untrustworthy foreigner meaning a credit check can’t be completed against me. Found a car 5 minutes walk from our house, a manual car in a sea of automatics… Stick to what you know and all that. A champagne coloured Nissan tiida “perfect for long journeys” was our very own for 2 whole days and only $50 (£27).

Monday morning arrived, the weather set to be 23 and 24 degrees for the next few days, the best it has been in weeks here, finally we’d picked the right days to do something! Buzzing with a mix of fear and excitement… mainly fear, we set off to find our noble stead for the day. Neither of us have driven any form of vehicle in 9 months, and melbourne is not the quietest city I’ve ever visited. Traffic lights, busy junctions, trams, cars and people everywhere. Scary. Upon entering the car we saw a note stuck to the door informing us the fuel gauge was faulty and always showed as empty. Good. However we knew the policy was that the cars always start a new trip with 1/4 tank full so we knew it wouldn’t be cutting out on us any time soon. It was decided a test drive was in order. First things first, the car needed to be removed from it’s parking space… The beginning of many hurdles. It was parked on a slight downwards hill but nothing outrageous, so why couldn’t I make the damn thing reverse? Eventually it became apparent the clutch was so high my knees had to be round my ears before it would move anywhere. Whatever, every car is different.

After driving round the block 10 times, with the same skill and confidence I showed in my first driving lesson (zero.) we decided it would be a sensible idea to fill up with petrol before we went anywhere significant on the basis the rental website work on a fuel card set up… So providing you fill up at a certain petrol station with a certain fuel it can be paid for on a card kept in the glove compartment that you’re given a pin for. All very boring I know, but relevant to the story. The particular station needed was a caltex, and it just so happened there was a caltex station at the end of the road, how lucky were we?! Not at all. Of course It didn’t sell the fuel we needed, why would it? But at least we were pointed in a direction of somewhere that did sell E10 unleaded. Off we went, soon to discover this was a lie. E10 unleadeds existence is a lie from what I have seen today. So we headed back to caltex, filled up with any old shit that wasn’t diesel in order to be able to use the fuel card and proceeded to the checkout. Popped my pin in. Declined. Tried again. Declined. Once more with a different payment method. Declined. Card blocked. Time to phone carnextdoor who informed us we’d got given the wrong pin. Got it reset blah blah blah, card worked, off we go.

Navigating ourselves out of the city was not as difficult as our nightmares had suggested and we were surprised to find we were actually doing okay. No wrong turns were taken, no laws were broken and no one died. A success all round. Soon enough we were out of the city and on to a highway, which was mainly empty. Stopped for a quick piss stop and were very disciplined about buying any snacks from BP… Why fill up on crisps and chocolate when we could have a lovely lunch at a coast side cafe with breath taking views on such a lovely day?

Fast forward 2 hours and we’d just joined the start of the great ocean road at Torquay. The general idea is to follow the road then branch off and stop at any places that may take your fancy. Saw the first signpost for a beach and shit our pants at the idea of something to look at other than Tarmac, so off we went to bells beach. Cute little look out point along the cliff top where we watched all the idiots surfing in freezing cold water. The lookers must be up the coast further as there was no eye candy to be seen here.

Swiftly moving on we planned to rejoin the great ocean road and get some lunch at the next town we came to. Driving along a pretty much deserted woodland road the car starts revving as if it was out of gear, but it wasn’t and the road was flat and I was in 4th doing 80kph and I don’t know the official car terms for this kind of stuff but It shouldn’t have been doing what it was doing. So I pulled over and we decided to turn the whole thing off and back on, that fixes most things, right? Wrong. Tried to pull away from the dirt on the side of the road that I’d stopped on only to be deafened to the sound of revving once more, but no movement. Then it smelt like the engine was about to blow up. Shit. Got out and popped the bonnet open like people that knew what they were doing.. We didn’t, of course, but even car idiots like ourselves knew that smoke from the engine area was a bad sign.

Phoned carnextdoor to exercise the use of our roadside breakdown assistance, they very kindly gave me the number to phone them myself after putting me on hold for 5 minutes and wasting all my credit. Thanks for your help. Carless, phone less and in prime set up for the next wolf creek movie I decided to risk my life and walk half a mile to the nearest farm to try and find help. Unfortunately I wasn’t put out of my misery in a gory murder as the woman who lived there was lovely and let me use her phone to ring for breakdown assistance. Expected within the hour. Of course we’d broken down on the side of the road not shaded by trees and had turned our car in to an oven. Tried to sit beside it by were eaten alive by mosquitoes (what are they even doing here?!), so we got back inside and began to slow cook ourselves. Pretty much bang on the hour a man in a van arrives, jumps in the drivers side for a maximum of 12 seconds and concludes; the clutch is fucked. Nothing like a car that is not yours failing on you 2.5 HOURS from your house. Then begins the wait for the tow truck. Use my last tiny bit of credit to ring carnextdoor and ask them to please-phone-me-back-I-have-no-money within 3 seconds. Eventually they did and hit us with the news that we would have to get a bus and then a train from Torquay to melbourne. Please google map that and tell me whether you’d ever consider getting public transport that far? Actually don’t bother, the answer is no, you wouldn’t. Sadly with no friends we had no one to rescue us and didn’t have much of a choice. Nissan loaded on to the truck off we go, back past the last 20 minutes of road we’d driven down, back to Torquay, dropped the car off then began our new adventure to Marshall train station, where trains arrive once an hour. And when they do, they’re straight from the 1900s. So now as I sit writing this, on the second hour of my public transport journey home from my trip to the very beginning of my 2 day destination, 7 hours after I left my house I can safely say I have achieved absolutely nothing other than leaving someone’s personal car at Torquay tows, 150kms from their house, probably written off. JWe are dehydrated, starving and and I have a sunburnt face. Monday 22nd September 2014, a perfect day to do anything in melbourne, other than breakdown.

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Hermanus

Arrived at hermanus backpackers to the news our shark cage diving had been cancelled for the next morning due to rough sea conditions. Of course, I’d expect nothing less. We were shown to our room and got extremely excited about the prospect of a bed in a room, it’s amazing how sleeping in a train for 3 nights can make you appreciate the little things in life. Then it was on to the tour of downstairs, the guy showing us round got no further than the kitchen before he lost our attention. From behind the table stepped the fattest cat I have ever seen, it was just so large. In all honesty letting a cat reach such gigantic proportions would probably be classed as animal abuse, but it seemed happy enough. Accompanying the fat cat there was a sleepy cat and a smiley dog. After much avoidance we decided we should probably wash our hair, as we’d neglected to do so for the last 6 days. Then we went on the hunt for food, walked past a delicious looking ice cream parlour and made note to stop there after dinner. We sat outside to eat, only to realise it was actually quite cold in hermanus at night. Not to worry, the waiter promptly arrived at our table with blankets. This country is full of good ideas. I ordered a salad so as to save room for ice cream so naturally once we’d finished the ice cream parlour was shut and I was still hungry.

