Reaching Out 2 The World

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An Encore to Our ReachingOut Trip: Day 5

Dan and I had arranged one more special thing for the boys to do and with the IMG_5035help of HotSpots2C we’d be visiting the Cape Point Stadium. This was something we had wanted to do with the kids during our four day trip but it wasn’t possible due to closings with the stadium. The one thing these boys love is soccer and I really wanted to take them to their home stadium.

Around 8:30 Saturday morning we DSC_0344 (2)all met up for one last adventure and head into Cape Town with our group. We arrived a half hour early and used our time to take some fun pictures outside.

IMG_5022The tour was great and took us all throughout the stadium. Our group got to see everything from the VIP areas to the locker rooms and even had the chance to stand on the soccer pitch. My absolutely favorite part of our time there was filming the boys running out of the gathering rooms and into the stadium to the sounds of us cheering. You could tell they were living their dream being down there on the sidelines and I was so happy to take part in it. Once they ran out they lined up and starting singing their National Anthem. Don’t worry, we caught it all on film.

The Cape Town Stadium was built for the IMG_50242010 World Cup and played host to the semifinals. The Dutch remember it well because they were able to beat the Germans. Something I’ve heard more than a dozen times sharing living arrangements with two Dutch girls and now four Germans. The stadium can hold up to 68,000 people. In recent days they’ve been using the stadium for Cape Town’s home soccer teams and concerts. I think Rihanna will be playing there in the coming week, and there’s a long list of other big named musicians that have played there. Our guide told us that the stadium was completely paid off but I’m not sure I totally believe her. The stadium cost 4 billion rand and I’m pretty sure they haven’t been able to fill it since the 2010 World Cup.

IMG_5019After our stadium tour we went to lunch at the Waterfront. The Waterfront is a popular place along Cape Town’s harbors and offers an incredible view of Table Mountain. The place we took them to eat was Spurs. Dan and I both use to take the boys to Spurs on our previous visits because of how much the kids loved it. Not only is the food pretty good, but there is also an arcade that the kids can play at for free while they wait for the food to be prepared. The only thing we forgot to keep in mind was that all the boys are older now than on our last visits and the arcade is age restricted. Lupho and Mawande were the only ones that looked young enough to play the part.

Before heading back to Kayamandi we made oneIMG_5017 final stop at another favorite location. Boulders Beach is located in Simon’s Town, a coastal town where you’ll find penguins on the beach. We walked all along the coast spotting the penguins in their natural habitats. The boys really wanted to go swimming but it wasn’t something we had properly planned for. I also don’t think they realized how much colder the Atlantic Ocean is than the Indian Ocean they swam in last Wednesday.

IMG_5014Today was a pretty great encore to the first half of our travels and I’m sure we’ll be grouping up for a few more adventures before Dan and I have to go our separate ways. I know we are both interested in taking everyone swimming at least one more time, and we may even consider a surf session.

If you receive a postcard in the next few weeks be sure to share it with the world by hashtagging it, #ReachingOut2TheWorld




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Our Day Off Spontaneous Hike

After our trip with the guys, Friday was supposed to be our day off. We didn’t have any big plans besides going into Stellenbosch. Even though sleeping in was available I still ended up getting up pretty early. My body had already gotten use to our tour schedule of early mornings and long days.

We grabbed a quick breakfast at Mama Zulus and headed to the trust center to first use some free Wi-Fi. My main goal was to email the video about Lupho’s day to my friend and coworker back home, Jennie. After two hours my progress bar had only moved to 5 percent and I had to give up on sending. It’s pretty difficult to send videos when internet isn’t so easy to come by. This video is also 1.7 gb so it’s going to be tough to send from anywhere.

In town we both got well overdue haircuts. The lady that cut our hair was nice but a bit IMG_4941odd. I got the feeling she’s had a very sheltered life when she asked me what townships are like in the US. I understand that we do in fact have townships in the US but not anything remotely close to the type of townships she was referring to. Oh well, she was nice enough and did a decent job cutting our hair. Hanneke and Mieke came along for the trip and seemed to really enjoy taking part in observing our haircuts. They were trying to get me to get something crazy done all while trying to convince the stylist to let them shave our beards off. They did so with no such luck. Afterwards we grabbed a bite to eat, ran a few errands, and hopped on the next mini bus to Kayamandi.

