Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Cape Town: hiking, wine tasting and couchsurfing

After spending two weeks in Cape Town I can sincerely say that it is a beautiful city. I had my doubts about whether or not I would like it as I've been avoiding big cities ever since I've arrived in South Africa.  Lesotho, Coffee Bay and Mozambique (to name a few) have therefore been perfect getaways for me. No hectic traffic, buzzing city lights or crowds of people. Nevertheless Cape Town turned out to be the perfect destination for a final trip before I embark to Holland. Moreover, I've been jumping at the chance to travel with my favorite South African.....needless to say, Nelson Mandela and I had a blast in Cape Town. Oh, spending time with Marga was alright as well. Jammer lief, jy weet ek is baie lief vir jou.

Beertje's first day in Cape Town
Beertje and I are proud to announce that we successfully completed a 37 kilometer hike at Cape of Good Hope. Now I've been on hikes before, some in South Africa even, but never one that lasted this long. It was a two day hike, with the first day comprising 20 km and the second day the rest of the trail. The scenery was absolutely amazing. Our physical state, not so much. Definitely well worth it though, even if I did feel like my legs were being slowly amputated on the second day, but all in good fun. A certain bear (who will remain anonymous) did no walking whatsoever, and just sat back comfortably in a bag while we hiked our asses off. He was later reprimanded.

Tired but satisfied after the first day

The proud and strong gaze of someone who just walked 20km

Don't look so smug, bear



Snack break

Aside from hiking we also visited the wine farms. Anyone who knows me well knows that I can't hold my liquor. So after trying 5 different wines I was well on my way to Tipsyville (which happens to be one stop before Obnoxious Town). My mother must be shaking her head out of disappointment as she reads this, apparently I did not inherit her Aruban genes. But to anyone who visits the Groot Constantia wine farm; try the Port, it's divine!

An interesting thing about this trip is that this was my first time couchsurfing. For those who don't know about the concept; it's a website where people offer their couches (or in most cases a guest room) to those who wish to visit their city. I think the mere fact that there are so many people that want to do something selfless for others and learn about other cultures and meet new people is a heartwarming thought. We first stayed with a girl in Blouberg who was incredibly hospitable and went out of her way to make us feel at home. Thereafter we visited an older retired gentleman who just wanted some company from those that wished to share it with him. We've met such interesting people and they've all been so warm and friendly to us that I'm sure I will definitely couchsurf again in the future.

All in all I think Cape Town is a must-see city. It's a perfect combination of city life and nature. Surrounded by mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, it really is a sight to behold. I've had a great time in Cape Town, but I'm even more glad to have been able to share it with someone important to me and Beertje. Although I'm sure I drove Marga crazy at times, I'm incredibly grateful to have experienced Cape Town with her. Also happy to have seen our friends Anel, Emile and Ben. Cape Town, you will be missed.

Table Mountain

There's always that one tourist that doesn't know how to behave in public (or on a mountain for that matter). Yes, you sir in the green shirt, you look stupid to say the least.

Marga's head and Lion's head

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

And we're free at last!

After many excruciating weeks of being stuck in a room studying all day with limited to no contact with the outside world; we're finally done! Then again, "we" is really not the right word here, since I'm the only one that was doing all the studying while Beertje just lingered around. Unfair you say? I concur.

Absolutely no moral support

I was so incredibly relieved after my last exam that I felt like reenacting a scene from The Shawshank Redemption. And although running out in the rain in slow motion with my hands up in the air seemed like a brilliant way to end the exam-period, I settled for a road trip to Cape Town instead. Everyone has been telling me that I can't leave South Africa without seeing Cape Town first, so I changed my ticket to stay here an extra few weeks. I've never been a big fan of road trips because I get horribly car sick from even a 20 minute drive, but good company definitely made the nausea bearable. So there we were heading to Cape Town; two girls, 1 bear and a cup. Just kidding, the cup couldn't make it, we settled for our friend Emile instead.
Ready to hit the road!
Beertje pulled a Rosa Parks and refused to go to the back of the car


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Y U NO friendly, hippo?

I'm not sure if I'm the only one, but I always thought hippos were cute and friendly animals. Kind of goofy and funny characters, like the Queen Latifahs of the animal kingdom. Apparently that is a huge misconception and they're angry bitches yo. I was warned several times that hippos are one of the most dangerous creatures you can come across in the game reserves. So unfortunately we didn't roll around in the mud together or chase butterflies. Instead I kept a safe distance and just admired them from afar. We were lucky to see a little baby with its mother. So maybe they might be dangerous, but I still think they're cute and fluffy. (And this is probably how naive white folks get killed in the wilderness btw). On a lighter note; I absolutely love the Afrikaans word for hippopotamus: seekoei!!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

South Africa; adding some color to your life

I think one of the main things I will miss about South Africa is the colorfulness of the different sceneries. From the dark green mountains in the Drakensberg to the soft purple sunrises in the east coast. And not to forget the clear blue skies of Lesotho, also known as the Kingdom in the Sky. I'm realizing lately that I'm more western than I had originally thought. We're so used to things like laptops, wi-fi, public transportation (and central heating!!) being a given, that  we sometimes forget that these are luxuries and not basic necessities. I'm not going to lie, I miss wireless internet and being able to move around as I please. But it all comes at a price unfortunately. Living in Rotterdam I feel like we lose touch with nature. Not only do we not see it, but we forget about it. Or at least I have. I was so tired last year of seeing grey buildings, grey subways and grey concrete floors. And although I do appreciate the perks of living in a modern city, I've missed being outdoors. I feel that constantly being surrounded by manmade structures sometimes brings your spirit down and it's essential to escape to nature once in a while.

