This is very likely my final blog entry!! Tomorrow my flight leaves at 3:50pm, but I will be taking no chances and arriving at the airport very early. Dave and I were just reflecting on our last four days here, potentially one of the greatest, most enjoyable, four day spans in my entire life. Shark cage diving, kayaking, taking a boat tour of False Bay, going on a safari, touring Robben Island, and hiking up Table Mountain is quite an impressive line-up to be completed in four days. Looking back, I'm glad we waited till the end of our trip because the weather has been fantastic. In addition, I'm exhausted now and shouldn't have any issue sleeping much of the time on the plane.
Yesterday was our safari to Fairy Glen. I really have to stress how amazing Jamaica was at organizing and taking the initiative to drive to Fairy Glen with our rented vehicle. I'm not sure I would have done so well driving on the left side of the road. After being here a month I still usually look the wrong way first when crossing a street. While I'm at it, I should mention that Dave and Jamaica were both terrific this whole trip. They planned absolutely everything, and I really attribute how great my experience was to their initiative. Not to mention I would still be completely lost walking around Cape Town if I didn't have them at my side (my sense of direction is awful).
Traveling to the safari went very smoothly, although leaving at 4:30 was quite painful. The drive was about an hour from Cape Town and the scenery was magnificent along the way as we watched the sun rise behind the mountains. I can't say enough times how beautiful the entire area is surrounding Cape Town; the mountains are nothing like in Oregon as the elevation changes very rapidly to make for an impressive profile. Upon arrival we were served a very filling buffet breakfast. Our tour guide, Gerard, was full of great information and humor as he took us on the large jeep-like vehicle through the reserve. It was a beautiful day and we were fortunate enough to see a lot of great animals. We got very close to all of the animals we saw including elephants, lions, rhinos, a hippo, giraffes, zebras, springbok, wildebeest, bontebok, ostriches, eland, a crocodile, and others I am forgetting at this moment. Ashley got lots of great photos that I was able to steal. She is the only one with a camera left on this trip! My camera was lost or stolen, Jamaica's charger broke, Dave's camera broke, and their video "flip" stopped working as well.
After seeing all the animals we returned to the lodge for another great buffet meal. They really fed us well; it was definitely my best meal since I've been here. After lunch Dave, Jamaica, and I went on a horseback ride on a scenic path. I really enjoyed riding my white horse Pearl, although she was occasionally a bit temperamental. All of the horses behaved for the most part, but they had moments of being quite stubborn. Dave rode Socks and Jamaica rode Pica. We had a great time, although my thighs definitely felt the bumpy ride after it was over. The entire day was absolutely perfect, as was the weather once again. I can't believe how amazing it has been this last week considering we are in the middle of winter. I'd love to portray more about the animals, but it will be best done with the videos and pictures that we took once I get back home.
Today was another early morning, and my sleepiness caused us to miss the first train out of Fish Hoek by just seconds. Oops. We still made it in to town early enough to make it to the Waterfront for our boat taking us to Robben Island. For those who know nothing of Robben Island, it was a massive isolated prison on an island off the coast of Cape Town that housed prisoners and notably political prisoners during the Apartheid of South Africa. Most notable amongst the prisoners held at Robben Island was Nelson Mandela, whose struggle for equality in South Africa lead the country out of Apartheid and was elected for president in 1994 after being released in 1990. Nelson Mandela is still alive today, and we celebrated his 92nd birthday Monday, Nelson Mandela Day. The tour of the island and the prison was very interesting. Our tour guide, Sadik Levy, was actually a prisoner at the island, so all of the information was really coming from his heart. He told us all about his personal hardships at the island as well as the life of Nelson Mandela and other famous prisoners who fought for human rights and the equality of blacks and whites in South Africa. It is amazing to consider that Apartheid just ended in 1994. The country has progressed so much since then and most everyone who lives here seems so proud of the unity they have now. Unfortunately we had no camera at the island because just Jamaica, Dave, and I went, but the pictures would have been pretty depressing anyway. I would not say that the Robben Island experience was "fun", but I'm so glad that we had the opportunity to do it. The prisoners of Robben Island and especially Nelson Mandela are such important figures of why South Africa has taken such positive steps in recent years. Without Nelson Mandela's impact I really doubt that this country could have ever hosted a World Cup.
Our final big activity of our incredible journey was to climb Table Mountain, one of the most well known landmarks in all of South Africa. Jamaica unfortunately wasn't able to join Dave and me on the hike because she was feeling ill from the boat ride. Dave and I set up the mountain trail on a descent pace, passing lots of other hikers panting along. The hike was definitely not for someone that was out of shape, the path was very steep and strenuous. We read going in to the hike that it takes between 1 and a half to three hours for most hikers, but Dave and I made it to the top in just one hour. I think if we were in top shape we could have shaved off another ten minutes, but I was struggling a bit towards the top due to the peanut butter milkshake and foot long roast beef and gravy sandwich that I had just put down before the hike. For those of you who know Dave well, you're aware that he can eat 40 wings at Chicken Bonz and still play a 90 minute soccer game, so the meal didn't slow him down a bit. Before reaching the top we fortunately ran into Ashley and Jesse, who had decided to take the cable car up and hike down. We were lucky to see them because they allowed us to borrow Ash's camera. The summit was a beautiful and relieving sight! The view from the top was so much greater than what can be portrayed in a photograph, 360 degrees of beauty. Dave and I enjoyed the wonderful weather and got some nice photos before heading down the cable car so that we could meet up with Jamaica back in town. Table Mountain was a perfect capper to our vacation.
Tonight we are all packing and doing last minute house cleaning. I can't express how great my trip has been. There are a lot of places I want to travel to still in my life, so I'm not sure if it's in the cards to return, but I'd be so happy if I was able to. This trip has influenced me to make the decision to travel to the next World Cup in Brazil! Hopefully my mother and Rachel will come as well. I spoke with one man on a bus who had been to every World Cup since 1974. After talking to him I hope that I will be able to see the world in a similar manner. The World Cup is such a great way to see a country in addition to watching an incredible soccer tournament. I've had a great time, but can't wait to get back to see my family and Rachel. I planned my trip for just the right amount of time because I got to do everything that I had hoped to (besides seeing Soccer City Stadium in Joburg). I'm excited now to head home tomorrow afternoon and be picked up by Rachel in. SOOOOOO excited to see Rachel! Hope everyone has enjoyed my blog, but if not I don't really care because at least I'll get to look back on it someday :). PEACE.