Day 2 of our adventure tour, with the kids began in Kayamandi, started with an early morning pick up. Isaac came for us around 7 which meant the kids started showing up about quarter of. I again woke up too early and wasn’t able to get back to sleep due to my own excitement and anticipation. A couple of the guys were a little slow to show up today but I imagine that was because of the long day we had on Monday and the fact that this time they had to bring all their luggage with them.There was a slight rain in the morning but things cleared up before anyone began the walk over.
Once everyone was accounted for we boarded the van and began the long trip out East. We’d be heading to Oudtshoorn and would be traveling for about 6 hours. I encouraged everyone to sleep but they were far to excited for that to happen. The drive was filled with beautiful scenery which consisted of tall snow-capped mountains, long roads, dessert valleys, and wild animals. I tried to sleep but also found it difficult.
We stopped at a few places along the way to stretch, use the bathroom, or admire the views. One place we stopped I recognized. I was here two years ago while on my way back from a 7 day Garden Route tour. The place formerly known as Ronnies Shop has since been graffitied into Ronnies Sex Shop. This happened many years ago and the owner decided to leave the graffiti up and turn the place into a tourist attraction. The shop is now a bar where travelers have been coming to stop daily for years. The place is well known for people signing the walls, and leaving behind business cards or even clothes. When I went in I immediately B-lined it to where I had signed the wall two years ago. It took a minute but I finally found it! This time around I left a business card just under where I had signed my name… maybe one day I’ll be back to check on it. After everyone used the bathroom we continued onto our first destination; An Ostrich Farm.
Oudthoorn is the ostrich capital of South Africa. It was the first place to breed the animals and turn it into a tour business. When we arrived at the farm we were hungry and ready for lunch. Earlier in the day Dan and I treated everyone to a McDonalds breakfast, because it’s the best, but that had been a few hours ago and we were all ready for more. We all went into the dining room and looked through our menus. The option to eat ostrich was available but most of the kids weren’t brave enough to try it. Dan and I split an Ostrich platter, Avela got ostrich shish kabobs, and the rest got a hamburger with fries. When the food finally arrived our waitress asked which kids ordered the ostrich burgers. The kids spoke up saying how they had ordered the hamburger, not the ostrich burger. That’s when the waitress informed us that all the meet is ostrich and that the burgers they ordered were most certainly ostrich. They all looked at me and I quickly told them she was joking. Haha, now they didn’t know who to believe but they were hungry and decided to give it a try. They all ended up liking it, and completely cleared their plates but I’m still not sure they knew it was actually ostrich meat. I can tell you that the meat I had was delicious but could easily be compared to ground beef. I give ostrich meat a very high recommendation.
After our meal we moved onto the farm tour. Along the tour we learned about ostriches, we were able to feed them, and do much much more. At the first stop the guide asked for a volunteer and Riri’s hand shot up. He had volunteered to hug the ostrich but the guide had additional plans. After receiving a nice hug from Betsy, the Ostrich, our guide directed Riri to hold a piece of food between his lips and hold very still. Next, he directed Betsy’s attention to Riri’s mouth and the two looked eye to eye. With a quick snatch Betsy lunged forward and “kissed” Riri right on the mouth, taking the pellet of food with her. I caught the whole reaction on film which was very hilarious.
After the Ostrich kiss we walked to the back of the farm where they’d be holding ostrich rides. Ski, Lupho, and Atha were all able to ride the ostrich with the help of the handlers. Again, their reactions were priceless as the two footed flightless birds ran around the yard. To my surprise the guides let go of Athabile midway through his ride and he traveled around the entire yard all by himself. He even fist pumped heroically and lowered himself down. He was a complete natural and wasn’t the least bit afraid. I was so impressed! Mawande, and Chester were both able to sit on the ostrich and have their pictures taken but we didn’t have time for everyone to ride.
Our next stop was the ostrich massage. To do this you stand with your back against the fence and hold a bucket of feed about chest level. Two ostriches come from behind you and reach their necks around to get at the food. In the process of pecking away at the bucket you’re holding you’re able to receive a genuine ostrich massage. Aphiwe did this but it took some coaxing and I think he thought he was being attacked. Avela was supposed to do this but was far too nervous.
Before leaving the farm the kids got to do one more thing. They each learned about how strong an ostrich shell is and were then able to stand on top of a few. You could tell that they didn’t really trust standing on the eggs so Isaac jumped in front of everyone and leaped right onto the eggs. I could have sworn I heard one crack but they all seemed to stay intact. Once they saw that Isaac had no issues they took turns in 2’s standing on the eggs. We didn’t have much time left on the farm due to our next adventure which was booked for the Cango Caves.
The Cango Caves stretch deep into the Swartberg Mountains. The caves were discovered by a farmer in the late 1700’s. This guy ventured into the cave, lowering himself down by rope, with only a small oil lamp. That’s a bit crazy, even for me. The place has since been host to adventure tours and even concerts. Up until 1995 they would host concerts here and could fit 1,500 people into the caves main chamber. I suppose the acoustics were nice but by doing so they were destroying the caves. Some of the stalagmites hanging from the ceiling were over a million years old. The vibrations from the concerts were putting them all at risk of falling and the over populated venues were drying out the rocks. Now the place is just used for tours and we were booked for a 90 minute adventure tour, the tour that took visitors to the deepest depths.
