Reaching Out 2 The World


Life back in South Africa

Let me get you all caught up on this past week. It’s basically been a week of reunions. I’ve been reunited with my fellow volunteers back in Cape Town, my host family back in Kayamandi, my Frisbee team in Stellenbosch, the lovely teachers of Ikaya Primary School, and best of all my students from 6e (and all their friends and families)!!

I arrived back in Cape Town late Thursday night with the intention and plan of heading back to Kayamandi the following morning. Those plans fell through though and I ended up spending the duration of Friday catching up with the folks back in Cape Town. I also spent much of the day using the beautiful internet and pigging out on Chinese food!

I woke up very early on Saturday and took a mini bus to the train station before taking the train back to Kayamandi… bear in mind that I had a very large back pack, my day pack, as well as my pillow and sleeping back. It was a hassle but I did make it back encountering no problems.

Once back in the township I had several things to take care of. After unpacking my bags it was clear that I need to do wash very badly. My clothes smelled terrible after being stored in that back for 20 plus days. I also wanted to head to town to do some shopping for the week. My thoughts were that I would buy a bunch of stuff to give the kids for Christmas. Of course I spent far more than I planned to and came out with a shopping cart full of things for them. All the presents are education oriented with a few exceptions. They each got their own stick of deodorant, because all boys smell. They also got a few marbles, art supplies, sunglasses, and lots of candy!! I bought some wrapping paper and gift bags too. Actually, I even bought a Santa hat because I was really feeling the Christmas spirit!

When I got back to my house Avela was waiting on my door step. We were both happy to see each other. Within minutes of getting home we were on my computer going through the thousand or so pictures I took from my trip. While we went through them Riri, Mawande, Khanyisa, Fudo, and Athabile showed up as well. The afternoon was spent going through pictures and videos from my trip. It’s so great being back here and I’m very glad I extended my stay!

On Sunday Hendri picked me up around 8 and we headed to the beaches of Cape Town to play some Ultimate. We played on Clifton beach, one of the nicest beaches in the world, all morning with a bunch of the local ultimate guys from Cape Town. It was a heck of a lot of fun but I forgot how tiring it is to run around on sand. I was dying after every point!

We played till about noon and then headed back to Kayamandi where there were several kids waiting at my door for my return. I didn’t even change out of my swim suit when I got back because we all just headed down to the pool. We spent the majority of the afternoon at the pool and the remainder of the evening looking at more pictures.

Monday morning I woke up and went to school but not with the intention of sticking around. The kids finished their testing the week before so the last week of school was pretty much just for the teachers to finish grades and it was optional for the students. I just wanted to go and say hello, tell them about my trip, and get permission about having my drumming friend come and do a session with the kids sometime this week. That all went smoothly and before long I was headed back into Stellenbosch to pick up a few more things I had forgotten from the days before.

Today I made prints of pictures to go along with their presents. Actually I’m pretty sure the pictures where their favorite parts to the presents. In total I printed 200 pictures with the intention of giving them to about 11 different kids. The proportions weren’t the least bit fair but hardly anything about their life styles is fair… Plus I gave more to the kids that had younger brothers or sisters involved in the pictures. Now that I had everything I just needed to put it all together and give it to them… but I saved that for later in the week.

Tuesday morning I woke up even earlier and got picked up by my friend Jonathon so we could hike up the Stellenbosch Mountain. In proximity of Stellenbosch there are a lot of mountains but this is the closest one to the town and offered the best view of Kayamandi. The hike up took 3 hours and it was hardly easy. We only stopped twice on the way up and that was just for a quick water break and to snap a few pictures. Jonathon might be one of the few people I’ve met that can talk as much as I can. From the time he picked me up till the time he dropped my off we were discussing something, it certainly made the time go by. We were lucky to have cloud cover on the way up and just as we reached the summit the sky opened up and brought us spectacular views. In the far distance you could see Table Mountain and the Cape Point Peninsula.  After climbing up the mountain I felt like I had really accomplished something and really felt like I was that much closer to fulfilling my time here in South Africa. It was something I saw the first day I arrived and I knew I just had to climb it. Jonathon came through big guiding me up the mountain and also taking all the pictures since I’m still working with a broken camera…

That afternoon a few more students came over, again leaving me with no time to wrap their presents… but I won’t ever turn them down if they are just looking to hang out. Especially with my last day approaching.

