What I did when I visited South Africa

I don’t usually treat this blog like a diary, because I’m not a 13 year old girl, and my life is boring and ordinary, and I doubt anybody wants to read about the crap I do, but today I’m going to make an exception.

I just got back home from a short holiday in South Africa, and I’m going to tell you about it here because (1) I feel special, and (2) I don’t want to tell the same stories over and over every time I see another friend or family member in the next few weeks. This way, when someone I know asks “Oh my glob! How was Africa!? Did you see Kangaroos!?” I can simply reply “You should know how Africa was. It’s all on my blog. Which you clearly don’t read. Thanks for the support. Also, Kangaroos live in Australia dummy.”

So how was Africa? It was awesome. This trip came about because a few months ago Cauldron (formerly known as Col-Bang) invited Shady, Garbage, and myself to come on an extreme safari to rediscover our roots, and then demanded we send him large sums of money via PayPal, which we did on a regular basis up until we sat down on our flight from JFK out of the States Nov 7. Honestly, until we started taxiing down the runway, I was 40 percent certain that there was no trip, and that Cauldron had scammed us good, hopefully to support a previously secret gambling or drug addiction. The fact that we weren’t scammed, and the trip was really happening, and that I hadn’t suffered through a series of invasive and intimidating sounding inoculations against terrifying Africa germs for no reason was a pleasant surprise.

Once we were in the air, everything went smoothly, and I spent the 7 hours from New York to London, and 13 hours from London down the Cape Town doing what I always do on planes. Mainly I drank, tried to sleep, conducted science experiments with the disgusting plane “food”, and imagined what would happen if the plane crashed. Don’t worry, in my imaginings I always survive, along with all the most beautiful women from the plane as well, who then become my plane crash brides, and we live out our days in idyllic splendor on whatever tropical island or desert oasis I find for us through suitably heroic measures. After way too many hours in the air with no mechanical problems or tragic casualties, we landed smoothly in Cape Town, passed through customs, and I set foot for the first time on the Dark Continent. It was, admittedly, a bit underwhelming. The balmy coastal air was nice of course, but with the modern, clean airport, and well maintained road infrastructure into Cape Town, it didn’t seem Africa-y enough, you know? Our first impression was that South Africa is more like Africa-lite, which isn’t a complaint, just an acknowledgement.

I had expected to be greeted, and possibly threatened by swarms of biting insects, 8 year old militiamen, and animal pelt wearing tribal warriors, but instead I was greeted by a Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchise, and Katy Perry on the radio. As our safari tour guide explained later in the trip, “KFC is very popular because the black guys love fried chicken.” God damn you Africa.

We spent our first two days in Cape Town proper, staying at The Backpack hostel on New Church Street. We mostly just bummed around the city trying to get used to the time difference, pickling our insides with local beers, and enjoying the buying power of the US dollar for once, which is currently exchanging at approximately 1-10 with the SA Rand. During this time we also took a cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain, which is the dominant land mark at the edge of Cape Town, and, according to their brochures, one of the new natural wonders of the world. Once at the top of Table Mountain, we wandered around for a bit, and then we began the adventurous part of our trip by abseiling (rappelling) off the summit on the longest commercial abseil in the world. Here we also experienced our first (but not last) bit of SA humor. Basically for every dangerous, semi-dangerous, or potentially dangerous activity we did, no matter where we were in the country, all of the workers took great pleasure in telling us, in detail, exactly how unqualified they were, how bad the equipment was, and how likely we were about to die horribly.

Abseiling from Table Mountain

After reaching the bottom and hiking back up, we enjoyed nature for a while, and then waited impatiently for approximately 6.2 hours for Shady, who had wandered off on his first mysterious disappearance of the trip. Then we went down to the Cape Town waterfront, and gorged ourselves on as many local beers and exotic game animals we could find. We also spent time wandering through the Woodstock neighborhood of Cape Town, which is a rougher neighborhood, but has a large amount of world class graffiti on a lot of the buildings, so seeing that was worth the risk. We did pussy out about going into one of the townships, which are the large shanty towns full of the poorest of the poor, surrounding most of the larger cities in SA. Several tours of the townships are offered, but it felt weird to us to go there. I know if I was poor and lived in a homemade shack with no electricity or running water, I wouldn’t really want rich foreigners gawking at me and taking pictures.

The following morning, the other guys got up painfully early to go out on a shark cage dive, and I, feeling sluggish and lethargic from all the dead animals packed into my large intestine, instead slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at the hostel. Here I met other American tourists, the first I had seen, and I realized exactly why the rest of the world hates us. While I was eating my breakfast I heard the two guys sitting at the table next to me speaking English, which didn’t really mean anything, since everybody everywhere speaks English. I knew they were Americans however when one offered to get the other’s camera bag from their room, and when he returned with the bag and his friend opened it, there was a Smirnoff Ice hidden inside. After much groaning and laughing, he got down on one knee in the middle of the dining room, and chugged the Smirnoff. I was in South Africa, and I saw a dude get “iced”. Stay classy America. FYI, one thing that I thought was uniquely American that it turns out SA is big into is “Movember” where bros grow funny mustaches throughout the month of November to raise awareness for men’s health issues. Another thing they have evidently only recently discovered was beer pong. Almost every bar we went to had a table set up and the bar tenders made sure to ask us if we’d ever heard of beer pong.

