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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Cape Point Tour and Rugby Match – May 19th [Updated]

Today we went on a tour of Cape Point.

Two of the girls in our hostel recommended TJ to be our tour guide. He’s a South African man from Stellenbosch who became a tour guide after his fathers book store started losing money. I cannot believe how knowledgeable he is!! We asked questions about wildlife, plant life, language, politics, customs, and sports and he just seemed to know everything! (That or he was very convincing). So if you ever need a tour guide for Cape Point – we’ll pass on TJ’s number!

Our day started off rainy, but every time we stepped out of the car the weather got better and better!

early morning mist

rainbow

Then we went into a harbour in False Bay that Erin absolutely LOVED. It’s called False Bay because back in the day people used to land there thinking it was Cape Town. Later they found out that they were actually 180 km SE of Cape town. In False Bay there is a huge seal colony that is estimated to be a community to over 70 000 seals. Also – since sharks love to eat seals, there are a lot of great whites in the area. It isn’t a great place to see sharks though, because the waters are deeper and the sharks keep near the bottom when they aren’t hunting seals (which usually happens in the early morning hours).

(Mom, Dad – I’m sure they could find a slip for you here!)

Mariner's Warf

Erin and Seals

After we saw the seals we drive down to the Cape of Good Hope (so named because it was when the Portuguese first realized that they were finding a sea route for trade with Asia). On our way we saw baboons, walked down a beautiful beach, checked out some ostriches and stood on the most South Western point of Africa! So when you are looking at a map of South Africa and you see the little tail that sticks out below Cape Town – I was RIGHT THERE!

After being at the Cape Point we passed through Simon’s Town and went to Boulder Beach- which has the largest mainland colony of Jackass African Penguins!! (They used to be called Jackass Penguins because the sound they make sounds a bit like a donkey)

They are too too too cute!!

Pengu! Pengu!

Mom and Dad penguins take turns getting food and keeping the baby warm

The Brave Little Penguin

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(More pictures to come – I don’t know if it’s because there are so many in this post already or because the internet that we just set up here in Namibia is kind of terrible… Oh yeah – spoiler alert! We are alive and well and nestled in our home in Windhoek, Namibia now! However, we will try to keep this blog as chronological as possible, so we’ll get to stories from Namibia soon).

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After the tour we went to a rugby match!!

The crowd was WILD! It was a game between the Cape Town Stormers and the Australian Waratahs (spelling?). Upon arrival we were handed signs that read “Stormers! Make some ‘tah ‘tah sauce!” haha

One of the particularly loud fans got especially rowdy when the cheerleaders came out. Here I’m using the term “cheerleader” loosely, both literally and figuratively. They were sponsored by DHL and the only coordinated move these girls seemed to have was one where they tore off their skirts to show short-short red bottoms that read “DHL”. A friendly South African man in front of us turned around at this point in the game and said, every solemnly, “Here in South Africa we take our mail couriers very seriously.”

I saw my first real-live scrum and learned what a line-in is! … Or is it line-out? Anyway, these huge guys throw each other into the air and it’s really neat to see. We also came out with a big WIN!

game time action

Ek Is 'N Stormer = I am a Stormer

Lizz

 

We ended the night back at the hostel, where we were given a shot every time Chelsea (an English football/soccer team) scored a goal. So we went to bed sleepy and happy.

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Alive!!

See Mom? All ten fingers and toes!
We made it though shark cage diving safe and sound and super excited and full of lots and lots of stories for later!

Right now we are busy leaving Hermanus for Cape Town! Erin has been an excellent driver – even on the opposite side of the road!
We’ll update with more as soon as we can!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Day We First Met Penguins – May 18

Hey all! This is Erin, blogging about May 18’s adventures. I started off the morning with a run up Signal Hill and a bit of a workout along the top of Signal Hill, looking down at the spectacular views of Cape Town, Robben Island, and the Atlantic Ocean. Check out the view! I run along the road at the top, if you can see it. I’ve never run anywhere so beautiful in my life – it’s so raw and pure and I feel it’s a really great reminder of what running means to me.

After returning to my hostel and showering, I headed down to Cape Town’s waterfront to meet Abi,  Amber, and Lizz at the aquarium. The aquarium was definitely really cool; it exceeded my expectations. We saw all sorts of marine life (I guess that much is probably obvious!), including an octopus, little fish, big fish, scary looking fish, friendly looking fish, freakishly huge rock lobster/crayfish (I saw one eating a squid – pretty cool), and penguins. If you didn’t catch that, I just said penguins. I know – penguins! There were two different types: rockhopper penguins and African penguins and we were lucky enough to be able to witness the feeding of both types.