That night I did something crazy though, I shaved half my beard off. I’d been growing it since midway through October and it was easily longer than it’s ever been before. At full length it was over and inch and a half long! I knew the longer I waited to shave it the harder it would be because you get used to having it around and know the time that went into it. But alas it had to go and I promised my students I would cut it off haha. That night I went to bed with half a beard.

Did I mention I let Mawande shave it off? haha

Did I mention I let Mawande shave it off? haha

On Wednesday as I was taking a shower a few students showed up knocking away at my door. They waited for me in my room as I finished up and were mighty surprised to see me walk in with just half of the beard they had seen me with the day before. Once their initial shock wore away a few more students showed up and it all started again! That’s actually how the whole day went but around noon I had two friends show up from Cape Town. Kristy and Eric were along with me on the 20 day trip to Livingston and I told them that they were more than welcome to come visit and check out the BEST Township in South Africa if they’d like. I should be a spokes person for this place, and my tours are phenomenal haha.

When Kristy and Eric arrived we were all pretty hungry and since kids eat free on Wednesdays I figured why not take them all to Spur? So 7 of them hopped into their car while 2 came with me via minibus. God bless Kristy and Eric for putting up with all of us in such short notice. I’m telling you, minutes after they got here I loaded their car with kids and told them I’d meet them in 20 minutes at the mall in town. To my surprised we got there at the exact same time! It was nice seeing them again and getting the chance to talk with them while all the kids went off to play video games. I felt like a bit of an idiot only having half a beard but it’s alright… you only live once. During this two-faced time I also had to go to the post office, get more data for the internet, pick something up at the grocery store, Steers to get ice cream for everyone, and then give Krsity and Eric a tour of Kayamandi. At least the looks I was getting weren’t due to my skin color anymore…  They both had to head back to Cape Town around 5 so most of my evening was spent just hanging out.

Thursdays plan was to head back to school and host a drum session with as many kids that decide to show up. We ended up packing a classroom and spend the morning banging on the drums. My friend Bevel and his wife did a great job controlling everyone and helping us all learn to keep rhythm on the drums. He also took a bunch of pictures that I’m hoping he’ll email to me asap.

After the lesson the kids came back over and I told them they had to leave for a couple hours while I got stuff done. Aka I needed to wrap these presents. I’m pretty terrible at wrapping presents and with no scissors and just a small tube of tape the job I did on these things was terrible. I was using a pocket knife to cut through the paper haha.

I told them they could come back around 5 because my sister and I were going to be video chatting and they were welcome to join. We chatted for a while and Fudo and Athabile showed up for the chat. I also took the time to give them their presents so my sister could be a part of it. It was actually really cool having her there. Besides the presents I already mentions I also gave them each a postcard addressed and stamped to me and tried my best to explain to them how to go about sending it to me in the future. I’m not sure they completely understood it but I suppose time will tell. I also let them each pick out one of the jerseys from ultimate Frisbee so all in all, they were hooked up!

Friday was the first day this week I didn’t have anything fancy planned but it actually turned out to be a great day. I was woke up by Mawande, Aphiwe, Rethabile, Fudo, Athabile, and Simonkele who were all very eager to show me their report cards. Come to think of it, they brought them here before even bringing them home haha. They were all very excited because they had all passed 6th grade and would be moving on to 7th! I must say I was a bit relieved as well and felt almost as accomplished as they must’ve. To celebrate I let the four of them open up their Christmas presents (Fudo and Athabile had done so the day before). I put on Christina Agulara’s Christmas album (the only Christmas music I have haha) threw on my Santa hat and let them go at it. I took some pictures with my broken camera but focused more on capturing the moments on film. I felt like my dad on Christmas morning from when I was younger, only I had to worry about 6 kids while he only had 3!!

After the presents the 4 boys took all their new things back to their homes to show their families and I told the other two I’d be back in a bit so I could run to town to get some lunch and run a few errands. I also wanted to print out a few more pictures.

I told them I’d be home by 2 so we could go swimming and they were here and waiting for when I got back. It was just Athabile and Fudo that I took swimming but it was nice having less kids for once. Afterwards was awesome though because they took me to where they lived. Kayamandi is condensed, but still pretty large, and there are several places I haven’t been to yet. Fudo and Athabile live in a part that’s considered an addition to Kayamandi and is called GuyoGuyo (that’s not spelled write and I have no clue how to pronounce it). This part of town is really interesting because it has no electricity and is considerably more poverty struck. Hard to believe that was possible, right?

