August 29, 2014

The Adventure of a Lifetime!

The last month or so has been extremely busy with the closing of the second trimester of school and three weeks of traveling adventures.  I'm gonna skip the struggles of provincial testing and just say thanks be to God that I will never have to deal with that again!  At the end of the third trimester, there are no provincial exams, so I can just write my own test and everything will be great.  Then, after I leave to come home, my 12th graders will have their national exams.  I hope that they do well, but I won't be here throughout that process.  I'm definitely not upset to be missing national exams, but I wish I could be here to support my students.  I will just do everything I can this trimester to prepare them, and then it's up to them!

Anyways, let's get to the fun stuff.  On August 5th, I turned in my grades and headed to Chimoio for the night.  On the 6th, I woke up super early with friend who was also going to the Beira airport for a different flight, and we headed to the chapa stop.  After a very frustrating conversation with the driver about how much wehad to pay that ended with him telling me that I'm a horrible person and I talk too much, we were on our way, and I was more than ready to get out of Mozambique for a little while.  We got to Beira with a lot of time to spare because you never really know how long traveling will actually take you in Mozambique.  Some days the trip can take 3 hours to Beira from Chimoio, and others it can take 5-6.  After hanging around for awhile, my plane arrived, and a short two hour flight later, I arrived in Johannesburg. 

Oh. My. Gosh.  The airport in Johannesburg was glorious.  There were so many things.  So many options.  So many people.  It was just nuts.  I immediately found an ATM, took out some money, and bought myself a coffee.  Then I found a seat and made use of the wifi (yes, wifi!) while I waited for my dad and brother to arrive.  They arrived within a couple hours.  After our reunion, we battled with some pay phones to call our hostel to pick us up.  Within the hour, we were driving on the highway towards our hotel.  The infrastructure blew me away.  I felt like I was in America, and it was awesome.    I am used to two-lane, barely-paved roads. I think Pete and Dad got tired of me saying, “It's just like America!”

Reunited in Johannesburg!

We got to our hostel, ate some dinner, took some AMAZING hot showers, and got some sleep.  In the morning, we made our plan for the day.  We decided to take a bus tour of Joburg.  It was a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, so you bought a pass for the whole day and could get on and off as you pleased.  We chose a few stops that we were interested in, and set out. 

Our first stop was the tallest building in all of Africa.  We went up to the 50th? (I don't remember how many stories it actually was) floor and were able to see the whole city of Joburg through the glass walls.  It was pretty cool!  After being up there for about 15 minutes, we headed back down to catch the next bus. 

Our next stop was at the South African Brewing Company's World of Beer.  If you know my father and brother, this is no surprise to you.  After walking around it we were unimpressed and decided to go to a nearby bar and grab a beer instead.  Also at this bar was the biggest couch I've ever seen in my life.  I wish I had the picture that I could post here.  After a leisurely beer, we headed back out to our third stop.

At our third stop, we ate lunch at one of the oldest pubs in South Africa.  I had a beer and a burger and I was blissfully happy with my life.  After lunch we walked around the area a little before we took the bus back to our starting point and where we'd be picked up and taken back to the hostel.  Our flight to Cape Town was that evening, so after packing up our stuff, we headed out to the airport.  We arrived quite early, and ended up doing logic puzzles while waiting to go to our gate. 

We arrived in Cape Town at around 8 pm and went straight to our hostel.  We got our rooms and immediately went out to the bar.  Are you seeing a common theme yet?  We hung out there for a few hours before heading to bed.  The next morning, we decided to walk around the waterfront and then head down to Long St. to check out the downtown/bar area.  We walked A LOT, but Cape Town is absolutely beautiful, and it was a super nice day.  At the waterfront, we walked around a mall and I was amazed with all it had to offer.  It was awesome.  We ate lunch at a brewery on the waterfront where we enjoyed some seafood and I got the most magical cookies and Irish cream milkshake.  Later, we walked down to Long St. where we went into the House of Beer that offered 99 different types of beer and ciders. There were SO many choices, but eventually I decided on the pear cider, and it was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted.   Yes, I am describing all of my food and beverages because it was just that good.  That night, we went out to dinner where Dad and Peter tried some different types of game meat and then hung out at the hostel's bar again and learned some new drinking games.  

