First blog post in Africa! Lizzie and I arrived on 7th after a smooth flight via Zurich (we got extra leg room in the front row of economy). I didn't get much sleep, the guy behind me was talking really loudly to the one next to him at 4am, but the plane food was actually pretty good! We were won over by the Swiss cheese and chocolate. I also watched 'The King's Speech' in the morning, which I really enjoyed and Lizzie discovered Battleship.
Alice's flight from Paris was delayed due to 'an electrical fault', the plane had to turn back so she fell asleep on the plane and thought she had arrived in SA, got off and everyone was still speaking French! Didn't land in Joburg until 3am the day after us, but got picked up by Bob (the hostel owner). She queued for hours for a 'complimentary' hotel room in Paris, got treated to a buffet and champagne, but still, what a nightmare!
Anyhow, it's so sunny in SA! Pretty hot too, which makes me wonder what the summers are like if this is autumn. Luckily, it's not humid! So Lizzie and I were by ourselves on the first day. We arrived at Bob's Bunkhouse, which has been awarded cleanest hostel in the past. The last hostel I was in was in Edinburgh, in a mixed tiny dorm, this one was about 13 pounds a night with a pool. It's not peak time at the moment, so it was quiet in the hostel and we were the only two there at the time. Bob and Joan were really helpful, though Bob smoked like a chimney!
The first meal we had in Joburg was actually in a windmill, we ordered bacon and Dutch apple pancakes. I had a glass of milk, which happened to be the cheapest drink on the menu at 8 rand (so about 80p). We also went to buy some supplies from the supermarket, and the guy who weighs the fruit and veg started randomly telling us about God's fishing net, and good fish vs bad fish. We sort of just nodded and smiled, as we were only getting an aubergine. The bananas here are amazing, I love bananas anyway but they taste sweeter here, and have more flavour.
Every hostel in SA seems to have a pool, it was so hot that I couldn't resist a dip. Had to gradually go in because the water was so cold! Two American lawyers from Rwanda arrived in the afternoon. Tim was from DC, and Matt from LA, they are consultant solicitors working as advocates for the Rwanda government against international companies. It was Genocide week and they were on for half days, so they decided to take a holiday in SA. There was talk about prolonged grief as it is now the 17th year, and it was a depressive time.
Tim was 6'5 and quiet, a bit aloof, and Matt was very talkative and easy-going. We all sat by the pool chatting until they left for the casino in the evening, and Lizzie and I had corn on the cob and instant noodles! Took me a while to fall asleep but it was nice to hear crickets in the night.
We had a late start on Thursday, after Alice got in so early. Had to sort out which safari tour to take and that took up most of the morning. The dilemma was that Bob recommended Livingstone Tours, which were 'the best', but also the most expensive. 4 day package was R4650. In the end, we decided to wait until we got to Nelspruit, which turned out to be the right thing to do, but it also meant Bob was really disappointed as he would have had commission from Livingstone for our trips. Made us feel pretty bad, but then it was a lot of money, and not the best deal for us.
Went to the Apartheid Museum in the afternoon, but didn't have enough time to see everything. It wasn't clearly signposted, and I missed a good chunk of the main section, and instead learnt a fair bit about the life of the legend that is Nelson Mandela. I'll write more about this when I get the chance, but that evening, we went for sushi with the guys. We squeezed into a four person taxi, with Tim in the front, and drove through 'Orange Grove', which had massive houses with almost castle-like front gates, and through more colourful parts near the city skyscrapers. Parties were spilling onto the streets a bit where we got off!
Lizzie and I shared a salmon sushi platter and I had saki, the girls weren't familiar so had a try too. I asked the waiter, Steve, to take a photo of all of us. Matt wanted one on his camera too, but we had to tell poor Steve that he was taking a photo of himself and not us. We then went onto 'The Loft' for a drink, where there was a rather hairy Irish guy with a guitar was singing, but to be honest, he wasn't that great. As we walked upstairs, I noticed that a man was sketching the singer by candlelight. I was so impressed that I stopped to ask him for a photo, Tawanda works as an artist and was happy that I liked his work. Again, I would write more about the evening's conversations when I have more time, but I had a Hunter's dry cider and the guys were asleep in the taxi on the way home. That and the driver had an ornament that I thought looked like a bunny on a broomstick, or a whale with a stick up its bottom, but turned out to be a dragonfly with very stunted wings.
We left the hostel in the morning today to catch the Greyhound bus to Nelspruit. It broke down along the way in the middle of nowhere and we had to wait for a mechanic to turn up. They drove the bus onto some logs to look, but wow, the bus was so hot! It said 39 degrees C inside but I'm not sure that was right. Akeela won the spelling bee on the bus film though, so all was well. The bus left after 9am, and we got there at 4.30pm. Taxi in the morning drove through downtown Joburg, which was interesting. A building there almost looked like Canary Wharf on a bad day. There were prostitutes sitting on the steps next to a build up of rubbish on the street.. I was glad we were in a taxi. It was a nice coach ride though, despite the break down, travel sickness medication worked like a charm. The second half of the journey was definitely better than the first half, it was so green! I kept looking for sheep but couldn't find any. Could almost have been English countryside with rolling hills, but everything so much wider, and the trees were different.
So here we are, at our second hostel, I feel so at home here. There are three cats, two dogs and fish. Paul and Natalie have three children, who were digging holes outside when we arrived. The youngest, Luke is 4, then there's Leah (7yrs) and Josh (9yrs). Luke was so adorable, they are all lovely children, but I have a real soft spot for the little guy who insisted on lighting my way with a tiny wind up torch on a keyring and let me have a go on his favourite toys - a car that turned into a transformer, and a plane with flashing LED lights. His favourite animals are tiger, leopard, and moth. Just because.
I am deeply happy after my hot shower, and dinner of vegetable pasta and papaya. Leaving for safari tomorrow at 4:30am, so I should really go now! So excited! Starry, starry night indeed. We won't be back at the hostel until late Monday, Tim will pick us up on Tuesday so hopefully will recall some of the Medicine I had already forgotten after the exams!
Sorry if there are typos of spelling or grammar, I hope I'm making some sense.