So not only did I get to see where they live but I also got to meet their families and share with them the picture I had printed out. Most of these families have never held a picture of one of their loved ones so I could tell it meant a lot to them. I actually received a really nice text message from Aphiwe’s mother around this time with her expressing her gratitude towards everything I’ve done. Our walk didn’t stop there though, we walked all around Kayamandi visiting all the places I’d never been too. Along the way I met Mawande’s parents too! This is exactly what I was hoping to do with my last few days in Kayamandi so it was great how it was all working out. By the time we got back to my place there were about 10 kids with us so I let them watch Dragon Ball Z while I went to have dinner. It’s been a great week and an exhausting one at that. I think I’m really starting to feel like I’ve done everything I wanted to do here on this trip and that’s a really great feeling. The next few days I’ll just be hanging out with my students that are remaining, and swim and play sports in the sun. Not a bad way to end my time here in South Africa, after all… it’s going to be winter when I return home 😦

Sorry this was all thrown into one post but I think it’s better than making a bunch of small ones.


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Day 19 and 20

I woke up Wednesday morning to the sound of monkeys going crazy outside of my tent. They were swinging between the trees and even crashing into our tents.  It wasn’t a terrible wakeup call and I had to be up anyway because Fabian and I were rafting down the Zambezi all day and had to arrive at the front gate ready to go. Before we set off we had a lesson on safety and they explained to us what to expect along the way. There were 5 other people in our group that would be sharing the same boat as us. After the lesson we all got suited up in life vests, a helmet, and an ore. The ride to the falls was fairly quick, it was the same location Cat and I discovered the day before. So down to the bottom of the gorge we went and when we arrived at the bottom there were two large yellow rafts awaiting us, one for all of us and one as the ‘safety’ boat. We were also going to be meeting  up with another group along the way and the second raft would end up being theirs. The first rapid we went through was a class 4 and it was a decent challenge to start us off. For the first half of the day the safety boat would go ahead of us and after they made it out the rapids we would follow suit. On our third rapid we watched as the safety boat went down the rapids and then capsized. We all looked at each other thinking the same thing… if they couldn’t do it then how were we supposed to do! Surprisingly enough our group made it through but the following rapid wasn’t as successful. As our raft launched up and off a large oncoming wave we all flew backwards and I took out the guide as we both fell off. I went down the rest of that rapid staying afloat by my life vest and have absolutely no other control over what happened to me or where I went. It was pretty scary at first not having any control and at times being stuck under water, but the thrill was like nothing else! You basically just had to stay calm and know/hope that you’d be alright… in time. The rest of the morning was similar and we ended up flipping our raft twice and being thrown off several more times. It actually got to the point where Fabian and I preferred taking on the river without the raft and would sometimes ‘fall’ out of the boat at just the right time. Most of the time when we did this it would be on a class rapid less than 3 or else it could prove too dangerous. Later on in the trip we went through a series of 4 rapids back to back. The first three were class 3 and the fourth was a class 5. Our group was doing pretty good but right at the start of the class 5 a few of us flew out and were swept through in just our vests. I must say it was a crazy experience and absolutely nothing you’d ever be able to do back home, where there are actually safety precautions. about halfway through our trip down the rapids is started to storm over us. Being deep int he gorges made the thunder seem endless as it echoed between the the Zambia and Zimbabwe cliffs. Have the rain come down while you maneuver through difficult rapids really adds to the badassness of the trip.  When we got to the final set of rapids there was a cable car waiting to take us back up to civilization. We had rafted nearly 30 kilometers south and would need to be picked up and brought home.

Prior to this rafting experience my favorite part of the trip had been quad biking through the sand dunes of Namibia but I think since then I’d have to replace that with this rafting excursion. It was such an amazing time and if time permitted I’d definitely do it again!

That night was our last night with the rest of the tour group so we had a big meal together and said some final good byes. Naturally I left all my packing till the following morning just before getting in the taxi that would take us to the airport.

I first had a flight to Johannesburg and then a connection flight to Cape Town. Leaving Zambia in a plane gave a really neat perspective of the falls and I tried my best to capture it on film but the quality isn’t great. The rest of the day consisted of spending time in airports and waiting around for flights. I was lucky enough to hangout in the airport lounge in Joburg which happened to be fully inclusive and made the time well spent there. I was actually completely content with just staying in that lounge but unfortunately my place did eventually come. I arrived in Cape Town late that night and got a taxi back to the SASTS house were I nearly immediately passed out.