Pete and I in the beautiful Cape Town.

On Saturday morning, we woke up and got ready for the Cape Point tour that would take us to Boulder Beach (to see the penguins!), the Cape of Good Hope (the southwestern most point of Africa), Cape Point, and the Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.  I didn't so much enjoy our tour guide or how much money the tour itself was, but all in all it was a good day!  I even climbed a tree in the botanical gardens, and thought I wouldn't be able to get down for a minute.  It's always an adventure.  We got home in time from our tour to make it to mass at a church less than two blocks away from our hostel.  I was so happy to understand the homily, though it was kind of embarrassing how I've forgotten lots of the prayers in English since I'm so used to reciting them in Portuguese.  After mass, we headed back to our hostel for a braai, where we ate ostrich and rabbit meat which were both pretty delicious, but made my stomach hurt afterward.

Dad and I on the waterfront in Cape Town.

Sunday morning, we flew back to Johannesburg.  We hung out in the hostel most of the day because Dad thought Joburg's downtown area was super sketchy and didn't want to go into the city.  We used this opportunity to do some laundry with an actual washer and dryer!  It was super exciting!  Then we found an amazing restaurant at a nearby shopping mall to eat a delicious seafood dinner.  We also found out that they had an unlimited sushi buffet on Thursdays, and we just so happened to be passing back through Joburg on a Thursday.  Obviously we already knew plans for Thursday's dinner. :)

On Monday, we flew out to Livingstone, Zambia where we would see the 7th wonder of the world, Victoria Falls.  After a ridiculously long customs line at the airport, we made it into Zambia, and got to our hostel where one of my friends from Mozambique, Taylor, was waiting for us.  We spent the afternoon drinking, playing cards, and catching up on how our trips had been thus far.  After eating a quick dinner, we headed to bed pretty early, gearing up for white-water rafting the next day.

The beautiful Victoria Falls!

Tuesday was my birthday, and I was terrified of not making it past my 23rd birthday because of the crocodiles in the Zambezi river.  We were picked up early by the rafting company, and rode for at least 45 minutes in huge open truck with the wind whipping our freezing, freezing bodies.  That was no fun.  We eventually got to the gorge, where were able to overlook one of the rapids that we wouldn't be going through because of the water levels.  We were offered wetsuits, and got our helmets, life jackets, and paddles.  Then we started our hike down the gorge to the water.  We were pretty unaware of this part of the rafting experience, and let's just say I took a few falls, but I'd say I was way better off than my dad who had many difficulties making it down to the water.  I ended up leading the group down somehow.  When I made it down to where the rafts were located with Peter and the rest of the group, we ended up waiting like 20 minutes waiting for my dad, all the while questioning if he was going to make it.  We were put in a raft with two Italians that didn't speak English well and were very big on PDA.  Needless to say, they didn't help much with paddling, which frightened me to high heavens.  I was terrified enough to begin with, but they were making me freak out so much more because they wouldn't listen (and wouldn't understand)what our guide was saying. 

We started at rapid 7 ½ and rafted until rapid 25.  About halfway through, my arms were throbbing and I was doubting my ability to get through the rest of the trip.  When we got to a small area of water with no rapids, the guides stopped the raft against the rocks on the Zimbabwean side of the river. 

“Okay, here we have an opportunity to rock jump!” 

Pete and I look at each other...

I figured I could jump off a rock into the Zambezi, so Pete and I joined the group getting out of the rafts.  My dad wisely stayed in the raft.  It turns out the rock that our guide was referring to was actually a 30 foot cliff.  But I was already up there, so I didn't think and just went with it.  Hitting the water felt like a brick, but it was also pretty awesome...until I had to get back into the raft.  Eventually I got back in and we headed back into the rapids. 