Woke up the next morning to go on a whale spotting sea kayak trip, somehow the water was too rough for the boat to take us cage diving but it would be fine to kayak on. The company hadn’t rung to hostel to say otherwise by the time we left for breakfast so we were told to assume it was going ahead. Breakfast itself was really really great, I may even include a picture I enjoyed it that much. Managed to con Lacey into eating half a banana muffin, which is a big deal. Wandered down to find the kayaks, locked away. Clearly someone had miscommunicated something as there wasn’t a person in sight and these kayaks were nowhere near ready for use in 5 minutes time as they should have been. As we started to walk back to the car to make some phone calls as to what the hell was going on we noticed what appeared to be a small, stuffed, furry creature displayed majestically on the front of the boat. No sooner had Lacey noted on how life like it looked, it moved, and made her shit her pants. Possibly the only time I’ve ever heard her scream. As you can imagine the kayak owner had decided the sea was in fact to choppy to go out on and we were left activity less once again. I was determined to see whales one way or another so next job was to try and book the sundowner whale watching boat trip, sounded lovely. Turns out both their boats were off the water being serviced. Eventually we found a treetop zipline willing to entertain us, whatever the state of the sea, in a couple of hours time.

To entertain ourselves until then we took a drive to the beach. White sand, blue sea, mountains looming over your head if you turned and faced inland and the most ferocious wind I have even encountered in an otherwise perfect setting. It was a beautiful sight, just a shame it felt like we were stuck in a tornado. Tested to sea temperature with our feet and decided nope, no swimming would take place today. I did find some tiny see through snail things with a pointy shell. They got swept along by the waves then desperately tried to bury themselves into the sand, amusing me greatly. We took a walk along the length of the beach and found many interesting things such as massive seaweed, more shells and in Lacey’s case, the skull of a bird. The wind was so strong the sand being blown into us felt like a million needles hitting your body at once. Still, of all the complaints to have, a sandy beach isn’t the worst I’m sure. All to soon it was zipline time.

So we pile back in the car and head to a forest. The man in charge dresses us in a delightful harness, which made my flimsy shorts disappear up my arse (in fairness to the shorts they were actually pyjamas but who cares, I’m on holiday). We completed this look with a hard hat and were ready to go. As always with anything fun, the first of the 10 ziplines was located at the very top of a steep hill, but for the first time ever we weren’t expected to climb this ourselves! The lovely instructors gave us a lift on the back of their quad bikes. So then the afternoon was spent with a sweaty face and even sweatier back ziplining down the mountain. The hat hair when we got to the bottom was something else. To celebrate nothing going wrong on this occasion we went for lunch. It was decided chocolate was in order, so we headed to the cutest little chocolatier shop we’d spotted over looking the sea. Arrived at 3.15 to find a sign stating it shut at 3.00. So we had to make do with chocolate from the near by checkers. Decided the best place to eat our goodies was on the beach watching the sunset. There, we found so many dogs on evening walks having an absolutely lovely time. Messed about making shell signs in the sand. Sean trod in dog shit, barefoot. That was definitely a day maker for all involved. Then I met a middle aged man doing handstands, not one to be left out of such fun activities I joined in and was soon giving him a headstand and yoga lesson. This was all great fun until I got back to the hostel and realised just how much sand was in my hair. The others got an early night and I stayed up talking to an absolutely fabulously hilarious guy called Lorenzo. I enjoyed him greatly.

By some miracle the shark cage dive we’d been moved on to the next morning wasn’t cancelled! So we got up early and were ready to leave by 7.30am as instructed. Turns out this was a complete waste of time as when we got to the harbour there was a 2 hour wait before we even got on the boat. Signed my life away again and made the very most out of the free all you can eat buffet breakfast. Eventually we all boarded the megaladon II and were on our way. The captain was a mad man. Sailing full speed over 20 foot waves whilst on his phone, but we did arrive at our destination in one piece, I’ll give him that. And said destination was the middle of the ocean… surrounded by thick fog. What do we do to scare the sun away everywhere we go??? Then it was wetsuit time. This was a multitude of fails, turned out I was too out of proportion for a one piece as my crotch apparently needed to start at my knees for one to fit. After 3 attempts I was awarded a 2 piece suit for my troubles. Much comfier. Lacey was having issues of her own, the issue being the fact she’d been given a wetsuit which appeared to have been created to house a child’s body. Turns out her arse is larger than a child’s and so it would not go any further. On the second try she put the new one on back to front and by this point was pretty much done with the whole thing. And then we waited, and waited, and waited. At the beginning we were told the last time a shark hadn’t been sighted on this trip was many months ago and that it was very uncommon for this to happen. I suddenly felt incredibly guilty that our bad luck had probably ruined the day of all other 20 people on the boat. And then we heard someone shout SHARK. Pandemonium. The boat nearly tipped over from the surge of people running from one side to the other to catch a glimpse. We’d waited an hour for this and when one finally turned up it had a bit missing. There was a massive bite mark on its back. The first 5 people were thrown in the cage as this shark chased after the dead tuna head on a rope. Even watching from the boat was extraordinary, although I must say, it’s a lot less frightening seeing a fin glide through the water when the jaws theme tune isn’t playing. Soon enough it was my turn (Lacey opted out), the water was absolutely freezing but made slightly more bearable by the delicious Danish specimen in the cage next to me. However, every time I stuck my head under the water I was greeted with severe brain freeze from the outside in. How that works I’ll never know. Saw some big sharks with big teeth from a small cage, to put it bluntly. When everyone was done we headed back to shore, or at least we would have done if the captain could see where the shore was. The fog had thickened and his steering depended on which way the poor sod standing at the front of the boat pointed. After 4 attempts he found the harbour. Then we headed back to the hostel to wash the fishy sea water out our hair before taking a drive to Cape Town, on the way to which I experienced an excellent open mouthed nap.