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The African penguins were fed first, and their meal consisted of fish that are about 15cm long and are gulped down by the little guys in 3 bites maximum. Despite the fact that all of the penguins were guaranteed to be fed, the competition to get first in line to get the fish out of the trainer’s hands was fierce. The penguins given first priority were the parents who had to take turns to get food and then take it back to their babies. We saw a few babies who were all super cute. This penguin introduction got us primed and excited to see African penguins in their natural habitat in Simon’s Town the next day.

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Fun fact about penguins: they can be distinguished by the spots on their bellies. No two penguins have the same spot pattern and can kind of be considered the ‘fingerprints’ of penguins.

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Next up was the feeding of the rockhopper penguins. These guys have SERIOUS attitude – just check out their yellow feathers! The feeding of the rockhopper penguins was a bit different than the feeding of the African penguins. For one, they were fortunate enough to be treated to not only their fish but also their weekly fresh squid, which they just love. Also, instead of a big mob of penguins surrounding the trainers to get the fish, the rockhoppers have been trained to wait patiently on their rocks. Each one is assigned a rock, and come meal time, each penguin hops up on his/her respective rock and waits for the fish and squid platter to be passed around by the trainer! The rockhoppers also run on a bit of a no nonsense policy. If a ‘dispute’ breaks out or if one penguin gets out of line, they are known to ‘flipper-smack’ each other. If a penguin flipper-smack doesn’t get you back into line, I don’t know what would!.

Following our aquarium adventures, we enjoyed a delicious half-price meal at a Mexican restaurant Lizz recommended. That is definitely one thing we are noticing here in South Africa. Restaurant meals seem to be much cheaper than they would be in Canada, while groceries are about par with Canadian prices.

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That evening, we (‘Team Canada’, as us four Canadian girls have been nicknamed) all enjoyed some drinks at the hostel with our American friends (nicknamed Team America) and then went out on Long Street with them. What better way to finish the night than to try Cape Town street meat? Our friend Thomas introduced us to boerewors, which is Afrikaans for ‘farmer sausage’. Something like that isn’t usually my cup of tea, but it was pretty darn tasty, I must say!

Totsiens (goodbye in Afrikaans) for now , my friends!

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Stellenbosch <3 <3 <3 – May 17th

So this day was just too great!

Everyone was pretty hung over and/or tired from out night out the night before at Zula Cafe (the jet lag helped keep us up late again).

Matt drove us out to Stellenbosh, which is wine country. We drove around and ended up at Hidden Valley. My camera died and I don’t have any pictures of the vineyard right now but it was beautiful. We chatted and sipped on 4 different Hidden Valley reds (when I find the page with the wine listings I’ll update this post to tell you which ones we tried and what we thought of them).

After that we went to a sketchy little road side restaurant. It had all of these crazy statues outside that were painted all of these bright colours. There were big, big strawberries, funny looking people, and helicopters. So we thought we were just getting a quick and dirty bite to eat.

We could NOT have been more wrong!!

Further in from the road was this gorgeous little restaurant. It was so quaint and well decorated. Our service was fantastic and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better… They had fish and chips on the menu.

These were no ordinary fish and chips though. I’m not even kidding you – it was the best fish I have ever had in my whole entire life (no offense Dad)! It was SO DELICIOUS. Thinking about it is making my mouth water.

 

Here’s a picture that Matt took on his amazing camera (I bet you’re thinking it looks so good – well this doesn’t even do it justice!):

amazingamazingamazing

We had to say bye to Matt, his friend Matt and his fiance today. Charles also left to continue on the garden route. Too many good-byes and see-ya-laters.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Table Mountain Successes and Failures – May 16th

We planned to hike Table Mountain. Abi had a hard time with the heat and the walk. It is a really challenging trail!!
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Erin and another new friend, Charles, hiked. Matt, Abi and I took the cable car. It was cool and the platform inside rotated around as we ascended.
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We ate and hiked around the top taking pictures 😀
Here are a few:

Abi

That night we went to the Zula Café to see a few local bands perform. It was really cool and I was surprised by how many songs I recognized. They even played a cover of the Black Keys!

Local band at Zula Cafe

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Erin’s First Post!!

Hey everyone!! So first off, my apologies for my slow start to this whole blogging thing, but I hope you’ve enjoyed keeping up with Amber’s posts – she’s doing an awesome job staying on top of it!