Overall, the trip was incredible! I highly recommend doing something like this and I hope to do it again in the future. The places you see, the friends you make, and the memories are irreplaceable! I miss it already 😦 haha

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Day 18

We woke up to a campsite littered with wings. It looked as if there had been a light snow throughout the night. We packed everything up but it was much less appealing of a job than ever before due to that fact that we were folding up hundreds of bugs and wings into our tent bags. Cleaning the bus wasn’t too much better and using the bathroom facilities was like entering into a war zone where the bugs clearly didn’t win, but some how still managed to cover the floor. Luckily the day got a lot better!

Today we were heading into Zambia and staying at our final location just outside of Livingston. In order to get there we had to take a ferry across the border. Because of the shape of Namibia and the location we were crossing we had a vantage point where we could see all 4 countries at once; Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia.

As soon as we got to the other side we were flanked by several locals who were looking to either sell one of their crafts or to sell us some Zimbabwe money. Zimbabwe money is of no use anymore after the inflation got out of control. They are currently using the USD and the reason why was because the Zimbabwe bills were fluctuating up in the trillions! Right before the switch was made and the Zimbabwe currency was still in use it could cost you up to 500 billion dollars to buy a loaf of bread. If you were to go to a store to do shopping of any sort you’d need a backpack just to carry your money. They tried introducing a 50 trillion bill and a 100 trillion bill but it wasn’t long before inflation caught up with bills even that high. Imagine sending your child to the market with a few 100 trillion dollars so they could pick up some essentials. You certainly have to be quick with your math if you have any chance getting the right change back!

Another thing about Zambia is that the markets and craft shops that you see everywhere except trading just as much as money, in fact they seem to prefer trading over receiving money. Since it was many of our lasts stops along the trip we were keener to part with some of our belongings. Even though it’s technically worthless I still had to get some Zimbabwe money as a souvenir. As of this part of the trip I had 6 different currencies in my wallet; South Africa’s Rand, Nambia’s Dollar, Botwana’s Pula, Zambia’s Kwacha, Zimbabwe’s Dollars, USD, and I even had a few Euros in my wallet. Since we were in Zambia that was the currency of most relevance followed by the USD, and the exchange rate was 5000 to 1. I knew I was going to be partaking in some costly adventure activities so I had to withdraw a junk of Zambian Kwacha. How much? Oh just a Million! That’s right, I was a millionaire in the country of Zambia… too bad it didn’t even last throughout the day.

After getting our money sorted out we headed to Vic Falls. We had a couple hours on our own here so we explored the many paths that took us around the river. I headed down a trail with Cat (Catherine) to the base of the falls. The hike down was difficult but we were distracted by the enormous baboons that shared the path with us. Some of these baboons would prove to be taller than me if they had stood up straight! At any moment these beasts could have killed us with ease but alas they minded their business while we minded ours. That didn’t stop me from getting some good footage of them though! At the bottom of the gorge we had a great view of the bridge that spanned the distance between Zambia and Zimbabwe. That’s also the bridge I’d be jumping off of in due time!

Before we left the falls we had one last thing to accomplish… we had to barter away a sleeping bag, a fleece, and a pair of flip flops Grainne had left us. I took the sleeping back while Cat worked with the fleece and flops, and we went in with a strategy to win! We had a about 20 minutes to get everything we wanted and get as much as we could which basically just meant souvenirs/presents. I won’t list everything I got just because there’s a chance you, as a reader, may be one of the recipients, and I’d hate to spoil the surprise haha. I’d like to say I’m a darn good bargainer though.

Our next stop was our lodge and it was beautiful! By far the nicest place we stayed thus far on our journey. Helene and I even upgraded to a permanent tent because neither of us had any desire to set up our tent, especially after the episode with the bugs from the night before! Our new home had two beds, a lamp, fan, and a power source! We were living it up in Zambia and I couldn’t have chosen a better way to end our trip. Of course the best is yet to come though because it was only just afternoon by the time we were all settling in and remember, at this specific time, I was a millionaire!! We headed to the main building of the lodging where they had a restaurant, bar, and pool that over looked a river. It was here that we watched a DVD depicting all the activities we could do while in Zambia. I actually already knew what I was interested in doing before the video started but the video did help convince Fabian to join me! We signed up for a bungee jumping combo that involved a jump, a swing, and a zip line for the current day and then signed up for a full day of white water rafting down the Zambezi for the following day! I was still in the mood for bargaining and was able to get both of us a discount on both packages. As soon as we finished singing up we went down stairs where a taxi was waiting for us.