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Mossel Bay

The day we arrived in Mossel Bay would probably be classed as the worst day of our entire trip. Admittedly looking back nothing seems as bad as I remembered it to be at the time on the basis I was very tired, very hungover and therefore very grumpy at the time. We had big plans for mossel bay. We’d splashed out and treated ourselves to a double room over a dorm, in a TRAIN!!! Santos express advertised its cabin rooms to be unique, right on the beach and with a sea view. If this wasn’t exciting enough we’d also checked out the sandboarding and skydiving offered here and were very much looking forward to both. Now, when travelling, a lot more things go wrong than they do right. Your plans change often and it’s not usually down to you how or when they do so. Often this is exciting and leads you to better places with better things and better people than what you were first expecting. Not in Mossel Bay. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from this bastard train, maybe something along the lines of the shell of a carriage, completely refurbished roomy cabins, possibly separated from the rest of the train and plonked on the sand like beach huts, you know, something quirky? After walking into reception and paying for the full amount of our stay this is what we got…. A train very much in one piece, very much with original decor and very much made for borrowers. To put things into perspective, our 2 “beds” were so close Vanessa feltz wouldn’t have been able to stand in the gap in between them. This was the only floor space as they stretched from one end of the cabin to the other. I could touch both sides of the room at one time from any direction. The only signs of refurbishment were the paintings of gods playing with trains on the wall. Or was it a wall? Nope. Despite there not being enough oxygen for the 2 of us, there were 2 more beds that pulled down from each side. Thank god we don’t have any friends. Thought we’d make the situation a bit better by opening the blinds to see our beautiful sea view. Pulled them up to reveal a massive bush. Poked my head out the window and looked up and down to find out the extent of this sea view lie. Nope, said bush was just in front of our room. Why is it always us? Scrambled to find the leaflet with the right mind to sue them for false advertising. “Sea facing cabins”. Well played santos, well played. Time to charge my phone, but not in this hostel it seemed – there was one plug. A European plug. God sake. Laid down on my bed to be greeted by a line of hardness digging right down the middle of my body. Tired and annoyed I stripped the sheets back to locate and remove the problem. Oh dear god. These were the original leather train seats, the back folded on top of the base, with a blanket and duvet shoved on top. Some total twat had clearly folded mine down the wrong way resulting in the seam being right in the middle. Not to worry, I had a spare bed, remember? So I pulled that down from the wall and very ungracefully mounted the beast. So far so good, no seams, even base, held my weight. Then I tried to lay down. Turns out the only way that was possible was by sticking my feet out the window, the top bunks were clearly not made with 5’8ers in mind. Then came the challenge of flipping the “mattress” from the bottom bed upside down and the other way up to try and sort the problem. This involved many snapped nails, a leather train seat hanging out the door and Lacey nearly getting knocked out. All of a sudden I didn’t blame whoevers job it was to have done this, it was near on impossible with such little space. Eventually we triumphed. Comfortable it was not, but horizontal it was, and that was where I needed to be right then. Tried to have a nice ladylike stretch and punched Lacey in the face. My limbs are not made for train life. Decided it was best to go and explore before we developed claustrophobia. Next job; lock the door. Simple enough, so why, after 10 minutes and 2 people was the damn thing still not locked? I’ll tell you why. Because our sliding door, which was screaming out for some WD40 every time it was used, slid way past the lock and when we finally lined it up it became apparent the door also needed to be lifted up to successfully turn the key. Nightmare.

By this time it was raining. Of course it had been so very hot the last week, then, as usual, we had arrived and ruined the weather for everyone. The promised lounge area didn’t appear to exist, meaning if we didn’t want to sit in our cell we had to sit in a fully functioning bar and restaurant. Grabbed some leaflets on what there was to do in the area and sat down for some lunch. Decided it would be best to book the skydiving and sandboarding right that moment as knowing our luck there would be no spaces if we left it till the next day. I went to enquire at the friendly reception desk as all the signs told me to do. The friendly receptionist told me to come back later because she was busy. Sulked off and ordered some food, then went to see mrs customer service again. This time I waited patiently in a long queue of people, all the time well aware my food had now arrived on my table. When it was my turn she promptly booked the sandboarding without asking any questions, then proceeded to serve the 2 people in the queue behind me before “booking” sky diving for us. This involved her dialling the number we already had and handing the phone to me to make all the arrangements. An activity I could well have done with our own phone at our own table in about 2 minutes. Nevertheless everything was booked and I slunk off to eat my then cold dinner. Afterwards we thought we’d cheer ourselves up by uploading the swimming with seals pictures from the disc we’d bought. After 20 minutes Lacey returns from the computer to tell me the disc is blank. We’d swam with seals, which we now had no evidence of other than the R100 shaped hole in our pocket that we’d paid for a blank disc. Sent an angry email, got bought a gin and tonic from the guy sat next to us because I “looked like I needed it”. Time for bed.

Woke up to more clouds, refused to let this ruin our day and caught our lift to sandboarding. Turns out this is the one activity in South Africa where a little bit of rain and clouds is actually beneficial! The rain to make the sand a little more slippery and the clouds to prevent you from dying as you walk up massive sand dunes carrying a massive board. The dunes were definitely impressive, untouched, smooth sand that stretched right down to a private beach. First activity was to lie front down, head first on flat boards and be pushed down a dune called the dragon. It was intimidatingly large. Steep, wide, long. The 2 girls doing it with us went down no problem, the boards took them round the natural bend without any steering, as we were told they would do. It looked very easy. My turn… Straight into a bush. Lacey gave it a go and somehow managed to stop halfway down a seemingly vertical drop. Gave it a second go and achieved nothing more than a second fail. Turns out it wasn’t all bad not reaching the bottom though, as it meant there was less to walk back up, and there was more than enough of that to be dealing with already. Then it was time use the stand up boards! After being visually judged by the guy running it as to how fat we were and consequently what board we needed we set off. This was a lot of fun, and we didn’t fall over once, which is most definitely something to be proud of. After an hour of having a great time we headed to the truck to take us back. We were told we looked hot (the red and sweaty variety of hot, not the attractive one, may I add) and were instructed to stand on the bumper of the truck and hold on to the roof rack to get some air. 4 of us. He did not drive slowly and after rounding a particularly sharp corner everyone’s weight fell on me and I was nearly flung off, but other than that, it was fun. Had to make a minor emergency stop to rescue a baby tortoise from being run over. Well done us. By the time we got back to the hostel we were ravenous, so lunch happened at 11.30am. Decided to take a wander to the shopping centre, where we had been promised an array of shops and restaurants. What we found was a checkers (supermarket) and a wimpy. This wasn’t a complete waste of time however as Nutella was purchased to spice up breakfast time.

The next day we were supposed to celebrate valentines day by throwing ourselves out a plane but, naturally, we woke up to thick fog. Got a call from Arenhold who works at mossel bay skydive telling us that it would pretty much definitely be a no go and that he’d try to squeeze us in the next day before we had to leave. So we went back to bed, had a nap, woke up, decided I wasn’t quite done, had another nap. Tried to get past the dreaded level 16 on the crap game on Lacey crap South African phone, was unsuccessful and so had another nap. Got up to eat dinner then went to bed again at 10pm, with everything crossed that tomorrow would hold the clear blue skies that the forecast promised.

Nope. Woke up to thick fog. Just as we were settling down for a morning of googling where we can do a skydive elsewhere Arenhold phones, to tell us the weather has cleared and someone is on their way to collect us. Sceptical about this considering all we could see was clouds still. However it turns out this was just one cloud, right above our hostel, as the airfield, only a 10 minute drive away, had clear blue sky above it. Signed another form saying I wouldn’t be suing anyone if I died, seems I’m risking my life on a daily basis these days. Then it was time to get dressed up in a white jumpsuit, it was at this point we realised we were both wearing flip flops. Shit. The lost property box of shoes saved the day when it came down to it, sadly the only shoes in our size were neon coloured, and in my case, flowery. After watching 2 sets of 2 people fly off in the plane and land safely, it was our turn. Climbed on board our tiny tin can of a aircraft which didn’t have a door. Took off with my leg hanging out thinking is this really happening? The tandem jumpers were really great fun, ensuring they shove a camera in your face every few seconds to capture every moment of you shitting your pants. Every time I held on to anything the man i was strapped to (arenhold) threatened to add another somersault to our descent. All too soon we’d hit 10,000 feet and it was my turn to jump. As instructed I dangled both my legs out the side, was tipped forward and on 1, 2, WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING, 3… we fell out the plane. It took a split second for me to stop being scared and start enjoying myself. As promised I experienced 4 somersaults to counteract how many times I’d gripped on to anything as if my life depended it on the way up. The view was great and I couldn’t stop screaming like a child, Lacey was a lot more composed. After 35 seconds free fall the parachute was pulled and my face turned itself back the right way again. Arenhold let me have a go on the controls for a bit and then messed about making us spiral down to the ground, fun fun fun. Landed on my feet like an absolute pro and immediately wanted to go and do it all again. £130 paid for transport to and from the airfield, the jump itself, 300 pictures and a video. Sadly we had to rush off to catch our baz bus so he’s going to mail what i’m sure will be delightful pictures and a hilarious DVD to us when we reach Cape Town… Watch this space.

