Africa. Dark. Mysterious. Primitive. Sign me up! This travel experience began the same way most of my travels have begun the past couple of years- not with a destination in mind, but with a house sitting opportunity. Of course I knew I wanted to go somewhere for my Christmas break. But where…well, that decision was left to Trusted House Sitters (THS)! I only had two criteria in mind: 1) Somewhere warm (always a requirement!) 2) No long haul flights! I had gone all the way around the world over the summer, and a nice 6-8 hour flight to Central or South America, or one of those nice Caribbean Islands was sounding mighty nice…
Best laid plans and blah, blah, blah. I had about given up on finding a decent house sit in the middle of October (patience is not one of my virtues), and was getting quite frustrated. And then an unbelievably gorgeous sit popped up on THS. The profile picture was an INSANE ocean view out of a wall of windows in a beautiful living room. The country caption said “South Africa”. Hmmmmmm. And no pets to tend to! There were already several applicants, and this sit was a sweeeeeeeet gig, so I didn’t put much faith in my chances when I sent my introduction letter. Within an hour or so, the homeowner contacted me back. A couple of emails and a video meetup later, and the sit was mine!! Not just the sit, but the longest of long haul flights I could have possibly come up with- 12 hours to Munich, 5 hour layover, 12 hours to Cape Town. But it’s AFRICA!! So on December 14, I headed out for a new adventure on a new continent…
These are the travel days and first full day in South Africa. And man, I don’t think I’ll ever do two 12 hour back to back flights again! First leg, LAX to Munich. I had the window seat, and as I was coming down the aisle I saw a HUGE guy standing right about where my row was. Oh please don’t let him be in my row….of course, he was in my row. Now I’m going to start this by saying I don’t give a flying (pun) flip about how people look. Knock yourself out. You do you. But when you starts impacting me, we’re going to have a problem. This guy not only filled up his entire seat, but easily 1/4 of mine. I’m not going to lie, I was pissed. I paid about $500 for this one leg. About $500 for my teeny tiny piece of airplane space that even someone like me of small to medium stature has a hard time being comfortable in. And this jack weasel was taking up about $125 of that space. And not only was he taking up my space, he smelled like rotten cottage cheese. I was texting Brian before take off, he said I should say something. But what am I going to say that doesn’t make me sound like a total bitch? The guy isn’t going to magically shrink if I tell him to stay on his side of the armrest. The flight was full, so what was the attendant going to do? So I just leaned as far way as possible against the wall. I say this to say this: If you are so big that you can’t fit into one seat, then I’m sorry but you need to buy 2. Or one seat in business or first class where there’s more room. You do NOT have the right to take up my space because of YOUR issues. #rantoff
I slept for about 7 of the 12 hours. At one point, the seat hog did something and whacked me hard squarely in the middle of the back. That means he was over half way into my space. He mumbled sorry and I didn’t even acknowledge him. Got to Munich, and settled in for a long 5 hour layover. Grabbed some little German biscuits covered with chocolate and a water ($8 US, thank you very much) and chatted a bit with Brian. Got on the next flight with a plan to try to sleep for at least 5 hours. Well, that didn’t happen. I barely got one hour. At least this row mate fit in his seat- but he did snore a little! The sun came up and we were over ocean. About 30 minutes before we landed, I saw my first piece of Africa. The coastline was dotted with little rounded coves with white sand beaches. All I could think was, “I bet we’re flying over a ton of great white sharks!”.
First Glimpse of Africa
The last piece of air before touchdown sent us over what I guess you would call a shanty town. Dwellings straight off of the brochure a of third world (yes, I know “developing” is politically correct, but I’m making a point here) country. Four walls not too far apart with a ribbed tin roof, crammed together way too close, with garbage and broken glass everywhere. It was kind of shocking. In my travels I’ve seen poverty, but this was- I don’t know- this was very palpable. But before I could really process it, the wheels touched down. I was in Africa!
The wonderful homeowner had set up a private shuttle for me, so when I got off the plane a lady was standing there with a sign that said, “Mary Middlebrook”. Wow. Super fancy! I insisted on pushing my luggage cart (yes, I had to have a cart for this trip- more about that later). I can’t stand for people to wait on me when I’m perfectly able. We chit chatted as we walked. We both loaded the luggage into the shuttle and I returned the cart. She asked if it was ok to turn on the radio and I told her of course! I want her to do whatever it is she would normally do! She said a lot of passengers get kind of snappy and say, “No radio!”. Oy. I told her I’m the easiest passenger she’d ever have. She said she could already tell. I LIVE for those kinds of compliments!!! Along the hour drive, she pointed out different things, we talked a little about politics both here and in the US, I told her the type of propaganda we get fed about Africa and we both laughed at some of the stereotypes. She talked about restaurants locals would go to and pointed them out. It was really a pleasant trip! The drive along the coast was GORGEOUS- pics of that next time I go that way. Through little seaside towns of Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, and then to Simon’s Town- my home for the next month. I’ve seen a lot of interesting crossing signs warning drivers of exotic (to me) animals that one should be on the lookout for….but I had never seen a penguin crossing sign!! I can’t wait to get down there and see them! We turned off the main road and went up. And up. And UP a huge, steep hill. My dreams of walking to the penguins every day slowly disintegrated as I imagined huffing and puffing back up a half mile or more of this!! #travelinsurance And then we pulled up to a house. A stunning house at the top of the hill…
I unloaded my bags, thanked the driver, and headed to the front door. I had arrived- almost 36 hours after leaving my home in Los Angeles. The house keeper, Maria, let me in. She’s going home for Christmas which is why the owners need a house sitter. We entered through the garage and loaded my bags into the funicular. Yes, a funicular. A little tram-like elevator sort of thing that runs from the garage to the second floor. Swanky. Maria showed me my room. More swanky! It’s not just a room, it’s a suite! I have a king sized bed that faces a wall of windows that open to a little private balcony with a to-die-for ocean view!! There’s a desk, a couch, a large coffee table, a massage chair, and a huge bathroom. I have died and gone to spoiled traveler heaven! Then Maria takes me upstairs. Swank to the power of luxury!! A fantastic open living room and dining room with a wall of windows overlooking the spectacular ocean. A large balcony with a couch and bbq (that we will definitely use when Brian gets here!). Even a little swimming pool! The gorgeous large kitchen also over looks the ocean, but out the back windows you look up the mountain. This house would do my ex-in laws proud (shout out to you, Karen M!!) As Maria was walking me through I saw a hummingbird with an INSANE metallic green head at the feeder! I so wanted to stop and get a picture, but I figured I’d have another chance. Not only were these homeowners so kind to trust me with their home and arrange my shuttle, but they even stocked the refrigerator for me! How I end up with the most awesome house sitting gigs all over the world, I’ll never know, but I’m sure glad for it!
Standing in the funicular car looking down the track
View from my bedroom balcony
Closeup of Boulder Beach where the penguins are- right below my bedroom!
View from the Living Room
Awesome balcony where I can see myself grilling meat in the near future!
View up the hill. See that electric fence? It’s to keep out BABOONS!! Yes, BABOONS!
I came back to my room to unpack. I was toast. I decided I had to sleep for 2 hours. Set the alarm. Hit snooze 2 hours later and woke up after a 4 hour nap! I felt so hungover. The wind outside was INSANE. So windy you could hear it howling around the corners. Just looking at the waves on the ocean was enough to make me sea sick! It was so crazy that my interior bedroom door would rattle ever so often! I just kind of laid in bed and relaxed, stalking my friend Allison’s travel blog for Cape Town adventures, and forcing myself to stay up until 9pm (11am Los Angeles time). Went to sleep and woke up at 1am (3pm Los Angeles time), and could not go back to sleep to save my life. I tossed and turned and read facebook on my phone for hours. Chatted a bit with Brian. Listened to the incessant wind. Finally went back to sleep at about 6am. Maria knocked on my door at 6:30, and thankfully after a quick chat I was able to fall back asleep until 11:30. Woke up, got some food and a Diet Dr. Pepper, took some pictures, and finally started feeling human enough to write this.
View from laying in my cozy bed
Let’s back up a second to Diet Dr. Pepper. Those of you who know me know that finding Dr. Pepper in my travels is like my own personal scavenger hunt fueled by the challenge and a wee bit of desperation. I research to see if it’s even available, and then try to find it. Sometimes I succeed (Belize, France, England, Malaysia, Sweden), sometimes not (Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba(duh), Germany, Italy). All my research led to zero chance of finding any in South Africa. The homeowner backed up these findings. True story: My main question for homeowners after I get a sit is “Can I get Dr. Pepper there?”. I knew I could remedy the problem this time though. Because for once, I wasn’t flying a budget airline that charged you for anything you brought that wouldn’t fit in your right hip pocket. No, I was flying on Lufthansa, baby!! Two checked bags for FREE!!! So I checked my normal carry on and packed another bag with one case of 12 and 6 loose cans wrapped in a trash bag. This empty bag will allow me to actually bring home more than one tiny souvenir!! May I present to you my Brian Advent Calendar. One a day until Brian gets here with a fresh supply!!! 🙂
The “Countdown to Brian” Advent Calendar. I think it’s going to fly off the shelves! 😉
This entry shall be titled “COME HELL OR HIGH WINDS”.
First, let’s begin with hell. This is the worse case of jet lag I’ve ever had. I didn’t even know it could be this bad. I went to bed about 10pm last night. I didn’t go to sleep until AFTER 4 FREAKING AM!!!! And then guess when I woke up. 6:30am. Two hours of sleep. TWO. Misery, thy name is jet lag. I was starting to feel like a human again yesterday. Today, not so much.
And on to the wind…People, I thought the Santa Ana winds in Los Angeles the past couple of weeks were bad. Those were a slight breeze compared to what I have learned are the South-Easter winds. And I’m here to tell you they are no joke. I have been here for 3 days. The wind has not stopped blowing fiercely for a single second- and I’m not exaggerating. It’s a constant noise- both outside as it whips bushes into a frenzy and screams around the corners of the house, and inside where it rattles everything when a really big gust comes along. According to the online weather service, it’s pretty constant at about 30 miles per hour, with gusts around 50 (I’d guess higher). It’s like living in a dry, never ending tropical storm! It is a little better this morning- still quite windy but at least the ocean doesn’t look like a sea of white caps.
One thing I need to clarify is my current transportation issue. In Costa Rica, I had Jennifer’s Ms. Kia (car) to get around in. In Paris, I had the subway. In Kuala Lumpur, I could walk almost everywhere I wanted to go. In Simon’s Town there is no subway, no bus, I have been told by 2 different locals that the trains to Cape Town are unreliable and potentially dangerous. Rent a car? Sure- but that’s going to require me driving on the left side and I’m not sure I have the constitution for that yet. Uber? This is a possibility that I will be utilizing in the near future if I calculate the budget and the risk to the South African population and determine that renting a car is out of the question. Walk? Sure- but that’s going to require me returning home via a hill that the shuttle van that brought me here had a hard time traversing, PLUS dealing with the death winds. Oh, what the hell- let’s hoof it! There are penguins to be seen!!
I have three fears about leaving the confines of my posh digs.
1. Being blown all the way to Nambia (Trump’s African country where people who get blown away by the South-Easters end up- and NO ONE wants to end up in one of Trump’s countries. Oh…wait….)
2. BABOONS!! Good lord why do I always choose to travel to areas with man eating monkeys! And with these winds, they’ll probably be like those ones in the Wizard of Oz. The homeowner told me last night over the phone that I shouldn’t see any if I walk to the beach. I’m not convinced. In fact, I heard a neighbor’s perimeter alarm going off last night and I was convinced for a good half hour that a band of marauding baboons were going to be crashing through the house at any moment. I locked my interior bedroom door- that’s how real that possibility was to me! #jetlag
3. Having a heart attack walking back up that hill. Of the 3 fears, this one is probably the most realistic. But on the bright side, if I survive it they might give me some nice tranquilizers at the hospital and I could finally get some sleep.
