Its 1340 in the afternoon on a Sunday and I'm sipping Cap 'n Coke in the biz lounge for South African Airlines, due for a 1540 flight back to Joburg.
Its been a long, long couple of weeks. But good. Mostly.
Last time I posted I was headed off to Cape Town with Brian for the weekend. It was a good weekend. We got in and found our place down on the shore, not far from the Cape, and had some drinks in the local bar a few doors down. There was not much food to be had, arriving at the time that we did in CT. The next morning I tried desperately to wake Brian for our trip out to Seal Island to see the Great Whites breaching, which he had so wanted to do in the first place, and I had been rather skeptical about. But he wouldn't get up, so off I went in the dark to the docks, where we met with our boat and headed off to the middle of the bay.
The breachings were incredible - massive sharks coming full out of the water in hopes of coming back in with a seal in their maw. We spent the rest of the morning tooling around looking for more sharks, then whales, then back to port. Brian got back from a whale-watching trip he had taken instead, and we drove down to the southern tip of Africa - Cape Point. We hiked it a bit, took pictures, and then drove back to the hotel, where we picked up our luggage and departed for Gansbaai.
Gansbaai is home to the best Great White cage diving on the planet (I might mention that Seal Island is home to the only regular breachings on the planet). We spent the night in a room with an ocean view, the sliding glass door open, sleeping in the frigid sea air. The next morning we hopped our boat out into the straight, and when we dropped anchor and had the cage in the water, Brian and I were the first to volunteer to hop in the cage.
Skydiving was pretty cool but I've never felt my humanity more viscerally than in that steel cage, when the 20 foot long beasts of instant death showed up to eat our tuna treats. At one point, one of them came near the cage, and I got a feel of its massive, slimy torso. I'm pretty sure it didn't notice me. So...yeah. That was incredible.
After that we headed to Franshoeck, in the heart of the ZA wine country. Spent a nice night there and then did a couple of wineries, one of which had a fantastic cellar tour complemented by THE BEST Pinot Noir I have ever tasted.
Then, off to Cape Town, where we hiked Table Mountain in the afternoon. A small hike compared to what I'm used to, especially beginning so close to sea level, but it was a respectable climb, and Brian and I made it up in fantastic time, and got some great shots of the city from above.
I made a stupid, stupid mistake of recording over some of my shark footage on the way down. When I'm smart some day, I'll invent a way to make the camera ask you if you're sure you want to record over this footage you already took. Que sera.
Went out in Cape Town that night. It was...interesting. There was billiards, then tequila and mexican food, then dancing in some club where Jenny and I were among the very few whites left (Brian had left for another area more suited to his particular social circles). The next day we had brunch down by the water and then off to the airport.
It was a good weekend. A great Friday - an epic one.
The following week the new consultant showed up. More on that at some...later... point. I tried to teach her to drive a stick after a long week of work - that was my Saturday. Sunday we joined our wonderful client lead, Gerard, for a trip to see the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra (of which he is a member) perform. That was pleasant.
Another week of work, peppered with various "issues," and then it was off to London for the weekend, as I had training for my ADP program on Mon-Tues of this past week.
It was an overnight flight from Joburg, so I arrived Saturday morning and collected my bags, then took the train to Paddington and a cab to the hotel. Once showered, I met up with Grant and we kicked around Chelsea and Kensington a bit. Fish and Chips in a pub watching rugby - on my list of things that God made because He wanted me to be happy. I left Grant later in the afternoon, tubed it to Westminster, saw the abbey (from the outside), crossed the river, walked up the South Bank, crossed back, wandered through the theater district and then tubed back to the hotel. Met Brian and a few of his very fun Londonite friends out that night for bad Chinese and good drinks after. Last call in London is midnight. Go figure. Also, just my style.
Sunday was church, with Grant, nestled just behind the Girken (sp?). Jenny showed up, which was, well...great. Out for lunch in Borough Market after that for more F&C at a nice brewery, which was even better than the day prior. Grant took off to look at places with a realtor and Jenny and I had a nice afternoon walking around and seeing the sights - London Tower, the bridge, more South Bank, Sir Francis Drake's schooner, back across to St. Paul's, more of Hyde-be-a-utiful-Park, then met Brian and friends for drinks and dinner back in Convent Square.
Monday and Tuesday were spent in training. Tuesday night was off for Heathrow again and an overnight flight to Nairobi. Wednesday morning we (Kemi, the consultant, and I) arrived, showered, and headed in to WV's offices. Had a couple of good days of meetings, capped off with a dinner at Carnivore, the biggest place (and most famous, et. al.) for exotic meat in Kenya. The most exotic they had that evening was Ostrich meatballs and Alligator steaks.
The trip I had arranged to Masaai Mara fell through that evening, so I asked at the hotel if they could help me arrange another. They had a girl there in the morning, who quoted me a price that sounded reasonable, but I later found out was exorbitant.
Anyway, Friday morning we (a number of young traveller types and myself) drove out in a Mutatu (taxi mini-van turned "adventure vehicle") from Nairobi to Maasai Mara. About a 6 hour drive, most of which was over roads that in the US would be considered extreme off-roading. Saw a lot of south-western Kenya.
We arrived in the park Friday evening in time for a game drive, then back to the camping village (tented units with beds in them). Decent food, early bedtimes, early rising for morning game drives. Saw the same as in ZA - zebra, wildebeast, giraffe, elephant, lion, etc.. And then yesterday afternoon, we found my Cheetah, which made it all worth it. She had a little baby with her. It was cool.
After this morning's drive (less than stellar), I caught a prop plane back to Nairobi, then through more traffic and streaming sidewalks of people who occasionally noticed my open window as evidenced by shouts of "Wewe Muzunga!" and my taxi driver laughing. Picked my luggage from the hotel and then he dropped me off at the airport...which brings me to where I am right now, about halfway through a drink, with ice, for a change. Next to a bathroom, with real toilet paper. In a lounge, with other white people.
South Africa prepared me, but Kenya is really "real" Africa. I'd say of the people I saw, about 0.005% were actually not black. I saw many Maasai and got to tour a village. It was really an incredible experience that made me re-examine a lot of things. More on that soon.
Back to ZA.
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