When we got home there were already a few boys at our house playing soccer. It was an alright day with sunshine fighting through the cloud filled sky. We had no plans, so we opted to climb to the top of the hill our township rested on. At first, when we asked Mawande if he could lead us he made it seem like we wouldn’t be allowed because it was the property of the neighboring wine vineyard. His biggest concern was being attacked by the guard dogs on the property. We followed him to the entrance of the farm and when we got there the first thing we saw were a few dogs. I guess he wasn’t joking when he said guard dogs! Dan and I walked ahead to make sure it was okay if we viewed the property. The man we talked to told us it’d be alright, but they’d have to remove the dogs first.

IMG_4945Hanneke, Mieke, Dan, Mawande, Khaniysa, Lupho, Onge, and I all then proceeded through the vineyard and up the hill. It’s a pretty beautiful walk through a vineyard and the views of Kayamandi and Stellenbosch were really great! We were lucky that the weather cooperated with us and only had to deal with some wind. The walk to the top took just over a half hour but the views were nice and we had a great time taking pictures with the kids.IMG_4930

On the way home we took the chance with a short cut we saw and found ourselves wading through a very large patch of tall flowers. It was actually kind of nice minus the rough weeds brushing up against my legs. The younger boys helped make a path for our Dutch friends while I hoisted Onge, the smallest of the group, high above the plants.

IMG_4921Our spontaneous adventure proved to be a fun one and had us home just in time for dinner. I could smell Mama’s mashed potatoes as we strolled into her house and knew we’d be having a great dinner! In the evening we shared pictures from our trip with the kids and a few of the other volunteers. It was a nice and relaxing day.

We had one more surprised planned for the boys on Saturday which would have us meeting up and leaving by 8:30 in the morning, so after our writings were finished we got an early night’s sleep.


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ReachingOut2TheWorld Trip: Day 4

Today would be the final day of our tour and although it’s sad to think it’s our last day, it’s equally as nice to know that ReachingOut2TheWorld was able to reach all its goals.

After the past two days I didn’t even bother setting an alarm. I knew that my anxiousness would have me out of bed bright and early and if that didn’t work I knew I could rely on the guys waking me up. Breakfast wasn’t until 8 but we were all up and moving around 7. This made it a little easier for everyone to get up, dressed, packed, and ready to go. I don’t think it’s necessary but everyone even made their beds! Once everyone was accounted for and ready to go Dan and I brought them all down to the breakfast, which consisted of toast, muffins, fruit, and cereal.

IMG_4791We still had a bit of time before it would be time to go so the 8 of them split up into two teams and played a game of beach soccer to pass the time. I thought the teams looked a little unfair until I saw them running around on the sand and realized they were all at a disadvantage. Soccer on the sand is much harder and had everyone tripping over each other. In the end the underdogs won and it was just in time for everyone to board the van.

We only had one adventure planned IMG_4792for today and that was the safari at Botlierskop. After driving about an hour West we arrived at the reserve and were directed to our overland vehicle. Everyone piled into the truck and we began driving to our first spot of interest. None of the guys had ever been on a safari before and a few of them expressed a concern for being some animal’s lunch. Every time we came up to a new group of animals they were always sure to ask what the animal ate and if the animal had any enemies. Their next question was usually along the lines of asking if the animal could kill a person. Our guide was great and answered every question the boys had to ask and I was thrilled with all the questions they were asking.

IMG_4794The reserve is 7,000 acres and is filled with all sorts of animals. To give you an idea of how big that is, the safari attached to Six Flags Great Adventure is only 350 acres. That’s 20 times the size! Inside this reserve it’s easy to forget you’re in an enclosed area. The surrounded fences are there only partially to keep the animals in, in fact most of the animals could probably get out if they wanted to. Antelope especially have the ability to leap extreme heights. The main reason for the fences is to actually keep people out, more specifically poachers. An ongoing problem in Africa is the poaching of rhinos. The horn of a rhino sells for big bucks on the black market. I won’t get into detail about how the poachers go about taking the horn off a rhino but it doesn’t usually involve killing it first with a gun shot. A gun shot would draw too much attention which is why the poachers generally use machetes. It’s a pretty graphic situation. Other animals are a threat for being captured for breeding and hunting purposes. A wildebeest is commonly used by the rich for private hunting sessions, and are breaded at high costs.

All the animals except the lions and elephants had free roam of the property. This is great for the animals but can sometimes make it difficult for game drivers because their first task is to find the animals. We didn’t see any rhino today but we got really lucky with a few very close drive-byes with the giraffes, and lions! Actually, both the giraffes and the lions were right in the middle of the road.