WARNING. TRIGGER ALERT. SAFE SPACE NOTIFICATION. POTENTIAL UNINTENDED OFFENSIVENESS STRAIGHT AHEAD:
Before I could get out the door, the window cleaning crew dropped by unexpectedly. John, an older white guy with a delightful accent (is it South African? UK and environs? Australian? Don’t ask me- all I know is that it’s English). While we were talking, the younger black guy with him introduced himself as well. Look, I have no idea what the PC terms are here. At home, I’d call a black person African American. Here, I have heard them called blacks. I don’t know if that’s a welcomed term or not. When I asked my driver what cultures were here, she said black, colored, white, and Indian. Obviously, they’re African, but does that term really make sense since there are people here who are not black that are African as well? Color me confused. Anyway, back to the story. The younger black guy walked up, and was followed by another. John introduced them and said they were from Zimbabwe. That about 3,000,000 of them were in South Africa due to the government being so bad, but things were getting better. The two men had the darkest skin I think I’ve ever seen (and I was raised in the south). Skin so pitch black that it absorbed all light and even my gaze. A midnight arm reached out to me, then another. Their hands were large and rough and dry. In that handshake I felt a lot of things. Fear. That dogged fear instilled in me from my childhood in the south, that I have tried so hard to overcome completely. I guess those brainwashed initial instincts will always be there, no matter how much my conscious, enlightened self tries to stamp it out. But after that initial stupid instinct that quickly disappeared, there was amazement. These men were African. They had fled their home country. What stories did they have? In that moment, I was honored to be meeting them and honored that they were so friendly and kind to me and seemed to be genuinely happy to meet me. And finally, a sense of apology. For many things. For that initial fear, for everything people who look like me and speak like me had done to them over the centuries, for standing here in this insanely gorgeous house while they cleaned the windows. Just writing about it now makes me tear up. There was a lot of emotion that flowed through those 3 second handshakes…
I went into the kitchen to make my lunch, and there was that metallic green headed “hummingbird” again! I had told the homeowner about it on the phone last night, and she said they weren’t hummingbirds, but sun birds. Super cool! I ran back downstairs and grabbed my camera. I caught the pair of sunbirds (Orange Breasted) and another gorgeous pair of birds with SUPER long tails at the feeder (later research proved them to be sugar birds- the only species on the Cape)! As I watched them, I said out loud “These birds live in AF-RICK-UH!”. I have to keep reminding myself I’m really here.
Orange Breasted Sunbird (Anthobaphes violacea)
Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer)
The window crew left in the early afternoon. Maria had left for her trip back home earlier in the morning. For the first time, I was all alone. All alone in Africa. Hell and high winds (which had really picked back up) won out in the end. My eyelids were heavy and I knew I wasn’t going to make a trek to the beach and back on my measly 2 hours of sleep. I took a 2 hour nap. That gives me 4 hours of sleep in the last 24. I still feel hungover, so hopefully I’ll actually sleep tonight and be at 100% tomorrow. Days are moving too fast here for me to be so out of commission.
This blog shall be titled “S.O.L. (Shit Officially Lost)”.
Finally!! A day of adventure to share with you! First adventure of the day- sleeping from 10pm to 8am straight!! Woo-hoo!! Jetlag is officially my bitch instead of the other way around! I woke up feeling a little hungover and groggy, but once I started moving around and ate breakfast, I was back to my old self again and ready to head down to see some penguins! It wasn’t as windy- meaning it was a really strong breeze instead of gale force winds. Perfect!
First up, though, the homeowner’s brother-in-law was going to stop by to work on the rainwater catchment system. It’s a pretty cool set up, and super important since South Africa is in a SEVERE (and I mean SEVERE) drought. When water does come, every drop needs to be saved. He was a super nice guy and he showed me the system and we talked about traveling, South Africa, and more. After he left, I grabbed my trusty jungle hat (never leave the country without it!), my super awesome green day pack filled with a water bottle, jacket, and camera, and headed down the hill! And down, and down, and down…I tried not to think about up…
Got to the main road and tried to remember the homeowner’s directions to the place where I didn’t have to pay to see the penguins. Boulder Beach is a pay park, and I’ll probably wander down there eventually, but I’m all about free, so free penguin watching sounded good. I wasn’t really sure where I was going. I remembered her saying “golf course”, so when I saw it, I crossed it. There were these two really big birds (almost vulture sized) grazing in the dry grass. Upon arriving back to the house (spoiler alert: I didn’t die on the hill), I researched and think I have correctly identified them as Ibis, and maybe more specifically the Hadada Ibis.
Ibis. Possibly the Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)
On the other side of the golf course was the beach I can see from the house. White sand, blue green water, huge rounded boulders, and jaw droppingly gorgeous! I looked around in the rocks for signs of life, but only saw a couple of limpets and some assorted gastropods (snails). No stars or anemones or anything. 🙁
The beach was beautiful, but I’m not much of a beach girl. I am, however, very much a penguin girl! So I headed off down the beach in search of them. I don’t know how, but I actually found the little free boardwalk the homeowner had told me about! Opened the gate and walked down the sandy trail.
Picturesque trail on a picturesque beach heading to picturesque penguins!
Not too many steps in, and I said out loud before I even thought- “Holy freaking crapballs- those are PENGUINS!!!!!!!!!” And there they were!!! And that’s when I went S.O.L (shit officially lost). They were AMAZING!!! I was talking excitedly to myself. I was talking lovingly to them. I was snapping pics. I just wanted to jump the fence and go snuggle with all of them! It was insanity of the best kind! I couldn’t believe these were penguins in front of me…penguins that live in AF-RICK-UH!!!!!!!
When I quit snapping pics, I turned around and looked up the trail where I had just come from. And damned if there wasn’t a penguin right on the trail by my leg! He was on the side of the trail opposite the beach- I had been staring at the penguins on the beach and didn’t even see him! If he would have been a cobra, he would have bit me (yeah, there are cobras here. no lie). I knelt down by him, about 3 feet away, and took some pics. I could have reached out and touched him, but of course I wouldn’t ever do that. Besides, I didn’t add the “Penguin Bite Rider” to my travel insurance. He kind of sneezed at me. I think that was a “get outta my personal space, lady” warning snot. I looked up and there were more penguins opposite the beach side. They were everywhere! On rocks, in grass, on the trail, by the houses, and one I saw swimming in the water.
Oh, but penguins weren’t the only critters out and about!! These hilarious looking beaver/guinea pig/rat things are rock hyraxes. And they aren’t kin to any of those things it looks like. In fact, their nearest living relatives are elephants and Sirenians (manatees and dugongs). Isn’t that insane?! All hail evolution, we bow before your wondrous glory. 🙂 There was a pair of them on the rocks, so cute. And then when I went down the trail a little further, there was one laying right in the middle of it. Now, other than being a marine biologist and pulling the “hey, I teach kids about your Sirenian cousins” card, I wasn’t sure what to do about this. Were they aggressive? Should I just turn around and leave him be? Because again, I didn’t check the box for Rock Hyrax Mauling on my insurance….Hmmm. I took a tentative step toward him to see what he would do. Nothing. I was about 5 feet away. I took another step- slowly. Nothing. One more step, and he scooted off into the bushes. Attack averted!
There was another bird on the beach that was simply stunning. Research indicates that it’s a Black African Oyster Catcher. So beautiful.
Black African Oyster Catcher (Haematopus moquini)
It was time to head back. I walked through the parking lot and saw this sign:
And then I saw this. Oh my god. If I ever ran over one of those darlings, I just go drown myself. I can’t even bear to think about it.
Walked back along the golf course toward the house. I managed to make it up the hill- somehow. I was really huffing and puffing the last block or so. All in all, 2.8 miles, about 100 penguins, a few rock hyraxes, a couple of ibis and black oystercatchers, and ZERO baboons!!!!!! I can’t imagine a more wonderful first outing.
This is my ‘hood
“My” house. Waaaaaaay up the hill.
This is the sign by the entrance to my ‘hood. It should read #$@&! Baboons.
DAY 6 is really easy to journal. I spent the day in Malaysia! In other words, I spent all day in the house working on lesson plans for my upcoming classes on my Malaysia adventures! After a super long work day, I was definitely ready for some outdoor adventures! So Day 7 took me to Kirschbosch gardens. *insert scratching needle on a record sound*
So that was what I had written early this morning, intending to combine boring day 6 with fun day 7. Only thing on the agenda was an electrician coming at 4. And at about 5:30, things went south…. I’m going to preface this with this: I am so freaking amiable when I’m not in the US that I don’t even recognize myself most of the time. I’m patient and friendly. I have only encountered ONE person in the past 4 years of travel that has been rude to me, and it was a subway ticket lady in the Paris Metro. And honestly, if I had her job and one more lame ass American tourist came to my window clueless about everything and yapping about in English, I’d probably snap as well. So back to 5:30. The electrician comes in and informs me that there’s a problem outside. I’m thinking, “I don’t know what problem you might have that you think I could solve.”, but ok, I go out. And there is the glass door on the patio, shattered into a sickening spider web of glass. He immediately starts in with, “The wind blew this heavy metal stand that was propping the door open, and the door slammed shut and broke. It’s not my fault!!” I informed him that before his arrival, that door had been shut tight by Maria who showed me how to close it and I hadn’t touched that door since then, and he’d been going in and out of it for the past hour and a half, so it could only be his fault. And this is when he committed the sin of all sins. Looked me right in the face and lied through his teeth. “That door was open when we got here! (side note: he wasn’t the first guy on the scene- his worker was) In fact, I know this door and it doesn’t even shut!” I raised two teenage boys. Do not think you can get a lie past me. And then this is where I think everything went wrong. He “shut” the door then pushed it open with a touch to prove to me that it wouldn’t shut. It is a tricky door, and I informed him that he wasn’t doing it right, and right in front of his workers I shut the door properly, pushed it, it stayed firmly closed, and I said “See? It does shut. This is how it was before you arrived. I’m going to go call the homeowner.”
I swear, these absolutely wonderfully kind and overly generous people leave me with their home and this happens on my watch. And this was the SECOND time this door had broken on a housesitters watch- Maria had told me about the last time when she was emphasizing how important it was to shut the door. I was sick. I called and explained to the homeowner what had happened. She told me to get masking tape and tell him not to leave until he tapes up the glass to keep it from falling out of the door. I go get the tape, relay the message, and he starts insisting again that it wasn’t his fault. And then he said the kicker- “I had no idea when I propped it open that the wind would blow the stand away.” Had this been my house and my country, the venom that would have come out of me after this guy completely changed his story would have made a boomslang blush (yes, there are boomslangs here. no lie). But not my house, not my country, not a war I wanted to get involved in. I just wanted him gone. I repeated what the homeowner had said about taping it up and went back in. About 20 minutes later, I’m on the phone with the homeowner, and he calls me. I go back up and he tells me they’re done and leaving. Then he informs me that I really offended him earlier. Ok, maybe it’s a cultural thing where if someone lies to you you just smile and nod without questioning it. Maybe it’s a sexist cultural thing where you lie to a woman, she just smiles and nods without questioning it. But sorry, bub, I’m an independent woman from UH-MER-I-CUH, and I speak my mind. I don’t do it rudely (most of the time), but I’m not going to pretend your lie is the truth. I simply told him that I was just telling him what I knew to be true. He said he was telling me what he knew to be true (which version??). I replied, “Yes, and I didn’t get offended by it.” And off he went. No joke, my blood was boiling though. I think the offense was that I proved to him that the door did shut and embarrassed him in front of his workers. Tough gumballs. Be an honest person, own up to what you did wrong, and no one would have been offended.
PHEW! Had to get that outta my system! It’s all good now. The house is on lockdown (security here is Ft. Knox level!), I made myself a yummy dinner, and I’m in bed blogging and about to get back to work. I guess you already got a spoiler alert for Day 7 at the beginning of this…
I didn’t sleep again last night. Well, I did from 11-1 and then from about 4-6:30. Ugh. The winds were HOWLING all night. Got up, 3/4 dead but determined to go to the gardens, turned on the shower and….no water pressure. I had to call the poor homeowner again with a problem. She’s going to change her number before I leave! She called Peter, the guy who works on the water system, to come over and see what was going on. He was over here the other day and is super nice. He also works closely with, and sent over, the electrician from yesterday. Eep! He got here at about 8:30, apologized for the situation, and went to work. No mention of the electrician. Took about 30 minutes before he figured it out and wa-la, we had water pressure again! We had a nice chat. He said he knew I was going out, and asked where. I said Kirstenbosch Gardens- that I was going to Uber. He offered to take me to Fish Hoek since he was going that way. And off we went! He had to make 2 maintenance stops first, and I said I didn’t mind. I was enjoying the conversation and getting out of the house in a vehicle for the first time in 5 days. Guess where the first stop was. The electrician’s house! Eep! When Peter got out, the electrician walked to the truck. Peter pointed to me and said “You stay there” and he said to the electrician “She’s going to stay in there and you stay out here.” It was all in good fun and he was smiling. I didn’t even look at the electrician, so I don’t know if he got the joke or was still “offended”. Made one more stop, then he dropped me off in Fish Hoek. I told him that I hoped I wouldn’t have to call him again before Christmas! Good news is that the wind had completely stopped. That’s the first time since I’ve been here…Hal-glory!
