Pumba, Don’t Blog in Front of the Kids! South Africa – The Best for Last

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba Sithi uhhmm ingonyama Ingonyama Siyo Nqoba Ingonyama Ingonyama nengw’ enamabala

From the day we arrived on the planet

And blinking, step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done

… you get the idea. We made it to Africa, b*tches!!

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Touchdown on our 3rd and final continent of the trip

If you haven’t already noticed, we spent a whopping seven plus months exploring only two continents: Asia and Oceania. But for our last six weeks, we knew we had to expand our horizons.  Prior to leaving for our trip, we knew we wanted to go to Africa, and we had plans to visit a few countries: Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa.  Unfortunately, what we didn’t plan for was the gigantic size of some passport stamps we were to accumulate from the countries we were visiting prior to Africa.  Fast forward seven months, and Patrick, famed author of Death of the Passport Stamp, no longer has enough passport pages left to visit more than one country in Africa.  And that country, queueing “Circle of Life” one more time, was South Africa!

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Welcome to Cape Town

Before I delve into our trials, tribulations, and soap boxes and tell you how incredible South Africa is, I feel the need to apologize… again… for the delay of this blog. In the words of my father-in-law, “The final episode of Game of Thrones will air before you finish that blog.” Ouch! But thanks Jeff for pushing us to our fullest potential, and giving us a deadline: May 19th, 2019 – the date of the last Game of Thrones episode.

Annnnnnnnnnnnd that date came and went. I swear we tried!

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Any who, let’s take it from the top!

Leaving Sri Lanka, Patrick and I departed on separate planes to two VERY different destinations: Patrick to Cape Town, South Africa, and me to Miami, Florida. For the first time since we got married eight months prior, Patrick and I were spending our first night apart, well in all honesty, first more than four hours apart.  Luckily, we were both heading to a week chock full of fun activities! I got to see one of my best friends, Kelly, marry the love of her life, and Patrick got to spend the week with the love of his life… scuba diving.

Also – we figured out slide shows!  

 

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After a 40-hour adventure back to meet Patrick in South Africa, I was dead to the world, but Patrick was SO excited to show me his new favorite city that he had spent the last week in, and I couldn’t take that away from him.  After taking a two minute on and off shower (Cape Town was in a severe drought at the time), and changing into some clothes that didn’t smell like an 8th grade locker room, I pulled my sh*t together, and we headed out for an evening on the town! To Patrick’s defense, Cape Town is AH-MAY-ZING!!!  My first meal in Cape Town was at a waterfront restaurant with a menu to die for, including an extensive South African wine list.  I ordered a glass of $8 wine with excitement to get a little alcohol in me to fuel me through the rest of Patrick’s Cape Town tour. What I didn’t know about South Africa is that the wine there is so SO SO cheap. That glass of $8 wine I just ordered… well it was actually a bottle. So began the month of drinking far too much wine for our health…

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Antelope Carpaccio – Only in Africa!!
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Rhino Carpaccio was harder to find

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Patrick on a safer rock.

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One of the main reasons for us traveling to South Africa was to see ALL the animals; however there were no plans to see animals (other than penguins and seals) until we made our way farther on our road trip to Addo Elephant Nature Park, but that didn’t stop us! On one of my first days in South Africa, we took a little road trip down to the Cape of Good Hope with no expectations to see animals, but more to see the beautiful beaches and penguins (yeah I get that penguins are animals, but that’s not the point here).  While driving through Cape of Good Hope, we spotted what looked like humans dressed up in giant feathery costumes.  After investigating further, we realized that we were not encroaching on a tribal celebration with ornate costumes, but we were encountering our very first wild African animal:  the great Ostrich!! Because we didn’t want to scare them, we thought it was a good idea to park and quietly walk over to them. Remember how I mentioned that South Africa was in a severe drought? Well, Toto must have blessed the rains in Africa at that very moment because that sh*t dumped on us. Moral of the story: don’t get out of your car to chase down ostriches or any animals for that matter.  And not because of the rain, but because you might literally get eaten by a lion.  Africa.

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We needed to leave Cape Town ASAP before we decided to move there permanently, so we hit the road for the second most famous travel destination in South Africa – the Garden Route.  We would spend the next two weeks driving through some of the most scenic, diverse, and welcoming landscapes and towns of our trip.  Driving through South Africa is just like driving in the US – except without the traffic, rude drivers, and potholes.  But it does have a few quirks of it’s own…

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It wasn’t always wine…

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The resemblance to Rafiki is uncanny.