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I have had an INCREDIBLE week here! I hugged my parents goodbye in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport last Saturday evening and boarded my overnight flight to Heathrow Airport in London, England. My initial plan was to meet up with Abi and Amber in Heathrow and then spend our day layover by taking a local bus out to Windsor Castle but a couple of factors put a kink in those plans. It  turns out that Heathrow is HUGE and so that paired with a several hour wait at border control to leave the airport meant I wasn’t able to meet up with the other girls until that evening. Also, a horse show in Windsor meant the local bus I planned on taking was subject to ‘severe’ delays. I decided to scratch that plan and instead head into London. Like Abi and Amber, I also took the Heathrow Express into Paddington. From there, I opted for a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ double decker bus tour that took me around all the sites of London. It was great! I saw the Marble Arch, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and the Thames River, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and so much more! I got off the bus at Buckingham Palace to take some pictures and went for a little stroll through one of the royal parks beside the palace, Green Park.

London, England

That evening, I met up with Abi and Amber at our gate before boarding our overnight flight to Cape Town and we shared stories of how we spent our day in London. The flight to Cape Town was great – I sat beside a super friendly couple from Cape Town who told me all about their country. They were a great help in terms of recommending sites I should see, local cuisine I should try, and which team to cheer for at the rugby match I’ll be attending tomorrow!

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Abi, Amber, and I (along with all our luggage, thankfully!) landed in Cape Town bright and early on the bright and sunny morning of May 14. We shared a cab into the city and arrived at our hostel, where we were welcomed by friendly staff. Check out the view from the balcony of our hostel below. The peak in the background is Lion’s Head, which we plan on climbing to see a spectacular view of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Day 1 in Cape Town was spent buying cell phones, buying a few groceries, picking up our tickets I purchased for Saturday’s rugby match, and bonding with our roommates at the Cape Town Backpackers. The three of us also went to a women’s only gym around the corner to use a free day membership in the evening. Working out on a treadmill looking directly out at Table Mountain framing the city as the sun went down sure beats running on a treadmill in my basement at home! That evening at our hostel, we got to know fellow travellers from Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Sweden, and South Africa. Everyone is so much fun and has so many great stories to share. Thanks to a new South African friend, I’m now able to count to ten in Afrikaans!!

One = een (pronounced yen)

Two = twee (twee-ah)

Three = drie (dree)

Four = vier (fee-ah)

Five = vyf (fife)

Six = ses

Seven = Sewe (sieva)

Eight = Ag/Agt (aHH/aHHt – depends on the region in South Africa)

Nine = nege (niey-hey)

Ten = tien (tee-yen)

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Tada!!!!!

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On Day 2, Amber and I went down to Cape Town’s waterfront to take the ferry over to Robben Island for the afternoon. More on Robben Island will be posted later, but here’s a picture of me en route to Robben Island with Table Mountain in the background:

The Robben Island tour was fantastic. However, like I said, there will be more on Robben Island to come, so I won’t go into detail about it just yet!

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Day 3 started off with a morning run with Thomas,my new South African friend. We ran through Company Gardens and through Cape Town’s downtown. Later, Amber, Abi, Charles (our new friend from England), Matt (our new South African friend with a killer camera!) and I set off to hike Table Mountain. It turned out to be a super hot day and so it ended up being only Charles and I that hiked the full way up. The hike up was definitely more challenging than I expected, but the view from the top was priceless. None of my pictures will ever do it justice, but here’s a taste of what it looked like, the first being a picture of me on my way up and the second being the view from the top:

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With the above photograph, Lion’s Head is the peak you see about 1/3 of the way over from the left hand side of the photo. That’s the same peak as the one which is seen in the background of the second photo of this post, so that gives some perspective of the height of the mountain and where our backpackers is located in relation to it. After meeting up with Matt, Amber, and Abi (who took the cable car up) at the top of the mountain for a nice lunch and all sorts of Kodak moments, Charles and I began our descent. This time, we took a route along the side of the mountain so that we were able to watch the sun go down. That night, we checked out some local bands at Zula’s Cafe and met up with our fellow Canadian and U of T student travelling to Namibia with us, Lizz.

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Day 4 started off with a run up to Signal Hill with Charles. I find the name rather deceiving. This is no hill. It is a freaking MOUNTAIN. Despite how much my quads were screaming at me, I loved this run and the view from the top was spectacular. Later, Matt drove us four Canadian girls out to a winery in Stellenbosch where we took part in some wine tasting and then enjoyed a delicious lunch at a cafe near the vineyard. It was another day filled with fun and fabulous photograph opportunities!

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Anyways, that’s all for now but stay tuned for more updates!

-Erin

xoxo

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Robben Island – May 15th

Erin and Amber-lee waiting for the ferry to Robben Island

On Tuesday, May 15th Erin and I went to Robben Island. Our ferry was set to depart at 1PM, but it was almost an hour late. This did not seem to be a regular occurrence and the staff was very apologetic. Erin and I did not mind because we were able to see the seals playing in the marina and we hadn’t had much time to hang out just the two of us. We chatted and waiting for our ferry.