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Plettenberg Bay

Finally arrived at Amakaya Backpackers, got off the bus full of people who’d spent the entire journey looking at us as if we’d just drop kicked a baby rather than delayed them for an hour. Walked through the gate to see 2 hammocks, I like hammocks. Our dorm was a long narrow room with 4 bunk beds, it was a tight squeeze and there was minimal floor space for belongings, of which we have plenty. I’m sure people got used to our bras being scattered everywhere. A girl arrived just after us, picked the bed opposite ours, promptly hung her towel from the top bunk to the bottom so she blocked us from her view and went to sleep. Got straight on to the lady at reception to book us a swimming with seals experience, more about this later. Took a wander down to the beach, and when I say down I mean down… and down… and down, it was located at the bottom of what I’m sure was Mount Everest taking a beach holiday. Took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up caught in a tiny bit of beach surrounded by massive rocks blocking anything else, did a bit of rock climbing, trod on some very sharp barnacles and just when we thought we were doing well we were overtaken by Spider-Man on his way to go fishing, literally running up a vertical rock face, complete with rod, no hands. When we finally escaped we were faced with a beautiful stretch of beach, continuing further than our eyes could see. Excellent sand quality here, so we set to work on some sand sculptures. I made a mermaid, Lacey made a dick. The tide was coming in so it was a rush to finish before the sea came and washed them away. This resulted in me running like a mad man to collect shells, got a bit excited on one particular sprint, didn’t look where I was going and ended up running over a massive jellyfish, bounced right off it before I even realised what had happened. If it wasn’t dead beforehand it definitely was by that point, R.I.P squishy. Walked/crawled back up Everest and went on the hunt for food, ended up in “a taste of Mozambique”. Turns out Mozambique doesn’t taste so great. Retreated to bed, sleepy was still sleeping.

Woke up absolutely buzzing, it was time to swim with seals. Google mapped how to get to where we needed to be because we’d forgotten and the receptionist scared us a bit too much to ask twice. Only got lost once. Walked into what could easily have been mistaken for a funeral, the staff weren’t up for smiling, or talking, or helping. Got sized up by a woman who dished out the wetsuits, we were given size M. Must. Stop. Eating. No one looks good in a wetsuit, especially not us it turns out. Accessorised with snorkels and flippers. Strong look. Went to get on the boat which was parked on the beach and pushed into the water by a tractor. Nice little boat trip round to the robberg peninsula, and then we saw them. Now a seal is funny. 5000 seals are even funnier. What even are they? Oversized otters that really should have been blessed with legs. Their eyes are about 2 metres apart and they spent a lot of time scratching their face with their back end. They were in the water and on the rocks and just, well they were just everywhere. Playful as anything, they’d blow bubbles in your face, bite your flippers and pop up out of nowhere about 2cm from your head. It’s a shame we only got half an hour with them because it took us the best part of 20 minutes to stop laughing. Watching them climb out the water is one of the most amusing things I’ve ever seen, we spotted what we decided must be the king, sunning himself on a rock, he was extra fluffy and even fatter then us. Just when we thought we’d got it together one would bark at another and it would set us off again. Then a clump of seal shit floated by our face, unfortunately Lacey couldn’t stop laughing and ended up swallowing it. I was having such a great time that I forgot how a snorkel worked and nearly drowned myself. The guide had a waterproof camera to capture such beautiful moments. All too soon it was time to depart. Turns out the way speed boats are parked over here is by driving them full speed onto the beach, a feeling that is not natural but funny all the same. Dewetsuited ourselves and went for a walk down to the beach, got distracted by some men doing hair braids and got ourselves one. A lot better than the one we got in Port Elizabeth. Hired an umbrella for the remainder of the afternoon,the idea was to sunbathe but I accidentally fell asleep in the shade and dribbled on my towel. Nice. Aborted that and made a dash for the sea, had a fantastic time until I saw a fish when I wasn’t expecting to, which resulted in Lacey having to carry me out. I’m not 100% okay with the sea. Don’t trust it. Bought a bucket and spade, made a castle, complete with half a moat – got distracted. Dug a hole to bury myself neck deep in, an activity that will never not be entertaining. Got hungry so left at about 6pm. If we thought the hill yesterday was tough today’s one was a whole lot worse. There were times I didn’t think we were going to make it. Saw a restaurant and stumbled in, wet, sandy and just generally vile. Had a delicious dinner, a cocktail for £1.92 and were bought a complimentary shot of caramel vodka with the bill by the manager. Were first back in our dorm and asleep before anyone even came in.

Woke up to find sleepy had morphed into a boy overnight, because surely she can’t have stopped off at this wonderful place for 1 day only and then spent it sleeping? A sex change was the only logical explanation. Tried to have a lie in but were soon reminded our room was reminiscent of a furnace as soon as the sun comes up. Decided on a beach day again, took the same route as the day before and consequently got tempted by another braid to replace the bad one from PE. As we were setting up camp 2 coach loads of Argentinian men turned up, they were absolutely everywhere. Excellent news. Sitting minding our own business only to witness a freak massive wave spread its way up most the beach, ruining everyone’s possessions in front of us, it shouldn’t have been, but it was very funny. Continue having a lovely day until the shark alarm goes off, you’ve never truly seen the sea empty quickly until you witness the aftermath of a shark alarm. And how do people know when to sound the alarm I hear you ask? When someone tells someone else they’ve seen a shark. Very safe, as always. For the love of god Plett, please put a net up. So after everybody runs out the lifeguards move the swimming flags to a smaller area and paddle out on their surfboards to scan for sharks, everybody runs back in. Us included. South African waves are great, I’m sure if you’re a surfer you’ll make a lot more actual use out of them then us, but we can at least appreciate how funny they are. The sea was full of about 50 grown men all screaming with excitement when they spot an extra big wave, clapping and counting down until it reaches them. We were having a lovely time. Then on the horizon we spot what I’m sure must have been classed as some sort of tsunami heading towards us. Now the object of the game everyone was playing is to catch the wave just before it breaks so it carries you along the top of it. What you do not want to do is be where it’s breaking. Bearing this in mind we swim for our lives towards to wave to ensure we’re on top of it. But oh no, this bastard wall of water decides to fall down right on top of us, dragging us under and throwing a fat man who’d also suffered the same fate right on top of my ankle. For a minute I was convinced he’d broken it. Tried to stand up to avoid repeating that experience but couldn’t stand up and therefore nearly drowned in a second wave also. Got out after that.