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Driving in South Africa is easy… almost TOO easy – slower drivers pull off the road for you to pass them, everybody thanks you for even the most remotely nice things you do on the road, and the roads themselves are Marvin Gaye smooth.  Now is the time to note that with smooth roads comes out my alter ego, ‘Speedy Sammy’. Multiple times throughout our road trip, we found ourselves speeding through speed traps. Convinced we were going to rack up 10+ automated speeding tickets, we prepared ourselves for the worst, and checked up on how the locals deal with tickets. 

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Speedy Sammy getting ready to zoom through her next speed trap

This is summary of the advice we gathered: Shred the ticket and act like it didn’t happen. If they care enough, a sheriff will show up at your door in a couple months.

It’s been a year now, and to my knowledge no South African sheriffs have shown up to Patrick’s parents’ house (our mailing address while away), so I think we’re in the clear, folks!!

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Patrick likes rocks, and he don’t care who knows!

One more note about driving, and then I swear I’ll move on! Most of the Garden Route is known for being pretty safe minus not being able to drive at night due to lack of street lights and wild animals (obvi), but near the end, we decided to add a little detour out to Mountain Zebra National Park.  While again most of the drive is perfectly safe, it didn’t take long for us to come across a STOP sign preceded by a much more urgent sign: “DO NOT STOP: HI-JACKING HOT SPOT”. Do we stop? Do we not stop? We didn’t make it through 8+ months of travel without being victims of a single crime by being risk takers, so I think you can conclude what we decided to do here.

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South Africa-131During our road trip, we spent a ton of time doing activities we both love: safariing, shark diving, wine drinking, eating ostrich, the ushe. But on one particular day, Patrick and I decided that each of us got to choose one activity for the day and the other would be dragged along. Naturally, I chose bungee jumping off of the highest bridge bungee in the world, and Patrick chose the ever so “adventurous” miniature hike full of puzzles intended for children.  Both were adrenaline inducing depending on who you ask.

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While in South Africa, we visited tons of National Parks all unique in so many ways from the scenery to the animals spotted while there.  Cool thing to note about South Africa is that almost all of the parks have a self-drive option, so if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a safari tour, you can drive your rental car around to spot animals. While we saw tons of awesome animals this way (hundreds of elephants, some lazy lions, gang-like baboons, zebras, antelope, and warthogs), we were still on the prowl for the more elusive animals, and man did we find them! After a quick flight to Johnannesburg, we made our way up to Sabi Sans, a privatized portioned of Kruger National Park.

There we found ALL THE ANIMALS!!!!!! Pictures will do a much better job describing the beauty of Sabi Sans and Kruger than any story could, so here ya go!

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The Great African Elephant

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Can anything compare to this?

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The endangered and elusive Wild Dogs

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Pumba, not in front of the kids!

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Family powwow
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This mudhole was lit!
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Finally found a leopard!!
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Two zebra’s after just barely escaping a drop bear attack

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To say South Africa is an amazing country is an understatement. Though riddled with continued tension due to unimaginable acts created by the Apartheid, South Africa is an incredible country full of kind people, stunning scenery, animals galore, and SO MANY ACTIVITIES! As a summary of our time in South Africa, and of what YOU can do there too: we drank LOTS of wine, bungee jumped off bridges, cage dived with great white sharks and Nile crocodiles, visited penguins on the beach, drove ourselves around spotting SO many African animals, swam under waterfalls, ate tons of incredible food, scuba dived with seals, hiked on massive sand dunes, and ‘legit’ safaried through Kruger National Park.

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Nile Crocodile
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The Great White Shark

 

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Now to end on a little bit of a sad and hopefully inspiring note:

South Africa was our final destination on our world trip, and it was a tough one to end on. Prior to South Africa, we were getting pretty homesick, and starting to feel the need to return home, but within hours of being in our possibly favorite country of all, we were reenergized and ready to do more, see more, eat more, experience more.  Little did we know, that that feeling would never go away.

We’ve been back now for over a year, and still feel the drive Every. Single. Day. to do it all over again. We thought that by going to so many places and seeing and experiencing so many things that we would be ‘done’ and ready to settle down when we came back, but in all honesty, it has pushed us to a point of feeling that maybe the “American Dream” isn’t what we were built for or what life is about at all, at least for us.

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We traveled well together… like really well. Traveling consecutively for nine months is not easy, but Patrick and I worked better than any team I’ve ever known to make our dreams come true. We were constantly out of our comfort zone; meeting new people, sleeping in new beds, smelling new smells (often not good), and traveling through areas regarded as ‘dangerous’ by the State Department, but the whole time we had each other to lean on and joke later with about that time we almost died or the incomparable smell of a fish market… or a durian in an elevator.