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When the ferry did arrive we loaded onto the boat and cruised over to Robben Island, which took about 30 minutes. On our boat trip we met a number of grey-haired travelers who were happy and exciting. A particularly strong memory is of a 65 year old woman who looked 40 and married a man 9 years her junior. The two of them were very much in love and shared some of their stories with a ton of enthusiasm!

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We arrived at Robben Island to a welcome committee of birds:

first view of Robben Island We were then ushered to buses that tour the island and bring guests to the prison and, ultimately, Nelson Mandela’s cell. The buses are white and say “The journey’s never long when freedom’s the destination”.

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Our tour guide on the bus was AMAZING! He identified everyone’s nationality and found a way to incorporate all of our countries into the story of the history of Robben Island.

Canada’s contribution was advocacy and protests which influenced our government to pressure South Africa to end apartheid.

I forget the gentleman’s name, but the tour guide was a fantastic narrator!

As we toured the island, we learned the following:

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Before it was a prison, Robben island was used to segregate sick people from the city. The island was home to people with different diseases, the most notable being those with leprosy. There were two churches on the island: one for men and the one for women. Men and women were segregated on the island because it was thought that leprosy would be passed on to offspring. However, as the tour guide delicately said: “where there’s a will, there’s a way” and many children were born into the colony. These children were removed their families and the island and put into custody in Cape Town.

This is one of the graveyards on the island:

Leper graveyard

After that dark and interesting lesson, we saw PENGUINS!

First African penguin I’ve seen:

PENGUIN!

Following that we drove to the “smallest prison in the world”. This was the prison for Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. He was a professor that was so heavily involved with the anti-apartheid movement that he was held in isolation in his own prison, for fear that he would motivate others on and off of the island if he had any company.

This is his cell:

He was held in isolation for so long that when he was finally released his voice had changed because he hasn’t used his vocal cords in so long.

When Robben Island was converted to a prison, they included an asylum. This is where they put some of the most difficult cases of mental instability in Cape Town. Our guide alluded to these ‘difficult cases’ pertaining mostly to homosexuality. The asylum looks really dark and dank from the outside – even more so than the actual prison, although we did not get to see it up close..

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Following this, we stopped at a look out, from which we could see Cape Town and Table Mountain:

In front on Table Mountain - View from Robben Island

Then, we started to learn more about Nelson Mandela’s stay on Robben Island. We saw the lime stone quarry that he worked in. The sun reflecting off of the rocks was so bright that today photographers are not allowed to use a flash on their cameras when photographing Nelson Mandela. This is because his work in the quarry dried and damaged his lacrimal glands and his eyes are now too dry to handle bright flashes of light.

Entering the prison:

Prison Entrance

At the beginning, the prison on Robben Island held both political and other criminals. The objective of this mixing was to demoralize the political prisoners. It was later found that the criminals actually became informed and politicalized while held captive. When this was discovered, Robben Island was converted to a political prisoner-only prison.

Once inside the prison, we switched tour guides. Every guide through the prison was held captive as a political prisoner at one time. While some are happy to share their history, others find it difficult to relive their experiences. The latter group keeps their position as a tour guide primarily due to the fact that they do not have many other options for work (the unemployment rate in South Africa is approximately 40%).

Our guide was very open and informative with our group. He told us about the living conditions within the prison. One provision that was particularly surprising to Erin and I was that certain racial groups were not allowed carbohydrates. In the early sixties, by doctors’ orders, some prisoners were prescribed one piece of bread per day, but it wasn’t until a scientific study in the late sixties that researchers officially found that carbohydrates were integral to a balanced diet. Therefore, it wasn’t until after that, that bread became a regular part of every inmate’s diet.

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Here is a picture of Nelson Mandela’s prison cell:

Nelson Mandela

Here is the corner of the garden in which the manuscript for Long Walk to Freedom was buried:

The wall you see is the one that the guards were installing when they found the manuscript. Fortunately it had already been copied and smuggled off the island at this time.

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We got to see the sunset from the ferry as we came back and made some new friends:

Friends on the ferry

Amber and Matt

One of our new friends is Matt. He is a South African who is currently living and studying in the USA. When we got back to the water front, the three of us went out to a seafood restaurant, for a scenic drive and then deserts at a posh little cocktail bar by the Clifton beaches. After a few safety abroad measures were broken, he returned us safely to our hostel.

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A group of us chatted into the early morning over drinks at a nearby pub called Rafiki’s. We then made it home safe and sound.

Overall a good day!

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized