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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Africa Blog 2 - Table Mountain And What Bug Bit Me

The following is a 2-week long blogging event, where I recount the events of my trip to South Africa and Zambia, while still on the trip.  Movie stuff will return soon, but for now enjoy what I have to say about Africa:

Here is another attempt at blogging while I am away on vacation in sunny South Africa.  I am writing this on the day of November 24th, 2013.  I am currently in Cape Town International Airport, awaiting boarding onto a plane, which will take me to Nelspruit (near Johannesburg).  Once arrived, my dad and I then hop onto a vehicle, which will take us to Sabi Sans, our lodging during our time in Camp Jabulani and Savanna Private Game Reserve, where we will then be able to head into the bush at various times of day to observe the animal life.  I am getting way ahead of myself though, as I have some things to recap here in a blog post that may last longer or shorter than the last (which can be found HERE).

So, I last left off with some tired diatribe about my admiration for Vasco De Gama and visiting the Cape of Good Hope.  Unfortunately, I was still not able to interact with any baboons (though that may change soon), in an effort to really spice up these blog posts.  Fortunately, while I did manage to head into the ocean for a little bit at Camps Bay, no shark interaction took place.  Now that I have adequately wrapped up the loose ends from the previous post, thereby putting to bed the two biggest questions I am sure everyone would have asked, I can move on to the very cool sites and experiences I have had since, topped off by the most minor injury possible.



Following the day in the Cape, topped off by a trip to the beach, the next day was primed to be a good one, as it involved heading up to Table Mountain, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.  There are two ways to head to the top of the Tabletop.  One is by cable car and the other is by hiking for a good 2 and a half hours.  Given that I have previously hiked up and down Masada in Israel, I was fine going for the Cable Car option.  We apparently had a very good day, as we arrived early and the weather was nice and clear, with minimal winds, which could easily stop the cable car service up and down the mountain.  The cable car was a neat ride, as it spins 360 degrees, while you take the 4-minute journey, giving you a great view of your surroundings, while dangling up in the air.  It certainly helped that Ryan, our guide told us to go on last, so we'd surely have a window view, during this ride.

Once arriving on top of Table Mountain, it became pretty easy to find places to point the camera and shoot.  Hell, this is one of the best kind of times to pull up the panorama mode on the iPhone and utilize that to it's fullest.  While obviously not completely smooth on the top of this massive peak, the highest point in Cape Town, it was certainly an awesome experience to be on the top of Table Mountain and have a whole area to easily explore.  The rocky surface was certainly worked on to make it easily accessible by anyone, but that did not stop me from taking a walk over the more jagged, rockier areas.  Not to show off, but more because of natural instinct.  Listen, if I'm on the high point of a mountain and there are a bunch of rocks to mildly scramble around on, I'm going to do it.  That said, something I continue to love about other countries is their lack of huge safety parameters via extensive fencing.  On Table Mountain, if someone is going to fall off, they can, let alone do other silly things, such as rappel down or find a way to base jump off of certain points.


While we could have easily spent the whole day on top of Table Mountain, hiking all the way across its top and possibly seeing what it is like to be within the cloud cover that takes it over, as the day progresses (this cloud cover is known as the tablecloth), we had to go back down and do some more exploring.  The ride back down the cable car was pretty fun as well.  Same ordeal, but staring down the cable car path can certainly make some more anxious.

Once back on the ground, this day became a whole lot more Jewish.  Not sure how else to say it, but my dad and I are aware of the Jewish history that comes with South Africa and were very interested in learning more about it (spoiler alert:  my dad and I are both Jewish).  With that in mind, the next stop was the South African Jewish Museum, which was a rather well done display of Jewish history in South Africa.  I found it notable that Nelson Mandela was responsible for opening this museum, which is highlighted in the museum, as he was quoted to find his own struggle somewhat relatable to the oppression that Jews had faced throughout time.

Following the museum, some time was taken to observe the Company Gardens.  The interesting thing about this were the various WWI monuments.  It is an interesting area, with lots of picnic grounds, as well as pigeons and ducks hanging around, but it was a nice area to walk through nonetheless.  Given my lack of really knowing how to describe plant life and my observations of it, I skipped talking about my visit to the botanical gardens the other day and I am pretty much going to skip what I could be saying about the plant life in Company Gardens, but suffice it to say that this was a good-looking area.