Traveling is one of those amazing things that opens your eyes to how different life can be and how incredible the world is outside of our little American bubble. And yes, it is a bubble – a sealed tight blinding bubble encompassing our everyday lives. A bubble that is so easy to get sucked back into and re-blinded all over again – this honestly happens to Patrick and I everyday. 

This same bubble makes it so easy to disconnect ourselves from events and disasters outside of our lives and to things that currently don’t affect us directly (cough climate change cough cough), but affect BILLIONS of people, plants, and animals around the world.  When Notre Dame caught on fire, I sat back and watched almost everyone I know write a status about it, while millions of dollars were donated to the disaster relief within hours of it becoming public. It wasn’t the reactions to this that broke my heart, but the lack of reactions to everything else happening around us that did. One week prior to the Notre Dame fire, record rainfalls led to the death of 70 people in Iran. A week after the fire, approximately 300 people were killed in Sri Lanka in terrorist related bombings. All while, the death count in Mozambique continued to grow each day from record flooding due to back to back cyclones.  And don’t forget that approximately 90 species went extinct in the month of April alone. 

What I am trying to say here is that so many people reacted to the Notre Dame fire because they related to it – they learned about it in history class, they visited it on their European tour, they watched documentaries on it.  What I want is for people to be connected to the rest of the world too – to the people in remote villages in Asia, to the endangered whale sharks in the ocean, to the not so cute, but critical plants and animals that make our world go round, to the bugs, to the wildflowers, to everything and everyone that we share this planet with. This passion for everything that surrounds us (near and far) is genuinely what I think can change the world. 

With that being said, I encourage all who are reading this to step out of your comfort zone: Leave the resort, talk to the locals, eat the ‘weird’ food, do something you would never do, dive the depths of the ocean, rent a car and drive on the ‘wrong side of the road’, grow a passion for something bigger than you, go on a search for an endangered animal, get off the beaten path, barter a taxi, feel your heart race, and most importantly see the absolute beauty surrounding you.  We PROMISE you that the world is safe outside of your resort. Yeah you’ll probably get food poisoning once or twice and maybe even mugged, but we swear it is all worth it!

Before we go, Patrick wanted to put in a word:

In the summer of 2009, I experienced for the first time the marvel that exists under the sea.  Slipping beneath the waters of the Turks & Caicos Islands opened a door to a world I didn’t know existed, and in an instant created a dream to travel and see all of the world’s best dive sites and underwater critters – big and small.  It took eight years of saving, planning, and finding the perfect travel partner, but in the summer of 2017, we set off to live out that dream.  And for nine months it was everything I hoped it would be, and also a lot of things I wish it wasn’t.

Traveling around the world took an earth that was unfathomable in size and permanent in state, and shrunk it down to the fragile and rapidly changing planet that it is.  The natural world that I thought was a permanent feature on our planet now hardly seems to exist at all.  Across 14 countries we sought out wilderness only to time and time again realize that it was gone, or, where it did exist, it was fenced off, limited, and priced out.  I wish I could say that I came back filled with hope on how nature is preserving and resilient, but we saw little evidence of that.  My souvenir from our trip was the knowledge that trips like this one may not be possible in 10, 25, or 50 years. 

Fifteen months after landing back in the states, I’m still trying to come to terms that the next generation of children may never know what diving on a coral reef is like, may never see a wild orangutan walk out of the forest while eating breakfast, or, more simply, they may never even catch a lightning bug.   How do you tell a child that you covered their world in plastics, polluted its air, and killed off all of its most majestic animals?  How do you tell that to yourself?

Since we’ve come back to the states, Sam and I have tried to change our lifestyles in a hundred small ways to try to keep that from being the reality, and we’ve had mixed success.   The reality is that our carbon footprint from traveling across 14 countries will probably never be offset by the changes we’ve made alone.  It’s going to take all of us – financially, socially, politically, and spiritually – to win the fight for the planet that we know and love.  Apathy and hopelessness will be our biggest antagonists.  

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Suess

Forever Extending Our Honeymoon, 

Samantha & Patrick

 

One thought on “Pumba, Don’t Blog in Front of the Kids! South Africa – The Best for Last

  1. I wish everyone I know …would take the time to read this incredible blog. It’s so very worth it. Because of Patrick and Samantha, I too am trying to make small, everyday changes to help save our planet.

    Liked by 1 person

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