It was super easy to order an Uber in Fish Hoek, and it was there within just a few minutes. Off we went to Kirstenbosch Gardens. This is the largest garden in South Africa (over 1000 acres!) and considered to be one of the top gardens in the world, so I was really excited to see it! I’m a plant girl. I rescue dead and dying plants from people and from Lowe’s, and bring them back to life. I have a ridiculous amount of plants and am constantly planning my landscaping. So I was hoping for some inspiration! I got there a little before 11am, and the sign said there was a guided walk at 11. I decided to take that because it was free (my favorite kind of activity!). The guide said there are usually about 10 people. Perfect! It ended up being over 30. Ugh. Things I like: FREE! Things I don’t like: Hanging out with a bunch of tourists. But whatevz, I thought I’d stick it out. The guide was really passionate about the gardens, which was nice. I tried to stick close to her so I could hear what she was saying- especially because she said there would be a quiz at the end! #thatgirl And she was right- at the very end she pointed out a tree she had talked about toward the beginning of our hour and a half tour. She gave a few clues and asked if anyone knew what it was. Silence (for the first time). I said “It was that almond tree.” She said I should win a prize. I agree. Teachers make the best students! When the tour was over, I set out on my own for about 3 hours. I was glad for the knowledge from the tour, but with the big yapping group gone, the animals finally appeared! I could listen for a rustle of dry leaves or the flap of a wing or a bending of a twig, and follow that sound to its critter origin. I saw 3 birds in an hour and a half. I saw about 50 in the next 3 hours! Plus a squirrel that eluded photo capture. The scenery was like nothing I’ve ever seen. And it only cost a little over $5US to get in!!! I literally can not describe all of the sights, sounds, textures, colors, smells. It was unreal. So I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. I took 190 pics, narrowed it down to 110, and had to seriously narrow it down for the blog. I’m going to do it in three sections: mountain scenery, garden scenery, close ups, and animals.
With the beautiful Table Mountain as a backdrop, and jaw dropping views all the way to the sea (that the camera had a hard time picking up through the haze), the surroundings were breath taking!
There were so many themed gardens, but they were all arranged in a way that made them look perfectly natural and not so organized and meticulously landscaped. I loved it!
The texture and color of the flowers didn’t always pick up in the long shots, so I got up close and personal with a lot of really intricate and beautiful flowers!
These first 3 are different types of Erica. Favorite food of the bright little sun birds!
This is a cycad- ancient plant. The cone is as big as my head!!
Sugarbush! Favorite food of those long tailed sugarbirds!
Called a pineapple plant, but it’s not really a pineapple. I love it!
It’s a lot harder to take pics of animals than plants, since plants don’t usually run away! Here are some of my best shots of the day.
Helmeted Guinea Fowl (Numida meleagris).
He was so curious! I loved him to pieces!! This is probably my favorite shot all day.
Sugarbird, like the ones here in the backyard. But this guy was sticking his tongue out at me! They’re nectar feeders, so have long tongues.
This thing was flying around and had a very dark blue abdomen! I followed him and he finally landed. I can’t figure out what it is though.
Swee Waxbill who was just being a ham! (Coccopygia melanotis)
I think this is a juvenile Cape Canary (Serinus canicollis). I’m pretty sure it’s a canary at least.
Lemon Dove (Aplopelia larvata)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) Considered to be sacred by the ancient Egyptians- and they had BAY-BAYS!!
Caught my Uber back and had a really friendly driver this time. He’s from Zimbabwe and he played me music from there in their language. I actually enjoyed it a lot!! Dropped me off and I started the evening routine. Dinner, cut up food for porcupines (yes, PORCUPINES come here every night- I’ve yet to see one though!), feed porcupines. I had noticed some porcupine quills in a jar in the kitchen, but I wasn’t sure if those were store bought or what. Imagine my surprise when I found THREE quills in the feeding area! I almost fainted from sheer excitement, and would have if I wasn’t scared a cobra or puff adder (yes there are puff adders here. no lie) would kill me. It’s a little weedy back there on the other side of the gate, and it makes me a bit nervous! And now I had my very first souvenir from Africa, and my favorite kind- FREE!! 🙂 Anyway, I had an absolutely WONDERFUL day! I really needed an excursion, and this one was more than I could have hoped for!
Porcupine quills! Literally, the only change I had in my purse was a Euro from this past summer. It’s about the size of a quarter so you can see how big the quills are.
I slept great, and woke up refreshed for Day 8! That’s two awesome nights of sleep since I left! Woo-hoo (I guess…) What’s the common denominator between both nights? Nyquil. I absolutely HATE taking medicine of any kind. I have to be on death’s door to take even an aspirin. The idea of getting addicted to something (other than Dr. Pepper) scares me to death. And I know it’s kind of an irrational fear, but growing up with a non-functional prescription drug addict as a “parent” will do that to you… I took it last night at 9, went to sleep at 10, and didn’t move until the phone rang at 8am (Peter wanted to come and paint since there was no wind). That’s the thing about never taking even over the counter meds- they have uber impact on me because my body isn’t used to it! I have to sleep though, especially before days like today where I know I’m going to be working on lesson plans all day. If I have even a hint of brain fog, researching and focusing is impossible. That said, I’m well rested and spending the day in Malaysia again- working on the history of the country…which is quite interesting indeed!
Only one exciting thing happened today, and it was SUPER EXCITING!! I went up to the kitchen for water at about 8:30pm. Looked at the camera monitor that is pointing to the porcupine area like I do every night. Nothing. Sigh. Poured my water, walked back, and something on the screen caught my eye. Something was moving!! I looked, and IT WAS A PORCUPINE!!!!!! Oh my god, I almost fainted right there! I ran downstairs to get my camera (which was already packed for tomorrow’s adventure) and back up. Checked the monitor- still there! EEEEEEEEK!!! I slooooowly unlocked and slid open the patio door. I stopped and searched my science mind files under “porcupine quill shooting- true or myth”. I was 98% sure it was a myth, almost came back downstairs to google just in case because a face full of those quills was not something I was interested in experiencing. Convinced myself I was being an idiot and I was 100% sure that was a myth. All of that took about 2.3 seconds. I caaaaaaarefully tiptoed to the side gate (that opens to the weedy area where I’m convinced a cobra is waiting for me every day!). I quiiiiiiiiitely unlocked the gate and started to slide it open just a crack…just enough to get the lens through. And when I did, all I saw was porcupine butt scuttling down the hill. But oh my god, it was BIG! Way bigger than I thought they would be! Holy hell I wouldn’t want to tangle with one of those things! Seriously though, I don’t know why he ran. What in the world would want to eat that land dwelling sea urchin?! I waited for about 3 minutes, no sign of them. I was happy that the homeowner had told me that baboons went to bed around 6, so I didn’t have to worry about one of them. Then I started wondering if cobras were nocturnal, and figured I shouldn’t take any chances in the dark, so I shut the gate and came back in. FYI: Cape cobras are diurnal. 🙂 And it also is the most venomous of all the African cobras. Sometimes google is not your friend.
Day 9 is ADVENTURE DAY!! It was absolutely gorgeous out, so I decided to walk the 2.5 miles down to the Simon’s Town wharf. It was a perfect day for boating!
It was a great walk into town. I stopped along the way to visit a little outdoor market that was set up with arts and food. There are so many little shops and restaurants along the main street! I’m just not much of a “peruse through shops for miscellaneous stuff I don’t need” girl. Went to the wharf and found my boat! I was going out with Simon’s Town Boat Company.
It was a pretty small boat, and there was only one other group tagging along for the trip- a very lovely family of four from the UK. We boarded at 10:30am for our hour and a half trip to Seal Island and back! It’s not whale or great white shark season, but they said they had seen a Bride’s Whale yesterday- so I was keeping my fingers crossed. We headed out across the smooth water (thank god, although I had chewed up my Bonine pills before I left as a precaution!). There were little boats in the harbor fishing with hand lines. The guide said they were catching squid! Oh man, I so wanted to do that! I actually saw this guy bring one up, but wasn’t quick enough to capture it!
On the trip out, we didn’t see any whales or dolphins, but every once in a while we’d see a tell-tale fin sticking out of the water, or an entire curious seal face popping up to get a good look at us. Soon, we could see the island in the distance!
This 5 hectare island is home to about 70,000 Cape Fur Seals (Arctocephalus pusillus). I was here in time to see the pups! Females give birth in late November and early December, so if I was lucky I was hoping to be able to see babies that were one month old or less. As we approached, you could hear the barking! Actually, it sounded more like the bleating of sheep than normal sea lion barking. And seals were EVERYWHERE!!! On the island and in the water- with their fins sticking out catching some rays (it’s a mechanism they use to warm up!).
You could easily see the difference in the sexes- the males are VERY large (over 7 feet and about 600 lbs) and the females are much smaller and sleeker (about 6 feet and 250 lbs). And there were BAY-BAYS!!!! The babies stay on the island- they don’t have enough blubber yet to stay warm in the chilly water. This morning, a huge group of babies was hanging out by the water’s edge, waiting for their moms to come back from feeding.
Pups to the far right, big male foreground right, female foreground left
Huge group of black pups waiting for mom to come back
Mom with her pup. Awwwwww!
Those two guys in the back facing each other were having quite the argument, while wittle bitty babies wandered around
The boat slowly circled the island, and when we got to the other side, we could get a lot closer to the island and the seals that were in the water! They were so funny- jumping, playing, and popping their heads up for a look like- “Hey boat people, did you see that cool trick?!”. You almost wanted to jump in with them! #ijustsaynotogreatwhitesharkterritory Speaking of great whites, this is premier feeding grounds in the winter (it’s summer here now, south of the equator). In March and April when the pups are heading out to the ocean for the first time, the sharks move in- about 50-60 of them are here on any given day, and about 18 predations are seen a day! WOW! This is the place where the great whites will jump out of the water during an attack!! That would be so amazing to witness, even if a little sad. But now, probably no sharks, or very few. The guide told us that the biggest danger are the seals themselves- males are SUPER protective of their females and pups, and if a human were to go on to the island, you’d be killed! Eek!
That one seal is smiling for the camera!
There weren’t just seals on Seal Island. There were birds, too. We even saw a couple of lonely penguins that looked half lost! On this side of the island, on the far end, we were downwind, and the smell of seal and bird poop- while not overwhelming- was definitely noticeable!
Hey boat lady, this is MY penguin buddy! Back off!
Hey penguin buddy! Where are you going! I thought we were besties!
This place stinks. I’m outta here!
It was really hard to get good close up because of the motion of the boat. All too soon it was time to leave Seal Island and head back to Simon’s Town. It was a WONDERFUL outing! The weather has been so bad that this was only their 5th day this month (today is December 23) to make a trip. So if you’re going to go, plan accordingly with the wind situation. If they have to cancel due to weather, you get a full refund. Trip cost is 350 rand, which is $35ish US. Not bad at all for this lovely experience!
I got off the boat, called an Uber, and headed to Fish Hoek to grab a few groceries (for the first time since I’ve been here!). I shopped at Woolworth’s- I wonder if it’s related to the 5 and dime stores of my youth?? Anyway, nothing here was a nickel or a dime, but it wasn’t too bad! I spent about $80US, and have more than enough to last me until Brian gets here in 10 days. Ubered back to the house, took a short nap (I didn’t sleep all that great last night- only took 1 pill instead of two. Sigh), got up, and started work. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be spent working, working, and doing some more work. Gotta stay on schedule! Next big outing is planned for Dec. 26!
Receipt from Woolworth’s. Really, not too bad. Not Malaysia cheap, though!
It’s Christmas Eve in South Africa!! How did I celebrate? By working my butt off all day long on a lesson plan for my Malaysia class. However, like everyone around the world, when evening came, I put out snacks for a special visitor I was hoping to see. No, not cookies for Santa (bah humbug). Butternut squash, nectarines, and apple for the porcupines! I was as determined as a 6 year old waiting to see Santa to get a glimpse of these beauties on this special night! Brian called and I told him I’d call him back later- it’s porcupineo’clock! I have just been looking for them on the monitors, it never occurred to me to look out the side window in the living room! Perfect view of the porcuplatform, where I leave them their nightly snacks.
View of the porcuplatform from the window. At the top of that cement ramp is the orange stuff- porcusnacks!
I brought the laptop upstairs at 8:00 so I could sit right next to the window while I worked. Of course, looking up every 15 seconds doesn’t translate to much research on Hinduism getting done! It got closer and closer to the time when I saw them last- 8:30. It was getting darker and darker out and harder to see. I looked out the window for the 800th time in 30 minutes at 8:33pm and OH MY GOD THERE IT WAS!!!!!!! I swear, it was more exciting than seeing St. Nick himself!
