A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: LargeTuna

all the roadrunning..

sunny 23 °C

we are headed to the airport in a few hours after we run some errands around town...and all the roadrunning will be over.

We had an amazing, extended 8 days in cape town, after strolling through the garden route for a few days. We stayed at a new trendy, nicely done hostel with a small group of people that we quickly became great friends with--americans, canadians, locals, british and some scottish. Kyle and i scored some beach time, repelled off table mountian, went to a women singer songwriter concert, shopped, hit robben island where Mandela was held as a political prisoner, did a day long wine tour, and then met up with our friend Mary Beth from new york for the last few days. We had two sunset bbq's with the owner of the hostel, roy, at his place on the beach, and we met up with a friend who taught us the rules of cricket at his place as SA smashed England in the world cup...only to lose yesterday in the semifinals to the Aussies.

It was amazing to be back in a developed country and to be back cloer to the lifestyle we are used to...and mostly it was incredible to be able to connect with people again. We both loved cape town and it is the most beautiful big city ive ever seen with mountains and beaches rolling all through it. Well both probably be rolling back through here at some point, and also feel like we extensively covered cape town, as a tourist, in case we never make it back.

We headed out of CT on monday morning to find somehow the radio in our car wasnt working...so we continued on our 7 hour ride back to a twn we had previously visited and loved to so much, Wilderness, and spent that night and the following day relaxing. The last night there, our friends from CT drove over to join us for one last night there, and yesterday we got on the road at 6am for our 13 hour drive up into joburg. We stayed again last night with our friends sybrand--from kili and zanzibar--and our other friend time came over and made the most amazing homemade burgers. We had the most perfect last night in Africa with a friend from home and some friends weve made here, eating some great grub and enjoying a couple of the 17 bottles of wine we bought on our wine tour(plus a 3L box wine) and mostly laughing and enjoying the company and the beauty of traveling.

Im ready to come home, i miss my friends terribly, although marybeth has been awesome to have join us and i miss new york...but i am sad to be leaving here and feel like the end came too quickly, as always.

im sure there will be more to come before we shut this down...traveling mercies to us and well see you all on the other side!!


Posted by LargeTuna 12:27 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cape Town Part 1

on why Abantu rocks

sunny 22 °C

Last night we pulled into cape town. The city is not as big as I thougth it's be, but it is gorgeous! Table mountain and the Lions head are mountains, literally in the middle of the city... it overlooks the Indian and Atlantic Ocean.

We happened to walk by a hostel after we had already booked in to another hostel and find this really chill and hip bar filled with equally chill and hip people at Abantu Backpacker's Hostel. The point of staying at backpackers' hostels (backpackers as they call it in SA) is not only that it's cheap, but that you meet a bunch of cool people that are also travelling. The only problem is that usually the people that are travelling a younger than us by about 5-7 years, in the prime of thier college days and in the prime of thier college ways.... so usually we don't meet people we click with. BUT that's not the case at Abantu. Most the people are our age. The owner Roy is incredible... he took us on a tour today out of the city long the coast, we are back for a bbq at the backpackers (where they have free internet!) and we are heading over to his house then up to signal mountain to have a sundowner.

The place is small so all the people are on the tour today... maybe 15 people... and they are all cool. We also met some locals that are friends of Roy that we went out with last night (until 5 AM... of course Karoline lived up to her title as the 'Bailing Queen' and went home at about 11.... this caused a bit of a problem since she had the key... so I had to knock on our dorm bedroom door to get in when I got back at 5 AM.)

we're having a blast already!

Posted by LargeTuna 06:38 Archived in South Africa Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Identity Crisis

21 °C

so we have a bit of an identity crisis... After traveling for a while you notice that there are different economic strata of travellers, a caste system really, to define the traveler.

The classification is based on a sigulare criteron - the size of your budget. No other critera are in the equation... it dosen't matter if you are a doctor or CEO or I Banker back home. It doesn't matter what kind of car you drive back home or even if you have a car. Out here, on the road you are defined by your budget.