In the beginning we went to visit the elephants. There were three of them and they IMG_4797made up a small family. Elephants are very family oriented and stay together forever. There was a baby elephant joined with his two parents. He was 7 years old and already pretty large. Elephants continue growing late into their old age which can exceed 70 years old! The day before all the boys were able to really interact with the elephants, feeding and touching them, so I wondered if they were confused as to why they had to stay in the vehicle today.

IMG_4803After the elephants we continued to drive around the reserve learning about the different animals we came across. The next big animals we came across were the giraffes, and they happened to be right along the road. Giraffes are such awkward animals but are still an impressive sight to see. There were two males and two females in the group we came across and they each seemed to enjoy having their pictures taken. A group of giraffes is actually called a tower of giraffes. Many questions later we moved on to our next big animal, the lions!

It was easy to tell how excited everyone was by IMG_4802all the commotion that was going on behind my seat. Everyone was so chatty and seemed to be on the edge of their seats. Like I said before, the lions are kept in a different part of the reserve which is only a fraction of the size of the rest of the farm. To enter this area we had to first go through a set of motorized gates. Our guide reminded all the passengers to please keep all your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times and to try and keep their voices down. Mawande asked our guide if the lions would eat us and he was so sincere in his question that we both couldn’t help but to suppress a laugh. She responded that a lion could very well eat a person but that she’d would be sure to not let anything like that happen. It wasn’t long after pulling into this new area that I glimpsed the lions off in the distance. It was great that we were able to locate them so quickly because there is never a guarantee that you’ll be able to find any of the animals. As we approached the cats we noticed that they were lying in the middle of the road. This was perfect for photo opportunities but made our exit a bit difficult. Our guide didn’t want to scare the lions or encourage them to move towards us so we had to ever so carefully creep by them. It was a bit suspenseful as our 11 passenger vehicle quieted down to a hush and we made the pass.

IMG_4799The lions and the elephants are also the only animals within the reserve that have been given names. Their names had been given to them before joining the reserve which is why they stuck. Our guide told us that they usually try not to name the animals because it’s important to not become too attached. There were three lions in total, two lionesses and one male. IMG_4806The only name I can remember is the male, and that’s because his name was Chris. The kids all got a pretty good kick out of finding out the lion and I shared the same name. As we drove away I asked our guide what kind of a name Chris is for a lion. If I ever had a lion I would most certainly name it something from the Lion King! She referenced the short film about a lion name Christian. I remember seeing this film long ago but had forgotten about it. Check it out sometime if you’d like to see a cool film about two friends who raised a lion, released it into the wild, and then came back to reunite with it.

IMG_4805Once we saw the lions it was just about time to head back to the lodge for lunch. Lunch was ham and cheese sandwiches served with fries. These were great but not totally filling. Our next drive was the long ride back to Kayamandi so we first made sure everyone used the bathroom.

Unlike the long ride on our second day ofIMG_4809 traveling, the kids had no problems falling asleep on our return trip. After 4 days of awesome activities we were all pretty exhausted. Along the drive we passed through some beautifully scenic areas where a camera just couldn’t do the view justice.

IMG_4823The closer we got to Kayamandi the more it set in that our trip was over. I know the boys really enjoyed their trip and they will remember it for a life time. Dan and I are planning on printing photos for each of the kids and creating small photo albums for everyone to remember the trip by.

I can’t thank everyone enough for all the support ReachingOut2TheWorld has received. I hope you were all able to read and see the joy this trip brought these guys and how positive of an impact it will have on their lives.

HotSpots2C is the amazing company that helped make all this possible and provided IMG_4833us with our incredible trip. Thanks so much and I can’t wait to share the rest of our footage with you!

A special thanks to Isaac, my good friend and our incredible driver. Without Isaac I know this trip wouldn’t have been nearly as great without him. Isaac, you are a truly awesome person and we all love you! NdiyaKuthana!

Thanks to all our supporters who reached out via the Indiegogo campaign, and helped contribute to this project. We have so much more to share with you which Dan and I are anxious to distribute. Once Internet becomes a bit more manageable we’ll be loading lots more pictures and videos from our tip with the guys.