I had my game plan all set. When I had put the food out at 6:30 (cuz I ain’t about to walk through no cobra infested weeds after dark!!), I left the gate unlocked and slid it closed just so nothing could get in (baboons were already in bed). The thing that had scared her off the other day was me making noise unlocking and sliding the gate. I grabbed the camera that was next to me and opened the patio door as quietly as I could. Stepped out on to the astroturf in the backyard. It was making a “crunch” “crunch” sound every time I made a step, so I took really big steps and tried to stay on my tip toes. Got to the gate. Slowly slid it open about 3″, just enough to get the lens through. And there she was!!!!! About 10 feet in front of me! How I didn’t squeal out loud, I’ll never know! It was too dark to not use flash, and I had already popped the flash open so that click wouldn’t scare her. I figured I had one shot at this because the flash would scare her off, so it better be good. Well, what do you know? I’m naming this porcupine Behati, because just like the famous model (and wife of Adam Levine), they’re both from Africa and can WORK A CAMERA!! Sweet little Behati (who isn’t so little), just sat there happily munching away while I snapped pic after pic! She even modeled for me, turning to show me her best side! Oh, but I was in love!! Unlike with the penguins though, I had no desire to hug her. 🙂
And now, I present to you, my sweet little Behati!! Who needs fat old cookie hog St. Nick to come on Christmas Eve when you have PORCUPINES!!!!!!
What I thought would be the first and only picture of Behati! But she’s not camera shy!
Behati, giving me a head on shot
She’s holding her food in her little porcupine hands! #swoon
Behati giving me her stunning left profile shot. I think it’s her best side. 🙂
She wanted a shot of her not stuffing her mouth!
Like any good model, she only ate a little food and then back off into the bush! Probably because I was going to try to shoot a video and made too much noise changing the setting.
Of course, I ran upstairs, called Brian (he’s on my priority list, just under porcupines!), and loaded the pictures. He’s probably deaf because I was screaming so loud as each one popped up!! Then, of course, I went into teacher mode and researched all about Behati. Here are the facts:
1. She’s a Cape Porcupine. Hystrix africaeaustralis
2. They are the biggest rodents in Africa, and the largest porcupines in the world! With their tail, about 3 feet long!
3. They are so cute they make you want to diiiiiiiiie!!!!
4. They scent mark their territory. I’ve smelled a little “skunky” odor out there a couple of times- I wonder if that’s because they’re marking the porcuplatform…
5. Did I mention they are THE COOLEST LOOKING LITTLE THINGS EVER!!!! EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!
I told Brian that if we ever go on real safari, we’ll have to book a company that keeps a defibrillator on the vehicle. I’m this ga-ga over a porcupine in the backyard. Imagine me seeing a lion or rhino or zebra on the savanna. #dead
Merry Christmas, from the beautiful western cape of South Africa!! I am pleased to announce that I have slept decently two nights in a row with no meds. Huge relief! Woke up this morning and took out the trash (they pick up on Christmas Day!), washed my clothes, hung them out to dry, and went right to work on researching the religions of Malaysia for class. My goal was to have all 10 plans done before Brian got here. I’m on week 4, and it’s really slow going. There’s just SO MUCH research involved about things I don’t have much working knowledge of, and that, coupled with me trying to be a perfectionist with these lesson plans, makes for some looooooooooong days. But I’m quite pleased with what I have so far! I’m just getting realistic that I will probably finish 6 weeks instead of 10 by Jan 3. I need to slow down a bit and enjoy South Africa, because spring semester is going to be long and very busy! I’m not going to have much of a chance to even breathe when I get home…
I took a break around noon to prepare my Christmas dinner- South Africa style!! The menu includes:
Filet of Ostrich
Two types of Sweet Potatoes in Cinnamon Butter
Traditional South African Peppermint Caramel Dessert
Never had ostrich, no idea what to expect. It just sounded so…South African! So I bought it. 🙂 I did read a bit about it- that it’s really lean and dries out fast, so you can’t over cook it. Got it. Luckily there is a George Foreman Grill here. That thing is my LIFE at home! First, had to prep the veggies and get them in the oven.
Sweet potatoes on one side, with their cinnamon butter (those big brown chunks), brussel sprouts on the other.
Next, I took the ostrich out to season it and let it come to room temp. I really had no clue what the heck to season it with. There was a bottle of something called Monkey Gland Sauce in the frig. A quick check of the ingredients showed no sign of monkey glands or any other part thereof, so I figured what the heck. I threw a few spices from the cupboard on, slathered on some monkey gland sauce (upon further research, it’s a really popular bbq sauce in South Africa- except they call bbq “braai”- and I’m going to try to make some when I get home. Recipe is linked), and heated up the grill.
About US$8 for this package.
There were 3 good sized filets in there! Not bad for $8!
Dessert is always a big deal, and requires the most thought. Could I go out and get some chocolately what-not? Of course. The store was full of it. Actually, there was a lot of European type Christmas desserts at the store- fruitcakes and mince meat pies seemed to be pretty popular, as well as those little log shaped cakes (I forget what they’re called, start with a B). But I was in Europe for the past 2 Christmases- I wanted something South African! And then I saw this- peppermint (love it) and caramel (love it). Win-win! And seriously, how god awful could a combination of peppermint and caramel be??
It’s a traditional South African Christmas dessert. Says so right on the box. 🙂
It’s multi layered. Good news, because if one layer sucks I can just scrape it off!
While I was snapping pics of groceries, I brought out my go-to breakfast food. The homeowner had left a pack of these. Anything that says “Extra spicy” makes me run screaming in terror- I hate anything hot spicy. But I tried one my first day and it was amazing!! I played piano and was in beginner band (flute). I have played “Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns” a zillion times, but I’ve never had one. It’s kind of like- I don’t know. Kind of like a soft non-gross fruitcake and kind of like raisin bread but more “spicy”-spicy being more fruity. I don’t know. All I know is that they are super yummy!
Cost more than 2 a penny, but worth it!
From prep time to ready to eat time was only about 35 minutes! I was really worried about over or under cooking the ostrich, but 6 minutes on the grill was absolutely perfect. Sat down at the table with a gorgeous view of False Bay and dug in. Oh. My. God. Ostrich, where have you been all my life!!! It is literally the most amazing meat I’ve ever had!! Even though it’s a bird, it’s more like beef than chicken. Like the most tender, melt in your mouth, flavorful meat EVER! I literally congratulated myself on this choice out loud! I did such an awesome job describing the taste of hot cross buns, let me try this…It’s like filet mignon, but even more light and tender and juicy. That “lightness” of taste has just a hint of a gamey taste to it- like absolute perfection. I don’t know- all I know is that you should run out to your nearest butcher and demand ostrich!
Christmas dinner with a view
The texture is just AMAZING!!
The veggies were delish! I saved a few of each type for Behati and friends for tonight. I figured they’d enjoy a few brussel sprouts! Man, I savored that ostrich to the very last bite. I’m so happy I have two other steaks in there for later! I was stuffed. Like seriously stuffed. This is the largest meal I’ve had since I’ve been here. But I’m never too full for dessert. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I thought it might be too sweet. It said the caramel was made from condensed milk, and that can be so syrupy sweet that it’s icky. Stuck my fork in- soft and fluffy! Took a bite. A spontaneous “OH MY GOD” echoed throughout the upstairs! This stuff is the BOMB! Not too sweet, just the right amount of peppermint to be festive but not overbearing. Oy. That stuff is DANGEROUS! I could eat the whole tub in one sitting!
All in all, I was quite pleased with myself. It’s literally the best meal I’ve had in a long time. Everything was perfect, easy to cook, and so very South African (at least I think so! That’s what it said on the box! 🙂 ). And the funny thing is that the adventure for tomorrow that I’ve had planned for a few days has something in common with today’s meal… Until tomorrow, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night (meaning sleeping 8 hours with no meds!)!!
Last night I got a Christmas treat! Behati brought Adam for a visit! Unfortunately, I didn’t prepare the gate beforehand, so I wasn’t able to get pictures. Hopefully they’ll both come back tonight. Today held a few surprises…starting with the wind picking back up again. My original adventure today after spending the past 2 days in the house was to go to a nearby ostrich farm. It’s pretty close, but I figured it would be super windy there too, so I nixed that plan. Plan B was the other activity that’s been on my list- the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. I had read on their website that they had added an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) to their exhibit on December 21. The story about how they got it and the care they took to get it to its new temporary home (supposedly they release many of their animals after a period of time, which I have mixed feelings about), is quite amazing, and I would KILL to be the person who got to hand feed it! Mola molas are probably my most favoritest saltwater fish- they’re the largest bony fish in the world! I’ve only saw one once before, at the Atlanta Aquarium, so I was pretty excited!
Got my Uber and headed in to Cape Town. Guy dropped me off in front of some huge mall thing. My mall-o-phobia kicked in. There were people EVERYWHERE. Ugh. Walked through the mall, out the back, and followed the signs to the aquarium that was a couple of blocks away. The line was really long, but I got to bypass it because I bought my ticket online and saved 10% to boot! Once inside, it was crowded. REALLY crowded. With tons and tons of tourists. And they all had multiple children shorter than my armpit (my measuring stick for the presence of sufficient cognitive thinking skills- the only type of children I enjoy!). Kids were running around everywhere, banging on tanks, running in to me, shoving in front of me when I was standing in front of a tank to take a picture- all while their parents did nothing to reign in their little demons darlings. So far, within the past 5 minutes I had been subjected to three things that I can’t stand- mindless consumerism, tourists, and small children. I really shouldn’t be allowed in public places unsupervised…
The aquarium was very kid friendly, I’ll say that. The tanks were clean, animals looked healthy. No complaints from me (those of you who know me, know that I was in the aquarium industry for about 25 years). It’s not the most spectacular aquarium in the world, but for the amount of space it’s pretty well planned out with some nice exhibits and a lot of educational material. And a few things I had never seen before, which is always exciting!
Nothing evil looking about this so-called Evileye Pufferfish (Amblyrhynchotes honckenii). Beautiful species, and there was a group of them living in a tank together, which is rare (they’ll usually kill each other).
Didn’t get this guy’s name, but very unusual looking
Beautiful species- again, didn’t get the name. It was just so crowded! #overwhelmed
Knysna Seahore (Hippocampus capensis). Only found in South Africa. Endangered. 🙁
Hagfish! I was so excited to see them in person! Very primitive, and highly interesting, fish.
Black musselcracker (Cymatoceps nasutus). I was really intrigued by these big guys! That “nose” is just too funny!
And I got to see something really rare- a common octopus doing something very uncommon- actually not hiding! It was great watching him swim to a crevice and presume the camouflaged position! #cephalogeek
There was a penguin exhibit, that was kinda stinky. I don’t know, it just didn’t feel right to me, but I must say the Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes moseleyi) were gorgeous!
This one was sitting on an EGG!!!!! Eeeeeeeek!!!!!!
And then I came to the very large “Predator Tank”. Inside of it was a big mesh holding pen. And inside of that was…..my Mola mola!!! Oh my god, but it was so amazing. I spent about 45 minutes total in the aquarium, 15 of it with this big, lovable, amazing creature! Taking pics behind glass is bad enough. Behind glass and through a mesh net- ugh. I’ve sent the aquarium a facebook message to see if they’re going to release it into the main tank soon. If so, I’ll go back and see it again.
It looked like this sand shark had barnacles on it, which seemed weird. On whales, yes. On sharks? Never heard of it. Then I saw a sign that it was a growth- basically a big old shark wart!
I would have spent more time in the aquarium, but I just couldn’t take the noise and people anymore. I decided to walk into The Watershed- a huge building that housed a lot of African craft shops- more like booths actually. There were some beautiful things, but the whole scene was just too touristy/froo-froo for me. I had been at the waterfront for a little over an hour (about the amount of time it took to get there), and I was over it. I felt I needed a “palette cleanser” after having to deal with all of that, so I decided what the heck…I’ll go to the ostrich farm!
Got an Uber with the FRIENDLIEST driver I’ve had so far. We talked the whole way about all kinds of things. He speaks English, Swahili, and 3 other native languages. Every time I leave the United States, I realize just how dumb I am. As we drove further and further into the middle of no where, I started getting concerned about getting an Uber back…
Reached the farm, said a warm goodbye, and headed off to explore ostriches! Went to the office to buy my ticket, and they said an English tour had just started so just go ahead and join them. There were a group of about 30 people under a tree, and the guide was explaining all about ostrich breeding. I came in about 10 minutes late, and missed a lot I fear. I hate missing things like that! The people on this tour were SO. DAMN. RUDE!!! There were 2 different couples who insisted on having a conversation among themselves in full voice. I moved closer to the guide so I could hear. I wanted to record it, but it was so windy I knew the video would just sound like “sssssssssssswwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”. 🙁 She asked if we wanted to stand on an egg to see how strong it was. Of course, being the Hermione of every tour group I’m ever in, my hand shot up.