There were 4 tunnels along our tour and we’d have to go through 2 of them twice. The largest of the tunnels had even the kids ducking down and crouching. Our second tunnel and second largest tunnel was dubbed the Tunnel of Love. They call it that because you’ll receive hugs all the way through from both sides. This tunnel was no cake walk and had us all squeezing through the alleyway. The next two tunnels were on a different level when it came to size. Their names were the Devils Chimney and The Post Box. The Devils Chimney had you crawling up a slope on your stomach using the side walls to position your feet. The walls were so smooth from water that it was difficult to get a grip. Getting stuck in this tunnel is a real concern but we all made it through. Dan and I went first so that we could photograph our adventurers as they exited the tunnel. Both of us agreed that The Birth Canal, might make a better name for it. The final tunnel that we went through before looping back through the first two was The Post Box. This name comes from its very tiny size. At a height of 27 centimeters you had to really squeeze your way through this tunnel. On the way out you have to lie as flat as you can and slide your way to freedom. Not the sort of place for a claustrophobic.
Once out of the tunnels we started getting ahead of our guide. She was great, but we were only half of her group. When she found out that I had been on this adventure tour before she gave us the go ahead to move on. I’m not sure if it was because of fear or just high energy but our group booked it out of the caves.
When we were all out of the caves we hopped into the van and made our way to our final destination, Paradise Cove. This was the name of the backpackers lodge and was where we’d be spending our first night with the boys. Our room had 10 beds in the style of bunk beds and we all quickly claimed our spots. The lodge had some pretty cool things to offer like a pool table, and small pool.
Most of the guys all wanted to go swimming before dinner even though the water was pretty cold. While I was playing lifeguard by the pool with half our group I saw Ski and Atha using our community kitchen. When staying at a backpackers lodge there are usually these types of kitchens were anyone can come through and use what they need as long as the leave things the way they found them. The two of them looked as if they had helped themselves to a cup of coffee. It was chilly out but I imagine the real reason why they wanted coffee was because it was available and free. After they made their cups I saw them walking out towards the pool. Just before stepping outside Atha walked straight into the glass door dumping his entire cup of coffee on himself, the glass door, and all over the floor. I couldn’t help but laugh. Actually, everyone saw it happen and everyone was cracking up. Of course once everyone saw that the two of them had made coffee everyone wanted coffee. I found myself making 6 cups of coffee, and giving a lesson on how to wash and put away your own mug.
Soon after our coffee binge it was dinner time and we were all in for a treat. Our menu consisted of ostrich kabobs, ostrich sausage, potato wedges, salad, and fresh out of the oven bread. After sampling ostrich for lunch and learning that it was delicious no one had any issues clearing their plates at dinner. One thing can be said for all these kids and that’s their ability to finish their plates. They definitely don’t waste food, even if they don’t like what they are eating.
After dinner I played a game of pool against Ski. Most of them are actually pretty decent at pool but Ski was an absolute shark! I can recall my first walk to Ski’s home two years ago and along the way we stopped and went into a bar to play a game. I use the term bar pretty loosely because it was really just a glorified shack within the township that sold beer and had a pool table. I’m guessing they probably aren’t too strict with licenses around here. After he beat me he went on to beat everyone else before I told him he should hop off and let a couple new guys at it.
Around this time we decided we better get the showers underway. We had two shower stalls in our room but neither Dan nor myself knew what we were getting ourselves into. Only two of the guys brought towels, which were wet from everyone using them to dry off after the pool, and only one of them brought something to sleep in. Earlier in the day I had provided them with some of the Frisbee clothes that had been donated so they were mostly set in regards to sleeping attire. Dan informed me that the front desk rented towels for a small deposit. It’s a pretty great deal because they give you your money back once you return their towel. So I rented 8 towels, gave the kids my face and body wash and explained to them what we were going to do. A couple of them were reluctant, but that was before they realized that these would be warm showers. Some of these guys probably haven’t had a warm shower in a very long time. In shifts of 2 we cycled through all our group making sure everyone was showered and ready for bed. I told them that we’d be reading our book, “The One and Only Ivan” at 8:45, but that they could do what they’d like till then.
The ones that finished showering went back to the pool table, and a few others took to drawling. Not long after the showers ended was it time to regroup for our book. After reading a chapter out loud to them they each took turns reading 1-3 pages. I never know who’s going to read what amount with these guys. Sometimes 1 page is enough and other times I have to request them to pass the book because they don’t want to share. I try to leave it up to them the best I can.
Once everyone had a chance to read I could tell that they were just about ready for bed. The day had been fun and exhausting and the next day would be starting bright and early. I asked everyone to brush their teeth before going to bed and was met with mixed responses. Dan and I weren’t sure if everyone would have a tooth brush so we brought a few extra. My Grandma also gave me a bag filled with tooth paste and tooth brushes for me to bring over, so we were more than set for anything. Thanks Grandma! With Tooth brushes in hand they made a line to the bathroom with me dishing out the toothpaste. It’s always nice going to sleep feeling clean and fresh after a long day!
Day 2 was another giant success and we still were just halfway through our trip. Wednesday has been the day I’ve been most excited about, with a day filled with animal encounters! Thanks again for all the support! Can’t wait to share!