Tonight we decided to wash ourselves and our hair. I’m making a point of including this as it doesn’t happen very often and should be celebrated. Went out for dinner in the same place as last night. Inhaled our pasta and dessert in under 30 minutes, paid our bill and left, all set to be in bed before 9pm. And we so very nearly made it, but the manager who recognised us from the night before grabbed us as we were crossing the road and insisted we have a cocktail on him. We didn’t take a huge amount of convincing. Out came 2 massive slushy cocktails that claimed to be a strawberry cosmopolitan but were really just tequila in disguise. Then out came 2 more. Then we were whisked across the road to a bar for a shot of jäger. Then back for more cocktails. He introduced us to a Sarah, also a manager, who had just finished her shift. We sat down to chat with her, more drinks were ordered, then out came some shots and I knew then how the night was going to go. Pretty soon every member of staff had finished work and a few came to join us at a bar just round the corner. Bearing in mind by this point I was very drunk and hasn’t spent a penny, the owner of the bar got very excited at how “English” we were and also refused to let me part with any money. Silly really because compared to what these guys earn we’re pretty much loaded. Not that I was complaining. We had a fun night, all very drunk and disorderly. Sarah drove us to her house, literally in to it (her number plates ruined) and we walked home from there. Finally got to sleep around 5am.

Woke up at 8am feeling incredibly fragile, unbelievably tired and outrageously grumpy. Checked out then went to hunt for some food, found a cake shop, Lacey had the biggest slice of chocolaty goodness I’ve ever seen. Stocked up on beverages and snacks for the bus journey and awaited our chariot to take us to mossel bay.

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Jeffrey’s Bay

Out of breath and sweaty we are leaving Jeffrey’s bay, more about that later…

We only stopped here for 2 nights which is a shame because the hostel (cristal cove) and town were both the best we’d been to so far. Our double room was in a separate flat from the main building, everything was clean, the furniture was modern, even the dorm room looked pretty decent and the beds were so soft it felt like I was sleeping on candy floss. After we dumped our backpacks we went to explore the beach, which is home to the Supertubes, if you surf you’ll get a boner over that. Walked along until we found the Main Street in town, decided to go for lunch in a little Portuguese café. Had salads because we’re getting very fat, turns out your waistline doesn’t accept the “I’m on holiday” excuse. Paid our bill and go to leave, only to be challenged by the manager as to why we didn’t tip. Because its lunch time and my salad wasn’t delivered in any particular way I felt the need to show my gratitude. We’re not tight bastards, I promise, but when you eat out 3 times a day you end up spending enough to eat for another week if you tip everyone, so now we only do so if we receive great banter or if I fancy the waiter. We tip them well when this is the case. Swiftly left and had to have a mr whippy ice cream dipped in caramel to recover from the shock of how rude this woman was, ice-cream doesn’t count, I’m on holiday… Walked back along the beach and channelled our inner boring 28 year old by becoming transfixed with shells. There were shells all over the beach, along with a dead shark and some jellyfish. All different colours and shapes and sizes (the shells not the jellyfish, they were pretty much all round and see through). Before long we were picking up our favourites despite the fact we knew we couldn’t safely transport them around for months. We’d find a nice one then crave an even better one to swap it for, some people are addicted to cocaine, turns out we’re addicted to shells. Found one that looked like a pierced ear. Yep. Got back to the hostel, Lacey had a shower, I had a nap. Finally got our act together and got ready to go out for dinner, asked the sweetest middle aged man that worked at reception if there were any places to eat near by and he phoned “the best” restaurant in town which offered a free taxi to and from it. Our waiter, albeit completely high, was great value. I was hungry so ordered pasta, mashed potato and a side of vegetables. Had a cocktail because it would be rude not to, watched said waiter make them, and drink the leftovers. When he put them down he told us he hoped we weren’t driving as he’d doubled the measures, no wonder he was off his tits. Food came, another cocktail was pressured upon us (didn’t take much in all fairness), after being told he wouldn’t allow us to order the same one we trusted him to surprise us. Turns out I like cosmopolitans! Paid our £18 bill (yes, you read that correctly). Tipped him well, but also stole his pen (ours had run out of ink). Don’t worry we tipped enough for him to buy several replacement pens. Bed.

Woke up at 7.30am desperate for a piss, every time I went to get out of bed I’d hear someone else go in the bathroom, this continued for half an hour and on the basis there was only 6 of us in the entire building I was beginning to think someone had a problem. Must have got bored waiting because I fell back asleep. Woke up at 9.30, even more desperate for a piss, how is there STILL people in the bathroom??? And so I wait. And wait. And sneak in as the girl leaving shouts to her mate that the showers free. 2 seconds later someone tried to open the door, twice, and then knocked on it? What exactly are you supposed to say if someone knocks on the toilet door when you are in it? The fact it is locked surely tells them everything they need to know? I replied by turning the tap on, that’d show her. Australians. Outside was cloudy and dare I say it.. Cold? By cold I mean it was only 20 degrees. Took our clean laundry that smelt of bonfire to be washed again at the laundrette in binliners slung over our shoulders. Looked like we’d just killed someone and were disposing of the body. Then we went on the hunt for 33 flame crescent. On the basis we were on 49 flame crescent we didn’t think this would be too much of a challenge, we were wrong. We walked past number 5 at the start of the road, then number 12, about 10 houses along were numbers 1 and 2, next to each other that is, and they were opposite number 46. Luckily Lacey happened to spot number 33 by chance. In we go to the “activities centre”, we wanted to do a waterfall zip line at a town about an hour away from where we were staying, turns out there were no busses or shuttles to take us there, but she could hire us a car. For £10 a day, no deposit and it was nicknamed the banter buggy. All these things pointed towards one firm answer; we’ll take it. ***Dad and Gary Green before you lose your heads we didn’t go through with this in the end, so you can take your coats off, sit back down and abort your mission to come and drag us home. Your darlings are safe.*** And why didn’t we go through with it I hear you ask? Because we fucked up. Thought we were here for 3 nights then realised the time we were meant to be picking up the car was also the time we were supposed to be getting on the baz bus to leave Jeffrey’s Bay. Damn it I really wanted to go on that zipline. Wanted to look into the possibility of doing this from where we were heading next but the hostels wifi and phone lines were down, why wouldn’t they be when we needed them? Instead we went to collect our laundry, also handed back to us in binliners. Took our now washed and tumble dried dead bodies out for lunch with us. Stayed for 3 hours, delicious waiter offered to take pictures of us surfing, told us they’d look great, he’s clearly never seen us attempt to surf. Tipped him well for being genetically blessed. Went “home” to wash and get ready to go for dinner, yes we were about to eat again, tried to get back in to where we ate lunch but they were full/sick of the sight of us. One waiter gave us a number for a taxi to take us to town, our chariot arrived in the form of a unmarked beat up old Volvo (notoriously used for kidnapping I’m sure), nevertheless the driver was a really sweet old guy who recommended where to eat and charged us pennies. Up the stairs we go to a Mexican restaurant, this one was for Lacey, I cannot understand what the appeal of having the same food options in different shaped tortillas is but hey ho, I tried!! And failed, too spicy, set my face on fire. All was not lost, the cocktails and dessert made everything worthwhile. 10pm happens and all of a sudden the tables get hidden away, a wall folds back, someone turns the music up, the lights down and the Mexican restaurant turns into the Mexican nightclub, complete with a pole. We people watched for a while before a Russian man so drunk he couldn’t talk tried to get us to dance, we politely declined, at which point he put a blanket over my head and tried to throw me over the balcony. Don’t panic, we were saved by a body building gay guy who threatened to kill him if he went near us again. TIA. Decided it was best to leave, phoned our trusted taxi man who didn’t charge extra after midnight, pleasant surprise. Bedtime. Woke up at 3am to what sounded like half the contents of the Mexican in our front room, cheers flat mates! Eventually they shut the hell up and we got to sleep again.