I finally got a chance to do that in South Africa and I've absolutely loved it. The best thing I've done here is travel around and I really do feel that I'm a more calm and balanced person now. I think things like religion and spirituality seem like either a naive concept or a hype in the western world. But being in South Africa makes you see things in a different light. Surely there must be something bigger for such beautiful places to exist. And I couldn't help but feel grateful when I was on one of the highest tops of the Drakensberg Mountains, or watching the sunrise on the beach at Mdumbi or counting the endless stars in Mozambique. I wish I could share more than just pictures with all of you. I wish I could share the moments and the experience. But hopefully there will be many more in the future and some of them we might even experience together.


Drakensberg Mountains

The Amphitheatre at the Drakensberg


Beertje camping at the Drakensberg


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Disney comes to life

You know you're a Disney fan when a warthog runs past you and you scream "OMG IT'S PUMBAA" like a little schoolgirl. Yeah. But honestly, any warthog that I encounter in life (seeing as clearly there will be many crossing my path) will always be Pumbaa to me. I have to say though, Pumbaa is looking a lot meaner in real life. Not so sure I'd be belting out Hakuna Matata with him anytime soon. Also, think there's a chance he would have eaten Timon. 

I had to fight the urge to not make any further Lion King references when I saw lions for the first time here as well. Although, when I played with one of the little cubs I secretly whispered "look inside yourself, Simba" when nobody was watching. That and I also warned him not to get too attached to his father. And to stay clear of the hyenas. Hey, once a Disney fan, always a Disney fan.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Monkey Business

I've never really liked monkeys. My mother used to take me to the zoo when I was little and I always tried to avoid the cages with the monkeys in them. They just seemed so conniving and angry. Frantically jumping up and down while shaking the bars of their cages and stretching their eager little hands out trying to steal things from people. Well, now that I think about it I guess I wouldn't be too happy either if I was stuck in a cage with rotten fruit on the ground and puddles of urine everywhere (trust me; been there done that). So my camping trip to Pilanesberg was finally a chance for monkeys and I to bury the hatchet. And what a success it was. I'm still not too crazy about baboons ("bobbejaan" in Afrikaans), but these little monkeys are the cutest!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

One lucky girl and bear

When I had to leave the Netherlands in January, the most obvious change was the geographical move. Here we were, Beertje and I moving from a busy city in the Netherlands to a quiet smaller place all the way in South Africa. However, the biggest change entailed a move in an emotional sense. One which I had tried to prepare for but could not have understood until after it actually took place.

Truth be told, I never cared much for the Netherlands. I hadn't really warmed up to the place  in the year and a half that I had been there and I might never for years to come. To me it's a temporary rest stop, a means to reach certain ends. And although I must admit that I've had amazing experiences there, I can't say that I've developed an emotional attachment to the country itself. 

However, being away has made me realize that living in the Netherlands means something different to me than I had originally thought. It isn't  just the land of cheese, cold weather and Beatrix; it's the land where the people that I love are. My close friends who have become like my family. The people I adore, trust and can always count on. Some of them teach, some of them sing, some of them draw, some of them make music, some of them stay up with me every night, some of them have been in my life since I can remember. Some of them are the best conversation partners and others make me laugh hysterically. But they are all unique in their own way. Trying to explain my friendships back home to people is futile, as there are no words that can do them justice. I already knew I'd miss them all dearly when I left. I acknowledged that I was lucky to have something which made saying goodbye so hard. Nevertheless, being gone for almost 5 months now I can say that I am even luckier to have something which makes saying hello again so wonderful.

At the same time, I didn't expect to meet people in South Africa that would come to mean so much to me in so little time. People who have opened their homes to me, who have made me a big part of their lives without any questions asked and who have showed me a lot of love and care. What a truly pleasant and fortunate surprise. If a person's life can be compared to a train moving forward through different stations with different passengers continuously hopping on and off then some of the people I've met here have just been temporary companions along the journey. They've accompanied me for the ride before they hop off at another station and embark on a new train. I might never see them again but they made the ride worthwhile for the time being. But a few of them have become so irreplaceable to me that they have been assigned a permanent seat on the train. I hope they never get off as I intend to have them be a part of my life for a long time to come.  (And there have been others that I just want to push in front of a train, but this blog entry is not about that so let's carry on with the positive vibes shall we).

Hiking trip at the Drakensberg

Camping Buddies

How strange it is to fly across the world and meet people who are so much like you. How even stranger it is to not be able to imagine your life now without someone you didn't even know 6 months ago.  

baie liefde vir hierdie meisie <3

I left the Netherlands a nervous girl with nothing to comfort her but a worn out bear. And as I clung on to that bear like my life depended on it the first weeks, I've found that no matter where you are, it's who you're with that makes it worthwhile. How lucky am I to have the most amazing people around me everywhere I go. To all of you, you are loved more than you would ever know.