Now... nobody comes right out and asks this (well, almost nobody... I did actually have a young American guy come straight out and ask me how much money I have for the trip while I was awaiting my flight to Turkey at JFK.) It's all rather subtle usually.

Your travel class (ranging from budget to posh) is judged by a collective of external signals including, but not limited to.... how you dress, your luggage, where you eat, what you eat, where and when you drink, how you booked your trip, what you do at your destination and perhaps most importantly.... where you stay.

in the circles we generally travel in, doing your trip on the cheap is really a source of pride (for yourself) and credibility (for others). A budget traveler needs to have done his trip cheaply in the same way that 50 Cent needs to have been shot 11 times (but he don't walk wit a limp!)... it lends street cred.

so we have some things going for us: First of all, like any good cult, you need a charasmatic leader... or in it's place a definative text. In the absense of a traveling David Koresh the budget traveling world turns to the Lonely Planet for guidence. We have 3 different LP's (had 3 until Karoline left 'East Africa' in a cab). If you booked through a travel agency back home... you are so not cool. I meean why would you do that when you could just read the LP and do it on the fly.

Secondly, the look: The budget traveler must have the appropriate look casual, yet hip and any exotic flare helps. Typically, this means jeans and t-shirt for guys a wrinkled buitton up and flip flops are acceptable. Girls can rock the same and throw some exotic looking jewelry, a sarong or linen skirt into the mix... but any attempt of trying too hard to look good is frowned upon.

Third, the luggage: Bottom line. Anything you can't strap to you back is strickly unacceptable. Suitcases... especially rolly bags are laughed at.

Forth, destination: It is acceptable to hit the popular travel spots, but the more off the beaten path you get the better. Fortunately, everybody from the west that is even in Africa gets bonus points for even being here, as Africa itself is off the beaten path. (esp. americans... we can't count on one hand the amount of americans we've met).

Fifth, accomodation: This is probably the most important criteria and usually comes up in the conversation when you meet people (i.e. this morning at breakfast, a girl asked us "Have you been staying at backpackers (hostels) through your whole trip?") A budget traveler gets extra cred for staying at cheap and cool spots and extra point for dorm rooms as opposed to private rooms. Even extra points for camping.

Sixth, mode of transport: Flying is seen as a bit posh and should be reserved only for those long legs across the ocean. Private bus tours are cool because you can sometimes hook up with other travelers. But the more typical bus is prefered (and there are bonus points if you have some horror stories about how long/horrible/hot/life-threatening your bus ride was... any story about AK-47 toting gaurds searching you is a big bonus). Renting a car is a little posh, but can be seen as practical.

Seventh, food/beverage: What, where and how you eat and drink is important. Obviously, the grocery store and the kitchen is the best option... followed closely by finding a 'killer deal' in a restaurant/bar. When you are at a bar, do you drink the cheap local brew or a cocktail, etc... you get the point.

All this being said... we are in a bit of an identity crisis. We have a very modest per dium budget and we've been under it most days... but, then again, it depends on what you are counting. The system we've been using is kinda like ENRON's mark-to-market accounting system that ended up getting them in a bit of trouble. For instance, we don't count 'big purchases' like the new camera or the gift shopping for you guys or the shopping spree we went on yester day for some new clothes, etc. Furthermore, sometimes we'll hit really nice restaurants for dinner, which we feel we 'deserve' since we just came from developing countries. We are giong to be touring vineyards around capetown (which is decidedly not budget traveling). We have flown twice in the continent. We rented a car. AND the sin of all sins... we splurged and stayed at a place with airconditioning and our own bathroom and TV in Zanzibar.

So the question presents itself... are we budget travelers? And as much as we want to say we are - after all most of our accomodations have cost us less than $10/night, we are expert hagglers, we have hit the cool locations, have the look and otherwie we usually meet the criteria... but we are not strict about it.