I’m gonna get one of these for a scale. If it breaks, I’ll lay off the cookies for a while. 😉
The shell is only 2mm thick! Amazingly strong!
We went inside for a mini lecture (YAY!!!!). Of course, I was on the front row and asking questions. And of course, the jerk tourists were STILL talking like they were the only people in the room. The guide would look at them every once in a while, giving them “the eye”, but they didn’t care. Man, I was pissed. I wanted clean video for my students. Anyway, I learned a lot of things. An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain! Ostriches have the 2nd strongest hide on earth. Bet you can’t guess the 1st….KANGAROO!! Isn’t that crazy!! And ostriches are the 2nd fastest animal on earth, behind the cheetah. She talked a lot about incubation of the eggs. And when she was done, we got to look in the incubation rooms.
Newly hatched baby!!!
The next area was the baby grow out area. And OH MY GAWWWWWWWWWWD!!!! Guess what? I almost d-i-e died! They were SO cute!! The grown ones scare the crap out of me. They’re big, dumb, and intimidating as hell. But these bay-bays!!!! I wanted to jump in and kiss them all! Unfortunately, we couldn’t touch them. The first pen were the 2 week old babies- they were as big as big chickens! Then there was a 3 week, 4 week, and 5 week pen. The 5 weekers were as big as turkeys! It was insane how fast they grow! And how beautiful and camouflaged their colors are when they’re young.
So fluffy and cuuute!!
Tour was over. I went into the gift shop, because I knew I wanted one of the decorated eggs as a souvenir. At the waterfront, the eggs were 700 rand (about $55). Here, they were only 300 rand!! Less than half price. I knew I hated that froo-froo craft market… As I was looking at the eggs, the guide came up and asked me if I needed any help. We started talking and I thanked her for the tour. She apologized for the jerks, and said she could barely talk over them, so didn’t even tell us a lot of stuff. She then started to tell me a lot of other things about the farm and the birds in general. I was in heaven! I know she singled me out because I was paying attention and asking questions! It’s good to be the Hermione! 🙂 It was 2pm now, and I was STARVING- I hadn’t eaten since about 7am. Went to the resturant and had an AMAZING ostrich filet (they pronounce it fill-it) with these crazy good fried potatoes and cole slaw. Only $15 with a drink and tip, so I was pleased with that. First time eating out since I’ve been here (I hate eating alone). There was no wifi, so I kept myself busy reading tourist brochures of local activities. Nothing popped.
Ostrich is now my favorite meat, hands down.
Headed out to see the big birds- Bonnie, Connie, and Clyde (I know this because the tour guide told me in the “Mary Special Post Tour” 🙂 ). Dang. They are big. And scary. You could buy food to feed them from your hand. I watched other people do it and scream- they go after you pretty fast. Uh, yeah. I’ll pass. Took some pics of them, though. The males are bigger and have the black & white feather and red beaks. Females are smaller and brown.
Back to the gift shop to decide on an egg and stand. Then, I started searching for a wifi signal to get an Uber. I asked the staff. They told me 3 different areas to go stand to maybe get a signal. No luck. I asked someone else, and they said go to the gate. Walked all the way to the parking lot gate. No signal. Fucksticks. I’m in the middle of no where with no signal and no ride. Mary, circa 4 years ago would have had an epic curse-laden rant on hand for such an occasion. Mary, circa now, says “Fucksticks”, shrugs, and starts verbally hitchhiking. I approached 3 different people. “Hello. Are you a serial killer? No? Great! Any chance you’re heading to Simon’s Town?”. Well, I thought the serial killer part but left it out of the convo. A resounding “nope” from all of them. Mary, circa now, does not fear. Because I know these people are not going to shut the gates and throw me out in the street alone. I went back to the restaurant and explained my dilemma. They knew someone from Simon’s Town who would come get me, and they’d call them right now! WOO-HOO! See, Mary circa 4 years ago, things work out. No need to panic. 🙂
The absolute LOVELIEST woman walked up about 30 minutes later and said if I was waiting for a taxi! She was all smiles and light!! We got in the car and immediately hit it off. Talked about all kinds of things. Twice she told me I was a breath of fresh air! As mentioned earlier in this blog, I live for those compliments from locals!! I was sad when we pulled up to the house, sad to lose such good company. I said, “200 rand, right?”. She told me she didn’t even want to charge me, but her boss wouldn’t be pleased! If you are in Simon’s Town and need a ride, call Simon’s Town Shuttle.
Wow. What a day! Fed the porcupines and Behati showed up like clockwork at 8:30, but no Adam tonight. Next couple of days are going to be work filled, so don’t expect anything too exciting out of me. Oh! And here is the egg I got! I paid extra for this really cool carved stand that spoke to me instead of just getting the regular flat round one. Because my consumerism is based on experiences, not random, meaningless junk. And this egg will be an awesome addition to my travel display case at home- reminding me of a great experience!
DAY 13 and 14
Day 13, life couldn’t have been more boring. I worked 15 hours straight, and even the porcupines didn’t show up. 🙁 Winds are still blowing pretty strong. Day 14, almost a repeat of Day 13. Until I went into the kitchen around noon to get lunch…Did your windows rattle around 12pm Cape Town time?? No, it wasn’t an earthquake. It was me screaming. And I’m sure that no matter where you are in the world, you heard it. I went to put a dish in the sink, and this THING was in there. It was huge. It was disgusting. It was creepy as all hell. The fact that I didn’t drop the dish is truly a testament to my mad house sitting skillz. Because I let out a scream and jumped about a meter both up and backwards. After the initial shock wore off, I leaned in for a closer look. It reminded me of the super nasty mole crickets I’ve seen in the states- a really soft body. It looked like a cross between a giant cricket, a giant ant, and a giant nightmare. Slowly, the critter curiosity in me became stronger than the fear. I knew I had to get it out of the sink (way to big to wash down the drain). I was really concerned about it jumping, or killing me by spitting venom or some koo-koo uncivilized African thing, but it was SO big, and its hind legs really didn’t look strong enough to propel it very far. I seriously considered coming downstairs to google it before I got too close, but figured I was safe. So I got a tupperware and scooped it out. It didn’t make too much of a fuss.
Comparison of size to 1 Euro- about the size of a quarter. Just look at the head. Look at the coin. Do you see how big that thing is???
Well, its face is *kinda* cute(ish).
I snapped those couple of pics. My face was less than a foot from it when I was taking the pics, but I was so enthralled at this point, I didn’t care. When our photo shoot was over, I took it out in the backyard and let it loose. Then I came to google it. I googled “big cricket South Africa”. After seeing images of cricket games, I refined it to “big cricket insect South Africa”. And what came up was something that looked exactly like my critter, commonly known as a Parktown Prawn. And get a load of this…they are NASTY buggers (no pun intended)!!! They will HISS when threatened!!! Not only that, but they can jump A METER!!! And they usually will jump RIGHT AT/ON YOU!!!! And if that wasn’t bad enough, they will squirt out a horribly rancid smelling black liquid feces when agitated!!! WTDDF (what the double dutch fillintheblank)!!!! Had it done any ONE of those things, I would be blogging right now from either the hospital or a hotel. The only thing about my ID that bothered me was that I could really only find reports of it around Johannesburg. Apparently people there are scared to death of the things, and there are horror stories and videos all over the ‘net about them. Holy. Crap. Ola. I was so happy mine was docile! It’s abdomen was so soft looking and super fat, I figured it was a female full of eggs who probably came in (how???) to get water. The drought here is awful. I happily posted my find on the Entomology Facebook page. A few people agreed with my Parktown Prawn ID. But one lady said no, it was a Sia pallidus, which looks very similar to the species I had IDed it as, but is found in the Cape. That made better sense. Especially because these guys are burrowers, so no need for super strong, leap terrified Americans in a single bound, hind legs. Phew. Scorpions in the bathroom in Costa Rica (I killed that thing dead, dead, dead by drowning it in a puddle of bug spray). Giant crickets in the sink in South Africa. Oh, the adventures never end. At least it broke up the work day a bit! And qualifies as my only adventure in 2 days. I’m prepping for the beginning of the spring semester for online classes- they start January 9, so everything has to be ready by the time Brian gets here. Busy, busy, busy…
Day 15, I woke up from another good (non medicated) sleep. That’s like 3 in a row now. I’m finally back on a decent schedule of going to sleep around 10:30 and waking up around 6. I got out of bed and something seemed “off”. Something was “different”. I thought about it for a second. WAIT!! It doesn’t sound like I’m living in a wind tunnel!!! I threw open the shutters and sure enough, the bush outside was still!!! WOO-HOO!! After 3 straight days of incessant sssssssswwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh noise, it was silent! And after 2 straight days of being cooped up in the house working, I was ready to get the heck outta here! But I couldn’t go far, because alas, I do still have a ton of work to do and I have a day trip planned for tomorrow. So I decided to head down to see my penguins. After sitting for 2 days straight, I figured the walk would do me some good.
Got to the beach and man, it was crowded! Even the “locals” area before you get to the area where the penguins are. I walked through to the small boardwalk where I was last time, rounded a corner, and there they were! I said out loud (spontaneously talking out loud is becoming a serious habit), “OH! There they are! Hello, my babies!”. There were some people behind me who laughed. Oy. Inside your head voice, Mary. INSIDE your head…. But it’s such a rush when you first see them- even if you’ve seen them before.
See that scruffy on on the left? Not dressed as fancy as the two on the right, feathers all sticking out in disarray. Yeah, I’m that penguin.
We aren’t penguins, but we’re cool too! Not sure what they are, but there were a TON of them!
Took several shots, and continued toward the pay area of Boulders Beach. The homeowner had told me there is another boardwalk on the other side of that where you don’t have to pay. I quickly found it and headed toward Seaforth Beach. It was even more crowded in this area! Holy moly, everyone was at the beach! Understandable, because it was literally a perfect day. Sunny, about 78 degrees, and no wind. Boulders Beach is gorgeous. If there hadn’t been so many people, I probably would have paid to go down there. Kept walking down the boardwalk to Seaforth beach. There were several tables set up with vendors and various African handicrafts. Nothing popped though.
The awesome boardwalk between Boulders and Seaforth.
Gorgeous Boulders Beach.
My plan had been to walk to here and turn around. But the day was so lovely, and I was so sick of work, that I just kept going toward town. I walked into several of the shops, but again nothing really popped. I’m not the “go into a shop and browse” kind of girl. I am definitely not the “go into a shop and buy something just to have something to do” girl.
I considered getting lunch, but the lure of a free sandwich at the house won out. Headed back. Stopped and peeked into a cemetery on the side of the road. Lots of graves from the early 1900s. I had been out for a couple of hours and it was pretty hot, so I walked back down to Seaforth beach and stopped in at a little juice window. Got a carrot/orange/pineapple juice with ginger for about $1.50- not bad. I knew I needed sustenance to make it back up the hill. Walked back along the boardwalk all the way to the golf course across from my ‘hood, then started up the hill. That hill is no joke. And it’s the very end of it that’s the worse. And at the end of that are four flights of stairs to get to the kitchen for water. I was SPENT. Looked at my walking app, and I had done 5.63 miles!! Dang! Promptly came into my room and napped for an hour. Got up and worked. Behati showed up at 8:45, but didn’t bring Adam. I tried to get a pic, but the wind picked up again and I didn’t have my ponytail holder in. Hair was everywhere and when I was trying to get it out of the way of the camera, I spooked her. But I did find another quill when I went out to feed!! Two big adventures scheduled for tomorrow!!
