Tuesday, September 7, 2010

South Africa 06.28-07.29 - Addo Elephant Park, Wild Coast and Durban

After spending 3-4 days in JBay we were ready to start seeing some of the animals. Our first safari took us to Addo Elephant Park.  Addo is a game reserve and is home to over 450 elephants (according to the Lonely Planet guide)! It is also home to a small pride of lions and rhinos. We left JBay early enough to get to the park by dawn, paid our fees and got on our way.  To my amazement, we were allowed to drive our own vehicle through the park, as long as we stayed on designated roads.  I had always thought if you went on safari that you were packed into a jeep with other people and escorted around the parks/reserves. Nope! There is still the option to ride the jeeps around, but it costs extra and you do not get to look around at your own pace.

Armed with our identification guides, we set off into the sunrise and began searching for the animals. Here is a small taste of what we saw.  Plenty of elephants, lots of kudu and antelope species (not pictured), zebra, water buffalo, warthogs, lots of birds, a jackal and a mongoose.  We were able to see most of the animals in the guide but most notably did not see any lions or rhinos.

Upon leaving the park we spent the night in East London at the Sugarshack before heading off to the Wild Coast. We were warned not to drive around at night when heading to the Wild Coast because of the huge number of animals in the road (farm animals mind you, nothing too exciting) as well as it being more 'african'. The man we rented our car from claimed he almost lost his life driving over there when he was coming home because of car parked in the middle of the road, no lights, and no warning.  Long story short, his car lost control and it was bad news all around.  This was both exciting and terrifying. We were finally going to be getting into the rural countryside and away from the majority of tourists. The destination was Coffee Bay, there were several hostels there and we had been told, decent surfing. 

Xhosa homes.
Driving through the Xhosa countryside was kind of like stepping back in time. We had definitely left the cities behind and with them, the technologies and modern conveniences. We picked up a few hitch hikers (my first!) including one woman who had been to Cape Town to buy herbal tea from Scottsdale, AZ (of all places) to help treat the people in her village suffering from various ailments. This was both humorous because Dylan is soon to be a pharmacist, and the tea was from Scottsdale, and was most likely overpriced and typically sold at a Whole Foods type place at home. It as also strange because we had heard of many people driving through to Coffee bay but most of the villagers seemed very interested in us and our car as we passed through.

We arrived in Coffee Bay tired but curious to see what all the hype was about the beauty of the Wild Coast. Unfortunately the first hostel we stopped in had bad vibes (mainly from the girl at the front desk) and was more expensive than the hostel next door (they were literally side by side). We ended up at Bomvu which was much nicer and friendlier! The first night we walked around the beach a bit to see the surf spot as well as the ocean meeting steep cliffs. 

It rained all of the next day which allowed us to catch up on some rest and make some progress in our books. We also discovered that the little place up the street had the most delicious and cheap food. The owner was also pretty awesome, and generous! The next day we set off for a hike to the fabled 'Hole in the Wall'. If I remember correctly is was about an 8km hike along the coastline, with the endpoint being a large hole formed the harsh waves against the rock. The path was not well outlined in parts but the three of us as well as several others from the hostel ventured out.  The scenery was incredible and the pictures do the most justice. All in all, the hike was long, but beautiful, and the hole was not quite as amazing as we had hoped but it was well worth it. I would recommend it if you have a full day and are ready to wander around the countryside.

We left the Wild Coast the next day for Durban and stayed out at Antsey's Beach. The next morning as we drove a friend in town the car broke down and we had to wait around to get it towed and figure out if it was going to get fixed. We ended up being towed across town and waiting around until 5pm for a ride home from the owner of the shop (who fortunately happened to live near our hostel). The next day we got a ride into town and walked around the stadium and up the waterfront to the very end of the boardwalk. Here we met back up with our friend to go see the electronic quartet Sterling EQ. It was definitely different, and interesting but our friend was very into it! Several of us had a hard time holding back our 'entertained' faces back. Due to car problems we did not see much of Durban.

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