Here is a post by Amanda, who is doing an internship with us for a couple of months. Amanda is from a small town called Saranac Lake in New York State, USA. So she went to explore the small town’s of our famed Garden Route to see what it is all about. Here is her story…
When I first arrived in Cape Town, all of the other Projects Abroad volunteers were raving about this Garden Route tour that I just had to go on. So one month later, my housemates and I decided to book the trip. After waking up quite early on a Friday morning to start our Garden Route excursion, my housemates and I anxiously awaited arriving in Oudtshoorm where we could get to explore the Cango Caves and interact with the many ostrich that inhabit the area.
Upon arrival we were told that a bird flu had wiped out most of the ostrich population in the area, however, we were still able to stop at one of the farms and at least see these magnificent creatures. One got rather attached to me and wouldn’t stop pulling on my shirt and following me around…
After continuing on from the ostrich farm, our tour group ventured onto the Cango Caves where we had a lovely meal and decided to do the “Adventure” tour of the Caves. I was a little hesitant, as I’d never done anything like this before, but it turned out to be a really fun experience! Having to crawl through these crazy small crevices and winding tunnels was thrilling. No one in our group panicked, although we thought our housemate, Thiago was going to as he is claustrophobic. Unfortunately, we did have a casualty on our tour of the caves. As the rocks are very slippery, this 75-year-old Italian man slipped and dislocated his shoulder. We went to a nearby pub to wait while he was rushed to the hospital. He was a good sport and continued on the tour with a brace.
After the riveting adventures at Cango Caves, we ventured to an entertaining backpackers located right on the beach in Sedgefield. We ate dinner as a group and then joined in the locals outside for drinks around a campfire. Everyone was really friendly and we were able to really enjoy ourselves and meet lots of new people.
The next morning we ventured to Plettenberg Game Reserve to go on a 2-hour game drive. Half awake, we grabbed a lovely café latte at the Reserve lodge and ventured into the safari vehicle for our next adventure. We were able to see an assortment of African wildlife such as lions, rhinoceros, crocodile, and zebra amongst others. It was an incredible experience to see such animals so close up!
Most of the tour group went to visit an Elephant Sanctuary in the Crags, but my housemates and I decided to go hang out at Monkeyland instead. On our way there we ran into three horses just roaming on the road, which was pretty cool. They were very tame so we got to pet them and they followed us all the way to Monkeyland. Once in Monkeyland, we enjoyed an excellent lunch amidst all of the funny and crazy little monkeys. It was so funny to see them running around and causing chaos to the many visitors who sat on the deck with us.
Next we made our way to the world’s highest commercial bungy jump at 216m at Bloukrans Bridge. This was the moment I had been waiting for the entire trip! I had been so anxious, nervous, and scared the whole week building up to the trip. I knew if I didn’t jump I would be so disappointed in myself and everyone I talked to told me it was an experience of a lifetime. Walking the bridge to where the base of the jump was located was terrifying to say the least, I felt my courage slowly slipping away. Once I reached the base of the jump however, with my favorite house and techno music blasting, my housemate and I managed to pump each other up and get ready to jump. Although, once I felt my feet come slightly off the edge of the bridge all courage was lost. Luckily, once you’re up there, you have absolutely no time to think as the men shout, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and push you off if you don’t jump yourself. As I felt my body rushing through the air at 120km per hour, I couldn’t believe what I was doing! It was the craziest, scariest, and most exhilarating feeling-unlike anything I have ever experienced in my 22 years. I was absolutely terrified, but the adrenaline rush and thrill of it all made it worth it. I wanted to do it again right afterwards!
Later that night we enjoyed a traditional African meal at our hostel in the little town of Stormsriver Village. I felt as though only maybe 200 people at best lived in this quaint village with only one main road running through it and dirt roads coming off it on either side. We decided to explore the local stores and restaurants and found ourselves at the most unusal 60s “American-style” diner…this place was hilarious to say the least. So my housemates and I decided to make the most of the experience, as we always do. Still later, we sat around another campfire and enjoyed some drinks with the rest of the people we were on the tour with and some other hostel guests. Quickly making friends with the bartender he took us to the one and only local club near by. Everyone was very friendly and the women taught us some traditional African dances! I was excited to really experience the nightlife of a true, small, and traditional African village. I felt very safe and well taken care of as well.
The next morning was dreary, cold, and rainy. However, we ventured to go zip lining over the Storms River. I hadn’t been zip lining in years so I was looking forward to it. We were able to zip line on 8 different courses and then walk back to the main building. It was very fun to zoom across the river from one side to the next, taking pictures along the way.
The next day we went sand boarding! Something I had always wanted to try out since I love snowboarding. However, I proved to be the most terrible sand boarder our guide had ever seen. I didn’t take to the sport well-none of my housemates did! So we decided to sit on the boards and slide down the many sand dunes, which proved to be much more fun. This would conclude my crazy weekend trip,leaving me with great memories…