Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome to Africa, the Adventure starts Now!

Greetings from South Africa! It took a few days of travel to get here and I've spent two days in Cape Town now, so let me show you all what has been going on.

My father just recently bought a massive stone, a slab of basalt 12 feet long and weighing just under 2,000 pounds. Being that I was about to leave, he decided it was go time to move the stone while he still had my help. It was a fun little puzzle getting it out of the truck and using a come-along, 2x4s and rollers to move the stone into the back yard.

But on to more relevant things! Being that my flight was just a day away, I finalized all my packing, including many different documents. I brought a stack of $1 bills, because it is the most widely accepted currency and I'll undoubtedly use them for paying all kinds of assorted fees, my international drivers permit ($15 from AAA), my dive log since we will be doing a lot of scuba diving, and copies of all the important things. Two other interesting things I'm bringing are Seattle post cards, to give as a small gift to people I meet on the road (an idea I read somewhere, I take no credit!), and some random 'official' documents. This was a tip I've got from a few people, saying that it can be helpful to have a bunch of documents, even if they are sort of meaningless, because many officials in African countries are impressed by things like college degrees and papers with fancy looking seals and signatures. I'm not exactly sure how to go about using these, but I guess I'll find out, haha.

Saying goodbye to my cats Jack and Sven. I'll miss you guys! And thanks mom and dad for letting them stay with you while I am away =)

A going away dinner with my parents at the Blu Water on Green Lake, thanks mom and dad for all your help with my trip!

The same night, we had a small going away party at my friend Sazzys' place. Sazzy was a big help in putting me on this path actually, because it was him inviting me to his cousins wedding in India that really got me traveling the world. Two other people in that picture are good friends I've had a chance to travel with, Thailand with Brendan and Cambodia and Thailand with Nick. Hey guys, meet me in Africa, it will be great!

After the party, Dan and I drove to Dicks Drive In, a Seattle institution. It's kind of funny, Dicks was the first place in Seattle I went to when I returned from my Asia trip, so I guess it's become a going away/coming home tradition.

Laying out my cloths. Because we will be traveling in a 4x4 I've packed a bit heavier than I would if it were a backpack trip, but it still easily fit in one duffel bag.

That morning it was time to say my final goodbyes to Seattle. Here you can also see my bags, a day bag and my duffel bag. Inside the duffel is also a full size backpack, that I'm sure will come in handy as well.

My mom went with me to the airport and we said our goodbyes. This is my plane and my last view of Seattle for a while, gray skies as usual but it's home and I'll always come back.

Just a shot from the airplane I liked.

My first leg took me from Seattle to Frankfurt Germany. It was long, uneventful and the movie selection was lousy (Green Lantern was terrible!) but no problems at all.

The layover in Frankfurt was something like 12 hours, and I was bored out of my mind. I'd thought about getting out of the airport and walking around the city, but I was exhausted, and honestly a little lazy as well. Instead, I sat at the gate reading news papers, my book and people watching. I guess Seattle has spoiled me with its free wifi, but I had no such options in Germany and was disappointment by that fact.

The Airbus A380-800. I'm not all that into airplanes, but when it rolled up to the gate I felt like a little kid. The biggest passenger plane ever built, this thing is simply stunning to look at and I wasn't the only one who felt this way: I saw literally dozens of people come up to the window with huge smiles and take pictures of the plane, just like I did. Take-off was the quietest and smoothest I've ever experienced.  Inside, I was impressed again. The ceilings are incredibly high, the windows are large, and the whole thing simply makes for a more pleasant experience than any other plane I've flown. Being from Seattle I should claim to be a Boeing fan, but Airbus hit a homerun with the 380.

The next leg of my flight was another long one, Frankfurt to Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite the same bad movies, there was one more neat thing about the plane: video cameras you could watch on the screen that showed what was below the plane as well as one from the tail fin, cool stuff for sure. I had another short layover in Joberg, and one final flight of just two hours to Cape Town.

Upon arriving in Cape Town, I automatically received a free three month South African visa, and met my friend Chris outside of the airport. The last time we were togeahter was in the Philippines, and it was great to meet up again.  One of Chris's good friends, Walter, came along as well and we drove into the city center.
Right away I was impressed by Cape Town. Sandwiched between the ocean and Table Mountain, it is simply picturesque, not to mention as clean, organized and modern looking as anywhere in the world.