We drove back to the falls where the bridge spanned the gap between the neighboring countries and parked in Zambia. We had to bring our passports with us in order to get back but we later realized it didn’t really matter. The bridge is technically in no man’s land and the locals call it ZimZam. Before we could even get out of the taxi there were several locals looking to sell us stuff, mostly copper bracelets and Zimbabwe money. It ended up being one local for me, one for Fabian, and one for our other friend Marquell, who was joining us to observe. The guys stuck with us the entire time cheering us on as we jumped and trying to sell to us every chance they got. The process to which we jumped was very fast paced. I think they could sense a storm approaching and wanted to get us in before it was too late. So without further ado we were strapped up and headed to the bridge via zip line. Once we made it over they had Fabian strapped up to do the gorge swing and strapped me up to do the bungee jump. They were really trying to kill two birds with one stone and I almost thought we were going to jump off the same platform at the same time. Before he had any time to think about it Fabian was off the bridge and swinging between the legs of the bridge with Zimbabwe to his right and Zambia on his left. One thing you don’t necessarily realize is that the gorge swing has a huge freefall in the beginning of it. I should mention the bridge is 111 meters tall which sounds huge but that’s hardly anything compared to the bungee I did in South Africa that was 216 meters tall (tallest in the world!!). and because I’ve already jumped before I didn’t want to do the same old jump so this time I decided I’d jump off backwards. Never once was a scared about jumping off or falling the 100 meters but I was a wee bit concerned about the method they used to strap the bungee to my ankles. They basically just wrapped bath towels around my ankles and then leashed the bungee around those and that was it… as I jumped I held my video camera in my hand to get a first person perspective. Watching the footage you can see fragments of the rope falling off into the water below! The worst part about the whole process was waiting to be brought back up to the top. All the blood was in my head and I felt like was going to faint. I was still filming throughout all of this and I even commented that there was a good chance that any viewers of this video may witness me about to pass out… but luckily that was avoided. I followed the jump by the gorge swing and enjoyed that even more! It reminded me a lot of the bungee jumping only I was able to be right side up and didn’t feel like was going to pass out. I did feel a little nauseous after swinging back and forth a dozen times but the rush of the wind in your face as you leap off a bridge was totally worth it!

Of course as soon as this was all over my local salesman was waiting for me at the top of the bridge ready to sell me anything I would take. It’s rather annoying trying to say no over and over again to someone that is desperately trying to convince you they are the poorest person in the country and needs the money so they can buy bread and milk for their children. I’ve gotten pretty good at it though… haha.

We headed back to our lodge and made it back with time to spare before dinner. As we pulled into the lodge we noticed a ton of monkeys in the surrounded area. We watched them and took their pictures as they climbed on and in cars. A truck had its window opened and the monkeys were having a field day going and looking for any leftover food. I got pretty close with a couple of them and wondered if I’d be able to touch one of the small ones. Of course the problem is never the little ones but rather the big ones that are keeping a watchful eye on you. I ended up getting ambushed by 5 of them and had to ward them off with my water bottle. I couldn’t turn my back on them cause then they would have just attacked me and bit me and the risk of rabbis was too high. So I tried to intimidate them which worked great with the small ones but just pissed the big ones off even more. During this dispute a car was driving by at a very slow pace and put a barrier between me and half the monkeys. There was still one on my side of the car and at the time my thoughts were something like… “what now monkey, it’s just you and I and you have nowhere to run!” Only this time when I intimidated him he turned and ran… right under the car. Don’t worry he survived and I think only hit his tail and as soon as the car passed they all came right back after me and I was left to fend for my life once again. This continued for some time until they suddenly stopped to start eating bugs off each other’s butts. We did get it on film but it makes me look really bad :/

Afterwards, Fabian and I chilled in the pool and shared our footage with the others. We hung out with everyone that night knowing that we’d have a long day ahead of us. Even with the fan it was a hot night to fall asleep to.