The last really notable event of this day was the time taken at Temple Israel in Cape Town.  Given that this day was a Friday, my dad thought it would be a good idea to observe a Shabbat service in South Africa.  We went for it and found ourselves at a Synagogue on Friday.  I wish I could say that this was a truly unique experience, but it wasn't.  Not that there was any disappointment involved or anything to be ungrateful for, as we were welcomed inside, but it felt just as though we were visiting any other temple, besides our own.  Prayers were read, songs were sung, and the Rabbi gave his sermon.  So ended this day.

We are getting to the end of this post, I promise, as the next day was a lot of fun, but easier to summarize.  This new day would involve wine tasting and bike riding.  Reading those terms together may sound funny, but tasting is just that - tasting, and as many may know, I am not much of a drinker, so reporting on wine is really not going to amount to much.  That said, riding bikes through the farm lands of South Africa does seem like something pretty cool, so I can delve into that a bit.


 
After meeting up with our two new guides for the day, Alexi and Bennet, and heading out to Franschoek, our first journey on bikes took place.  Riding on some fast and light mountain bikes, if there was every a cool way to get a really good look at the countryside, while feeling involved in an adventure, taking pictures on your camera, while balancing yourself on a bicycle is a good way to do it.  I had a great time taking a trek on a bike, zooming down hill, and following it up with a breather, which happened to involve eating some bread and tasting various types of wine, no matter how not into the dryness of red wines that I may be.  This all took place at the La Motte Winery, which was a beautiful place to rest at.

The next leg of the bike trip was a bit more difficult, as it was a gradual uphill ride into the wind, but that was not so bad in hindsight, as this was followed by a delicious lunch at the Haute Cabriere, which was also a winery.  The funny thing to point out about this part of the trip was that the Haute Cabriere was booked due to a minor confusion involving our names.  Evidently saying two people were coming on this bike tour, with the names Aaron and Eddie, translated into a couple going on this bike tour, with the names Erin and Eddie.  Because of this, Haute Cabriere was booked, with the intention of a more romantic setting in mind.  This mattered little, however, as it was nice for the four of us guys to just sit outdoors, relax, eat, and admire the view of the various mountain ranges in the distance.


The final portion of this bike tour involved a fast journey through Stellenbosch, ending at Stellenbosch University.  Starting at the top of a large hill, this part of the bike journey took us through the woods on the old road, downhill the whole way, which was plenty of fun.  I captured some pics and video of this, while riding (go find drzeek on Instagram for that), but this portion of the trek was a blast overall.  Gliding along paved roads, through the woods, with hardly a care for the world, aside from admiring the scenery.  Great way to end this part of my adventure.

Ok, so I've gone over a lot of stuff, but haven't mentioned the other part of the title, well, I have to back up a bit.  When I parked my bike at La Motte, we were about to head inside for the tasting, when I noticed a pain in my leg.  I did not feel cramped up, despite the heavy winds meeting us towards the end of this part of the bike riding tour, but there was something going on.  I looked down and spotted blood.  Not what I was expecting, but there I was.  Along with blood, I also noticed a small, grey insect.  I later identified it as a horsefly, but for the time being, it was going as, "the little African bugger that I swatted off my leg."  I was quick to act, but certainly did not expect it.  Thankfully this was not something more dangerous, as I have so far experienced no effect from the bite and the bleeding ended pretty much immediately after the bite, but that was something that had me pretty alert for a short amount of time.  Still, at least it wasn't a shark or a baboon.

So there you have it, another long description of what has been going on during my journey to South Africa.  I have made my way to the top of one of the Wonders of the World, ridden a bike through the countryside, and survived the nasty bite of a tiny horsefly.  The next leg of this journey will involve lions, elephants, rhinos, and more, so there is certainly plenty to look forward to.  For now, I'll just close by saying shoo fly, don't bother me, but for everyone else, look forward to more.


Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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