Woke up at 8am ready to get he baz bus, which is always late, between 8.30 and 9.00, as instructed by the woman we booked it with and the time table. Go to check out at 8.29 and were told the bus came and went, 45 minutes ago. After an angry phone call turns out the bus had only just left Jeffrey’s bay after waiting round the corner for us and was going to turn back. It arrives just as we’re paying, or should I say just as we realise we have no cash and the hostel doesn’t take cards. Off I run, in flip flops, to the nearest ATM, stopping only when directed by a man with a massive German shepherd yelling that it would chase me if I ran and he couldn’t control it. Got on the bus to a VERY pissed off driver and even more pissed off passengers, turns out we’ve delayed everyone from here on in by an hour. That time table is bullshit.

Port Elizabeth

The drive to Port Elizabeth was probably the longest drive of my life. We left Port St. John’s at 12pm and arrived at our hostel, kings beach backpackers, at 12am. The majority of roads we took had potholes the depth of graves and even the motorways are so bumpy I actually lifted off our seat a few times. Now if there’s one thing we’ve had enough of its petrol station food. I dread to think how many crisps and biscuits I’ve eaten in the last few weeks, it’s becoming the norm for us to polish off a share size bag of Cheetos in one sitting, a share size bag each that is. So when our driver told us we’d be stopping at a place where we could eat an actual meal it became our inspiration to keep our spirits high through the lack of Tarmac and suspension. Until we turned the corner and pulled into our feeding hole; beavers pies. Just as grim as it sounds. After our half hour pitstop eating more greasy beige food that we really did not want it was only 1 hour till we reached our destination. Arrived in one piece and were shown to our room, a not so cleverly disguised garage with 2 beds in. Sleep.

Woke up to grey clouds, as usual we were then informed by staff that “it was so hot and sunny yesterday!” a running theme wherever we arrive at. On the basis we didn’t actually want to visit Port Elizabeth and were only there because it was a compulsory over night stop our expectations for the day were low. When asked what there was to do the hostel owners only suggestion was to actually leave Port Elizabeth entirely and go on an overnight safari. Not to sound spoilt but we’d been there and done that. So instead we set off for a walk and ended up finding a collection of restaurants and shops in a complex called boardwalk. Found many trinket shops, one with more bracelets than I’ve ever seen, despite buying about 50 each we still didn’t make a dent in the stock. And then we saw her; a lady that did hair braids. Day made. Lacey went for a combination of pinks and I went red, yellow and green, interesting to see if this will result in people offering me marijuana even more often than they do already. Went to the cinema to see the wolf of Wall Street, for £2.35!!!! Fair enough individuals may be more likely to mug you of your bag over here but back home we get mugged off daily by every place we spend our money. Even more exciting than the low prices was the popcorn system. You buy some plain popcorn then take it to a separate counter which has help yourself flavouring to shake all over it. From salt to cheese, as much or as little as you want. Film was funny, I’d recommend it, if only to drool over Leonardo Di Caprio (he’s still got it). Took another walk around after, found an arcade, got excited, found it had a 4D simulator, shit out pants with excitement. This wasn’t the first time we’ve come across a 4D simulator, we were first introduced to one in our first week here, in a place called sun city. Pretty much the same as any old simulator ride with a choice of many shit settings, roller coasters, haunted houses etc. My one piece of advise would be to wear a sports bra, I suffered many an issue. The “4D” is the real entertainment, the killer pumpkin chasing us led us to a graveyard full of skeletons dancing round a pot of blood until it exploded, at which point bubbles were blown onto our face from a hidden bubble machine. All the laughs to be had here. Turns outs this was a pretty cool place, we went to bed happy.

If there’s one thing worse than waking up to grey clouds its waking up to rain. Welcome to Port Elizabeth day 2. Collected our washing load from the day before, bearing in mind this was the first washing we’d done in a month we were excited for soft, clean smelling clothes. And pants, we were running low on pants. What we got was a slightly damp pile of clothes that smelt of bonfire. Figured the line must be near the BBQ. Went a bit ray mears on the situation and made a make shift washing line in our room with 3 belts and a scarf stretching from the coat hook to a nail in the opposite wall in an attempt to dry the damp items. Then there was the issue of what to do with the rest of the day, eventually we decided that as we had such a good day yesterday, we’d repeat it again. We’re on holiday, if we want to go out for dinner 3 times a day and visit the cinema 2 days in a row we will, and we did. Tried one cafe but didn’t like the menu so quickly slipped out the door before we ordered drinks, only to be literally chased down the road by our waitress asking why we left. Interesting sales tactic. Didn’t work, we ate elsewhere. Watched delivery man in the cinema, but not before we visited wakaberry. This is without doubt the most amazing shop you will ever enter. Picture the scene; 4 help yourself mr whippy style ice cream stations, all containing 3 pumps of 3 different flavours of frozen yoghurt. Stay with me, im talking caramel, fudge and chocolate alongside all the fruity types. So you fill your tub, massive tub, with as much as you think you can manage, then move on to the toppings section and help yourself to sweets, chocolate, marshmallows, sprinkles, nuts, desiccated coconut, tinned fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, fruit sauce, MILKYBAR SAUCE. My tub was overflowing as I took it to the till to be weighed, I’d got far too excited and filled it with enough to feed everyone queuing behind me, yet it still only cost me £2. England, you’re doing it wrong. Start to walk back to the hostel feeling fat and wealthy. 5 minutes in to our 15 minute walk home we notice a guy with a missing front tooth running up to us, I initially thought we were going to get mugged, or murdered, or both. Turns out his car had run out of diesel and he was stuck the other side of town from his house with no money. Assessed the situation (feasible), what he was wearing (expensive) and what he was saying (believable). Naturally still told him we had no money on us, to which he was fine with and offered to walk us back to our hostel as it was dark. After being told the story of how he got mugged and hit in the face with a broomstick down the road we were on the week before last (hence the lack of tooth) I was suddenly grateful he had run out of fuel. Gave him R100 to buy enough diesel to get him home and he promised to drop it to our hostel the next day, cute offer but told him not to bother as we were leaving at 6.30am. So I don’t know what we’d call that, a polite R100 mugging perhaps? One of which I consented to? Or maybe I’d just helped out someone who was well and truly in the shit. I prefer the latter explanation. Note to self – not everyone is going to kill you, some people are just, well, people.