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Day 17

We had an early wake up call for a morning game drive. The drive lasted all morning and along the way we saw all sorts of animals. One of the interesting things we saw was a lioness chasing after a warthog for a morning meal. We watched her run after him for a while and it looked like she was just playing with him. She ended up catching him pretty easily, I think it was just a matter of when she felt like eating. We also saw a jackal stealing meat from a flock of vultures which was pretty entertaining because they could have easily picked him apart but he held his ground like a boss.  We saw tons of other animals but nothing too crazy took place.

We got back to our site for a lunch break and then hung around till about 2 when we headed to another boat dock so we could board our cruiser. We spent the next three hours cruising down the Chobe River and we saw so many animals. We came across hundreds of hippos and hundreds of buffalo. We also saw our fair share of crocodiles, and antelope. Since we were in a rather large boat we were able to get very very close to the animals without having to worry too much. A few times we came across a family of hippos (who are very aggressive and territorial) and we were charged by the father of the group. It was pretty intense but mostly just amusing because we were so much bigger then he was. I think if we had been in a smaller boat he would have capsized us and probably killed us. Good thing we weren’t! So the cruise went on like this for a while spotting all sorts of animals and learning a great deal about them. This continued until the sun started to set and before long the ride turned into a sunset cruise followed by a booze cruise. All in all it was a lovely time out on the water and once we got back to land we were all very much ready for dinner, which Kelly had prepared for us!

Dinner was nice but as we were finishing up we were taken over by a massive amount of flying termites. A few of us too refuge in the truck as the number of flying termites increased. There were millions upon millions of them and it looked as if it was snowing outside. They were banging in to the windows because we had the light on and it honestly felt like we were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. They would fly around until their wings would fall off and then they’d resort to crawling every which way. Once they were wingless they started breeding. I’ve never seen so many bugs in my life and I’d like to never have to see that many again! We turned off all the lights we could and after a while things died down… literally died down. These things have a very short lifespan! When we finally felt it was safe to leave the truck it was like walking through the woods after the leaves fell off all the trees in autumn. Only they weren’t leaves, they were wings. And if you looked closely enough most of the wings were still moving and some were still attached to the dying termite! You couldn’t even consider going to the bathroom because the lights were permanently on there, which meant more bugs than anywhere else, and if you walked around with your head lamp on it was like driving down the highway with your face as a windshield to all the oncoming crazed bugs! We were nervous about getting into our tents because we didn’t want to risk letting all the bugs in. It was a pretty gross morning after…

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Day 16

Today consisted of a lot of driving. We drove clear across Botswanna to the Chobe River and didn’t arrive till about 6pm. At this point in the trip we were all very friendly with each other and upon getting on the truck we all unrolled our sleeping mats and took refuge on the floor. It was pretty comfortable and after sweating to sleep the night before it felt like luxury having a cool breeze come over you as the truck drove on.  I think I read 400 pages of my book along the way and finished part 2 of the Eragon series.

Once we got to the site we set up our tents and explored the area. We were stationed right along the river and you could hear the hippos throughout the evening. Because our freezer was still broke we had another meal prepared for us and unlike the night before we sat by candle light which reduced the number of bugs by a great number. Because today was mostly traveling we didn’t have much to do today. Before going to bed a group of us played cards for a while on the truck but it was mostly just a quiet night.

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Day 15

Around 5:30 there was an optional morning walk which I declined because of how tired I was from the day before. A handful of people went on it and said it was really great but rather hot. They walked around the small island that we were staying on for nearly an hour and along the way they came across a group of hippos! Clearly the guide wasn’t being completely truthful when he told us the place we were swimming in was hippo free haha, as well as other large animals.

Once they got back we packed everything up into the boats and proceeded back to where the truck would be waiting for us. It was mighty hot sitting in the African sun for hours on end but the umbrellas were of some help. Trips back always seem to go faster anyways. Between the boat ride and the truck drive back to the camp site we didn’t arrive till nearly noon and Richard had lunch waiting for us. As the day went on it just continued to grow hotter and it got to the point where you had to take a cold shower every hour or so if you didn’t want to melt.

A group of 5 girls paid to go on a flight that took them over the river delta and by the sounds of it they had a blast. I guess the pilot was 21 years old and it was his first time flying with a group like that before but they all made it back alive. Although they were scared to death for most of the 45 minutes in the air they still managed to capture some amazing photos of herds of elephants and hippos did their thing. No one got sick on the flight but there was a close call after some aerial stunts took place. Meanwhile back at the site the lot of us just did everything we could to stay cool.