We passed through downtown and went to the waterfront area. It's a pretty touristy, but a nice place regardless. In the background you can see Table Mountain.

Having a beer with Chris and Walter.

After the waterfront, we drove to Chris's parents place where we would be staying for a few days and cooked some food on the BBQ.

The next day it was time to see a bit more of Cape Town, and we began on the beach just off where we are staying. I told you this place is beautiful!

Chris and I rode the very nice new bus system into downtown and we went to walking about.

Downtown has a lot of art in it actually, and this was by far the strangest piece. A traditional looking African sculpture.... with Bart Simpson heads sprouting out of it?? Huh?!

Side note: Thanks to my buddy Chad for the awesome NikApparel t-shirt and the sweet Gin Optics StunnGunner sun glasses! Check out his website at Universal Distro.  The shirt has a great story behind it actually; while I was in the process of cleaning out my house and giving away/selling off my my things, he came over and I gave him (among other things) a squirt gun. He then turned a picture of the squirt gun into this t-shirt design and gave it to me on Christmas as a going away gift. Being part of my travel story I told him I'd wear it in Africa so here it is man, thanks again!

Chris and I sat down to eat in Green Market Square which is a very nice spot to relax and people watch. It is full of restaurants, street performers and booths selling souvenirs. Traveler tip: some of the restaurants here offer free wifi.

An old church just off the square. Reminds you just how old this city is.

Just off the city center is the Cape Town Gardens a really beautiful public garden that has been in Cape Town for hundreds of years. It is full of fantastic trees flowers, birds, statues and tourists from all over.

Chris suggested we take the tour bus around town, and while it's one of those uber-touristy things I'd usually skip I'm very glad we did it.

It drove us all over town, with an audio tour giving a lot of interesting facts about the city and it's history, including the fort that once protected the city.

Shortly after, the bus took us to the base of Table Mountain where you catch the cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain. We are saving that for another day, but even without going to the top, the view of the city is fantastic.

Next the bus took us throgh the gap between Table and Lion's Head to the other side of the point, where all the trendy houses and beaches are. The ocean is very cold here so very few people were actually in the water, but the scenery is fantastic and it's still a great place to lay about in the sun.

It's hard to make out in this photo, but o the right of the boat is Robin Island the island that was turned into a maximum security prison and where Nelson Mandela was held for many years.

Here we have the stadium that was built for the 2010 soccer Wold Cup, an impressive building for sure.

Once we had completed the full tour loop and I'd gotten a sun burn (hey, it was winter and I was out on skis just a few days ago back home!), we headed back home and Walter met up with us again. We packed up the little Opel car/truck for a quick overnight adventure, and headed off for a new years party at the Rock the River festival a big concert held a short ways outside of Cape Town on an ostrich farm!

Being a two-seater, I rode in the back and made myself comfortable.

We arrived at the event, only to be told it was sold out! Bummed, we drove around for a while looking for some place to just camp on our own, but nothing came of it and feeling slightly defeated we returned home to cook the food and drink the beers we'd hoped to have at the concert. As Chris said, it looked  just like the night before.

At midnight, we went out to the beach to watch the New Years fireworks over the city, and while Chris ended up turning in somewhat early, Walter and I stayed outside talking until the sun came up! Can you tell which one of us just came from winter?

New Years day. Last new years I was on the beach in Thailand and this time I find myself in South Africa, pretty amazing stuff.  I mostly spend the day recovering from being up so late, but also got some good research and preparation done. Overall a lazy day though.

The three of us (Chris, Walter and I) were planning on doing a week-long trip in Namibia, but we ended up calling it off. Initially the Namibia trip was to buy the third partner in our big driving adventure, Weon, some extra time to find the vehicle we would be using, but he ended up getting one quicker than we had expected. There were also some transportation issues getting two and from Namibia, and the more we looked at the less sense the trip made. I'd love to have gone, but it just didn't work out.

As it stands right now here is the new plan: Chris and I will spend a few days more here in Cape Town, then we will take a multi-day train trip to Durban where we will meet Weon. From there we will spend a few days gathering final supplies and doing last minute preparation, and take off shortly after. We will be headed up the east coast and will quickly enter Mozambique, where we will be doing a lot of scuba diving. This is one of the things I am really looking forward to, because we will be diving with huge manta rays and whale sharks!
Well, that's it for now. It feels amazing that I am here and even more incredible to think about the huge trip that lays ahead of us, so stay tuned!