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ReachingOut2TheWorld Trip: Day 3

I woke to the sound of Mawande jumping off the bunk above me. I was pretty tired still and was really hopeful that it wasn’t time to wake up yet. I glanced over at my phone to see that it was only 1:30 in the morning and I still had another five hours of sleep. I wasn’t even annoyed that he woke me up, I was just so happy about the amount of sleep I still had left. An ongoing tradition of mine is to set multiple alarms leading up to when I have to actually wake up. My favorite kind of the sleep is the kind that comes just after waking up. Anytime I wake up in the morning and have the chance to go back to sleep is always a good morning! I actually experienced this a few more times, unintentionally, before finally getting up to shower just after 6.

By the time I got out of the shower everyone else was awake and ready to start the IMG_4667day. Dan and I had everyone up, dressed, packed, and with their teeth brushed by 7:15, which made perfect timing for our 7:30 breakfast. There was a bit of a mix up and they hadn’t been expecting us when we arrived. While the quickly prepped the dining room for us we relaxed on the sofas in front of the TV. The receptionist walked over and switched it on asking everyone what they’d like to watch. In unison they all answered, “Cartoon Network!” For the next 20 minutes their eyes were glued to, How to Train My Dragon. I used the time to access the free Wi-Fi.

IMG_4666Breakfast this morning consisted of scrambled eggs and toast. These weren’t chicken eggs though, they were giant ostrich eggs! Everyone, including myself, really loved the breakfast but we were ready to hit the road for our first adventure of the day.

We loaded of the van and drove just IMG_4680down the road to Buffeleift. This is where the boys would get the chance to feed, play, and interact with elephants. After signing waivers for everyone involved we walked with our guide to where the elephants would be waiting. We actually got there before the elephants because when we looked over our shoulders there were three elephants walking straight for us.

IMG_4685For the next hour or so the boys were able to feed the elephants, sit on top of them, and even play soccer with time! It was absolutely amazing watching them interact with these beasts. Their faces and reactions were IMG_4682priceless when an elephant would wrap their trunks around them giving them elephant hugs. Elephants are incredible clever animals and these elephants knew over 100 commands. Each of the boys took turns directing the elephants to lift up their trunks, or to lift up their feet. Amazingly, the elephants listen to the commands. When an elephants lifts its front right leg it’s a gesture known as a salute. We got a group picture at the end of our experience with all of us together giving an elephant salute! If you’re wondering how they were able to play soccer with the elephants, it was actually pretty amazing. The elephants were able to throw the ball with their trunks and one was even able to kick a ball. Even though they appeared very gentle it was easy to see the power they had when they kicked or tossed the soccer ball. IMG_4721I’m a huge fan of animal encounters so I was sad when it was time to leave, but I knew our next stop would be the wildlife range and they specialized in animal encounters.

The Cango Wildlife Range is home to many animals from all over the world. They have quite the variety of animals there so our first plan was to tour the facility and see what we could learn about everything they had to offer. As we walked around learning about everything from birds, to hippos, and crocodiles to lions, the boys displayed an interest to learn and the patience to listen.

When our walk was over we gave them each the opportunity to have 1 encounter. They could hang out with the ring tailed lemurs, or they could hold a snake.

The first three to enter the cage with the lemurs were Chester, Aphiwe, and Athabile. It wasIMG_4708 easy to see that they were pretty timid at first and none of them wanted to go first. I think Athabile was the first one to sit down and  our guide coaxed a friendly lemur onto his shoulder. Atha went stone solid being sure not to move in the slightest. When the lemur moved down to his lap he was able to pet it and feel its fur. Aphiwe was the second to go and he seemed the least scared. When the lemur jumped on his shoulder Aphiwe started nuzzling his furry friend. He even tried to feed him at once point before the guide politely asked him to leave that to them. Chester was the final one to take a seat and his reaction was quite funny. As the lemur landed on his head he just slowly started shrinking down getting lower and lower to the ground. This had nothing to do with the weight of the lemur, he just didn’t know what to do. I got a lot of great pictures and the encounter also came with professionally printed pictures which we’ll be sure to provide the kids with at the end of the trip.

IMG_4703Next up were Mawande, Lupho, Avela, and Ski and they were all in line for the python encounter. The snake wasn’t poisonous and was just medium in size, but their reactions were incredible! When the guide reached out to hand them the python the boys looked back at him like he was out of his mind. The guide was a little reluctant to hand it over because he was afraid they may drop it or throw the snake out of fear. Because he didn’t want the snake dropped he moved onto plan B. Plan be was placing the snake around the necks of the boys! This made for such great pictures and I was able to get a video of each of their encounters.  It was difficult to get them to look at the camera for the pictures because they didn’t want to take their eyes off the snake. After the session with the snake they each received a printed picture of themselves holding the python.