So... maybe we are a bit up market... perhaps our proper label is 'saavy traveler'... any suggestions?

Posted by LargeTuna 02:53 Archived in South Africa Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

first experiences with african efficiency...

..and reemeerging into a developed country.

sunny 21 °C

first things first...happy friday the 13th...

After meeting back up with kyle, we spent one last night in dar and got eaten alive by either bed bugs or mosquitos in our worst nights sleep of the trip, and took a very early morning ferry over to zanzibar. We spent the next 4 days there in absolute paradise. It was the most beautiful beach either one of us had ever set our eyes on..in person or in a picture. It was crystal clear water, turning turquoise into a deep blue with white sand, palm tree lined beaches..lots of sun...too much..a pool with a swim up bar, hammocks, beach chairs under bungalow huts, cheap beer and seafood. We splurged on an air conditioned room in a resort and had a great time with our friends sybrand and tim, from SA and some brits we met along the way, B and sarah..enjoying sundowners...teaching the bartender how to make a margarita...jumping off coral into the high tide coastline...and a sunset sail along the coast..swimming in the indian ocean as the sun goes down. We spent easter morning on a tanzanian style "deep sea fishing trip", which as you may be able to infer, was about as far from deep sea fishing as it can be..but we still had a great time looking at the sea life on the premature cruise back to shore after 2 of 4 of us were seasick...and the rest of us just bored. We caught a few kilos of seaweed.

We headed into the port city later that afternoon and were planned to leave monday morning to dar where we were catching our flight into joburg--the overland crossing through mozambique into SA would have cost us about 6 or 7 days, so we opted to fly. We went to buy our tickets sunday evening for the ferry the next morning(because when you care, you plan) and the offices were closed and we were repeatedly told the boats were sold out anyways. We had a great night watching the sunset, eating from the street vendors, shopping and listening to some dj's in an amphitheatre before hitting the sack. We woke up and got to the port at 530 am..the ferry was to leave at 7...and took our spots on the steps of the ferry company. The first person we saw that morning informed us the boat was full, we looked at our friend and told him that we understood that, but that we were confident we could still get a ticket. After some talking, kyle was finally convinced that he wasnt some street bum, but the manager of the boat company. He took kyle in the office and told him, "my friend, i can get in very big trouble if i sell you this ticket." He sold us the tickets anyways, and when we got them, they were blank tickets with no name or anything on them..we still had to get through customs and onto the boat with essentially a fake ticket. So, our friend said to tell immigration that they sold us the ticket this morning and didnt have time to write our names on it, and then that he would tell his staff to let us on the boat and not to worry about us once aboard. The african form of beaurocracy is such that there are people who check your tickets a couple of times throughout the course of the 90 minute boat ride, instead of just taking tickets upon boarding. So, this plan seemed a bit shady. We waited in line at immigration for them to open and after 20 minutes, realized we could just walk right through..so we did. We went to the boat and basically, over the course of the next 45 minutes, our friend would appear to take our ticket each time we were meant to present it. It was working!! Once on the boat, we presented our ticket for the 4th time and when kyle insisted we needed them back(our friend told us he needed them back..i think he "sold" us someone else's ticket for the 10am ferry)...and the guy gave kyle a knowing look and said, "its ok, no problem" We took our seats and, as planned, the fifth ticket check came by, and when we told him we had them taken, he said, ahhhhh ok..and about 10 minutes later he came back with different tickets..still blank, and missing the immigration stamp, and with the top 2 carbon copies torn out...who knows, but somehow, it worked..there was actually efficiency. We were shocked..and after a baby crying and the lady behind me throwing up, we finally got off and headed to the airport...where we had tickets waiting. So, we got out of zanzibar without a departure stamp in the passport, and without actual tickets.