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Port St. John’s

So, Port St. John’s where do I begin? 5 hour baz bus trip and a 2 hour shuttle from Mthatha to our hostel, amapondo backpackers. Everyone in the world was out shopping in Mthatha, they were queuing to get in the supermarket, it was an interesting drive. We arrived hungry and incredibly happy to see this hostel ran a full menu of food from 7am-9.30pm, finally it didn’t matter that yet again we’d forgotten to buy our own food. Dogs everywhere and cats all over the tables, not to everyones taste but we love an animal. Checked in and were shown to our dorm room (R100 per night) that had no lock and didn’t shut, a whole new level of laid back. Both chose bottom bunks on the basis the top ones were all covered in shit, a running theme, we’ve decided it must belong to geckos. Thought we’d check out the beach as it was only a 2 minute walk and a nice evening, turned the corner to find untouched stretches of sand, beautiful views of surrounding mountains, and a donkey. Walked up and down for a bit, accompanied by the donkey. Went to bed a bit confused as to what had just happened.

Got woken up to the sound of someone being tortured on the roof of our room, found the balls to open the door to find myself faced with about 20 monkeys having a great time screeching at each other and swinging from the trees all over our roof and wall. Shut that pretty sharpish, the last thing we needed was something with opposable thumbs within grabbing distance of our belongings, but at least no one was getting murdered like first feared. Had asked a member of staff about the possibility of doing a mud cave tour when we arrived yesterday, he claimed they definitely offered it yet didn’t know a huge amount about the specifics such as transport, price or time. We were told 10am-11am…ish. So 12pm we finally go to leave with a Swiss couple and a Caribbean mother and daughter after another hostel worker pulled some last minute strings to make sure we actually went. 4 of us jump in the back of a truck, as does one of the dogs, the tour guides try their best to get him out but he won’t budge, so off we all go to the mud caves. Turns out this dog doesn’t like sitting on the floor, he likes sitting on laps, but on the basis he was the size of a small horse and weighed more than me this wasn’t always the most comfortable but was undeniably hilarious all the same. Parked up and got out to find a row of locals sat with mud all over their faces, what they weren’t wearing they were trying to sell in coke bottles. Bottles of mud. We politely declined. Then our guide got us on our hands and knees to smell a hole in the ground. The purpose of this we will never know, it was probably their toilet or something as one of the woman that lived there took many photos on her phone of us doing so. Moving on from that we climb up what can only be described as a slab of rock to squeeze through a tiny gap into a cave covered with white mud, floor to ceiling. Happily slapped it all over my own face and then all over Lacey’s. When our faces and body’s could hold no more we climbed up the stone further and were stopped at another hole on the ground, this time our guide puts a empty bottle down there and pulls it up with some murky water in, we’re told to drink it. Tasted of egg. Apparently it was sulphuric(?) and it’s the only natural place it can be found in South Africa, people come from miles around with empty containers to fill up and take away as it has supposed healing qualities and helps to settle the stomach. In my books nothing says unsettled stomach more than eggy water from the floor so I only had a sip. Anyone who neknoninated that would deserve a high 5 I can tell you. Make our way to the “black mud pool” which was full of naked locals, the dog promptly jumps in and scares the shit out of all of them to the point they started running away, tits everywhere. Once everybody calmed down we began decorating our faces with the black mud, some guy comes out of nowhere and turned me into a Dalmatian whilst Lacey gave me a moustache. Proceed onwards to some sulphur springs to wash ourselves clean, must admit our faces felt soft as a baby’s bum. Never again will I pay for a face mask from boots now I know sticking my face in mud will have the same effect. Made our way back to the hostel with the dog still refusing to sit anywhere but on us. Find the donkey in the bar. Turns out it belongs to the hostel owner and had grown up there, she takes herself out for the day, to the beach or to town and comes home every night. That donkey has a better life than I do. Anyway, we ask the owner about quad biking that we were interested in, thinking he must have some information as Bong the bartender, along with everyone else, knew nothing about anything. Turns out he also had little knowledge on this trip they offered but said he’d look into it. This was a fantastic hostel and the staff were actually great, we got to do everything we wanted in the end which wouldn’t have been possible without their help, they were all just amusingly relaxed and unorganised, but it was part of their charm. Went for a shower, accompanied by the dog, of course. Had dinner and started getting chatted to by a local guy whose name I can only say sounded like whoosh. The accent barrier was a shocker and Lacey somehow became flexi for the evening. Went to bed before the monkeys who had a party on our roof into the early hours.

Woke up to rain, as we do any day we have outdoor plans. No quad biking. Sat in the bar for about 5 hours, with our favourite dog, as usual, sitting on us. We’d learned he was 5 months old and called Caesar. Biggest 5 month old dog I’ve ever seen. Rain cleared up by late afternoon and we got peer pressured into a cultural trek to a blowhole, the path to which was located on the beach. Found the donkey chilling with a herd of cows(?!!?) sitting on the sand watching the sea. Soon as she see’s us she came running over and started chasing and rolling in the sand with the dog (larly) that had taken itself out with us. The animals rule this town I tell you. Start walking on the narrow path up the mountain, with the donkey bringing up the rear and eventually running past and kicking one poor girl we were with. As we descend to “the gap” which has to be crossed to get to “the blowhole” we were greeted with cheery plaques honouring people that had died trying to do so in the past. The gap itself was a tiny bit terrifying, a rope over a slippy cliff edge that you used to lower yourself down to a rickety ladder to then climb up another rickety ladder and slippery cliff edge the other side. Not surprised people died. Shoeless but triumphant I made it (lacey sat this one out) to the blowhole, which if hadn’t been pointed out to me I may well have walked past/down. It’s a hole in the rocks that blows water out when waves push underneath, I was expecting water shooting 100s of feet in the air and was left slightly underwhelmed, after risking my life, with a small amount of spray that didn’t show up in pictures. Back up the rope and on to a traditional village. I’m sure traditionally they didn’t have satellite dishes and music louder than liquid on a Saturday night but they were all having a great time so who am I to judge how authentic things were? Other than that things were pretty much straight off a gift aid advert, but they lived the simple life by choice, these people were not at all unhappy, they were proud of their way of life, which was nice to see. Children, chickens and dogs everywhere. The kids were great fun, striking a pose whenever you got your camera out and playing photographer with the selfie camera on my phone. Stopped for dinner in one of the houses, tiny tiny houses, kitchen and 1 bedroom and nothing more. Dinner mostly consisted of pap, a pure white cow pat on a plate. It tastes of nothing, absolutely nothing, it’s like the water of food world, only not anywhere near as refreshing. People eat it to be full rather than to satisfy their taste buds. The contents of what its made from I couldn’t tell you. But the rest was delicious, the family were lovely and it was a great experience. Walked back up the road with the herd of cows from the beach earlier, turns out they also take a day trip there unaccompanied when they feel like it. Got back to the hostel and shamefully ate another dinner.