It was around this time of our trip that our on board freezer stopped working which resulted in a very smelly, warm, ‘freezer’ box. Because of this we ended up just having a meal prepared for us at the site. The food was good, nothing too special but the highlight of the meal was these enormous bugs that were flying around seeking the light sources over head. Some were the size of bats and they often ran right into the people sitting around the table. It was gross and felt like we were being bombed from above.

Unfortunately the nighttime didn’t cool down much and we all fell asleep in temperatures close to 90 degrees. Not a very pleasant temp to fall asleep to unless you’re looking to lose some weight in your sleep.

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Day 14

We woke up at the crack of dawn and loaded all our gear into a truck, but not our normal truck. We were going to be heading to the delta where we were going to load all our gear into small little boats that were just trees with the center dug out. The truck that transported us there was pretty sweet because it had to traverse through dirt roads, and rivers that were up to 3 feet deep! As soon as we go to the boat launch, area which was a lengthy drive to get there, we unpacked everything from the trucks and repacked everything in to the skinny boats. While doing this we saw some wild elephants roaming around the swamps not far from us!

Each boat held two people and their gear. We also each had a paddler that came with us and was in charge of taking us around. He stood in the back with a long pole and just pushed us around. His name was Trust and he turned out to be a really nice guy. The trip up the delta took over an hour and it was under the blistering sun. Luckily they had warned us so most of us had umbrellas out to block the sun. You can imagine the strange site we were as a flock of boats traveled upstream in the delta covered with umbrellas. The best part is that everyone (besides me) that bought an umbrella did so at the first store they went to in town and purchased to cheapest umbrellas they could find. This resulted in half the group carrying around kid’s umbrellas in the shape of butterflies and tigers. I’m not gonna lie, they were pretty cool but I was all set with my umbrella that Shelby sent me a month back!! I did get really unlucky in the fact that my camelback bag leaked and got all the clothes that I had packed soaked. As soon as we got there I took everything out of my bad and had it hanging all over the trees to dry off, also a site to see.

We were taken all the way to our own little private island where we set up and made camp. Our ‘pollers’ were joining us so they also set up their tents. Once everyone was set they showed us around the island and took us to the hole they dug in the ground that would serve as our bathroom, and the location where it was ‘safe’ to go swimming. The swimming location was sketchy and even though he told us that there weren’t any hippos, or crocodiles in the water we had to worry about I don’t think most of us trusted what he said. That caution was all thrown out the window as soon as the sun reached it’s peak in the sky. Oh my god, does it get hot in Africa! We all ended up in the water and ended up spending the afternoon cooling off. We didn’t encounter any large animals but there was certainly a lot of fish. The coolest thing about the fish was that they were really slow and I could actually catch them with my bare hands. We had contests to see who could catch the most fish and one of the girls actually caught 5 little minnows in one go! The most I got was 4 but we were all very successful with our new found skills. If we were swimming in the delta then we were getting lessons on how to push one of the boats around. They were really cool but I can’t say I felt that sturdy in them. Even after I got the hang of it I still thought I’d flip over at any second.

Around 3pm we all got in our boats and headed to another island to go on a bush walk. Along the walk we learned all about the plants of the island as well as the animals that roamed it. There are tons of hippos and elephants in the area so you had to watch your step where you were walking, not just for the pool but for the enormous foot prints they would leave in the mud. We even came across leopard tracks at one point but unfortunately we didn’t see one. We did see loads of birds, and antelope though. We walked around until the sun was starting to set. They wanted us back in the boats and on the water for when the sun going to set. I’m so glad we got there in time too because it turned out to be the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever witnessed in my life. The pictures turned out pretty amazing as well.

When we got back to camp Kelly had dinner ready and we hung out by the fire eating up. The crew of pollers joined us for supper and afterwards they put on a show for us. It was just singing and dancing but we loved it and in turn shared with them songs we knew. That was terrible, but in an awesome way. While this was happening we discovered how much fun it was to mess with the shutter speed on your camera and how cool lights can look at night. We didn’t use my camera but as soon as I get the pictures I’ll show you what I mean. Basically while the shutter stayed open you could take a flashlight and spell things out in the air and when the shutter closed you could actually read the entire word you had just spelled out. Really really cool.