Kyle went to pick up our flight tickets and pay and was greeted in the south african air office with this: "my friend, the internet system is...fragile." Our tickets, had been in the system until only 930 that morning, it was now 11. So after rebooking them..on the same websight we had done the previuos day..kyle pulled out almost 1million shillings, paid the guy and we were set to go with 2 tickets to paradise! We went to the restaurant to grab bfast and our friends sarah and B from england, came walking around the corner...we all sat and shared our expereinces of getting from the village we were all in on zanzibar to the dar airport...as they had had a similar time making things happen. We boarded our plane and landed safely in joburg about 3.5 hours later. Now, since our camera had been stolen, we were planning on buying a new one in duty free at the joburg airport..and upon arrival realized duty free is only when leaving a city, not when arriving. SO, as we had always done, i went up to someone who worked there and asked them if there was anyway we could get on the other side to the duty free shops...where he looked at me, much in the same way someone would in JFK airport. We were now in a developed country, where rules applied. After talking with a few people who tried very hard for us, we realized it wasnt going to happen. So we headed to the car rental place, where we had also booked a car online the previous day, and since we were in a developed country and rules applied, the upside was that things happened as they were meant to. We walked into the Dollar rental car, and they understood us, had our stuff waiting, and even upgraded us for free and we were driving to Sybrands house within 10 minutes...after checking that we had the maximum amount of insurance possible on the car...Waldo, at the counter was looking at us like we were crazy. We spent the night at sybrands, did laundry, got some great food and he was the most amazing tour guide through the mall on tuesday as we got some music and a camera for the trip.

We have had an amazing time roadtripping. We drove pretty late getting al the way to the coast, and spent our first night in a port city of Durban. The following morning, we headed to coffee bay, where we were meant to stop the second night. Once we turned off the motorway, and had spent an hour driving down a dirt road in the dark, following the directions of our GPS device, my fear got the best of us, as well as the turn onto a 4x4 only road, and we turned around, driving the hour back out and headed to East London We pulled in around midnight, went to sleep, got up, put on the same clothes at 630am and kept driving. Yesterday was the best day yet. We drove through the Garden Route, a famously beautiful coastline drive, stopping in little towns to look at views and to shop..i got some super cute shoes and a skirt, kyle picked up a cool hat and a new beach costume..and around 5 or so, we pulled into Wilderness. Its a town in the mountains along the coast as, a charming little stop. The hostel we are staying at is the best one yet on the trip! Its only 10 bucks each a night. Its like a camp somewhere in new england, but done with thought and class. It has the feel of being in nature, with restoration hardware decor. Its so wonderful!! The lady who owns it is great as well..she took it upon herself to reprimand the kluerfing(mucking about in ravines) company when they were booked for the day..apparently she knew we were westaways. Wilderness been a highlight of the trip for sure!

This afternoon we will ride ostriches, and tomorrow we will spend a few hours in the morning riding through tree tops on a ropes course of sorts through a forest..should be fun! Then early afternoon well start the drive to the long awaited, CAPE TOWN! We cant wait!

Posted by LargeTuna 11:43 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

cups, sauces and good beer

sunny 22 °C

the greatest thing happened last night.we were hungry and it was late but we found a bar open and when we ordered food, drinks, sauces, whatever you may want...they knew exactly what you meant..normally, over the last month, it would go like this:

me/ky:"can i have a glass, cup, for the water, a cup...?"
african waiter:..blank stare with big huge smile where he repeats "cup" as if he has never heard such a word
us:"a cup (lots of sign language going on here to signify the shape of a cup and what it would look like to pour water from our water bottle in the cup)"
server:"yes, please, water?"
us:"no, we have water..a cup...to drink (more sign language)

i think you get the point...so when kyle wanted honey mustard sauce for fries and i wanted my burger medium and with some extras myself...he simply said...ok and smiled..kyle and i looked at each other, then at the camera, of course...and were very thankful..also, i was in heaven at the sight of a proper beer selection..i had a peroni..thank god for the italians!

were headed out for a 17 day road trip, investing in a new camera and cant wait for whats still to come..

Posted by LargeTuna 09:50 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

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