“Beer pong?” we’d say, “it sounds vaguely familiar. We’ll give it a try.” We would then destroy our local opponents, chant USA and take 1 dollar shots, because we come from the States, we graduated from UCONN, and I’m pretty sure we invented beer pong.

After breakfast, I was picked up by our tour guide Nico, a SA local who proved to be a total bro and a good fit for our group. With him was fellow tour-goer Nigel Goldstein, a quintessentially British Jew, and a genuinely nice guy, who nevertheless did nothing to dispel any of the stereotypes about either of those two ethnicities. We then picked up two young women from the Netherlands named Amber and Iris Van der Booben, who despite having stripper names, were complete sweethearts, and never took their clothes off. Our final pick up was a middle aged Swiss woman named Franny, who had been staying in Cape Town with her aunt, but had grown bored, so she signed up for the extreme safari last minute. I felt a little bad for her, both because her English was limited, and because she was probably twice as old as the rest of us, including Nico, but she was very nice, and appeared to have a fun time. With her collection, our party of 9 was complete, and we were able to begin our quest to destroy the one ring at Mount Doom, and or drink a million beers and look at goofy Africa animals.

That afternoon we all got to know each other by filling the van with an international mix of farts and playing “would you rather”  while we drove to the southern tip of Africa. Here I was able to proclaim my dominance over the earth by peeing off the last rock on shore into the mixed waters of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. After I had completely replaced both oceans with my urine, we drove to our first hostel outside of Cape Town, the Cape Aqulhus Backpackers. We spent the night wandering on the beach looking for whales, had a communal dinner with the other guests at the hostel, and then drank a million beers because South African beers cost approximately 1 US dollar.

After this point, everything blurs together thanks to booze, adrenalin, and sleep deprivation, so I’m not really sure what happened when. We kayaked and hiked to a waterfall. Garbage almost died quietly after discovering a hidden hole in the rock underneath the waterfall. He did not die. We walked with tame lions that are being trained to become movie stars. We did not die. We got kissed by an ostrich slut, and I rode an ostrich. We crawled through some caves. We went on scenic hikes. We saw a monkey park. We saw wild Baboons. We saw crocodiles. We rode elephants. We went zip lining, and the employees, in between telling us how unsafe their zip lines were, laughed at us because we reeked of booze and could barely string coherent words together. Shady spent approximately 48 hours total pooping. We had a braai at the Avoca river cabins. We partied at Pilli Pilli, a beach bar in Sedgefield at the Afrovibe. We partied even harder and got weird at the Island Vibe in J Bay, and I pressured Shady into enjoying a devil’s threesome with me and a chubby Norwegian chick. He somehow resisted her trollish charms, even through I explained to him that neither Mistress or his lady, Urkel Gooseparty, would be angry with us because humor always trumps jealousy, and nothing in all the lands of men could have been funnier than getting with that Nordic beach ball. I was moderately disappointed that he didn’t agree with me, and instead of making the beast with two (three?) backs, we just got painfully drunk and carried Garbage back to his room after he turned his brain into Swiss cheese and passed out face down in a pile of tainted doom weed on the bar.

Animal Encounters

My favorite experiences during the trip were when we bungee jumped off of Bloukrans Bridge, the highest bridge bungee in the world, and the actual safari ride through the Addo national park. While there we got up close and personal with wild elephants, warthogs, kudu, impala, zebra, and lions. We didn’t see any black rhino because unfortunately they probably don’t exist anymore.

Bloukrans Bridge Bungee

Some things that SA does right, according to me: Driving – slower drivers all move over to the shoulder of the road so that faster drivers can pass them even when no passing lane is available, and everybody courteously thanks each other for it. Food and Drink – SA is big and fertile, and supports the growth of a lot of free range beasts which are tasty, and excellent wine grapes. Prices – Even with the heavy European influence, SA is still Africa, and it has a lot of poverty, which is sad, but does keep prices low on most local goods. Weather – we were there during the beginning of their summer, and the weather was perfect. Only complaint I have is the waves were small the entire time we were there, so we had no real opportunity to surf. At the end of our safari, after bidding good bye to our new international best friends and returning to Cape Town, we did some more eating, drinking, and shopping, and ended our holiday with a completely disorganized wine and brandy tasting tour of various wineries in the Stellenbosch area. Once we were good and drunk, we baked in the sun for one last afternoon, then rode back to the airport to start our long journey home.

Big Ben

This time, instead of powering through as quickly as possible, we broke up our flights with a full day in London, where we did the tourist thing, taking photos of famous London landmarks and sampling the local bitters in various pubs. Then we flew back home, collected our cars at Shady’s, and limped back to our respective lairs to rest and lick our wounds. Soon I’m going to have to readjust to East Coast time and go back to work, but for now I’m stringing my holiday out as long as possible with one last cocktail and one more day of relaxation.

I can’t say that I’m pleased about going back to work, or about being back in winter weather, but other than that, it’s good to be home.

About Max T Kramer

Max has been better than you at writing since the third grade. He currently lives in Connecticut, but will someday return to the desert.
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