DAY 16, 17, 18
I’m behind. I know. It’s been a hectic few days. Happy New Year and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, here goes…
Day 16 is adventure day!! YAY!! And today was going to have not one, but TWO adventures in the Hout Bay area! But guess what? It ended up as three and the unexpected one was the best one of all…
Adventure #1: World of Birds
I was leery about this place. I even asked the homeowner. It’s billed as a sanctuary, but there were mixed reviews online. I’ll give my review after I give you a tour. Here’s one thing I knew for sure- it is a stop for the HOHO bus, which means flocks (pun intended) of tourists- my kryptonite! So I decided to be smart and beat the crowds. It opened at 9, and I intended to be there right when it opened, hoping lazy tourists were still in bed. Called for my Uber and had another wonderful, friendly driver from Zimbabwe. We talked the whole way. There was no traffic, and we got there at 8:35. I stood outside. A lady came out and said they opened at 9. I said I know, and was just waiting. At 8:50 I guess she felt sorry for me and let me in! First one in the door and not another person in site! #heaven
World of Birds is privately owned on about 10 acres with over 3000 (yes, 3 THOUSAND) birds! It’s the largest bird park in Africa. And I must say, the way this place is laid out made the OCD girl in my very happy. It’s impossible to miss anything if you just keep going in a straight line, basically. The aviaries are really big. Many of them you walk into and are just “in there” with the birds. Others, the birds are behind a barrier- but those are few. The aviaries generally house several species, and I was pretty pleased with how natural they were. There was a huge variety of birds here from all over the world. But I was only focused on the African species- since the chances of me seeing these birds in the wild is about slim to none. So that’s what I’ll show here. I took over 265 pictures today in a little over 2 hours- that’s how cool these birds were! Plus, I generally had to take multiple upon multiple shots. Birds aren’t statues! 🙂 And there weren’t just birds. There were tortoises. Meerkats that would literally run up to me, roll around on the ground, and make the sweetest little chattering noises!! All kinds of things!! So now, I present to you, my best shots of the day! It was so hard to narrow them down…
An idea of how large and lush the aviaries are.
Glossy Starling Lamprotornis nitens
Maribou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus
There were a TON of hornbills! They’re AMAZING!! I need more hornbills in my life. This is a Silvery Cheeked Hornbill.
This owl made me cry. It’s a Giant Eagle owl (Bubo lacteus). It knows things.
Looking into those eyes, I felt it could look into my soul. I’m not even being cheesy. It was emotional.
I chased this damned purple crested turaco ALL over the cage with the camera! He was having a grand old time tricking me into thinking he was going to be still before he flew to the opposite end! Spectacular bird.
Ok. So pros of World of Birds. Biggest pro hands down was that because I got there when it opened, I didn’t ever have another idiot tourist with their devil spawn precious children harassing looking at the birds in my vicinity. I was alone in Every. Single. Aviary!!!!! By the time I finished at 11am, there was a line out to the parking lot to get in. The aviaries kind of are arranged one after the other, so if you follow them all in order and you’re the first one in, you won’t see anyone else. Just me, talking to and interacting with the birds alone. That was a MAJOR pro. The birds also all looked very well taken care of. Some of the water ponds could stand a good cleaning, but they were all getting fresh food and seemed as happy as birds who aren’t wild can be. Ok- now the cons. I’m not convinced this is a rescue sanctuary. Maybe I’m wrong. There were just SO many species though, and from SO many parts of the world. It did feel a little more “zoo” and a little less “sanctuary” to me. Also, with the aviaries being so open and the birds so accessible, I worry about what a constant stream of tourists does to them. Normally, I let idiot tourists go about their business and just try to avoid them. But if I see them harassing an animal, I always speak up. I could see that happening a lot here. However, that’s just my opinion as I never had the displeasure of being next to a tourist the entire time. There was a lot of staff around feeding, so maybe after feeding time they’re keeping an eye on people who have that jerk tendency…
Adventure #2: BAY HARBOR MARKET- HOUT BAY
I don’t like to shop. Seriously. But I do like to buy things that have meaning from local people. And that’s what brought me to the Bay Harbor Market (well, that, and the fact that it was close to World of Birds so I was trying to get the most out of my Uber ride from Simon’s Town!). It’s only open on Friday evenings and the weekend, so I was already as prepared as I could be for a flood of people. Look, I am seriously the most socially awkward person on earth. I’m ridiculous. And I’m so tuned out to society at large, that I have zero spatial awareness of who is around me, because I don’t care about any of them. Literally, Brian and I can be walking down the street and he’ll say, “Did you see that 10 foot tall woman dressed like a rainbow glitter clown with a monkey on one shoulder and an anaconda on the other, riding a unicorn?!”. And I’ll say no. And mean it. It just doesn’t make it to my radar. If I’m not interested in the people around me, they don’t exist. Personality flaw on my part, or brilliant trait- you can decide (my vote is the latter). Anyway, here I was, stuck in hoards of white people. There were some cool things in the booths to look at, but nothing really popped. The aisles were kind of like a ladder- two main ones with little ones in between. OCD me was methodically making my way through by winding in and out of each rung. I walked down a main aisle and turned into a “rung” booth. There were purses on both sides of me. Someone was walking directly toward me, so I moved to the side a bit and kept walking. They moved the same direction and kept walking. They weren’t moving, so I looked up and said, “Excuse me” and moved to the other side. They did the same. Why? BECAUSE IT WAS ME!!!!! I was playing chicken with myself in a mirror. This is how unaware I am of people around me and how much I could care less about looking at them or making any kind of eye contact. I just want to blend in and be ignored. This story has a point…I swear.
There was a food area, and I walked through it but it all seemed like kinda fancy farmer’s market type food. Fancy pizzas and sandwiches and coffees and such. Nothing jumped out as being unusual and “African”. And there were just so many people. I couldn’t stand it another second, and had to get out of there. Walked out on to the sidewalk and thought there HAD to be something else right around here. Behind the market were some workshops that weren’t crowded and were pretty cool. I just don’t like taking pictures of other people’s art if I’m not buying it. Seems rude. I’m not rude. I’m just stand offish. 🙂 Went back on the sidewalk and saw this….
A hand painted sign that says Crafts and Nursery and a path up a hill without a white person in sight. I’m there!
ADVENTURE #3: XOMA AOB
Now THIS was something interesting!!! I’m not going to lie, I had a teeny bit of apprehension as I went up the hill. Because NO tourists were up here. I was entering a neighborhood. The path ended after a little ways, and dead ended into a street. I was in a straight up neighborhood at this point, and there wasn’t another sign. I stood there for a few seconds, getting my bearings and trying to figure out if it was prudent to continue walking through this neighborhood, when I heard someone behind me say “Hello, guest.”. I turned around and made perfect eye contact with two amazing blue grey eyes. Eyes that were framed by a massive set of awesome dreadlocks. Dreadlocks that were atop a light brown body that didn’t look like a color of “black” that I had seen. A light brown body that, and I swear to god I am not lying because I couldn’t make this up, was only dressed in an animal skin loin cloth. And I felt perfectly comfortable, at ease, and KNEW I was in the right place! Unlike the girl who was playing chicken with herself in the mirror at the market below…
I don’t even know how the conversation started. All I know is that it did. And I finally felt truly connected to Africa in this moment. He talked about the KhoiKhoi (pronounced Koi-Koi, like the fish) people, and how he is a descendant of them- although about 9 generations back Europeans settlers entered his bloodline. How they are the indigenous people of South Africa. How the Dutch came in and forced his people off the land. He wove a mesmerizing story that I felt I was becoming a part of. That I somehow understood as I compared it to what I know of our Native Americans. How they tried to assimilate them, steal them from their parents, force them into the white ways. How many ran and hid to escape. We talked about the impact is has on the descendants of the KhoiKhoi now, how they have been so ashamed of their culture, how speaking their language could have gotten them killed, but how many are now trying to reclaim that culture and are proud of it. How I shouldn’t call anyone in this neighborhood colored. Colored was a catch all label from the Europeans to erase people’s true identities. That he was KhoiKhoi, not colored. I stood there, with just a fence between us, for over an hour. Engaged. Connected. While dozens of chickens pecked through the plastic bag he held to get the vegetable scraps out through the holes. While every passerby greeted this man, sometimes saying things in their language that included clicking noises instead of words. I saw his baby grandson, his wife. He told me of how the city had tried to force him off of his land so they could take it for development. How he stood up for himself and fought back. How he ended up doing a land swap for the property he’s on now. How he is slowly building it up to what he wants it to be. How he is the herbalist for his people and grows the plants and knows the remedies his grandmother taught him. MY GOD THE ENTIRE THING WAS BEAUTIFUL!!!!! And I don’t even know how it started after, “Hello, guest.” I didn’t want to leave. But more and more people were coming out of the house wanting his attention, and I knew I should be going. We shook hands. His name is Xoma Abo. He gave me his phone number and said I could come back with Brian and he would show me more. When I got home, I googled his name. He is well known. There is a short documentary about him. I am so proud of the fact that I don’t belong in the tourist hordes. That I am more comfortable outside of them. Because outside of that facade of money and trinkets and entitlement is where people like Xoam Abo exist. And people like my friends Carlos and David in Belize. People that I connect with. People that I listen to. And that’s important, because I don’t connect or listen easily with most. I don’t have any pictures of him, but here are two videos I found online about him. WATCH AT LEAST THE SHORT ONE (the first one)!!! You’ll learn something awesome in 3 minutes. I promise.
This is the full 15 minute documentary. Well worth a watch.
On the drive back to Simon’s Town, the Uber driver took Chapman’s Peak road. The views are STUNNING!! BREATHTAKING!! I had already planned to come up here with Brian, so I’ll get good pics then. But for now, here’s a sneak peek!
Days 17 and 18, New Year’s Eve and Day, were nothing but work, work, work. And more work. I have one last adventure planned for tomorrow before Brian gets here, and then Brian will be here the next day!! Then, get ready, because it will be non stop adventures for a week straight!!!
This morning I drank my last Diet Dr. Pepper. That can only mean one thing. BRIAN WILL BE HERE TOMORROW!!! Today’s adventure was a special treat, because I did something I’ve never done before- I met up with a couple who is also housesitting in Cape Town! I found them on one of the facebook groups for housesitters, and asked if they wanted to go to the Cape Town Street Parade with me on January 2. It’s a HUGE event with a TON of people (60-100 thousand), and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to navigate that alone. They said yes, and we met up. What a lovely couple, and I really enjoyed spending the day with them!
I arrived a little earlier than our meeting time, because I wasn’t sure what the traffic situation would be like. This was my first time really “in” the city of Cape Town. It’s quite charming! I wandered around in the PanAfrican building- 3 stories of African crafts. There were a couple of other indoor craft markets in the area, and then I looked around Greenmarket Square, an outdoor craft market. They were all pretty touristy, but had some interesting things! The vendors all greet you as you walk by and tell you that you can touch things. They’re definitely sales people, but not as pushy as Mexico/Central America for sure. I was pretty mesmerized by the masks and carvings from all over Africa.
Just one of the many, many rooms of masks and carvings at the PanAfrican Market. Fascinating.
Some old church. I didn’t catch its name, but it really stood out!
Met Ian and Vanessa at our scheduled time (yay for prompt people!!), and started walking around town. We headed up to the Bo Kaap neighborhood, known for its super colorful houses. This neighborhood started off as a slave neighborhood for the Cape Malays (slaves brought here from Malaysia by the Dutch). Of course, now it’s being gentrified and the houses are being bought up by wealthy people, destroying the fabric and culture of the neighborhood.
So about this parade. It has about a zillion names. Kaapse Klopse (which means Cape Clubs). Tweede Nuwe Jaar Parade (which means Second New Year- it’s held on Jan 2). Coon Carnival (Called this under apartheid. NOT politically correct, but even my Uber driver who is from South Africa called it that. I’d never dare!). But it seems like the most recent term is Cape Town Street Parade. Traditionally, slaves were given Jan 2 off to celebrate, so the day holds a special meaning. Basically, there are a bunch of minstrel groups (about 60) that compete for prizes. The bands are dressed in colorful costumes, many members have their faces painted, it’s just a lot of fun!! The parade was supposed to start at 1pm. We waited. And waited. And waited. And went and had drinks. And waited. And waited. FINALLY we found a decent spot to stand and saw the first troupe come by- kind of. They actually stopped and kind of wandered around. Some of them sat down. Huh? We stood there for about 20 minutes, then that group finally passed and we crossed the street. The 2nd group wasn’t right behind the 1st. There was a huge gap. So we walked up the parade route toward the start area. Finally we got to a place where the 2nd troupe was and we could see. People set up huge tents all along the route, so it’s almost impossible to get a decent vantage point for pictures- or to even see! Then, this troupe did the same thing. Stopped, wandered, and sat. What the hell??? We waited and waited and waited. Then decided to walk up the route further. This continued like 4 times!! The parade had started at 1. By 5:30 we had seen six or seven troupes, and only because we were walking up the route! Had we stayed in our original place, we would have maybe seen 3! It was seriously ridiculous. When we could see a troupe, it was so much fun! I would have been super giddy if it had been like a normal parade with a flow. But all of the walking, trying to find a troupe, waiting for them to do something other than sit or wander, and trying to even find a space between the tents to see anything got a little frustrating. We ditched out at almost 6pm. I can’t imagine staying to see all 60! We’d be there for 2 days!! Here are some of the shots I got over heads and through tents! This parade really has potential to be amazing and super fun…
This was the 1st troupe coming up the street. Thought the sign for the museum in the back was pretty poignant.