Around rapid 17, we had gotten through most of the rapid, when our guide told us to do a “high five” with our paddles.  The thing was, we weren't all the way through the rapid, so when we did the high five, we hit a rapid and I lost my balance and fell out of the raft.  I came up under the raft, and started having a mini-panic attack because I thought I was trapped.  Luckily the raft moved almost immediately, and I popped up and grabbed on to the rope on the side of the raft.  Everyone immediately moved to haul me back into the raft, and they pulled so forcefully that I almost vomited all over them.  That would have been funny, right?  I yelled at them all to stop pulling me, and eventually they listened, leaving me like a beached whale hanging over the side of the raft.  I felt like I couldn't breathe, and it took about 5 minutes for me to calm down.  After that experience, I was sooooo ready to be done with rafting.  But we still had 8 rapids left to go.

Towards the end of the day, Peter and I got out and actually swam through one of the rapids, which was pretty cool.  Finally, we made it through rapid 25, and paddled our raft over to the shore.  There was a very sketchy cable car that lifted us out of the gorge and up to where we would eat lunch.  Then on the way back to the hostel, we drove through some small Zambian villages, which was  really awesome for Dad and Pete to be able to see some real African villages since they didn't get to come out to Messica.  Eventually we made it back to our hostel and got to relax for a little while before heading out for some birthday dinner.  It was a good day, but a very tiring one.

The next morning we woke up and headed to the Zimbabwe/Zambia border once again to actually check out Victoria Falls.  Taylor and I had also been talking about potentially bungee jumping off of the bridge linking Zimbabwe and Zambia, and had decided the night before that we were actually going to do it.  I would have backed out, but we had been talking about it for awhile, and although I had a super adventurous day the day before, I didn't want to let him down.  Instead of only bungee jumping, we opted to do a package with ziplining from one side of the gorge to the other, bungee swinging, and bungee jumping.  I had been ziplining before, but I really had no idea how the bungee swing and bungee jump were going to go.

Taylor and I post-bungee.

I ziplined first.  It was a nice and smooth ride over the Zambezi; super chill and not at all scary.  Not at all like the experiences to follow.  After watching Taylor zipline over to meet me, we headed up to get harnessed for the bungee swing.  I decided that Taylor should go first, since we had already decided that I was going to bungee jump first.  To bungee swing, you basically step off the ledge of the bridge, free fall 70 meters, and then eventually swing out 80 meters over the gorge.  After watching Taylor do it, I was absolutely terrified.  After no time at all, I found myself on the ledge being told to step off.  Umm....what?!  But I just looked out and stepped off the edge of the bridge.  It felt like I was falling to my death and nothing was going to catch me...ever.  I screamed so loudly.  When I finally got 70 meters down and started swinging out, I started to enjoy myself instead of being scared to death.  That part was kind of nice.

Next up was the bungee jump, and I was up first.  I got towels wrapped around my feet, and got all situated, but one thing I was not seeing anywhere was the bungee cord.  I was very concerned with it, and kept asking them where the actual bungee cord was.  It seemed as though that was the last thing they were hooking up before I jumped.  That made me super nervous.  At last, I saw them attach the cord.  They told me to step to the end of the ledge with my toes over the side.  The butterflies in my stomach were going crazy.  They lifted up my arms to form a T and kept their hands on my back.  After a quick countdown from 5, I heard BUNGEE! and felt myself jumping away from the bridge.  Falling head first was quite disorienting, so I didn't feel like it was quite as scary as the bungee swing.  After the cord stopped bouncing, someone came down to flip me over and pull me back up to the bridge, which was a very good thing because my head was feeling pretty crazy.  I got to watch Taylor jump from under him, because I hadn't made it back up to the top of the bridge from my jump yet.  It was awesome to be able to see the complete terror on his face as he was plummeting towards the earth at a free fall.  It was super scary, but I'm really glad that I did it!

My form's a little off...but what can you do when you're plummeting to the
earth and scared you're gonna die?