Woke up early on the day of our departure to finally go quad biking, very excited about this as we weren’t sure whether it would happen or not. Get in the back seat of the car, Caesar follows, after a struggle to get him out he abandons any attempt to play things cool and tries to get on the roof, splats himself on the window and slides down before chasing the truck down the road as far as he can. The owner wasn’t sure why he was so in love with us but i guess If all else fails I can always marry that dog. The couple that run the quad biking business were lovely, really friendly and welcoming. Told us lots of stuff about Port St Johns and its animals, sights and shark attacks etc, made me smile hearing people who have spent most their lives here still talking about it as excitedly as I would. Can’t say I do the same about Portsmouth. We went out for an hour ride along the mountains over looking the sea, through all the remote villages. Had a lovely time but got severe thumb ache. All things considered I don’t think that’s the worst injury we could have walked away with. Got back to the hostel just in time for our shuttle to the baz bus. Left my only hoody behind which I’m still pissed off about so I won’t go into that any further. The people of Mthatha were shopping just as manically as before, apart from the mob walking down the road with vuvuzelas, singing and throwing bricks at a hardware store. Drove past many adverts for same day, pain free abortions. Interesting city. Probably wouldn’t recommend getting out of your car.

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Umzumbe

Next stop was umzumbe. About an hour and a half drive (2 and a half if you have our driver who decided he needed to take our bus in for a service 20 minutes in). We were excited about this one, had already booked in to the mantis and moon hostel to stay in a teepee and had checked out the gorge swing and zipwire trip they offered.

Arrived to grey skies and heavy rain, definitely not what we’ve flown half way across the world for. Hostel has many big dogs, 7 last time I counted but every time i step outside there seems to be another one I haven’t seen yet. They also keep cockatiels and 2 bunnys, in the same cage. As we’re checking in we’re told the dorms and teepee have no key, being typically British and having the fact “Africa’s the most dangerous place to visit” drummed into us, we’re nervous. Although when we get to our sleeping quarters it turns out a lock and key are the least of our worries, this thing barely had a door. Don’t get me wrong, a teepee big enough to sleep 4 people in the middle of what looked like a jungle IS exciting, and I was still grinning from ear to ear at the thought of it, but in reality, it’s not practical. There was one light, hidden deep in the face of a waist high aboriginal head statue smack bang in the middle of the floor, it provided next to no light. There are curtains draped round the entire bottom half on the inside, we assumed to make it more homely, but after closer inspection it turns out they were there to hide the gaping holes round the bottom. There was no attempt to hide the gaping hole in the top. The pièce de résistance however, would be the lump of shit I found on my pillow. Not of the human variety thank god, the maid clearly didn’t dislike her job that much. But shit on ones pillow is never fun. Especially when you remove said shit, leave the teepee and later return to fresh shit on your pillow. That’s right, some small creature, had waited until I’d gone out to climb back onto my bed and take a dump. This continued for our entire stay, I made it something like 27-0 – to the creature. Well played. Had everything crossed the culprit was a mouse and not a rat, I still can’t confirm or deny this. Anyway, moving on from shit to more, well, shit. The weather didn’t improve all day, there was nothing to do so I took a nap, for 3 hours, then we watched dodgeball. The info guide on the table informed us of a pub called rock bottom, a 2 minute walk turning right out of the hostel. So we exited the hostel, turned left, walked 5 minutes, turned back, walked 7 minutes and sure enough there was rock bottom, shut. Hungry and annoyed we return and realise we have missed the dinner the hostel offers. We hadn’t eaten since 6am and its now 6pm so in our desperation we tell the hostel workers we’ll pay any price for a taxi that will take us to food. Turns out umzumbe is actually on a different planet as there are no taxis willing to travel here. She tells us there are no shops and no restaurant for miles around. Admitting defeat we flop down on the sofa, Lacey looking more and more like a stuffed pepper to me the further starvation kicked in. We were brought back from the brink of death by another hostel worker, looking very confused, saying she’d just got off the phone to one of our friends who’d phoned up telling them we were hungry and they should feed us (thank you Sean, you are our hero). Turns out despite there being no shops or restaurants there was in fact a pizza takeaway. Nobody thought to mention that earlier. As you’ll all be glad to hear, we were saved by a margarita. So the first day: not a huge success.

Woke up for day 2 with heavy rain forecast all day again. Didn’t sleep too bad despite our room mate telling us a horror story involving a gecko falling on her face one night. My duvet did smell of a hamster cage that hadn’t been cleaned in about a month but once I got past that it wasn’t so bad I guess. We were optimistic today would be better as mantis and moon offer shuttles to nearby towns with shops, restaurants and a cinema. Our optimism was soon beaten down once again when we were told the car had broken and so there would be no shuttles, anywhere. Trying not to let this news piss us off too much we overheard talk of a small shop nearby (I don’t know if the woman who told us there was nothing anywhere had ever stepped foot outside the front door, but it would appear not) so decided to take a stroll there to buy food and avoid being in the same situation as the day before. The shop itself was situated the other side of a railway track, we crossed that and stepped inside of what looked like the setting for wrong turn 6. I wish I was joking. The guy behind the till had eyes looking in 2 different directions and he spoke as if he hadn’t had any human interaction in decades. There was chicken soup in a packet with an expiry date of 2012, individual cheese slices in the fridge, 4 slices of bread in bags and books in the chiller cabinet. Thank god they stocked 100s and 1000s though. Bought some pasta, tinned tomatoes, tomato soup (in date) and bread. Cost us R32.

Took a wander to the beach to try and erase the shopping experience from our memories, turns out the weather forecast was wrong and we were greeted with sunshine, the evidence of which can be found on my bright red arse, legs and back. I will never learn. The beach was lovely actually, lots of rocks which were home to lots of crabs, long stretches of sand and barely anyone for miles around. Found the designated swimming area and bumped into a girl from our hostel trying to convince herself to go in the sea. Lacey didn’t want to get her hair wet and salty so I made it my mission to show her it was possible to keep ones head dry. Strutted up to the first wave which hit me straight round the face and left me absolutely drenched. Needless to say Lacey didn’t get in. I had an absolutely GREAT time, these waves were so big, and so frequent, and just so, well, fun! So fun in fact that I didn’t notice the current had pulled me out and across – away from the designated swimming area. I’m sure having to get rescued by 2 lifeguards on a surf board would have been a lot more embarrassing if there had been more people on the beach. Either way I’m still alive now so no harm done. After that, I did decide it may be for the best if I stayed on dry land for a while, so we messed about drawing in the sand and trying to remember how to do a cart wheel. On this occasion we weren’t triumphant. Went back for lunch and then thought it was about time we had a look round the hostel properly. Now this was undeniably a cool place, tepees, tree houses, sun decks, hammocks and a pool which was only accessible by a slide from the bar. All the fun was had with self timer, sadly no photos because our own self timing was not so good. Took an outside shower and made a “delicious” dinner of pasta in tomato soup with toast. I can’t wait to get to a restaurant. Or even a supermarket. We leave tomorrow morning so still have a exhilarating sleep in the teepee tonight, the phantom shitter struck again while we were washing so watch this space on that one…

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