Countdown to Brian (who is on a 7 hour layover in Zurich as I write this)…T-minus 16 hours!!!!!!!
It’s Brian day!!!!!! YAY!!!! Basically, I got up, did some work, and grabbed an Uber to go pick him up at 2:15. The Uber driver had an accent that was very different from any I’ve heard so far. I asked where he was from. Congo!!! WOW!! I was so excited and told him he was the first person I’ve met from there! He was excited about me being from Los Angeles. Go figure. 🙂 Lots of talk about safety in his country for foreigners vs. citizens. Talk about the direction the world is heading. This topic is on the minds of so many people I encounter.
Got to the airport, waited about 20 minutes, and finally saw my baby!!! He was about 36 hours out from leaving the house in LA. A connection in Zurich with a 7 hour layover and a connection in Johannesburg with a 2 hour layover. Poor thing. We found our rental car kiosk, got our car, and like the champ he is he maneuvered driving on the left side of the road with no problem.
Now, I had bought myself an AMAZING travel pillow that I used on my flights over, but couldn’t say anything because I had bought one for Brian for Christmas. I had asked Brian when he texted me from Zurich how he liked it. He said “long story- I’ll tell you in person”. I figured he had forgotten it or popped it (it’s inflatable) or something stupid (and I was pretty pissed!). Then, he told me the story. So, dear readers, instead of my adventure for Day 20, let’s hear Brian’s adventure…
So he gets to LAX. He uses his work backpack for his travel backpack. It’s his only carry on (he checked the bag full of DIET DR PEPPER!!!). Runs through the scanner, it goes down the chute for an extra check. No biggie. They put it up on the screen and say, “What is that? Is that a gun part?”. Brian didn’t say this part, but if I had to guess he got very deer in the headlights- because my man had inadvertently just brought a bolt carrier (I have no freaking idea what that is, but some gun part) through the TSA security check!!! See, Brian works in the movie props industry. And they do a LOT of work with guns- supplying them for movies and tv shows and such. And this part was in his backpack unbeknownst to him…. He answers that yes, indeed it is a gun part, and he had missed it when he was cleaning out his backpack. TSA agent’s response, “I’m going to need to call a supervisor.”
The mid level supervisor shows up, looks at it, and says, “We’re going to need someone higher up.” Uh oh. Next comes the head Grand Pooba TSA supervisor (remember, none of this is happening at a lightening pace, and Brian has a plane to catch!!). He wanted Brian to explain what was going on. Brian explained that he does guns for the movie industry, has parts, and forgot to remove it from his backpack when he was cleaning it out. Grand Pooba says, “We’re going to have to call this one in.” Brian is now surrounded by Grand Pooba, 2 airport police, and 1 LAPD officer!!! Brian explains his story, they all recognized what the part was, and that it was so benign that it could be bought by a kid with babysitting money over the counter. But, since it was a gun part, it wasn’t allowed in carry on. (Mary’s note: I can’t even take a Dr. Pepper through TSA, and Brian is shooting (pun intended) to get gun parts through!!). At this point, because it’s such a thing and they need to keep people moving through, they ROPE BRIAN OFF. So they’re all behind a rope, running his criminal record through the system. While they’re doing the interview, they ask Brian why he would have a part like that. He explains how they’re for the movies, and when shows like the Walking Dead have all of those guns, he converts them to blank firing weapons. Name drop on the Walking Dead! They all thought that was super cool. Cop performing the interview looks Brian in the eye, says he believes him, but needs to be able to explain to his boss why Brian has the part and what they should do from here. So now they call in the airport police sargent!! He looks at it, asks Brian the same questions and a zillion others down to what’s his dog’s middle name- and after explaining everything again and making Brian show them all his tattoos, they have to call in the HIGHEST level airport police guy to make a final decision!!!
Highest level airport police guy sits around and pow-wows with the growing pool of TSA and cops. Of course, all of the passengers going through security are staring at Brian like he’s a freaking terrorist or something. And remember- HE HAS A PLANE TO CATCH!!!! After their big meeting, they decide it’s fine but he can’t carry it on. It has to be checked. He couldn’t throw it away, because then they would have to file a report on it and that would take forever. Brian is about 40 minutes out from his flight at this point, and one of the officers said, “Ok- now you have to go back downstairs, check your bag, and come back through security.” Obviously that’s not all going to happen in 40 minutes, and because Brian is so damn charming (and probably because they all think he’s super awesome after name dropping the Walking Dead) and they don’t want him to miss his flight, they give him a police escort down to the Swiss Air check in counter and take him to the front of the line. While they’re walking down, the cop calls CSI to cancel them- they had called them to come and take pictures!! He checks his bag. Then, they escort him back upstairs and take him to the head of the security line to be rescreened. He shook hands with all the officers, offered them a tour of his prop warehouse if they ever wanted to come over, and was on his way. And that, my friends, is why Brian didn’t have his travel pillow with him! Never a dull moment with this boy, I swear!!
What was Brian’s first adventure in Africa?? Going to the grocery store!! Woo-hoo!! It’s a party a minute when you’re with me! We stopped off at Pick and Pay, then went over to Woolworth’s that was in the same mall. Got enough food to last us the rest of the trip. Got to the house, gave him the tour, and we had a braai (bbq)- grilling ostrich steaks that we bought on outside grill. We fed the porcupines at about 7pm, and Behati showed up to greet Brian promptly at 8:30. He wanted to hug her. If you think I’m a freak for animals, Brian beats me by a mile (kilometer?). So nice to have my man here and have a CAR!! Mega adventures all over the place commence tomorrow!!! Get ready for a barrage of awesomeness- we have some great things planned….
WOW WOW WOW!! What an amazing first full day with Brian!! Because I knew he’d be tired, I didn’t want to plan anything too far away, so we decided to go to Cape Point which is super close to Simon’s Town. We got there early, around 8:30am and entered the park. What’s so special about this place? Well, I thought it was just the Cape of Good Hope (the south western tip of Africa that was such a BIG DEAL in history when the Portuguese- namely De Gama- finally got all the way around it so Europe could reach the Indies without having to go through the Arab land routes). Careful. I teach history and could go on and on about this stuff all day! Anyway, we drive into the park and the landscape is GORGEOUS! Crazy cool rocks everywhere- with shapes and positions the likes I’ve never seen. And the fynbos is just amazing!! What is fynbos, you ask? It’s the native vegetation of the Western Cape- kind of like the rainforest of the Amazon. A ton of different plant species that are specially adapted for the conditions here. And the variety of plants is just amazing!! I would love to be here when everything is in bloom. We’re barely into the park when I see something big and black far off in the distance moving. IT WAS A WILD OSTRICH!! An ostrich. In the WILD! I was losing my mind. This thing looked just so out of place- as if it shouldn’t even be able to survive without someone taking care of it or something! It was just hard to reconcile in my mind that this bird was in the…wait for it….WILD!! And we saw more than that first one! We saw several males and a few females during our drive all through the park.
Did I mention that this ostrich was in the wild?! 🙂
We keep driving, and Brian spots a herd of antelope- in the WILD!! Oh my god- I’ve only seen things like this in a zoo!! Research shows they are Bontebok, and my but they are gorgeous! And get a load of this- they were hunted so extensively by colonists (read: damn Europeans!), that by 1931 only seventeen (yes, 17!) of them remained! The only thing that saved them is that unlike most antelope, they can’t jump. So they couldn’t jump out of the fences people created to protect them! Now, there are about 3,000 in the wild, but only in protected areas. Please take a moment and read this article. It really is a fascinating story! We were fortunate enough to see two small herds- each with about 6 animals.
Bontebok: Damaliscus pygargus pygargus
We pulled off and did a little hike. STUNNING views!! Beautiful fynbos!! And a bunch of cool lizards!
Black girdled lizard: Cordylus niger
Rock Agama: Agama atra
We take off down the open road again. When you were on the kind of “side roads” there were hardly any cars around, which was great! We were heading back toward the main road when something in the grass on the side caught my eye. I screamed “STOP! BACK UP!!”. And looky looky what we found! An angulate tortoise! I remembered that its species name was angulata from my visit to World of Birds. We jumped out and Brian picked him up so I could get a few pics. This guy was actually pretty fast on the ground! And simply stunning. After his photoshoot, we let him go and that’s when I saw the sign. 🙂
Homo sapiens (Brian) and Chersina angulata (Angulate Tortoise)
We continued on to a little visitor center (yes, all of this happened before we even got to the visitor center!!). There were some gorgeous trees surrounding it. They had a whale skeleton of a Southern Right Whale in the courtyard that was really cool, and several really interesting displays inside.
Me, with real whale vertebrae. They’re MASSIVE!!
Next stop- some tidal pools! You know I was in heaven!! There were TONS of limpets, several different species. A few tiny little fish. LOTS of anemones. And one pool, and just one pool in one little area, had some sea stars- a type I’ve never seen before! The ocean was just beautiful…
I freaking LOVE this shot of the tide pools!!
Mystery star- I can’t find any information about it.
Jumped back into the car and followed the signs to the Cape of Good Hope. As I mentioned earlier, this is the south western tip of Africa, and it was a MAJOR feat for the Europeans (Portuguese were first) to sail around it so they could reach the Indies. Vasco de Gama (you may remember him from such classes as History- Troy McClure) was the first to make it around and to the Indies. There’s a big cross here erected in his honor. (Dear world: Big whoop. Where’s the monument to the original people who this land belonged to?) Got to the Cape and there were a ton of people! Someone offered to take our picture which was very nice, then we headed out toward the tide pools! Not much in them, but a ton of protist sea weed, primarily kelp.
I am the queen of Kingdom Protista!
Next stop, the lighthouses of Cape Point. There were 2 choices. Walk up, up, UP the hill to the lighthouse, or take the funicular. I put the FUN in FUNicular, so we decided on that option!! It’s called the Flying Dutchman. And I learned that the famous ghost ship with the same name roams these waters during treacherous storms…how cool. I looked, but no Captain Jack Sparrow in sight. The view from the top was outrageous! There was ocean on both sides, and not one, but two lighthouses! The first lighthouse was built too high up and was covered in misty clouds most of the time, rendering it useless. So another was built further down the cliffs that we hiked to. My fear of heights set in, because the trail was narrow and the cliff was high and steep!
View of a stunning beach below the cliffs
View of the lower lighthouse from the trail. You couldn’t actually go to it.
View of the upper lighthouse from the lower lighthouse trail. We had just been at that light house.
It wasn’t just the fear of heights I had to face. My other fear was here as well. Baboons. But I learned that they really aren’t so bad, and no where near as scary as the macaques in Malaysia. That said, I wouldn’t go anywhere near them with food, but they seemed pretty well behaved.
This baboon is named Brian. He is jet lagged and wants to lie down.
This baboon is named Mary. She is telling Brian “Noooooooooo- you can’t lay down!!!”
After we left the lighthouse area, there was a troop of baboons on the road- many had babies!
Speaking of food, we ate our picnic lunch and then drove off the main road again and away from all of the cars, tour buses, and tourists. Here we saw more ostrich and bontebak. The road ended, but the map said something called “Venus Pools” was a little further up, so we hiked up there. WOW! Gorgeous! It is a natural rock tidal pool that is filled when the tide comes in. Brian laid down on a huge rock and said he could take a nap. I told him not on my watch. (See above baboon captions!). We stayed a little while. It was really gorgeous, relaxing, and peaceful, and only a few people around.
We drove on the rest of the roads we hadn’t been on yet, and left the park around 2:30. We spent a good 6 hours in Cape Point and really loved it! The views are out of this world, the landscape is just stunning, and there are ANIMALS!!!
