By Zachary Moses
This is the second in a series. Click Here to read Part 1.
Day 4: Crossing Southern Africa
We started our day off with a visit to the wonderful Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. We came across an owl’s nest and were able to get a good look at the baby chicks in the nest.
Then we hiked for a couple of hours along the creek of a huge canyon.
We then began our journey along the southern edge of South Africa. Our goal was the town of Hermanus, famous for its whale watching. The drive followed the rugged Indian Ocean coastline along the acclaimed “Garden Route” which was absolutely stunning. Our hotel was dated, but the view was absolutely incredible. This was our home for two nights.
Dinner tonight was fantastic, but the best part of the evening was the …interesting… and … original artwork.
One of the members of our group sat with me for several hours both evenings, perched on a ledge of the cliff talking about life and what the future holds. The rest of our group was tired after a long day, and no one else wanted to stay up late. For me, its these unscheduled moments that make a trip truly memorable.
Day 5: I’m Kind of Afraid of Sharks
Today’s activity was the one I had been alternately looking forward to and dreading: the Shark Dive. Why did I put this on the tour? Because I find my best adventures come from facing my worst fears.
When you climb into this cage in the icy cold water, they don’t coddle you. They also really stress the importance that, “one mustn’t touch the bars with orange rope.”
“What if we do?” we all asked.
“Then the great white monster will bite your arm off,” was our captain’s reply…*shudder*
After entering the water, I was shivering through my wet-suit. The shivering was partly from cold and partly from fear. We all waited with our heads above water hoping the shark would show up soon. The chum guy was busy dumping bloody slop into the water, and the loudly-yelling-guy (I think that’s his official title) was busy tossing a tuna-head-on-a-rope out into the water and then rapidly reeling it back in.
“Dive, Dive, Dive!” was suddenly yelled from above. We quickly thrust ourselves into the water, and the biggest, scariest thing I’ve ever seen swam past my face. I wondered suddenly if they’re called “Great Whites” because of their massive white underbelly (like being nearly hit by a VW bus), or their rows of vicious blood-stained teeth!
When our turn was over, one of the guys in our group put his hand in the orange rope. We all yelled at him to pull his arm in. “The ride is over,” he said jokingly. Just then a great white shark snapped its jaws inches from where his hand had been. “Whoa, oh my god, I could have lost my hand!” he yelled out.
Everyone in our group had taken their turn except for John Michael who had a wardrobe malfunction when we were entering the cage. He ended up in the second group. We suddenly heard him scream out with a sound that was somewhere between a death cry and an orgasm. We all looked over the side of the boat to see John Michael giggling, he looked up at us and screamed out “It slammed the cage! Oh My God! That…Was…Incredible!!” Everyone was giddy as our boat moved back to shore. Although Lou was doing his best to look serious.
Which is really hard to do, when you have suction marks on your face from the mask. I’d show a picture of myself, but mine looks more like a giant facial hickey.
Our end-of-day activity today was a visit to one of the Townships. Below is a picture of Lou and I standing with a group of local kids. They were all excited to take their pictures with us, and see themselves on our camera phone screens.
I had been thinking that South Africa was really well integrated until I stepped foot in the township. This is where the majority of the black Africans live. It was unbelievable how poor the people were, but also amazing how joyous everyone seemed to be, especially the kids.
To my disappointment, our national guide (who was white) refused to join us when we went into the township, insisting that the black neighborhoods were not safe. So it was just our group and Willie, our guide, for our village tour. All along the way, Willie was always reassuring us that we were perfectly safe, “because we were with Willie.”
After touring the town, we stopped and had dinner with Willie and his family.
They were very proud that they had running water and electricity, both proof of Willie’s wealth and success in his community. At one point Willie mentioned that his daughter would make a good wife for a man one day, and she seemed troubled. Lou asked her what she wanted, and she said she wanted to go to school. We all encouraged her to go, and then Willie explained that it is impossible for a girl from the township to go to college, because they can’t even get noticed long enough to get noticed. She might get a scholarship if she was already in the college, but they could never dream of having the money to get there.
We all promised to go home and discuss how we could make a contribution to send his daughter to school. Everyone in the group agreed that visiting the township was one of the most incredible experiences we’d ever had.
Day 6: Ziplines and the Scariest Drop on Earth
This morning we departed Hermanus and made our way toward Knysna. Our first stop was ziplining. We took loads of really good pictures, but I have to say that John Michael starred in the most melodramatic scenes. The morning was absolutely hilarious.
After the ziplining, we made our way to the highest commercial bungee jump bridge in the world. As I prepared for this jump I was overwhelmed by a combination of anticipation and fear. This video shows us getting ready, and even has some footage of a couple of us making the plunge.
To date, jumping from this bridge is the scariest thing I have ever done. When I got ready to jump, I just stood there at the edge of the bridge, staring off at the horizon. I didn’t want to look down for fear that I’d lose my nerve. I started thinking about all the negative things in my life, and whether any of them would ever cause me to consider jumping off a bridge. Then before I knew it, they yelled “three, two, one, bungee!”
…and I jumped. What followed was the longest moment of my life. As I floated freely time was briefly suspended as I stared at that same horizon for what felt like several minutes. However, ever so slowly, the horizon was replaced by the ground rushing up at me from 200 meters below. I quickly forgot that I was hooked to a bungee, and all I could think was “I just jumped off a bridge! I don’t want to die! I have no problems worth dying over!”
As the ground rushed up at me, the wind caused tears that streamed along the side of my face. I cried and I screamed. I honestly had no idea that I was even capable of screaming.
Then all of a sudden…I stopped falling. My body reversed course and a funny thing happened. A life changing thing. When my fall was reversed, all my negative thoughts just kept going, plunged into the river below, and washed away.
As I hung there waiting to be rescued, I felt more at peace than I’ve felt in a long time. I’d recommend bungee jumping to everyone![to be continued]
Bungee jump with us in New Zealand!
Read more about our other adventures and safaris in Africa!