7.19.2013

South Africa: Day 12 (Jeffreys Bay)

Jeffreys Bay is one of the most popular surfing destinations in the world. It hosts the Billabong Pro World Tour every July: 

photo from jaybay.co.zo

Unfortunately, our timing was off, and the weather was cold and windy. Everyone we talked to told us that the weather had been absolutely perfect, right up until the week we arrived. 

The main reason we made a stop at Jeffreys Bay is because my friend, Mandy, kindly offered to let us stay in her beach house: 


Here are my notes for for Day 12: 

Freezing cold. 
New Family Rule: NO MORE COLLECTING ROCKS AND SEASHELLS!

Steve and I went to scout out the beaches by ourselves. Mostly because I was still recovering from my meltdown the night before. After some self introspection, I concluded that I was volatile because I hadn't been doing some of the things that normally keep me "grounded". I hadn't exercised in two weeks. I hadn't gone to church in two weeks. I hadn't talked to my friends in twelve days. And I hadn't been able to keep up with my blog. (Which is more than just a way to record my thoughts, it also helps me process my thoughts).

Actually, there were probably a dozen other reasons why I was volatile. . . but those were the ones that I had control over.

This was the smaller beach at Jeffreys Bay:


There were a few men fishing and at least five stray cats in the parking lot. . .

So we opted to take the kids to Dolphin Beach:


Because of the weather, we had the beach to ourselves:


Seriously. There was nobody else around. 


Kaleigh and Adam were off playing near the water: 


And then, without any prompting, they turned around and ran towards me. Holding hands. I barely got my camera out fast enough to get this shot. It instantaneously brightened my spirits. . . and might be one of my favorite moments of the whole trip. 


It started to rain, so we left the beach and checked out the town. Rachel said it reminded her of Jackson Hole. We walked through the Billabong store and the RCVA outlet:


And then we went back to the house for lunch. Steve took the kids back out to another beach, but I stayed behind to pack up and clean. 

They had a wonderful time building sand castles, and Rachel came back with an expansive collection of seashells. I generally tend to discourage my kids from any form of hoarding. Especially when it involves dirty, delicate, rotting animal skeletons that are completely unrealistic to transport halfway across the globe. (Remember the large bucket of shells and sea stars we painstakingly brought home with us from Alaska? Well, after traveling with them for some three thousand miles, they had to be thrown away because we couldn't get rid of the foul smell.) 

I made the new "No Collecting Rocks and Seashells" rule. And then Steve vetoed. He imposed a rock/seashell limit of three per kid. (Rachel, of course, hid an additional ten shells in her luggage. We pretended not to notice.)

While they were at the beach, I made an executive decision that we were going to stay in Jeffreys Bay another night. It was a lot of work to unload the car, figure out sleeping arrangements, get set up for the night, repack, and clean. And sometimes it wasn't worth the effort for just one night of sleeping. Steve and I went to Woolworth's to find food for dinner. 

Travel tip: Plan your road trip so you can spend at least two consecutive nights in each hotel. It will help preserve your sanity. 

You know. . . if you are into that sort of thing. 

7.14.2013

South Africa: Day 11 (Knysna Elephant Park and Storms River Bridge)

We woke up early and drove twenty minutes to the Knysna Elephant Park:


Derrick decided to stay at the hotel and get some sleep. 

Knysna Elephant Park was founded in 1994 by Lisette and Ian Withers. The couple had a passion for elephant conservation and lifelong dream of bringing elephants back to Knysna. The first two elephants at Knysna Elephant Park were Harry and Sally. They escaped a culling program at Kruger National Park and continue to live in Knysna in a controlled, free-range environment. Knysna Elephant Park educates visitors about elephant conservation and provides the chance to see these amazing animals up close and personal. 

This was one of the more expensive activities that we did in South Africa. We paid $23 per adult and $10 per child. And a few more dollars for a bucket of fruit and vegetables to feed the elephants: 



After we watched a safety video, we were pulled by this tractor: 


Over to the elephants: 


As soon as they saw us coming, they came right over for some food:


They knew the drill. . . 