I knew we couldn’t come home that early, because Brian would fall asleep. He really needed to stay up until at least 8:30. So I suggested we go check out the penguins. We parked the car at the bottom of the hill to the house, and walked the boardwalk all the way to Seaforth beach and back. Came home, cooked dinner, planned out our INSANE AWESOME adventure for tomorrow, did a little more planning of things for the rest of the week, fed the porcupines and filled the sun/sugar bird feeders, and went through all of our pictures to narrow them down. Brian’s sleeping next to me now while I write this. He’s such a damn trooper, and I love him so much…especially when we’re traveling the world together!! We do it so well. 🙂
Today we went to Cheetah Experience Ashia. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Simon’s Town through some really beautiful country! And we had to be there before 7 to begin our full day of volunteering, which means we woke up at 4:30! How Brian is hanging in there with me, I don’t know…
Cheetah Experience Ashia is literally a brand new sanctuary. I did some research on it, and it seemed to be a really good one. Their primary goal is increasing and strengthening the genetic diversity of cheetahs through captive breeding programs, with an ultimate goal of being able to release cheetahs back into the wild in protected areas. Did you know that the world cheetah population is at less than 7,000 individuals?! And they are confined to tiny pockets of habitat, with fences blocking their freedom of movement between these pockets. That means that the few cheetahs that are left are forced to interbreed, which weakens the genetic diversity and strength of the species. Game reserves have to do cheetah swaps with each other to get new genes into their cheetah populations to keep them strong. The sanctuary is also heavily involved in education and research. The director of Cheetah Experience Ashia owns Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein, about a 10 hour drive away, and is seriously dedicated to these animals! So that’s the background- now, let’s get to our adventure!
The sanctuary is also a working farm. There are vineyards (they send their grapes out to be made into their own private label wine), olive trees (they send their olives out to be pressed into their own private label olive oil), and guava trees (they sell those to a juice company). It’s a spectacular piece of land! As we pulled into the driveway, a cheetah came running out to greet us, and followed his fence along the driveway with our car. As we walked back to the volunteer house, he walked along the fenceline with us. So cool!! Our first job was to go grab bowls of prepared raw meats and head back to the cheetah camps- the HUGE enclosures where the cheetahs are. I got to feed Xena by walking into her enclosure and setting her bowl down on her feeding platform. Xena was supposed to be a breeder, but she decided she wasn’t really that into mating (we’ve all been there!), so she now stays alone in a huge enclosure. In the wild, female cheetahs live alone. Brian fed Abby. Abby was also in the breeding program. She was into mating (we’ve all been there!), and got pregnant with 5 cubs! However, when it was time to give birth, the first cub got stuck- requiring Abby to have an emergency C-section. Fortunately, all of the cubs were saved and Abby as well. However, due to these complications she was removed from the breeding program and lives alone in her huge enclosure.
Entering the cheetah camps.
Breakfast time! I think this is Abby, but could be mistaken.
Next up was clean up duty. I have never in my life been to ANY animal facility as clean and regimented as this one, and having been in the pet industry for 25 years, I pay attention to these things. There were some long term volunteers there as well. They started scrubbing down the feeding platforms, sleeping platforms, and water troughs. Brian was put on poop patrol with one of the long term volunteers, and I followed him. Apparently not only do I possess ostrich eye and tortoise eye, but cheetah poop eye as well. Life skills. Resume builders. 🙂 First we went into the camp with the “A cubs”- Alpha, Ava, and Anya. Alpha is the biggest cheetah at the sanctuary, and he’s intimidating looking as hell. These aren’t lions or tigers, but they’re still big. And they may be the weakest of the big predators, but they are still predators. With big teeth. And there’s not just one in this camp to keep an eye on, but three. We’re walking the huge camp, looking for poop, when Alpha decides to come and check us out. And by check us out, I mean he took on this kind of stalker stance and was looking straight at us. IN-TIM-I-DATING. Especially when the workers who were outside the camp were saying, “Be still.” UM, WHY?! Eek. He didn’t approach us, but in that moment my healthy respect for these animals got even healthier. I was ready to get out of that camp, as I didn’t feel very comfortable. Brian, aka Dr. Doolittle, was fine. Then we poop patrolled Abby’s camp. She just sat on her hill watching us. Next was Jesse and Pepsi’s camp. They’re both females, but grew up together so still live together. Jesse is the mother of Abby, and also Libby and Zeus (who we’ll meet later). Pepsi had labor complications with her first litter (the cub was saved), but she’s since been removed from the breeding program because of this. Next we cleaned Xena’s camp. And that left just one camp- Liberty (nicknamed Libby). Libby is a unique cat. By the time she was 7 weeks old, she was still very tiny and wasn’t gaining any weight. The vet found that she had been born with a cleft palette, and was shocked she had survived this long, because with that abnormality she wasn’t able to create a strong enough suction to nurse properly. She’s now almost 2 years old and has had 4 surgeries. The vet has done all they can do, and there is still a small hole in the roof of her mouth. She has to be fed bite sized pieces of boneless meat to prevent the food from entering her nasal cavity. She also has a special dining table that allows her to eat with her head completely up, further preventing food from going the wrong way. After all of the sedations and operations, performed by men, she doesn’t like men anymore (we’ve all been there!). So we didn’t go into her camp. Let me tell you something about poop patrol. First, cheetahs don’t bury their poop like a house cat. It’s just out on the ground. And some of them prefer to poop in high places. And as a testament to how clean this place is, there was practically no poop at all to be found. These camps are cleaned methodically every day. It really left me with a good feeling about this place, and that the care of the animals is priority number one. In fact, they don’t even allow children under 1.5 meters tall to see the cats. Small potential prey items children agitate the cats. Would they make more money by letting families in? Yep. But it’s not in the cat’s best interest.
Poop patrol with Abby
Jesse and Pepsi, enjoying watching their minions clean their home
Xena, chilling on her hill
What do you do after breakfast? Wash the dishes!! Again, everything is meticulously cleaned with anti-bacterial soap. The sink was in the room with the freezer where they prepare the food. There was a chart on the wall showing all of the different kinds of meat they feed the cheetahs for variety and nutrition. Each is color coded in the freezer. Chicken, Cow, Eland, Oryx, Rabbit, Sable, Antelope, Zebra, Calf, Donkey, Horse, Ostrich, Rainbow Chicken, Springbok, and Wildebeest.
Brian has now cleaned up animal poop in the yard and washed dishes. #WhenVacationIsJustLikeHome
We were now told it was time to babysit the Servals. There were 3 of them (I can’t remember their names) and they were AWESOME!! No where near as big as a cheetah, so I wasn’t intimidated at all. They were just like big old housecats, and they LOVED to hang out and play in the tall grass. We hung out with them by ourselves for about an hour, interacting with them and keeping them entertained. Honestly, we thought it was more of a “Let the servals babysit the day volunteers so we can get some work done” kind of thing! But it was really cool either way! 🙂
We had now met all of the cats at the sanctuary except for three. First up was Zeus. He was the cheetah that originally greeted us when we drove in. Much smaller than the adults in the back camps, but still plenty big! Zeus has a much shorter tail than he should, so his genetics won’t allow him to be in the breeding program. He’s also very dark colored- much darker than the rest of the cheetahs, and his eyes are very dark orangy/brown. He’s only 10 months old- a kitten. And what do we know about kittens? They like to play. Zeus normally doesn’t like men, and Brian was warned that he probably wouldn’t approach him. Of course, Zeus heads straight for Brian for a pet. Then, he comes around to me, goes behind me, and jumps up on me! I FROZE!!!! That was a little too much for me, so I was thankful when the cheetah next door, Noah, had grabbed my backpack and we had to go wrestle it away from him! Noah is 5 months old, smaller than Zeus, but all kitten!! The long term volunteer got my backpack away (not a hole or scratch on it- a testament to my awesome pack!!). Then, we played with Noah. Noah decided my ankles were a chew toy and went straight for them. At this point, I was pretty sure these kittens had sensed my fear and were taking full advantage of it! They did the same things a house cat would do- chew on you. Except my entire ankle would fit in this cat’s mouth! Unnerving… We met another cat in Noah’s camp (which surrounds the home of the director). This is the oldest cat here, and the cat that started it all. Her name is Fiela and she’s 12 years old. She’s never had cubs of her own, but has a serious maternal instinct with Noah, so they live together. We (Brian) played with Noah for a while. Brian is so damn at ease around every animal. I swear.
Brian with Zeus- the cheetah who doesn’t like men
Noah happy with his new toy- my pack!
Brian throwing a stuffed animal around with Noah
Within 20 minutes, Noah was in Brian’s lap! I’m not sure which of them was happier (I’m guessing Brian).
Because Brian’s cheetah volunteering was basically turning into exactly what he does at home (cleaning poop, washing dishes), he was now recruited to go help build A-frame shade barriers in Xena’s camp.
Brian building an A frame
While he did that (I do NOT do manual labor, much less pay to do it, thank you very much!), I went on a tour with about 8 tourists. Lize-Marie (super passionate about cheetahs and a permanent employee there), led the tour, and she’s just GREAT! I learned a lot about the animals- some that I did know, but a bunch that I didn’t.
1. Cheetahs are the fastest land animal- but they can only maintain their speed of 110kph (70 mph) for about 30 seconds. It takes them about 3 seconds from stop to full tilt!
2. Their front claws aren’t very sharp. They’re for traction when running. Only the dew claw (back claw) is sharp, and they use it to slice the legs of antelope. This means they can’t climb trees like leopards.
3. Cheetahs use their tails as a rudder when they are running- that’s why it’s so long. It allows them to change direction in an instant.
4. Of the big cats, cheetahs are the weakest predator. Other predators like lions, leopards, and hyenas often steal their catches. When only about 1/2 of their chases result in a kill, that can be a big problem, and lead to starvation of adult cheetahs (and the cubs that are depending on mom to hunt for them).
5. Cheetah cub mortality is about 90% (!!) in the wild. Another reason populations are declining so quickly. They just don’t reproduce quickly enough to sustain the current pressures. Part of the reason for high mortality is predation. The other part is weak genetics- again due to inbreeding from living in such small areas together.
6. Cheetahs hunt during the day (leopards at night). Those dark lines under their eyes are to help them see better in the sunlight.
7. They don’t roar. They purr. Really loud! 🙂
I learned a bunch more, but those are some of the cooler things. When the tour was over and Brian was done building, it was time for lunch. It was provided with our package, and was lamb, a variety of roasted veggies, and some of that African peppermint dessert like I had for Christmas. After that, Lize Marie asked if we wanted to go sit with the big cats with her. She’s a wealth of knowledge and super passionate, so I was in! We went and sat with Xena on her shady platform. Just hung out talking while this huge cat laid there and purred. Her coat was just so beautiful… Lize Marie told us about how she decided she wanted to work with cheetahs and worked hard to make her dream come true! Her love and respect for them is so apparent, and I’m really drawn to that. She’s really excited that they’ve finally found proper predator-free land for them to start reintroducing some cheetahs into the wild soon. None of the cats currently at the sanctuary will be released- they are too habituated to humans. But probably some of these cats grandchildren will be wild. Amazing. After Xena, we went to visit Abby. Same thing, just hung out talking on her platform, while she purred away.
An hour passed really quickly and it was time to head back to the main house. First, we were going to hang with Noah again. Honestly, I’m more comfortable with the adults. They’re more predictable. These big kittens were just a little too playful for me! We sat with Noah for a long time, and he basically ignored us. Typical cat behavior! Then, all of a sudden, he walks over and just gets in my lap! I was a little shocked, but he behaved himself. Then, he went over to Brian and jumped down on the ground. That’s when he promptly went after my ankles again! Oy, that little bugger!!
This was a few seconds after he got in my lap. The look on my face shows my uncertainty!!
He just wanted to be held and loved- until he wanted to chew my ankle!
Then we went back into Zeus’ cage (the one who had jumped on me before). He really makes me nervous, because he’s bigger than Noah. We went and sat down in the grass with him and two of the other long term people. Remember, Zeus is the cat that doesn’t like men. In fact, it took one male volunteer FOUR WEEKS to be able to get in the enclosure with him, and Chris (the volunteer that we poop scooped with) still can’t go in. I think he’s been there a week or two. Well, Zeus walks right over to Dr. Doolittle Brian, lays down, and proceeds to lick him for about 2 minutes straight. Brian said it was like really rough sandpaper, and if his hands weren’t so tough it would have hurt! That damn cat just laid there letting Brian pet it like they were best friends! If Chris saw, I bet he would have been jealous! 🙂 I don’t like the looks Zeus gives me. And after he got up and started walking around, he gave me one of those looks. He promptly walked around behind me and gave me a nip on my shoulder blade. It kinda hurt- not like I’m going to die from it or anything, and frankly I’ve gotten worse from my cat at home. But something about big huge cheetah teeth behind you….shudder. I was ready to get the heck out of Zeus’ enclosure. Brian would have lived there.
Brian and his favorite, Zeus
All in all, we had a great day at Cheetah Experience Ashia! The grounds were gorgeous, the facility was state of the art, the animals were so well taken care of, the mission was admirable, the people were really nice, and the experience of being able to interact with these cats was just amazing!