For lunch we went to a local eatery that specialized in “vetkoek”. A vetkoet is a IMG_4699popular in South Africa and can be served many different ways. I think they are best compared to a less sugary donut. The fried dough is very lite and can be filled with just about anything. Ours were filled with mince meet and vegetables. Mincemeat is like ground beef and ours was served in the style of a curry. I liked my lunch but couldn’t help but think of how good my fat cook would have tasted with jelly or chocolate inside just before being powdered in white sugar! I’m a bit of a sucker for donuts.

Once everyone finished eating it was time for Wilderness Canoeing. To get there we’d have to drive through the mountains and valleys of the Garden Route before popping out along the Indian Ocean. I was unsure how we were going to go about the canoe trip, but I was ensured that we could just put two kids in each boat and everyone would be alright. I had my doubts about this because I know they aren’t the best swimmers and don’t think any of them have ever paddled a canoe before. I made sure that the two smallest and least skilled swimmers when with myself and Dan.

IMG_4687We fitted everyone for a life vest and handed out paddles to everyone. By the time I made it to the water’s edge 4 of them were already in their boats and had pushed off the shore. The kids got a brief lesson on how to use the paddles and were reminded to never stand on the boat. We stressed multiple times that if you fool around or stand up on the canoe you WILL tip it. Mawande and I were the last ones in our boats and had to play a little catch up to everyone else. Ski and Riri were in one boat and looked like professionals paddling in unison. Aphiwe and Avela also worked really well together and got the hang of IMG_4690everything fairly quick. Dan was in complete control over his boat with Lupho, so that just left Chester and Atha. I first saw the two of them aimed perpendicular to everyone else headed straight for the shore. By the time I caught up to them they had turned themselves around. I continued on to the next group but turned around to see that the two of them were now headed straight for the opposite shore. I stopped my boat to keep an eye on them to make sure they redirected themselves back forward. At this point the rest of the group was starting to pull away and I watched as they rounded the next corner. By the time I looked back at Chester and Atha, Chester was no longer in his boat. He was next to his boat splashing away. I don’t know how he ended up there but I was later told that Athabile convinced him to jump out. The current had taken my canoe a bit further down the river so I had to do a bit of work to get back to them. As I was paddling over Chester seemed as though he had successfully climbed back into his canoe. This was shortly lived through because as soon as he got on he stood up and flipped the whole thing. They both fell into the water and quickly swam back to their canoe. In a state of panic they each grabbed the same side of the canoe at the same time to pull themselves back up but only accomplished filling their boat with a lot more water. When Mawande and I pulled up they were both laughing and splashing in the water, clearly not understanding how much this was going to suck for everyone involved. The water was too deep for them to stand and right the boat up, and neither of them were strong enough swimmers to be of any help. At this point I was pretty frustrated with them and felt bad for Mawande because he was stuck helping these two all because they were just fooling around. I don’t think the rest of our group even knew what had happened because they had already rounded the corner. I first told Chester and Atha to start pulling and pushing the boat back towards the launch. While this worked a little I knew that it would take forever and Athabile was struggling with his swimming (they both still had their life vests on). I probably would have been less frustrated had they not been laughing and hIMG_4689ad we not gone over countless times not to stand on the boats. I pulled our smaller canoe around and had Mawande hold onto their front rope. I paddled backwards like this dragging their boat back to the launch. In the mean time I told them both to just swim to the shore, figure out a way to climb out, and start walking. I didn’t really know what was over on the sides, but it looked like tall grass, bushes, and a steep riverbank maybe 8 feet high. As I dragged their boat back I didn’t really care, I just wanted to get this over with so that I could at least give Mawande a bit better of a trip. We only had an hour to begin with and this incident and used up the first half of it. Isaac was waiting at the docks for us when I pulled up with the two boats and I told him Chester and Atha were finished canoeing today and that they could pull their boat the rest of the way. I quickly pushed off and for the second time today played catch up with Mawande. When we rounded the first turn I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rest of our group had waited not too far down stream. By the time we made it to them we were only able to continue downstream for another 5 minutes before it was time to head back. Everyone had a blast with the canoes but I felt bad their trip was cut short. When we all arrived back to the docks a few more of the kids decided to go swimming, but only after returning their boats. Our next stop would be Myoli’s beach so we just had them stay in their wet suites for the short ride.