It was pretty amazing to have an elephant eat right out of your hand: 


When Steve saw this picture of his hand, he said, "My first time feeding an elephant, and that's the best picture you got?"


Whoops. . . 

Rachel and Kaleigh were too nervous to feed the elephants, but at least I got decent pictures of these three: 


We were all thrilled with our experience, especially Adam:


We thought that was it. So we were surprised when our guide said, come on over here. It's time to get close to the elephants:


Rachel kept her distance: 


But everyone else went right in to check out the elephants: 


Elephants are so strong, so powerful, so forceful. They walked around eating these big branches, and you really had to watch how close you got. 


We were trying to follow all of the other rules from the safety video: Don't get in between a cow and her calf. Don't bend over for any reason. Watch your children. . . we might have had a hard time with that one. 

You can distinguish an African elephant from an Asian elephant by the size of their ears. African elephants have large ears that are shaped like the outline of Africa. Asian elephants have much smaller ears that are shaped more like the outline of India. African elephants are the largest land mammals on earth. 


It was pretty exhilarating to be so close to these animals. 


And by up close. . . I mean up close:


Lucy inspected every square inch of those elephants:


I just enjoyed watching the way they moved around. And Steve said, "If I had to be an animal, I would be an elephant."


Posing for a picture with these massive animals was tricky. 


You'd be standing, ready to take a shot. . . and then, boom. There's another elephant walking right at you: 


It took some perseverance, but we finally got one:


I took this picture: 


And then look. . . our tour guide actually got a decent shot: 


I love this picture. It is so Africa: 


And then we drove back to Knysna to pick up Derrick: 


Steve saw a whole lot of people riding in this ambulance and figured they were probably stopping to give people rides to make some extra money on the side:


We checked out of our hotel and drove to Plettenburg Bay, a small town with lots of vacation homes:


And white sandy beaches: 


We still had a long drive ahead of us, so we told the kids to stay out of the water. But the sun was shining, the view was amazing, and the water was warmish. So I'm sure you can guess how long that lasted. . .


Steve and I left everyone on the beach and went to order lunch at Moby Dick's Grill:


Rachel kept running up to us to show us her shells through the window: 


They don't have very good online reviews. . . but we had some of the best food of our entire trip at Moby Dick's. These two curries were to die for: 


We had been watching some activity on the beach from the restaurant, but hadn't been able to figure out what everyone was doing. As we walked to our car, I asked these two 70-year old women what was going on:


They were having a protest. Developers wanted to build some new waterfront hotels, but they were going to be constructed right on the beach, destroying the habitat where turtles hatch their eggs.

They invited us to join their protest. . . 

It was tempting, but at that point, we had four wet, sandy kids and decided we better keep driving. 

So we hit the road and continued talking about the protest. The group was planning to stand on the beach and spell the letters N-O. And for whatever reason, the kids thought it was really funny that most of the protesters were older. And at some point, someone said something about how it would be funny if in the middle of their protest the old people started dancing Gangnam Style and sang, "Hey. . . save the turtles. Op, op, op, op. . . " And then someone said something about how it would be even funnier if they all ripped their clothes off and protested in their bikinis.

Of course, everyone thought that was hysterical. 

So for the rest of the trip, that became the kids favorite thing to sing: Hey, save the turtles. . . Op, op, op, op. Hey, don't take your clothes off. . . 

Good times. 

We kept driving. 

And finally crossed over into the Eastern Cape:


We were immediately greeted by some friendly baboons. (Actually all of the signs say they are not friendly.) 


Our next stop was at the Bloukrans Bridge, Africa's largest bridge. It's also the site of the world's highest commercial bridge bungee jumping:


The Bloukrans Bridge is located 216 meters (709 feet) above the Bloukrans River. In 1990, this bridge was the site of the very first bungee jump in all of Africa. In 1997, Face Adrenaline formally established this bridge as the world's highest commercial bungee jumping.


We didn't realize this until we were in Knysna, but Rachel actually has "Bungee Jumping from the Bloukrans Bridge" on her list of 18 things to do before you are 18.


She was giddy with excitement. But unfortunately, you have to be at least 14 years old to jump.

Steve was going to jump, but once we stopped and checked things out, we realized it was going to take too much time.