After our morning adventure, we went to the national park to check out Victoria Falls.  The falls were absolutely breathtaking.  We walked around for awhile, and then Peter and Taylor decided to walk down to see the first rapid of the Zambezi below the falls.  I would have gone, but I was super sore from the white-water rafting the day before.  Instead, I sat down on a rock near the stairs.  Dad decided to go on a walk, so I was just sitting there enjoying nature and being alone for a minute.  Before I knew it, I was in a conversation with another lady that was sitting at the top of the stairs waiting for some friends.  She was telling me how she's a social worker in Zambia, and we were getting into a good conversation, when all of a sudden a baboon walked up the steps and started staring at me.  Let me be clear on this: this baboon was no baby.   This was a daddy baboon.  It was freaking big.  And staring me down. 

I did my best not to panic.  I kept talking to my new friend as though nothing was happening, but when I looked back over, the baboon was standing right next to me, and suddenly reached out to grab the drawstring bag sitting next to me that just so happened to contain all of our passports and valuables and absolutely NO food.  Immediately, I reached out and grabbed the other side of the bag.  When the baboon realized I was strong, he started pulling with both hands, and that's when I started screaming and really freaking out.  Somehow, my new friends stood up and was able to grab the bag from both of us.  I rolled off of the rock I was sitting on into the dirt and scrambled to my feet.  My friend threw a wrapper to distract the baboon, and we managed to walk past him towards the park office.  She comforted me the whole way, saying how I did a really brave thing when she realized that all of our passports were in that bag.  I bet she's a great social worker.  The baboon stalked after us as we were walking to the office.  

The view from Victoria Falls park of the bridge that I bungeed off of...yeah that's a far drop.

We hid out in the office for at least 10 minutes, and I was really terrified to walk back to that spot to meet up with everyone, but eventually we got back our nerve and walked over.  As we walked up, my dad was sitting in my spot on the rock and Pete and Taylor were coming back from the rapids at that very moment.  I explained what happened with the help of my new friend, afraid that no one would believe my ridiculous story.  They really just laughed at me...but I am telling you, it was terrifying.  I have a new least favorite animal.  My friend even told me that the baboon was getting ready to slap me when she came in and saved the day.  Umm...what?  That is crazy.  So with jumping off a bridge twice and wrestling with a baboon, I was tired and ready to go relax. 

It felt like it was raining because of how forceful the falls were, so I'm sporting
my OSU poncho. :)

We went to dinner and played some more cards for our last night in Vic falls, and then headed to the airport the next morning to head back to Joburg.  When we arrived, we hung around for awhile before heading to the Sushi buffet for dinner.  It. Was. Glorious.  We definitely got our money's worth.

Friday morning, we were picked up by our safari company and headed out to Kruger National Park.   After a 6 hour drive, we arrived and almost immediately went on a sunset game drive.  Unfortunately our car broke down in the middle of nowhere, but luckily I had service and our driver used my phone to call for a new car.  By the time it came, we didn't have any time to see wildlife, but we did get some good star-gazing time in.  We ate dinner in the middle of nowhere, and that was pretty awesome.  Dad and Peter finally got to try xima, and I was happy.

The next morning, we went to Kruger National Park for an all day safari.  We saw tons of animals including giraffes, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, rhinos, hippos, leopards, buffalo, and more that I'm forgetting.  It was a really awesome.  We stayed at a treehouse lodge that evening, but the name is kind of misleading because we didn't actually get to stay in a treehouse. :(  We stayed in a tent, which was fine, but not as cool as a treehouse would have been. 

Sunday morning, we did a short nature walk before heading back to Johannesburg.  Our safari had come to an end, and with it an amazing trip.  When we arrived back at the hostel, I did laundry one last time with a machine, and we had a delicious KFC dinner. :)  I left the next morning to head back to Mozambique.  I missed Mozambique a lot, mainly speaking Portuguese and the friendly people.  I am happy to be back.  I had another adventure upon arriving back in Moz, but I'll have to write about that later because my fingers are going to fall off.


I am leaving today for Maputo for my group's Close of Service conference.  I will head to the beach for the weekend and the conference starts on Tuesday.  Our group will be all together for the last time.  It's going to be awesome and super weird.  I am so excited to see friends that I haven't seen in months!  After COS conference, I will only have 2 more months in Messica.  Time is flying, and I'm so grateful for every minute of it!

The Cape of Good Hope!

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