That short ride ended up being a bit longer than expected due to road work but I think they kids enjoyed sitting on the floor. We didn’t want to get the seats of the van wet and only a couple of them had towels. The lodge we’d be staying at tonight was called Afrovibe and was located right on the beach. As soon as we got there the kids were ready to go back in the water but we had to first bring our bags up to our dorm.

I brought a bag of sports down to the beach which consisted of a rugby ball, football, soccer ball, and Frisbee. The lodge also lent out boogie boards and we were quick to grab 4 of those. We had about 3 hours before dinner and 2 of those hours were spent playing on the beach. Dan buried Mawande with the help of some of the other kids and everyone else swam. The water was a bit chilly at first but didn’t feel so bad once you were all the way in. It was also a lot warmer than the water around Cape Town and that’s due to the fact that we were swimming in the Indian Ocean which had its warm currents flowing South. When the guys got tired of swimming they found that they were able to use the boogie boards for sledding down the sand dunes. The only problem with that was that they were now completely covered in sand and I told them they all had to go rinse off back in the ocean before going inside. There was a small hose to clean off their feet but they were completely covered.

About an hour before dinner we started the shower process again but this time only had one shower to work with. The lodge generously lent us another 8 towels and one by one the kids made their way through. While one was in the shower the rest were working on post cards. I’m not sure how many we’ve written up to this point but I can promise it’s a lot. I imagine Dan and I will be sending those out sometime in the next week.

Dinner was held on the back deck of the lodge and there were two fires burning away. The ground was covered in sand and there were tables set up all around. In the back of the deck was a huge pizza oven and that’s exactly what was on the menu. I had to run up to the room briefly and when I came back Dan asked me if I wanted wine or a margarita. I told him a margarita because I wasn’t in much of a wine mood. I then heard him tell our waitress which kids would be getting wine and which would be having a margarita. I figured he was just joking but she wrote it down and walked away. I was confused for a minute before I found out that he hadn’t said wine, he had said Hawaiian. And he was referring to the two types of pizza they were offering, Margarita pizza and Hawaiian pizza. While we waited for our pizza we grouped around the fire for warmth. Even with the large pizza oven we had a bit of a wait because of how many pizzas they were making. Just our group alone had ordered 11 pizzas! The pizzas were very thin and were the right amount for the kids.

IMG_4737After dinner Isaac had a treat for everyone, marshmallows! I asked everyone if they’ve ever roasted marshmallows and the general consensus was most definitely not. Before passing out the marshmallows I gave a quick how to on the proper way to toast one. I even told them that it’s okay to stick their mallow in the fire, because some people like it that way… but that it was important for them not to wave their sticks around to distinguish the fire. Images of Dennis the Menace flashed through my head and I didn’t want anyone to end up with a flaming marshmallow on their face. I also only gave mallows to the kids who properly asked me. Keep in mind that English is their second language so this wasn’t as easy as it sounds. You’d be surprised how fast someone will cooperate when the reward is a delicious mallow!

When we finished the two bags of mallows I had another plan up my sleeve. I wanted to take the guys on a night walk along the beach. Six kids would be coming on the walk with me and I told them not to bring anything along. No shoes, no phones, no flashlights, no nothing. I had a head lamp with me that I brought just in case but I really wanted everyone to just enjoy the night and take it all in. When we first got out there our eyes were not yet adapted and the boys complained about how dark it was, but I knew it was only a matter of time. The moon was was full and we could actually see quite well once our eyes adjusted. One thing I wasn’t expecting that was really awesome was that when we walked along the beach our steps were glowing. I had no idea why this was happening but we were all very fascinated. I think it was because of the IMG_4738water being pushed up from under the sand and reflecting the light from the moon. Whatever it was, it was awesome. We walked pretty far along the coast until we got to these cliffs. I was told that if the water level was low enough we’d be able to walk all the way around and then circle back, but the water was still pretty high. We tried climbing up the cliffs which was difficult but we did make it to the top! The view was pretty amazing but it was too dark for my camera. The moon shined high above and reflected the crashing waves onto the beach. I was surprised at how much you could see. After realizing that we weren’t going to be able to walk all the way around we climbed back down from the cliffs and began our walk back home.

Back in our room I had everyone get ready for bed but allowed them to play cards, or draw for a bit. I told them they had about 15 minutes before we be reading and they were all game. Before we started reading Aphiwe brought me over the picture he had been working on. It was a thank you card to Dan, Isaac, and I for taking them all on the trip. I loved it and thanked him profusely!

We recapped what we had read up to in our book and I told them to try and read between 1-3 pages before passing. Things were going pretty smooth and we continued to discuss each page as they finished. From where I was sitting I couldn’t really see everyone and hadn’t even noticed that four of the kids had fallen asleep. I’m not even sure at which point they had fallen asleep. I just figured they were being such great listeners and didn’t think much of it. Oh well, we’ll be sure to have them read extra the next time. Wednesday was a long day and filled to the brim with awesomeness. I consider it the highest of compliments when someone passes out do to sheer exhaustion from the days events I helped plan!

Tomorrow would be our final day and it consisted of a morning game drive followed our long trip home. So far the trip has been amazing! Thanks so much to all our supports, and all the help we’ve received along the way! Everywhere we’ve stayed, and toured at have been extremely accommodating and welcoming! Thanks again HotSpots!

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ReachingOut2TheWorld Trip: Day 2

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. IMG_4368

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.

IMG_4376We 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 IMG_4374been 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! IMG_4370This 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 IMG_4379Ostrich 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.

IMG_4388After 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 heIMG_4400 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.

IMG_4421The 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 IMG_4447the 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. IMG_4442Dan 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. IMG_4449

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.

IMG_4455Most 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. IMG_4467Just 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.

IMG_4472After 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!IMG_4473

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!

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ReachingOut2TheWorld Trip: Day 1

The day has finally arrived. Today we’d be starting the first of our four day tour withIMG_4351 the kids from Kayamandi. It’s been almost a year since Dan and I first began discussing a return trip and today has been much anticipated. There has been much preparation but I think we both arrived at today feeling there was little more we could do.

I woke up about half past 6 with no alarm. I think my body just knew that today was going to be a big day. I hadn’t planned on getting up for another hour but I was feeling pretty anxious and wasn’t able to fall back asleep. I started getting a few things together and jumped in the shower sometime after 7. Our shower has a window looking out front our flat and I could see and hear the first few kids arrive. Over the next half hour all eight of the guys showed up with Athabile being the last. This wasn’t much of a surprise as he was coming from the furthest part of Kayamandi and is generally the last one to show up somewhere.

Isaac pulled up sometime around 8:30 and we were greeted by both him and his daughter. Mimi, Isaac’s daughter, would be joining us on our first day. It was my first time meeting her and it was a bit last minute, but I’m glad she came along. Isaac is so busy with his touring that I don’t think he sees her too often and it was nice that she was able to accompany us. Mimi is 11 years old, making her the same age as our youngest travelers. I was happily surprised to see everyone get along for the entirety of the day!

IMG_4348Once everyone was on-board we started the drive to Hout Bay where we’d be taking a boat to Seal Island. The drive took us through Cape Town and along the coast. We passed by Table Mountain, the 12 Apostles, Camps Bay, and much more. Driving through this part of South Africa is a true sensation. The views have to be some of the most scenic in the world and with the recent weather the surrounding mountains were still peaked with white caps. Lucky for us the weather has been prime since midday Saturday and we only had a few clouds in the sky to begin our day.

By the time we got to Hout Bay we still had nearly a half hour before our boat would depart. Along the docks were a few seals that were extra friendly and would do just about anything for food. A local man was chopping up pieces of fish for them and placed one in his mouth for an enormous seal to retrieve it. It’s pretty amazing how large these seals are but yet how gracefully they move through the water.

If anyone remembers the first night of Shark Week, it featured an opening story where a group was fishing. As they were fishing they were rammed by something that eventually capsized their boat and took the passengers down with it. For any believers out there, they blamed this feat on non-other than Megladon; a shark more enormous than anything this world has to offer. This incident took place in Hout Bay and that’s exactly where we were launching out of.IMG_4344

Whether or not you believe in Megladon , you can’t argue the fact that great whites roam the waters. With Seal Island just around the corner this place is a prime feeding zone for hungry great whites. Today would also be the first time that any of the guys have ever ridden on a boat and the excitement and anticipation was palpable.

When our boat arrived we pushed our way to the front of the ship. There was no way I was going to let a few tourists stand in the way of our adventure. The trip to the island was a bit bumpy and the waves were tall but no one got sick. I can tell you that a few of our riders struggled to stay on their feet and found the floor of the boat a bit more suitable, but we made it to our destination. Along the way we took loads of great pictures and the guys all posed like well-practiced professionals.