We kept driving along the Garden Route until we reached Tsitsikamma National Park. (The word "Tsitsikamma" means clear water, much water, or waters begin.)


They overcharged us for the entrance fee. . . and it kind of felt like it was intentional. But it was only the difference of a few U.S. dollars, so we just paid it.

We put on our rain jackets and set out for a hike to the Storms River Suspension Bridge:


It was a rare experience where all of the kids were perfectly pleasant:


Adam isn't usually that good of a hiker, but he and Lucy ran, turbo-speed, ahead of everyone else:


Including me. I had to keep telling them to wait up:


We had great aerial views of the suspension bridge:


And we saw lots of beautiful vegetation:


Steve told me it reminded him of Vancouver. He likes to tell me that about anything that is remotely similar to Vancouver, since I felt like we got jipped out of our Vancouver stop when we rode the ferry home from Alaska last summer.

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. . . despite my abhorrence for Derrick's outfit:


The Storms River Suspension Bridge was built in 1969 by Jackie De Vos. The length of the bridge across the river is 77 meters long and it takes you down to a height of just 7 meters above the water. 


The views of the mouth of Storms River made us long for a canoe:


The color of the water reminded us of Causey Dam: 


The best part of any suspension bridge is running and jumping to make it bounce up and down: 



We crossed over to the other side and played on the small little pebble beach, which we had completely to ourselves:

 

Rachel was the hardest to pull away. She was in photographer mode and wanted to take pictures of everything


Including me: 


But I had to run along to keep up with my subject matter: 


Rachel took quite a few pictures of the "Rock Dassies" that were hiding in all of the rocks. They look like oversized rats, and there are at least seven in this picture. . . can you see them?


Did I mention everyone was having a good time?


Those bridges are just too fun: 


But whoops. . . it looks like all of that jumping was strictly prohibited:


Kaleigh got tired and dramatically plopped down in the middle of the trail. So Steve scooped her up and carried her the rest of the way. (Photo by Rachel) 


It was too bad that we were in such a rush because the kids could have spent an entire day playing on this beach: 


And I could have spent an entire day enjoying this amazing view:


We posed for a quick timer picture. (I think Derrick and Gcobisa were off smooching.) Kaleigh had just stubbed her toe and Rachel closed her eyes. . . so this is what we got:


It was getting dark, so these aren't the best pictures, but the waves crashing up on the rocks reminded me of something I've seen in a video somewhere. . .


Can you believe we fit all of that into one day?!?

We kept on driving to Jeffreys Bay and got set up for the night at my friend's beach house. Steve dropped me off at McDonald's to use the WiFi, while everyone else went to Debonairs to get pizza for dinner. And then, just as I was about to publish my Day 4 post, the one that I had been relentlessly working on for the previous three days, it disappeared. Completely disappeared.

Internet in South Africa is so very finicky. Even when I could access WiFi, it was unbelievably slow, and then I'd get kicked off every few minutes. While I was working on my blog at McDonald's, I received a notification that said something about an irregular network being detected that may behave differently than normal. And yeah, it sure did. Blogger generally backs up your draft version as you type. But when I lost my entire post, I lost everything. It hadn't saved any of my previous drafts, even the ones I had manually saved. 

This was fairly typical as we were traveling. I tried composing my posts in Word, but when I'd copy and paste them into Blogger, the spacing and formatting would get all messed up. I even tried posting from my phone once and received this notification: 


Eventually, I figured out that the best strategy was to write posts as an email because my computer would save all of those drafts, even without internet access. 

But anyhow. . . back to Jeffreys Bay. I was so upset that it put me out of commission for the rest of the night. I went straight to bed without talking to anybody (and everyone was well aware that they shouldn't talk to me).  Steve was left on his own to take care of all of the kids. I tried to recover my draft from my phone, (the only way I could access the internet from where we were staying) but it didn't work. So I cried. Really cried. I was cold. I was angry about my deleted blog post and my lack of internet access. I was tired. And I was frustrated that there was no LDS meetinghouse nearby, so we were going to miss church again. . . but mostly mad about the blog post. 

So that made two nights in a row that I wanted to go home.