Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas, Stevie and the Garden Route

After we left Walloon Farm we moved into a cute art deco style apartment within walking distance of Cape Town's best beaches.

The water was cold but the coastal area was very beautiful, and we enjoyed our short few days there.  The beaches in Cape Town have "shark watchers" who scan the bays for great whites and post flags so you know whether or not it's safe to swim!

The highlight of our Christmas was undoubtedly welcoming Wilder's good friend, Stevie Jones, who flew all the way from Los Angeles to join us for two weeks over the holidays.  We met her flight at the airport on December 23rd and dragged her immediately out to Stellenbosch to see the raptor rescue and eat a traditional African Braii (bar-b-que).

We then settled into our little house in Noordhoek for Christmas.  The house wasn't as luxurious as our digs as of late and was most notably lacking in wifi.  Still it had a serviceable kitchen and we managed a respectable Christmas Dinner of Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy and Green Beans.  

The weather wasn't super cooperative though which put a kink in our plans to entertain our stateside guest.  So up to and through Christmas we bought and worked on a 1000 piece puzzle, watched movies we rented at the local mall and read lots of books.  Christmas morning was very festive, with presents for all.  Wilder got a travel size guitar, Peyton a replacement iPod (her old one broke.)  Mark received running shoes, and I got a replacement sweater for the one I left on an airplane in Greece.  Stevie got books and the promise of the South Africa souvenir of her choice.

Sadly we didn't finish it

The most popular book was an autobiography by the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
We fought over it (go figure)

I was most proud though of the work I did as Mrs. Claus - turning a pair of sweats Peyton got from wide legged to elastic bottomed with nothing but two pieces of elastic and a travel sewing kit.  The job was positively professional, if I do say so myself!

After dinner and presents we headed to the beach to watch the sunset - all in all a very nice Christmas for a bunch of homeless world wanderers.

Peyton insisted on getting in - it was freezing!

On the day after Christmas we hit the road for Adventure Week, which was what we were calling our time traveling the Garden Route.  Peyton and Wilder both had money set aside for special activities of the generally dangerous kind (contributed to by both grandparents and good friends) and the Garden Route is a long stretch of the South African coast known for both it’s beauty and the crazy activities on offer.  Our first stop was the Hermanus Backpackers (our first true hostel experience).  The kids really enjoyed the young traveler vibe of the backpackers.  I was less than crazy about the noise and the grungy communal bathroom, but I liked the low price tag.

We chose Hermanus for it's proximity to Gansbaii, the Great White Shark capital of the world (home to Shark Alley).  We left at dawn the next morning to catch our boat and motor out to meet them!  First the staff fills the water with chum and puts large fish heads on a rope to lure the sharks, and then it wasn't long before our first shark took the bait.  Mark and the kids donned wet suits and climbed down into the cage.  I chose to stay out of the chummy water and take pics from above.  The sharks were big and very cool and came very close to the cage, which made for great viewing.  Still though they were interested in the bait, not the humans, and it was a fun but not super scary adventure.

Later that afternoon we drove 4 hours (with no showers  and 5 of us in our compact car) to our next destination, yet another Backpackers, this one in Mossel Bay.  Here we had one of the worst meals of our entire trip, but our room had a private bath and wifi so we were happy.

Other "adventure" activities of the week included a ropes course (this time Wilder's teeth emerged unscathed) and an up close encounter with elephants at the elephant sanctuary.

Our third night was at the most important destination of the Garden Route, Blousberg Bridge and the World's Highest Bridge Bungee Jump.  Peyton had picked this adventure out before we even left California, as she is an acknowledged adrenaline junkie.  We arrived in the afternoon, dropped our packs in a super cute cabin right beside the bridge, and hustled over to sign up.

It turned out they were booked up for the next four days, but my begging and pleading, combined with a last minute cancelation, meant we snagged the last three jump spots of the day.

I am not exaggerating when I say this was far and away the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen anyone do.  Mark and I spent a stressful hour sitting in the restaurant beside the bridge watching other people fling themselves off the impossibly high spot and waiting for our kids to take their turn.

Anyway, they all survived and were crazy silly happy and proud of themselves.  Seeing them so thrilled and pumped up afterward almost made up for how bad I felt while watching them do it.

Our last night was a new low in accommodation, the Southern Comfort Lodge, but we drove into Kynsna and had a magical evening at a restaurant sitting on the water at the entrance to the bay.

Now, with adventure week behind us, we head back to Cape Town to celebrate the New Year and spend our last days in South Africa.