IMG_4345We saw thousands of seals on our trip but no sharks. I didn’t expect to see any as it’s still a rarity to catch a feasting but I was still hopeful. On our journey back a strange thing took place. The other tourists on board our vessel started taking pictures with our students. I’m pretty sure they just wanted to seize the opportunity to take a picture with a local African child. It was completely harmless and the kids felt famous so we just let it happen. I also snapped a few pictures of the scene because I just thought it was so strange.

Once back on soil, we boarded our van and proceeded to a coastal eatery where we ordered fish and chips for everyone. Everyone… except myself IMG_4333and Dan. I probably would have eaten the fish and chips but given the opportunity for something else, I took it. While I played lunch monitor Isaac quickly drove to the nearest KFC. After eating the guys made their way down to the water where they found a few more seal friends looking for some free handouts.

Before leaving Hout Bay we drove around to one of the peaks and took a few pictures. It’s so easy to get a great picture when you have such beautiful surroundings and such a great group of people!

IMG_4322With Hout Bay behind us we made our way to the infamous Table Mountain. Table Mountain is the focal point of Cape Town and has recently been declared one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world. Go there or check out the pictures and it’s easy to see why.

With the long day ahead of us we opted to take the cable car up to the summit. From high up above we could see all of Cape Town and its surrounding cities. The way the mountain is situated makes it so that you are almost constantly in view of the ocean and everywhere you look is postcard material. We spent a couple hours walking IMG_4314around the top stopping anytime we saw a photo opportunity. Dan and I were behind our cameras for most of the day but I wouldn’t have changed it for a thing. Our group was radiating with joy and to me, that’s what this trip is all about.

Originally, we had planned to tour the Cape Town Stadium today but we found out last week that it would be closed (we’ve since planned a later date where we’ll try and take the kids. I really wanna give them the chance to see their stadium up close and personal). The new itinerary had us going into town for a bite to eat and then heading back to Kayamandi, however, Dan and I had other plans.IMG_4319

With the weather cooperating so well we decided that we wanted to take the kids up Lions Head for a sunset hike. Lions Head is located directly next to Table Mountain and is just a fraction of its size. The mountain still processes incredible views and is the perfect hike for late in the day. I remember doing this hike two years ago and I was keen to take everyone up today.

IMG_4295After a quick dinner Isaac drove us to the start of the trail. The hike takes an average person about an hour to get up but we were moving at an above average pace. We wanted to get to the top before the sun would set and we weren’t positive when that would be. The 10 of us trudged up this mountain and got up there in record time. I think we stopped once for a couple minutes so that we could regroup and finish the hike as a whole. Along the way I found myself pulling along a few stragglers due to the exhaustion that was setting in. I’m just glad I didn’t have to carry anyone!IMG_4292

At the top we were rewarded with an epic view of Cape Town, the ocean, and the beautiful Table Mountain which was now catching all the rays the sun had to offer. Because we got up there so fast we ended up having about 30 minutes before the sun would be setting. We used this time to relax and take some photos. The day had gone perfectly up to this point but I did make one minor mistake. In the rush to get up the mountain I had completely forgotten to stop and pack water for our ascent. As we hiked I thought about this, mainly because I wished I had some for myself and knew the kids would be feeling the same way. After resting for a bit on top I think everyone shifted their focus towards the falling sun and seemingly forgot about how thirsty they were. We made the most of our trip and continued capturing as much as we could on our many cameras. I’m a fan of sunsets and sunrises and when you throw in a scenic location where the sun slowly drops over the ocean horizon I think few things are better, especially when you’re talking backdrops of group pictures to conclude an already awesome day.

IMG_4282As the sun disappeared behind it left behind a sky of beautiful colors that helped guide us back down the mountain. We didn’t need flashlights for our descent and made our way back to the van. Somehow, the kids found the energy to essentially run down the mountain because they finished long before Dan and I reached the start.IMG_4279

Our ride home was filled reminiscing about the day and talking about what the next days would bring. Before getting back to Kayamandi I asked Isaac to stop at a McDonalds so we could buy everyone some much deserved ice cream. With our our hot fudge Sundays in hand our first epic day was over. Now we just had to prepare for the next three days, update our blogs, import our pictures, pack, and try our best to get some rest. I’m wiped out already, but so far things are going amazingly.IMG_4280